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Ah, college life. There’s nothing like it: the long-awaited freedom, the endless nights at the library, the anything-goes parties... and the campus food. Although some colleges have stepped up their game in recent years, with many more offering vegan, gluten-free, and other diet-specific foods, it's not necessarily the cafeterias that do you in—what you snack on back at the dorm matters too. According to one study, students aren't even eating one serving of fruit and vegetables daily. An examination of sex differences in relation to the eating habits and nutrient intakes of university students. Li KK, Concepcion RY, Lee H. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 2011, Jul.;44(3):1878-2620. Talk about a failing grade.

We're here to help you ace nutrition and give your body what it needs. When the dining hall just won't do, make one of these easy recipes for college students instead of reaching for ramen. All call for a minimal number of wholesome ingredients, most of which you'll use again. If an item (such as a spice) seems worthless to buy for one recipe, omit or replace it. The fanciest equipment you may need is a microwave, a knife, and a cutting board. And the directions are like that intro to acting class—easy A.

Breakfast

Dorm Food: Microwave Breakfast Cookie
Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking

A Cookie. In a mug. For BREAKFAST?! Whole ingredients like peanut butter, bananas, and oats serve as the base for this single-serving breakfast cookie. Our mouths are watering, and our minds are blown.

Dorm Food: Microwave Scrambled Eggs
Photo: I Heart Naptime

Dining hall scrambled eggs too runny for your taste? Make yours just the way you like 'em with this microwavable version. While this college recipe calls for mostly egg whites, feel free to use the whole egg—the cholesterol in the yolk won't increase your risk for heart disease. Plus that's where most of the micronutrients are.

Dorm Food: Overnight Blueberry Maple Oatmeal
Photo: Brooklyn Farm Girl

Carbs from the rolled oats, protein from the Greek yogurt, healthy fats from the chia, and antioxidants from the blueberries make this chilled concoction a fairly balanced morning meal. Prepare it the night before, then grab it from your mini fridge and snag a spoon from the dining hall (we won't tell), and you're ready for that 8 a.m. lecture.

Dorm Food: Yogurt Parfaits
Photo: Foodie With Family

Protein-rich Greek yogurt and granola is a popular combo, but these gorgeous parfaits make it look like something special. It’s hard to believe that something so pretty and healthy can be so easy to put together: Layer three ingredients in a mason jar and you’ll have breakfast ready for the rest of the week!

Dorm Food: French Toast in a Cup
Photo: Pretty Prudent

In just two minutes, turn the brunch favorite into a quick-fix treat for any weekday. It's the perfect way to use up that loaf of bread you bought to make PB&J—but let go stale instead. Just be warned that the alluring cinnamon aroma will have your roommates begging for a bite.

Main Dishes

Dorm Food: Mac n Cheese
Photo: Bigger Bolder Baking

Sometimes nothing but macaroni and cheese will do. But why choose a single-serving cup of scary, preservative-laden neon stuff when you can use ingredients you can actually pronounce? Here, pasta cooks right in the microwave before meeting with a hefty punch of (real) cheddar and a splash of milk. Several minutes later, boom: comfort food at its finest—and fastest.

Dorm Food: Burrito Bowl
Photo: Healthy Liv

Ditch the lines at your campus Chipotle and get your burrito bowl-fix the homemade (and healthier) way. Pre-cooked brown rice (find it in pouches or frozen) and canned black beans make this a cinch to put together. Greek yogurt stands in as a healthy substitute for the sour cream, and of course it's topped off with cheese and avocado.

Dorm Food: Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potato
Photo: Domestic Superhero

Trade in the taco shells for a tater. Not only does a sweet potato provide much more vitamin A and C than any tortilla, but just like tacos, you can stuff them any way you like. (Check out more stuffed sweet potato recipes here.)

Dorm Food: Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Photo: A Pinch of Healthy

An excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, tuna gets a boost of Mediterranean flavor with the addition of basil, lemon, and extra-virgin olive oil. Scoop it into lettuce wraps or spread onto bread for a brown bag lunch that’s a decided step-up (both in taste and nutrition) from the mayo-filled childhood staple.

Dorm Food: Riceless Risotto
Photo: Branappetit

With laundry to wash, textbooks to read, and papers to write, no student has time for a dish as laborious as risotto. This recipe gives you the same chewy texture—plus fiber—by substituting old-fashioned oats for white Arborio rice (cooked in the microwave instead of a stove). Stir in cream cheese for a luscious finish.

Dorm Food: Paprika Salmon
Photo: Healthy Aperture

Proceed at your own risk: Stinking up the place with microwaved fish may make you the least popular person in the dorm. But the taste might be worth it, thanks to a simple mix of honey, olive oil, and smoked paprika.

Dorm Food: Mason Jar Greek Salad
Photo: Holley Grainger

If back-to-back classes leave you with no time for a sit-down lunch, head to the dining hall or supermarket salad bar and make this speedy, highly customizable, and easily portable option. Pick your favorite whole grains, lean proteins, and veggies (go as dark and leafy as you can for maximum bone-protecting vitamin K and cancer-fighting antioxidants) to build an anything-but-boring salad that staves off an afternoon slump.

Savory Snacks

Dorm Food: Microwave Kale Chips
Photo: Five Months Fat

This one is so easy it’s hardly a recipe, but you’ll definitely want it in your arsenal of simple and healthy snacks. Olive oil and a sprinkling of salt (and perhaps some nutritional yeast or cayenne) is all you need to give the immunity-boosting, eyesight-supporting properties of kale plenty of flavor. Just as crispy as that packet of potato chips, these are the perfect way to satisfy a craving while getting in your greens.

Dorm Food: Olive Oil and Rosemary Popcorn
Photo: Hej Doll

Microwave popcorn can be found in every college student’s quarters. Kick yours up a notch with this homemade version, which replaces heart-clogging, partially hydrogenated fats with heart-healthy olive oil. A sophisticated flavor blend of rosemary and sea salt will make you forget all about the packaged stuff.

Dorm Food: Microwave Potato Chips
Photo: Inspiration Kitchen

They’re pretty much the dictionary definition of a snack, but who wants greasy fingers while munching and typing notes during class? Go for this cleaner homemade version, which puts the spud in the spotlight—use blue, red, and white potatoes for a nutrient-packed pop of color. Slice ‘em up as thin as you can, sprinkle with seasonings, and nuke until they’ve got that chip-like crunch. It’s so easy you’ll wonder why you've never done it before.

Sweet Treats

Dorm Food: Nutella Energy Bites
Photo: Love and Bellinis

Nutella may not be the healthiest thing at the grocery store, but it sure is delicious. Mix it with oats, coconut, flax, and agave, roll into balls, and you've got the perfect portable fuel. Bring a few for breakfast or to snack on when you need a pick-me-up.

Dorm Food: Mug Cheesecake

Bake an entire cheesecake? Ain't nobody got time for that. Besides, we prefer recipes for one so there's not a ton of leftovers to deal with. This recipe fits the bill, and all you have to do is stir and throw in the microwave. Oh, and don't eat this every day.

Dorm Food: Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
Photo: Joyful Healthy Eats

This recipe calls for several easy-to-find ingredients, but it’s also highly adaptable, so you can include whatever add-ins you like, from nuts to dried fruit. While totally acceptable for breakfast, the honey and chocolate chips make them a fun dessert option too.

Dorm Food: Microwave Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mug Cake
Photo: Kirbie Cravings

As the semester starts and the weather begins to cool down, cozy up with these fluffy, cake-like cookies. Whipping them up is the perfect way to make new friends since the aroma of pumpkin, chocolate, and vanilla will have people knocking at your door. What to do with the rest of the pumpkin purée? Try these recipes.

Dorm Food: Creamy Berry, Coconut, Chocolate Bowl
Photo: Little Broken

Turn to this recipe when a massive ice cream craving hits and the dining hall is closed for the night. It may not be frozen, but the cool, creamy combination of Greek yogurt and cottage cheese with chocolate and fruit is guaranteed to hit the spot. Go ahead and use low-fat dairy rather than the fat-free version; not only is it more satisfying, but studies also show that milk fat can increase immunity and help build muscle.

Dorm Food: Mug Brownie
Photo: La Creativite de la Fille

With no flour, gluten, or butter, this brownie for one is one heck of a simple way to get your gooey dessert fix. (The fewer ingredients to buy and have sitting around after, the better!) The almond meal provides additional fiber and protein, while the cholesterol-reducing cocoa gives the brownie the classic homemade taste.

Dorm Food: Chocolate Bark
Photo: Close Encounters of the Cooking Kind

A plain old dark chocolate bar just not cutting it? Jazz it up by melting it in the microwave and stirring in cranberries and pistachios for a triple-threat of antioxidants. The red and green from the fruit and nuts look like little jewels embedded in the chocolate, making the end product as gorgeous as it is healthy.


Originally posted August 2015. Updated July 2016.

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