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Cooking in a College Apartment

Having your own kitchen in a college apartment can be a little intimidating. As a senior, this will be my third year living in an apartment, and I can assure you that cooking's not as daunting as it may initially seem. Take advantage of your back-to-school energy - all that organizing and being on top of things the first few weeks -to put some healthy eating habits in place. Stocking the right foods in your kitchen is going to take you a long way toward a good start. For breakfast, stock up on simple items like granola bars, apples, nut butters, yogurt, etc. Boxed cereal can be quick and easy, but check the nutrition facts to see how much sugar, whole grains and fiber you're getting per serving. Overnight Oatmeal is super simple and nutritious - just soak the oats the night before, and they're ready to go in the morning! If you have a bit more time, try a Mixed Fruit Smoothie. Just keep a supply of frozen fruit on hand and you can whip up a smoothie anytime. Whether for breakfast or dinner, egg-based burritos, tacos or pita pockets are quick, delicious and filling. Just like eggs can be served any time of day, so can beans. Keep an assortment of your favorite canned beans - kidney, garbanzo, black, refried - and you'll be able to put together a meal quickly. A few bean-based ideas:
  • Turn a large green salad into a meal by topping with kidney beans for a protein boost.
  • Toss together garbanzo beans, diced tomato, avocado and cucumber along with your favorite dressing for a delicious filling for whole wheat tortillas.
  • Combine black beans with corn, diced bell peppers, cilantro and taco seasoning and serve over salad greens with a few corn chips as a garnish.
  • Use low-sodium refried beans and grated cheese to make tacos or burritos. Add some rotisserie chicken like in these Quick Chicken Tostadas.
And here are some of my other favorite go-to dishes for simple college life cooking:
  • Pasta: My classic stand-by. Go for whole grain pasta topped with your favorite jarred pasta sauce. Add some frozen veggies for a nutrient boost - I like broccoli. Just stir in and heat along with the sauce. Be sure to add a salad!
  • Pizza Night: Instead of ordering pizza for you and your roomies, save some dough and make it yourself. Pre-made pizza crust, canned sauce and pre-sliced veggies from the salad bar make for an easy fix. While the pizza is baking, make a fresh salad.
  • Sandwiches: Don't forget this simple and satisfying meal. Choose some whole grain bread, top with your favorite veggies and protein and a spread (my personal favorites are roasted red bell pepper pesto and hummus). If you a have Panini maker, go for turning it into a fancy sandwich!
  • On the weekend, step into the kitchen for something a bit more involved -stir fries are a great place to start. Try this Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry or make your own Buddha's Delight.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, don't pull out a pint of ice cream and call it a night. Instead, stir chopped fresh fruits into nonfat Greek-style yogurt and then drizzle with chocolate syrup. If you're more of a frozen dessert type, check out these Cherry Ice Pops - you can make a batch and they'll be around when you need them!
More than anything else, make sure you're not stressing too hard in the kitchen-save that for your classes. Just have fun and experiment with food-that's how I learned what works for me! What are your tips for eating well when you're a college student living in an apartment?

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Timothy says …

nice suggestions! short, simple and healthy. im a junior right now in a dorm that comes equipped with a kitchen, cupboards, fridge and freezer for each room. i more often make larger stuff like oatmeal, rice, chili, spaghetti, tuna casserole, and even mashed taters and a baked chicken, and mircowave a couple frozen veggies to supplement. and i make lots so that there are leftovers for busier nights. but eating healthy and cooking for yourself is not only good for you, but the process of cooking- while not always that hard- is also a wonderful stress reliever. whenever i come back from a busy day of classes, its always wonderful to put on a pot of something or other and start heating, mixing, and then experimenting with tastes. its a wonderful way to blow off steam. and you can even read or look at flashcards while cooking, so there isnt much of a downside to cooking and eating healthy (except maybe budget).

Lisa says …

Share the load! My favorite times in college were when we all got together at one appartment and cooked with ingredients potluck style. It's cheaper this way and eating like a family helped with some of the stress of crazy workloads and being away from home.

anna says …

in response to ashley lauren: at least you have a fridge. now a great idea is a portable stove top and toaster oven. a portable stove top is like this one here: http://www.smartmarine.co.nz/images/large/Gasmate%20Portable%20Stove.jpg so even tho you can't do in depth cooking like you could with a full size oven and stove top, at least it would be a start and they're huge space savers. dump that microwave too for some added room. microwaves suck. in response to the blog: all your ideas are wonderful and luckily i'm already using most of these but you have been a great source of inspiration. thanks :)

Cori says …

Excellent ideas! Hummus on a sandwich instead of mayo creates a healthier sandwich with TONS of flavor! :) Eating healthy whole foods helps your body fight stress... no ramen noodles here! :)

caronae says …

Awesome tips! I am a healthy-eating college senior as well. I have a tiny dorm kitchen. Some of my favorite tips: chop a bunch of veggies on Sunday afternoon so you'll be prepared for the week, make an easy batch of whole wheat cookies on Saturday for a go-to dessert throughout the week, steam veggies in the microwave for three minutes and they'll be tasty, choose easy grains like oats, quinoa, and brown rice, easy proteins like beans, deli turkey, cottage cheese, and keep a bowl of fruit in the room. I'll repost this on my blog. :)

Mary says …

I'm entering my senior year as well, second year in an apartment. I think healthy eating is an amazing stress relief tool that a lot of college students don't use. Ever since I've made it a point to eat healthy balanced meals and drink more water my stress levels are WAY down. The act of cooking can be relaxing too, knowing that you are nourishing your body and treating it with kindness. Lots of my friends think eating healthy is such a hassle but its FUN! Great article! Something I usually do is chop and cook a bunch of assorted fresh veggies at the beginning of the week and use them all week long in wraps, tossed into pasta, mixed into brown rice, SO easy and quick.

Joe @ Eden Kitchen says …

Great tips! I wish I knew how easy it can be to eat healthy when I was in college... I remember eating a lot of junk because I thought it would be too much work to prepare healthy food!

Ryan says …

Great post with some solid tips! I live in a condo right now so I know what you mean. I like the idea of getting a pizza shell and building one yourself. I've got to eat better! Thanks for the tips, The Whole Food blog rocks!!

Ashley Lauren says …

I really wish I lived in an apartment! It's my first year in the dorms, so I can't move out yet but I would love to have an actual kitchen, not just a tiny microwave and little fridge. I love to cook, and it would be great to have a stove, an oven, etc. to make great meals for myself.

Stephanie says …

Here at Westminster College we can appreciate how hard cooking can be for students. That's why we offered up Whole Foods gift certificates as prizes in our student cook-off! Set-up in an Iron Chef style, student teams made three courses. Each course featured a secret ingredient pulled from a dorm room cupboard: cheese puffs, cans of soup and cereal. The winning menu as described by team's head chef: We started with a fresh tomato stuffed with a light tuna salad on a bed of fresh spinach tossed in a simple oil and vinegar dressing accompanied by a toasted bagel. The secret ingredient that had to be used in the dish was cheetos. The dish was garnished with a dusting of crumbled cheetos. The first judge who is a chef liked the presentation and was surprised by the pleasant addition of the whimsical cheetos. The other two judges expressed a desire for a greater mixture of the ingredients, which would have drastically altered the presentation. The main course was seashell pasta, sautéed onion, fresh broccoli, and fresh mushrooms tossed in a mushroom alfredo sauce (can mushroom soup was our secret ingredient). The dish was garnished with three sliced ham florets, fresh chopped tomato, fresh chopped spinach, and grated mozzarella cheese. The dish was accompanied by toasted garlic bagel strips. One judge enjoyed it so much she asked for a to go container so she could take it home after the event. Dessert was served in layers in a clear plastic cup. It began with a vanilla wafer and Honey Nut Cheerios (secret ingredient) crumb crust. The next layer was miniature marshmallow that melted when the next layer of sautéed peaches with cinnamon were added. It was toped with fresh whipped cream and garnished with fresh raspberries.

Sydney says …

My friend Elaine made 60 tamales in her dorm room in a rice cooker our sophomore year of college. It was ridiculous and amazing. Every once in a while I look at her blog for some recipes, she made a lot of stuff with food she bought on her meal plan. http://dorm-gourmet.blogspot.com/

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