Ask the Dietitian: How do I eat healthy while living in a college dorm room?

Q: I am a college student and don’t have the option of cooking and preparing my own meals. What are some healthy eating ideas in my situation?

A: I completely understand your situation; in college I lived in the dorms for two years and the only cooking apparatus I had access to was a microwave.

If you are eating meals in the cafeteria, here are some healthy eating tips:

  • For breakfast, opt for a whole-grain cereal with skim milk or scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast and a piece of fruit.
  • Avoid eating dessert with every meal. I know, all those sweets look delicious.
  • If your college cafeteria offers stir-fry, give it a try! This is a great meal that combines lean protein with vegetables.
  • Try the salad bar. Most college cafeterias switch up their salad bar options so there is always something new to try. Note:  limit the salad dressing and bacon bits!
  • Do not take more than you can eat. Yes, most college students are strapped for cash and want to get their money’s worth in the cafeteria. This being said, stuffing yourself during every meal will only contribute to that “freshman fifteen.”

If you have access to a mini-fridge and a microwave, here are some easy, healthy meal and snack ideas you can prepare in your dorm room:

  • Breakfast burrito
    • Scramble 2 eggs in a microwave-safe dish with 1 tablespoon milk and 2 tablespoons shredded cheese. Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until eggs are set.
    • Wrap in a whole-grain tortilla and top with salsa.
  • Yogurt parfait
    • Place 1 cup Greek yogurt (such as Chobani) in a bowl or cup; top with 1 cup Kashi Go-Lean Cereal and 1 cup fruit of your choice.
  • Sandwich
    • On 2 pieces of whole-grain bread, add 3 slices of lean deli meat (such as Di Lusso turkey, ham or roast beef), 1 slice of cheese and vegetables of choice. Instead of mayo, spread mustard or hummus on the bread.
  • Homemade trail mix
    • This was a go-to item in between classes for me. 
    • Combine Kashi Go Lean Cereal, your choice of nuts (such as almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, etc.), dried fruit and dark chocolate chips. Portion into snack-sized baggies.
  • Food to keep on hand in your dorm room:
    • Almonds
    • Apples and bananas
    • Beef jerky
    • Eggs
    • Frozen vegetables (varieties that come in a steam-ready bag are very convenient)
    • Greek yogurt
    • Hummus
    • Lean deli meat
    • Natural peanut butter (such as Old Home)
    • Oatmeal
    • Salsa
    • Snack bars (such as Kashi or PureFit bars)
    • String cheese
    • Whole-grain bread
    • Whole-grain chips (such as Food Should Taste Good Chips)

Reader, what is your favorite healthy food for a college dorm room?