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.
- 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!