Life as a college student can be hectic. Whether you’re living in a dorm room and eating in the dining hall, or running home in between classes to make a quick meal, creating easy, healthy meals can seem almost impossible at times. Finding quick meals you enjoy can make all the difference. A few staples for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, will save you a few extra dollars and some trips to the store!
Cooking can seem tedious, but that’s why we’ve created 8 easy meals you can make within about ten minutes. You read that right! 8 easy meals for college students that you can make when you are in a pinch, but want something delicious and nutritious.
We’ve compiled a few easy breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals to help kick start you into the habit of cooking from home. Some of these recipes do not even involve cooking! They can be thrown together within a few minutes and you’ll be on your way to class in no time.
Meal 1: Chocolate Protein Smoothie:
- 1 serving Protein Powder
- 1 Banana
- 2 tbsp Chia seeds
- 1 handful (generous) Spinach
- 1.5 cup Milk of choice -more if you prefer thin consistency
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 2 tsp Raw cacao powder
- 1 tbsp Almond or peanut butter
- Handful Ice
A smoothie is always a quick go-to when you are in a time crunch. This smoothie is packed with nutrients from the banana, chia seeds, spinach, and nut butter. This is a perfect smoothie to satisfy your sweet tooth while still providing your body with the essential macronutrients of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties in our body and raw cacao powder has been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve digestive health, as well as reduce inflammation in the body. If you’re like us and love something sweet in the morning, this smoothie may be perfect for you!
When creating the smoothie, throw all your ingredients in a blender, that’s it! If you prefer a super thick smoothie, try freezing your bananas overnight. You can even throw in a date for some extra fiber, sweetness, and milkshake-like consistency. The hint of spinach goes unnoticed in the smoothie and provides you with a great source of Vitamin A, C, and Iron.
If you are a peanut butter lover, we recommend using peanut butter, but almond butter, cashew, or mixed nut butter will be just as good. When using nut butter, make sure you purchase one that has minimal ingredients. Sometimes these kinds of butter can contain an abundance of added sugars. Aim for a clean and simple container of purely roasted peanut or almonds.
Meal 2: Breakfast Overnight Oats:
- ½ cup Organic rolled oats
- 1.5 tbsp Chia or flax seeds
- ½ tsp Cinnamon
- 2 tsp Honey or maple syrup
- 1 cup Almond or oat milk
- ½ cup Fruit of your choice: banana, strawberries, blueberries
- 1.5 tbsp Nut butter
- 1 tbsp Pumpkin seeds
Look we get it, sometimes when people think of oatmeal they think...boring! But hear us out. Oats are an incredible source of soluble fiber, a form of fiber that attaches to water and helps aid in digestion. Oats are loaded with nutrients such as complex carbohydrates, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. Whole grain oats can help to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Oats are a slower digesting nutrient in our body, which helps aid in prolonged energy, and they are delicious!
This recipe is packed with flavor from cinnamon, fruit, honey, nut milk, and nut butter. With a nice crunch on top from the pumpkin seeds, your mouth will be salivating over this quick and easy breakfast. Chia seeds add a great source of omega 3’s for our body. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for stabilizing blood sugar, reducing inflammation, and helping improve blood vessel function, which can in return, help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of Zinc, Fruit is loaded in antioxidants, cinnamon contains anti-inflammatory properties for our body and nut butter, such as almond or peanut, contain healthy fats to help our hormones and stabilize blood sugar. Who knew so much nutrient content could be in one meal!
Overnight oats are a great way to have a meal ready on hand in the morning. You can enjoy the oatmeal cold or scoop your oats into a bowl and heat them up in the microwave or on the stove. If you enjoy fruit in your oats, we recommend mashing a banana in or some fresh berries. If you prefer the fruit as a topping, you can add your fruit of choice along with the nut butter and pumpkin seeds in the morning!
Meal 3: Winter Chia Seed Pudding:
- 3 tbsp Chia seeds
- 1-⅕ cup Almond or oat milk
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Nutmeg
- 1.5 tbsp Nut butter
- ½ cup Berries
- 1 tbsp Hemp seeds
Ok so maybe oats aren’t your thing, that’s ok! Chia seed pudding is a delicious and nutritious breakfast. Loaded with fiber, protein and healthy fats, this meal will benefit your gut, brain, and energy for the day! As previously mentioned, chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, but they also are incredibly rich in fiber. 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains 10 grams of fiber. That’s almost half of the recommended daily intake for adults!
We touched on cinnamon being a power house spice, but what about nutmeg? Not only does nutmeg remind us all of the winter months, but similar to cinnamon, this spice is anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants. Nutmeg may even boost libido and contains antibacterial properties to help boost our immune system. Hemp seeds are also a rich source of protein. They are packed with various vitamins and minerals such as potassium, Vitamin E, folate, iron and zinc. Hemp seeds are an antioxidant that can help aid in the reduction of inflammation and promote a healthy brain and heart.
Similar to overnight oats, chia seed pudding is made the night before. With a prep time of less than 3 minutes, this may be one the the fastest meals to prepare! Similarly grab a container or bowl, scoop in the chia seeds, spices, nut milk and berries (if you like them in the dish rather than as a topping. Mix it all up and place in the refrigerator. That’s it! If you want to add more protein, you can add a scoop of your favorite flavored protein powder, but the spices alone give a cozy taste of winter in a bowl. In the morning, re-mix the pudding so you have a pudding-like texture and add your toppings of nut butter, berries and hemp seeds!
Meal 4: Loaded Avocado Toast:
- 2 slices Sourdough bread
- 1 Avocado
- Lemon pepper (or seasonings of choice such as everything but the bagel seasoning)
- 2 Eggs
- ¼ cup Sprouts
- 1 Tomato
Ah, avocado toast, a classic some would say. But this recipe is a little more of an up-beat version of avocado toast. With the ferment, complex carbohydrates of sourdough bread, the sulforaphane (big word, we’ll touch on this) from the sprouts, and the zestiness of the lemon pepper, this savory breakfast is truly a showstopper. While most of the breakfast choices were sweet, we wanted to give all of our savory loves a well balanced breakfast option as well.
Sourdough bread is a great option for all bread lovers out there. It is a fermented bread, meaning it contains the probiotic, Lactobacillus, and our gut loves it! Sourdough also contains less yeast and gluten, making it a better option for those who do not sit well with excess gluten in their diet.
Avocados are incredibly high in potassium, more so than bananas and are an excellent source of Vitamin K, Folate, and Vitamin B-6. They are mainly known for their healthy fat content, and rightly so! Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acid, a source of fat that aids in heart health. You can’t go wrong with a classic egg. Eggs are rich in protein, and choline, a nutrient many people lack. Choline is found in egg yolks and helps to promote healthy brain function. Eggs also contain selenium, a mineral needed for preventing cell damage and fighting cancer producing cells.
So what about sprouts? Although this may seem like a strange topping for avocado toast, sprouts are exceptionally nutritious and add a nice crunch as a topping to your toast! Previously mentioned, sprouts contain sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a plant compound, highly anti-inflammatory, and can help to support digestion, regulate bowel movements, minimize gut distress, and protect against the effects of carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds. So before you write off sprouts, try a small handful on your toast!
Lunch & Dinner:
Meal 5: Burrito Bowl:
- ¾ cup Brown rice
- ½ Black or pinto beans
- 3 oz Pre-cooked chicken, tofu or no mea
- ⅓ of Onion
- ½ of Bell pepper
- ½ Avocado or ¼ cup pre-made guacamole
- Hot sauce to taste
- Cilantro to taste
- Salsa to taste
Burrito bowls are a great way to add new flavor to your pallet. With an abundance of micronutrients loaded in this easy lunch or dinner recipe, your body will be satisfied and nourished after this meal! If you prefer a burrito rather than a bowl, you can always place the needed ingredients into a whole wheat tortilla. Pro tip* try a sprouted whole wheat tortilla if you can. Sprouted grains contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including folate, thiamine, niacin, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
As for the ingredients in the bowl, you will consume a perfect ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fats while also consuming a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Brown rice contains Bran and germ on the outer layer of its coating, this is where most of the nutrients lay. Brown rice is an excellent source of carbohydrates because it has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t drastically spike your blood sugar, but instead give you sustained energy.
Black beans are rich in iron, calcium and magnesium, all vitamins needed to support healthy bones. Similar to other beans, black beans are rich in fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates, making them an excellent choice for managing blood pressure and supporting a healthy digestive tract. If you do not prefer black beans, you can swap these for pinto, kidney, or white beans. So many options!
You can simply keep the beans and rice as your source of protein, but we love this bowl with some organic chicken or crumbled tofu as well. The sauteed onion and bell pepper give an incredible taste and provide a rich source of vitamin c, antioxidants and cancer fighting compounds! When cut up, onions produce an enzyme called allicin, known to help fight off cancer causing cells in our body. Make sure to wait 10 minutes after cutting the onion before cooking so this enzyme can activate. If not, allicin cannot stand heat and then enzymes will not be produced.
Meal 6: Lunch Classic Loaded Sandwich:
- 2 slices Sourdough bread
- ½ cup Spinach or Romaine
- Sliced Cucumber
- 1-2 Pickles
- ½ of Tomato
- Slices of Red onion
- Spread of choice (hummus, mustard, mayonnaise, garlic spread)
- Protein (tofu, tempeh, organic chicken, or turkey)
Honestly, a sandwich can be so under-rated. You can’t go wrong with a classic sandwich. Packed with flavor, protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and color, this go-to easy lunch can be made within 5 minutes before running out the door.
Now we’ve touched on the benefits of sourdough bread, so I won't go into too much detail, but let's talk about the importance of a vegetable filled sandwich! Pickles are a great source of probiotics as they are fermented. Make sure to pick pickles that do not contain vinegar as this depletes the good bacteria they contain. Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant that has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease. Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, potassium and vitamin K, so you can assure your immune system will love them! Similar to white onions, red onions are rich in antioxidants and cancer fighting compounds. Red onion is a great source of prebiotic fiber, making it all the way to our large intestine to help food our colon and reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Meal 7: Buddha Bowl:
- ½ cup Brown rice or quinoa
- 1 cup Spinach
- ⅓ cup Lentils (can buy precooked),
- 3 oz tofu or salmon
- ⅓ cup baked Sweet potato
- ½ cup baked broccoli
- Sliced Cucumber
- Shredded carrots
- Sliced Tomato
- 1 tbsp Hemp seeds
- 1 tbsp Tahini or hummus
Have you ever heard of a Buddha bowl, but aren’t too sure what this exactly entails? A buddha bowl is an easy way to pack nutrients in a meal. The bowl consists of grains, vegetables, fish, beans, and legumes. In my college days, buddha bowls were an easy way to combine multiple flavors and leave my body satisfied for hours! Buddha bowl originated as a vegetarian, well balanced meal full of color and diversity.
This bowl is not only appealing to the eyes, but the body as well! Starting with a base of grains, such as quinoa is a great way to consume B-vitamins, fiber and protein. If you opt for the salmon in the bowl, you will be providing your body with essential omega 3 fatty acids and B-vitamins. If possible, aim to consume wild caught salmon. Wild caught salmon tends to be lower in saturated fat compared to farm-raised salmon, and is also high in potassium, zinc and iron.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of carbohydrates. Keep the skin on! The skin from potatoes contains fiber, potassium, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and E. Wow! This easy one bowl meal is rich in color from the spinach, lentils, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, tomato and hemp seeds. Lentils will help to boost your intake of potassium, folate, and iron. Not to mention, they have been linked to help lower your risk of diabetes and colon cancer. Top your buddha bowl with tahini, a condiment made from toasted sesame seeds (tastes like peanut butter for all my peanut lovers), or hummus if you have a favorite kind in mind!
Meal 8: Veggie Infused Pasta:
- Brown rice, whole wheat or bean-based pasta,
- 1 cup Broccoli,
- 1 cup Zucchini,
- 1 Onion
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 cups Spinach
- Handful of Basil
- Marinara sauce,
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
For the final meal, we have a delicious pasta. Yes, pasta can be packed with nutrients. This dish is a go-to dinner. It’s easy, quick, and can be made in large batches so you have left overs to take to class with you the next day! Using a brown rice, whole wheat or bean-based pasta will up your fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrate intake. Enriched floured pasta is stripped of essential nutrients. The goal is to up our nutrient intake, so go for gold when purchasing pasta!
The secret to success when making pasta? Cooking a big batch of roasted or steamed vegetables! Using onion, garlic, broccoli, zucchini and spinach, you can sauté all of these ingredients in a pan and simply add your pasta and cause to them once they are cooked to your desired consistency. Remember, after cutting garlic and onion, let these two sit for 10 minutes so the enzyme allicin can form and become heat resistant. Not only do garlic and onion provide incredible flavor in pasta, but now they are boosting with antioxidants and cancer fighting properties!
When purchasing a marinara sauce, look for one with minimal ingredients. Sauces can contain added sugars and an absurd abundance of sodium. Finding an organic marinara with tomato, salt, olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano and basil is going to be best, and it taste more fresh than one with added sugars. Pasta is a very comforting meal, so lets make sure we can still get those nutrients in while eating our favorite pasta! This dish would be great with pesto or even chicken added to it as well for some additional protein and healthy fats.
The bottom line
There you have it! 8 easy meals for all college students out there who want to boost their nutrient needs, but have minimal time to cook or may not love cooking. Eating nutrient dense foods can be easy and delicious all in one. No need to spend hours in the kitchen when class is in session!
It’s important to find meals you enjoy and ones that work best with your schedule. Meal prepping some of the foods is a great way to have snacks on hand when you are in a pinch as well. Next time you are wanting to cook from home and avoid eating out, read over these 8 meals and see what sounds best! You can always play around with the vegetables by purchasing what’s in season. This will broaden your gut microbiome diversity and give you new flavors to taste. For recommendations on what foods your body needs, check out Vessel.
Mikaela Frame See all the author’s articles