The start of a new year means that many students are headed back to college. One of the downsides of college life is the dreaded "freshman 15" — the extra pounds that many students gain from poor eating habits. Establishing good eating habits as a college student may help form the basis for how and what you eat later in life.
Eating fruits and vegetables boosts your immune system and helps ward off illness, calcium helps you build bones to avoid problems later in life and eating breakfast contributes to academic performance. But, don't forget that food is to be enjoyed! Eating and preparing foods with others builds community and can help alleviate the stress of college life.
There are quick, easy and healthy eating options if you're faced with dining in your dorm room. Don't have a stove or oven? Don't despair! Here are some quick, easy and healthy ideas for dorm rooms with only a small refrigerator and a microwave:
• Combine fresh or frozen fruit, yogurt and fruit juice for a breakfast smoothie. You don't need a blender — just put ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.
• Top a fresh salad with grilled or oven-roasted chicken strips, include fruits and milk to make this a quick meal.
• An easy and filling meal could include low-sodium canned soup, whole-wheat crackers with a single serving of hummus and milk.
• Another meal option is a mozzarella stick, canned three-bean salad and milk.
• Tasty options include canned chili. Add a fresh salad or baby carrots with hummus, fruit and milk for a complete meal. If you don't have time to make a fresh salad, add canned or frozen and thawed vegetables to the chili.
• Wrap it up! Spread a whole-wheat tortilla with drained and mashed canned beans, salad greens, chopped red pepper and salsa. Serve with canned fruit and yogurt to make a complete meal.
• Make a fresh salad with pre-packaged salad greens, canned beans, nuts and a low-fat dressing. For a complete meal, add tuna or salmon in one-serving pouches, whole-wheat crackers, canned or fresh fruit and milk to the menu.
Meals to heat up
If you have access to a microwave, stove or oven, here are some more quick, easy and good-for-you meal ideas:
• For breakfast, try a whole-wheat frozen waffle topped with yogurt or fruit, or have oatmeal topped with fruit.
• Baked potatoes are filling and a good base for healthy toppings. Choose sweet potatoes for the vitamin A, top with salsa and frozen vegetables. Add fruit and milk to make it a full meal.
• Boil hot water and pour it over whole-wheat couscous. Couscous is very small pasta and only takes a few minutes to cook when combined with hot water and covered to steam. Add chopped red pepper, chopped onions and other vegetables or canned beans. You also can add dried fruit or nuts for a different flavor. Choose milk or juice for a beverage.
• Leftovers from last night's supper are quick and easy. Add fresh vegetables to leftover pizza and heat. Serve with a salad, fresh fruit and milk for a complete meal.
• Stir-fry meals are quick and easy -- and you control what goes into the dish. Include pasta, stir-fry vegetables, beans, lean poultry or other meat. Serve with fruit and milk for a complete meal.
What about frozen meals?
Try to find frozen meals that have a lot of vegetables and whole grains, which contribute fiber and other nutrients. Add a salad, additional vegetables and whole grains if the portion sizes are too small. Frozen meals are notoriously low in fiber, so try to find meals that have at least 3 to 5 grams. Stay away from foods that have been dipped in batter or are covered in sauce — they have more fat and calories. Bowl meals may contain more vegetables, but they probably also have more pasta or sauce.
Here's an easy and healthy recipe for a Veggie Burrito Bowl for lunch or dinner. Have a great new school year and remember to eat healthy!
VEGGIE BURRITO BOWL
1 cup cooked brown rice (or frozen pre-cooked brown rice)
1/2 (15-ounce) can black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 tablespoons salsa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon shredded cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese
Toppings as desired
Prepare brown rice according to package instructions.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine rice, black beans, mild or hot salsa, and salt and pepper. Microwave on high for 30-60 seconds, or until heated through.
Add select toppings, such as diced avocado, diced tomato, guacamole, pico de gallo, sauteed veggies, cooked shredded or cubed chicken, tofu, chickpeas or corn.
Top off your burrito bowl with Greek yogurt and cheese, with a drizzle of salsa and a dollop of guacamole or sliced avocado, if desired. Makes 1 serving.