As a college student who is always on the go, balancing classes, work, friends and homework, it can be challenging to find the time to cook and prepare your own meals. However, the health benefits of cooking for yourself may outweigh the inconvenience.
The American Heart Association published research citing the statistic that eating 11-14 homemade meals per week can reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 13 percent, when compared to eating less than six homemade meals per week. Restaurant or on-the-go meals also contain about 200 more calories, on average, than their homemade counterparts.
Even if it may seem difficult, it is doable to buy groceries and prepare several meals per week for yourself. Here are ideas for easily prepared, healthful meals that will keep you satisfied and energized.
Supercharged Oatmeal –
For a hearty breakfast that balances carbs with protein, prepare instant oats in the microwave, then stir in nut butter or protein powder, fresh or dried fruit, and chia seeds or nuts. Be sure to purchase the oatmeal that comes in the tall cylinder rather than the boxed pouch kind, because flavored oatmeal contains unnecessary sugar, resulting in a sugar high that you’ll come down from mid-morning. You’ll want to balance out fruit sugars with protein, which will keep you full for a longer time without the sugar crash.
Healthful Greek Yogurt –
For an ultra-quick breakfast, bring a greek yogurt with you along with some dried fruit and nuts. Greek yogurt is packed with more protein and less sugar than traditional yogurt, so you will be able to think clearly instead of focusing on your rumbling stomach. Add a dash of cinnamon if you drink coffee in the morning, since cinnamon is said to help curb your blood sugar.
Tuna with a Twist –
I am not a fan of mayo, but I do like a tuna sandwich every now and then. Since I love avocado toast, I thought it would be good to combine the two. Cut your avocado in half, and spread/mush half of it onto two pieces of wheat bread. Drain a can of tuna, and mix it with mustard and the other half of your avocado. If you love mayonnaise, add some to the mixture, but if not, the creaminess of the avocado will give the tuna the traditional texture. Add chopped up celery if you like, and dollop the mixture onto the bread. Fish is full of omega-3s and fatty acids that help your brain function well, but be sure to bring some mint gum along to chew afterwards, and don’t leave any tuna in your backpack for a prolonged period.
Kale and Protein Salad –
An easy way to pack lunches is to purchase a package of different-sized Tupperware, and packing the ones you need, rather than carrying a lunchbox all day. For this lunch, prepare a Tupperware full of mixed greens and kale—I buy mine as a prepackaged kale and spring mix from Payless—and another Tupperware with ¼ of a can of drained black beans. If you want to add chopped chicken, go for it. Pack a tiny Tupperware container with the dressing of your choice—I prefer balsamic vinaigrette—and be sure to bring a fork.
Blackened Tilapia with Fajita Veggies –
Tilapia is one of my favorite fish. It’s easily accessible, available farm-raised, and it doesn’t take a marinade to make it taste good. Set your oven to 375 degrees, thaw your tilapia, cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the fish on the foil. Bring out your favorite spices and fresh herbs—minced garlic, black pepper, cayenne pepper, parsley, and paprika for me, but you could add lemon slices, subtract the peppers, or add cilantro if you want to. Rub the tilapia with spices on both sides, and bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop up green or red peppers, tomatoes, red onions, and baby bella mushrooms for your fajitas, and toss them in your low-walled skillet on medium with olive or coconut oil, and your favorite spice, for 8-10 minutes. Rice with the meal is optional, as are guacamole, chips, and salsa.
Buffalo Cauliflower Appetizer –
For vegetarians who miss the taste of a chicken wing or for omnivores who can’t get enough spicy food, buffalo cauliflower “wings” can be a tasty treat. The process is similar to making fried chicken, but the cauliflower is baked instead. Chop a cauliflower head into edible pieces, about 2 inches long, and mix together one cup of milk or almond milk, 1 cup of flour, salt and pepper. Dip each piece into the mixture and then coat in Panko breadcrumbs. Place on a tin-foil lined baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. After 15 minutes, take the cauliflower out and drizzle with buffalo sauce. Bake for 10 more minutes, and serve with carrots, hummus, and lots of water or milk.
Simple Shrimp Scampi –
I like to use whole wheat angel hair pasta, fresh garlic, and a few veggies for this dish. While you thaw out extra-small or small uncooked shrimp, cook your pasta according to the instructions and chop up your vegetables. Mince the garlic and chop up red onion, mushrooms, and a tomato. Deposit the garlic into your low-walled skillet, and let the garlic simmer with olive oil before adding the other vegetables. Once the shrimp is thawed, add it to your skillet along with salt and black pepper to taste. After your pasta is finished cooking and drained, combine the vegetable and shrimp mixture with the pasta, and toss. Best served with a salad and/or focaccia.