Some busy college students have trouble finding time to eat, much less prepare a nutritious meal. Yet, subpar dining hall food is a major contributor to college weight gain. Is there a happy medium? Yes, there is, and all it takes is a bit of planning, a splash of common sense and a dash of creativity.
Refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers and toasters are now as commonplace in dorm rooms as computers and stereos. Contact your future roommates to see what they are planning to bring. Blenders, crockpots and electric rice cookers are all useful devices. One word of caution -- check with the school's housing department to see what is allowed and what isn't. Many schools consider cooking appliances to be fire hazards, but sometimes they are supplied by the dorm or may be stored in communal kitchens.
Healthy snack ideas
There will always be times when a craving calls for some fast food. But, whenever possible, make nutritious choices when it comes to eating. It only takes a little time and effort to make a delicious meal, and healthy eating will help keep you going through your busy schedule and late-night study sessions. Keep the fridge stocked with basic food items so that there's no need to go shopping for missing ingredients. Make large enough portions to have leftovers for another meal or two. Invite a few friends over one night, then be their guest the next.
For a simple healthy snack, add honey, granola or fresh fruit to plain yogurt. Or, just keep fresh fruits and vegetables in the fridge, ready to grab as you run out the door. Avoiding the vending machines will help keep off the pounds.
Crispy nibblers: Combine 1 1/2 cups stick pretzels, 1 cup corn cereal squares, 1 cup rice cereal squares and 1 cup dry roasted peanuts in large bowl. Melt 1/2 stick of margarine in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon onion salt, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt to melted margarine. Pour this over mixture and heat uncovered in microwave 3 to 4 minutes.
Fruit smoothie: In blender, add 1 cup (8 oz.) vanilla-flavored nonfat yogurt; a sliced banana; 1 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit such as strawberries or peaches; and 1/4 cup orange juice. Blend until smooth.
Make that "to go"
Bagels, English muffins, waffles or rice cakes can be topped with peanut butter, jelly, melted cheese or cream cheese for a hand-held snack to munch on your way to class. Add slices of banana or tomato for extra vitamins.
Almost anything can be stuffed into a pita pocket or rolled in a tortilla. Any leftovers from dinner, cooked vegetables, even scrambled eggs can become a quick meal on the run.
Vegetable stew for crockpot or rice cooker
Chop an onion and one large carrot. Cook in a little oil in microwave or rice cooker. Add one can each of corn, chopped green chili peppers, kidney beans, black beans and garbanzo beans. Add salt and pepper and a dash of vinegar. Stew can be rolled in a tortilla or served over rice.
Recipes for the microwave
Scrambled eggs: Beat two eggs in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of milk, and salt and pepper. Melt 2 teaspoons of margarine in a 1-quart casserole dish in microwave (30 seconds). Pour egg mixture into dish and cook uncovered 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and let stand covered for 2 minutes. Vary the dish by adding any of the following: 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/3 cup chopped and peeled tomato or onion, 1/4 finely shredded cheese, or 1/2 cup spinach.
Mini pizzas: Toast 4 English muffins, top with 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, dash of garlic powder and mozzarella cheese. Cook uncovered 1 to 2 minutes. Optional toppings: green pepper strips, pepperoni, slices of mushroom, grated Parmesan cheese and chopped onion.
Barbecued hot dogs: Mix 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup chili sauce, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 teaspoon dry prepared mustard. Put mixture in round, glass dish. Add hot dogs and coat with mixture. Cover with waxed paper and cook 5 to 6 minutes.
Pasta: Put 1 quart of hot tap water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 2-quart casserole dish. With lid on, heat 10 to 12 minutes. Add 4 oz. of pasta. Cook 6 to 8 minutes. Drain water from pasta. Add small jar of pasta sauce, stir and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese.
Hamburger stroganoff: Put 1 pound of ground beef and a large onion, peeled and chopped, into an 8-inch square, glass baking dish. Cover with waxed paper. Cook 6 minutes or until meat is no longer pink, stirring several times during cooking. Drain fat. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, dash of pepper and a can of condensed cream of chicken soup to the meat mixture. Cook uncovered 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of sour cream. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 2 minutes. Serve over cooked noodles or baked potatoes. Serves 4.