How to eat healthy in college on the cheap

And avoid the freshman 15 at all costs

Eating right and avoiding the freshman 15 at all costs
Photo by Jack Roskopp

We all know how the story goes: You get accepted to college, move into the dorms, get the unlimited meal plan because that's the only way to live in the dorms, and somehow end up gaining 15 pounds to your sudden amazement. Then you realize that maybe eating an ice cream cone twice a day, every day, wasn't the best idea.

Don't be worried, incoming freshmen, because we are going to break it down for you. A lot of colleges don't require you to get an unlimited meal plan, so before you step foot on campus and bong your first Natty Light, let's discuss how you can avoid the much maligned freshman 15 and save a little bit of money when grocery shopping so you can buy more important things for college, like piss-water beer and overpriced weed. Let's go!

Now, we are not here to say you need to be thin and fit in order for your college experience to be fulfilling and worthwhile. Having a slushie machine and soft serve ice cream at your fingertips whenever you want is like winning the lottery when you're 18, but trust me, after your sixth ice cream cone in just three days, your body will question whether you should be lactose-free or not. This is about eating the "better" options the cafeteria offers, and even learning a few tricks of the trade from someone who is living the unfortunate post-grad life. We tend to feel better when we eat better, right?

Trying to eat healthy in the cafeteria can be really hard sometimes. There will always be french fries. There will always be dessert. There will always be carbs on carbs on carbs. You can certainly eat these delicious options, but moderation is key, i.e. dessert once or maybe twice a week.

For breakfast, I used to love having yogurt, fresh fruit, and a little bit of granola before my morning classes. It gave me the perfect amount of energy to head to a general studies lecture that I would not pay attention to. Most college cafeterias usually have a salad bar, which will become your new best friend. Especially since the veggies will be raw. I remember so many times that steamed broccoli or cauliflower was an option at the cafeteria, but it was usually steamed in some lemon butter that took out all the nutritional value.

Now, for those who decide to pass on the unlimited meal plan, or decide to live off campus instead of the dorms, you will have to fend for yourself. Mom isn't here to make sure you eat all your veggies, so welcome to being a semi-adult! You will actually have to go out and purchase your own groceries, cook them, and take the trash out. It's a lot, but we have confidence that you can do it.

Picking a spot to get your produce will be your first big obstacle. Going to a major grocery store like Meijer or Walmart is probably your best bet, and I would highly recommend going there to get your normal cooking ingredients — but sometimes the produce isn't up to par. You may start thinking that the next best option would be Whole Foods, but I'm going to put that idea out of your head faster than you'll be able to run away from your RA when you get caught drinking in the dorms. As "hip" and "trendy" as Whole Foods may be, it is way overpriced. Sure, the produce is nice and usually pretty fresh, but when you're 19 and waiting tables, don't waste your money there. Sure, if you have dietary issues and you need nondairy, vegan, gluten- and sugar-free chocolate ice cream — then by all means go to Whole Foods. They are probably the only place that offers it, but for your general produce needs, stay clear, my friends.

May we recommend the beautiful and affordable Eastern Market, or any farmers markets in your town? Not only is the produce going to be fresh as fuck, but the prices aren't bad, and it's really fun to shop around a farmers market. You can make a Saturday afternoon of it with your roommates, and that way you can even split the prices too. Yes, you won't be able to find funfetti cake mix for your roommate's 19th birthday, but that is what Meijer is for.

So here are a few recipes to try out when you finally move into your dorm or apartment. They both don't require much ingredients, are healthy, and only require a microwave.

Cucumber Avocado Salad

What you'll need:

1 cucumber

1 avocado

1 lime


Chop up the cucumber into slices or chunks (whichever you prefer). Chop up the avocado into medium-sized chunks. Cut the lime in half and squeeze half of it onto the cucumber and avocado. Add a little salt and pepper, and a teaspoon or so of cumin. The cumin is optional, but it's a really good seasoning and mends well with the avocado. This recipe is great for a dorm room because you don't even need a heat source. It's perfect for lunch before you head off to class.

Coffee Cup Omelette

What you'll need:

1 egg

1 ½ tablespoons milk

Random veggies and meat

Find your favorite coffee mug and make your morning breakfast in it! You just add the egg and milk, whip in your favorite veggies or meat, and microwave that puppy on high for about 1 minute and 10-ish seconds. It's easy to make in your dorm room, and an easy cleanup.

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