Healthy Breakfast Ideas For College Students

Healthy breakfast ideas for college students can be a challenge. Is it hard to find healthy breakfast ideas for college students? Maybe not anymore! Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just start the day off right, these breakfast ideas will save the day (or at least your meal). These are my favorite healthy breakfast ideas for college students. Students are often on a tight budget and don’t have a lot of time in the morning to prepare an expensive, healthy breakfast. This makes healthy eating at college difficult. This article helps you find creative and affordable alternatives to expensive, unhealthy breakfasts such as donuts or bagels.

Healthy Breakfast Ideas For College Students

Young man listening to earphones and eating food

If you’re one of the rare college students who actually eat breakfast, chances are you’re rushed for time and short on ideas. And if you’re one of the many college students who skip breakfast, chances are you’re hungry for most of the day.

When college starts, everyday is a busy day and getting in a nutritious breakfast becomes more and more rare with busy schedules and lack of sleep. Since a healthy breakfast is really important, especially for busy college days, here are easy, healthy college breakfast recipes that can be made in a college dorm room from awesome bloggers!

Eating breakfast—even during your crazy-busy college years—is, as your mom told you, highly important. That little morning meal can help you focus, maintain your energy, prevent you from overeating throughout the day, and generally help kick-start your day. So what kinds of things can you eat that won’t break the bank—or your waistline?

15 College Breakfast Ideas

    1. Muffins. You can buy pre-packaged muffins or you can make them yourself. Either way, they won’t go stale for a while and they are easy to grab (and eat!) as you’re running out the door.
    2. Toasted English muffin and peanut butter. It’s easy. It’s cheap. And it’s full of protein to help you power through your day.
    3. Peanut butter and jelly. Even the busiest of students can find 30 seconds to put together this classic sandwich.
    4. A piece of fresh fruit. Consider an apple or a banana—they’re nature’s original to-go foods and they’re good for you, too.
    5. Granola or energy bars. Keep an eye on the calories, but these little bars can pack a big dose of protein to help you make it through your morning.
    6. Veggies. Who says you can only have fruit for breakfast? Grab a bag of baby carrots and munch all the way to class. Added bonus: You can keep the snack bag with you throughout the day and munch as needed.
    7. Yogurt. You can get yogurt in a cup, in a smoothie, or even in a frozen pop. And yogurt is a healthy breakfast that often tastes like dessert. What’s not to like?
    8. Cereal and milk. It’s a classic for a reason. Consider buying cereal in bulk, too; you can split it with your friends and save some serious cash.
    9. Dry cereal in a baggie. Don’t have time to eat a nice bowl of your favorite cereal with milk? Pour some cereal in a Ziploc bag for an instant, on-the-go snack.
    10. Trail mix. The stuff can last for weeks and is a great way to power up without losing too much time—or cash. Just make sure the mix you choose isn’t candy in disguise.
    11. Breakfast burritos. You can buy frozen ones you can heat up in the microwave, or make your own ahead of time for maximum convenience and savings. Tortillas + scrambled eggs + cheese + other tasty items = an awesome breakfast you can eat on the run. Consider adding leftovers from last night’s dinner (veggies, rice, beans, and meat) for variety and extra flavor.
    12. Frozen waffles or pancakes. You can buy these frozen or make them yourself and then freeze them. Either way, a quick drop in the toaster or microwave leads to a great hot breakfast with little to no effort.
    13. Pop Tarts or their equivalent. Consider buying a generic brand; you’ll save money but still get a little morning treat.
    14. Cheese and crackers. Cut a few slices of cheese, grab some crackers, and throw everything in a small Ziploc bag. You’ll have a tasty breakfast ready in under a minute.
    15. Dried fruit. A small baggie of dried apricots, pineapples, apples, or other fruits you enjoy is an easy way to get a healthy, fruit-based breakfast—without having to worry about the fruit going bad. Consider buying in bulk to save money.

The Student’s Guide to Nutrition

Ready to start your journey?

  • Unhealthy eating in college can lead to lower grades, illness, fatigue, and other adverse side effects.
  • Students should strive to eat a balanced diet of grains, proteins, dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Planning healthy meals in advance can help students save time and money in college.

With unfettered access to buffet-style dining halls, campus sundae bars, late-night food delivery, and cheap ramen, it’s no surprise that so many students gain weight when they go to college. A nutritional study of public university freshman found that one in four students gained 10 pounds or more in their first year on campus. The study monitored each student’s consumption habits and, predictably, the students who gained the most weight ate fewer fruits and vegetables, indulged in fattier foods, and slept less than students who did not gain weight.

A steady diet of pizza and cheeseburgers can lead to more than just a few extra pounds: poor eating is also associated with lower grades, susceptibility to illness, and increased fatigue. Other side effects include a higher risk of depression, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, menstrual problems, and sleep disturbances.

Ultimately, fast food and unhealthy snacks simply don’t provide you with the nutrition you need to perform well in school. Developing a balanced and nutritional diet at a young age can both enhance your academic performance and prepare you for a lifetime of healthy eating.

The Basics of Nutrition

Nutrition may be less confusing when reduced to its fundamental building blocks. Foods can be broken into five distinct food groups, each serving a distinct purpose. Understanding how these food groups affect your body can help you determine what, and how much, you should eat.

Evolution of USDA Food Charts: 1992 vs. 2014

Most college students are familiar with the basic food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and fats. Most students learned this framework early in childhood, thanks in part to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) iconic food pyramid. Created in 1992, the pyramid became a symbol of balanced eating, and was ubiquitous in cafeterias and elementary school curriculums for more than 20 years.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Health scrapped the food pyramid and introduced a new image, called My Plate. Unlike the pyramid, My Plate only shows suggested proportions for the five basic food groups, rather than the number of servings recommended. The updated chart isn’t cluttered with images of the food types themselves and My Plate is more transparent than the original pyramid.

But My Plate wasn’t just built with aesthetics in mind. One of the key revisions illustrates to consumers that together, vegetables and fruits should make up roughly half of our diet and that we should eat less dairy and grains than the food pyramid suggested.

Recommended Daily Intake (Ages 19-30)

In 1992, the USDA recommended that the average adult consume approximately 2,000 calories per day. This included 6-11 servings of grains like rice, pasta, bread, and cereal, along with 3-5 servings of vegetables. In light of new research into American nutrition and lifestyle patterns, the USDA now recommends that not only should we all be eating more vegetables and less bread, but that many of us don’t actually need 2,000 calories every day.

Calorie and portion size requirements actually vary widely between people of different genders, ages, and activity levels. An NFL linebacker should eat 3,500 calories on game day, but a college sophomore slumped over a term paper might only need half of that. Even in less dramatic comparisons, the difference in how much people should eat is still surprisingly wide: among 19-30 year-olds, for example, the recommended daily intake between men and women differs by nearly 20%.

Recommended Daily Intake (Ages 19-30)


Women: 3-5 Servings

Men: 4-8 Servings

.5 cup brown rice = 1 serving
.5 cup oatmeal = 1 serving
3 cups popcorn = 1 serving
1 cup wheat cereal flakes = 1 serving
1 slice wheat bread = 1 serving
5 wheat crackers = 1 serving

Adding whole grains to our diets reduces the risk of cardiac problems and provides the fiber we need for proper digestive health. Whole grains are particularly useful in weight loss, because they are far more filling than refined grains. Their B vitamins boost the immune system and help form energy-producing red blood cells. Finally, grains are a major source of iron, which helps prevent anemia.

There are two types of grains available to consumers: whole and refined. In whole-grain products, the entire kernel of the grain itself is used. In refined grains, vitamin-packed parts called bran and germ are removed and the grains are further ground into finely textured bits. When grain is milled like this, it loses its natural dietary fiber. Some millers add B vitamins and other nutrients back in, which allows them to label products as ‘enriched’ grains. Whole grains, like wheat, rye, or barley, used alone or together, are smart and healthy choices, as are brown rice and whole-grain pastas. You’ll feel fuller faster and you’ll be eating healthier than if you consume refined or enriched grains.

The recommended daily intake for grains is actually much lower than most people eat. College-aged women should eat 3-5 small servings per day and men the same age should eat approximately 4-8. At least half of these servings should be whole-grain.


Women: 5.5 Servings

Men: 6.5 Servings

1 small steak = 3-4 Servings
1 chicken breast = 3 Servings
3 eggs = 3 Servings
1 oz of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios) = 2 Servings
1 cup split pea or lentil soup = 2 servings

Protein is a basic building block for the human body. We need it to maintain healthy muscle, bone, blood, skin, and cartilage. In its most basic form, protein converts calories into energy. Protein boosts the immune system, transports nutrients in and out of cells, removes carbon dioxide to the lungs, and forms the enzymes needed to create the complex chemical reactions that occur in our bodies.

The body needs more calories to digest protein than other foods, and consequently, protein is useful for weight control. Protein also provides a greater feeling of fullness than many other foods do. The trick for choosing the proper type of protein rests in its source and preparation. It’s important to find healthy sources of protein, and unfortunately, many high-protein foods are laden with saturated fats and high cholesterol, or are prepared with trans fats and other harmful byproducts.

To protect your cardiac health, choose lean protein whenever possible. This may be as simple as using lean ground beef for taco night, or substituting beef with ground turkey. Round steaks, roasts, top loin, sirloin, and chuck shoulder are the leanest of red meats, while skinless boneless turkey and chicken are the top poultry options. Opt for sliced turkey or roast beef for sandwiches instead of bologna or salami, both of which are high in fat and low in nutrients. Try to limit sauces and spreads loaded with fat and preservatives.

Depending on your body type, you should be eating about 45 to 55 grams of protein every day, roughly six ounces worth. Most Americans eat far more protein than they need, so this recommended intake may initially seem small. A day’s protein might look like an 8-oz. glass of milk, a yogurt cup, and a chicken breast the size of your palm. Plant-based proteins may also be appealing. Nuts, sunflower seeds, and cheeses make great snacks and require minimal storage space.


Women: 3 Servings

Men: 3 Servings

1 cup milk = 1 serving
1 cup yogurt = 1 serving
2 cups cottage cheese = 1 serving
2 slices processed cheese = 1 serving
1.5 cups ice cream = 1 serving

While anything that contains milk is a dairy product, it’s important to only count dairy that maintains its calcium content. Items like cream cheese and butter begin with milk, but do not belong in this food group. Hard or soft natural cheeses, processed American cheese, yogurt, ice cream, pudding, and milk in any form all qualify as dairy products.

The primary benefit of dairy is calcium, which bolsters our bone and tooth health. Dairy also contains blood pressure-lowering potassium and Vitamin D, which promote healthy bones. Like foods in the protein group, dairy products must be chosen carefully because they often contain hidden saturated fats. Low-fat or fat-free dairy choices are solid additions to your daily diet.

Typical college students should have about three cups of dairy per day. This could be as simple as drinking three cups of milk. For students who prefer some variety, a yogurt cup, two slices of cheddar, and a 1.5-cup serving of ice cream will also help you meet the daily allotment. Soy products that are enhanced with calcium, like a fruit smoothie, are also healthy sources of dairy.


Women: 4.5 servings

Men: 5 servings

3 5″ crowns of broccoli = 1 serving
2 medium carrots = 1 serving
2 cups cooked spinach = 1 serving
1 large tomato = 1 serving
1 cup cooked beans = 1 serving

1 apple = 1 serving
1 banana = 1 serving
16 grapes = 1 serving
1 orange = 1 serving
.5 grapefruit = 1 serving
4 oz. applesauce = 1 serving

Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients like potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folate. They have no cholesterol and are low in calories.

Potassium-rich diets lower blood pressure, which reduces your long-term susceptibility to cardiovascular problems. The dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables also delivers a great nutritional boost. Eating fiber can help you lower your cholesterol, maintain proper bowel function, and lead to long-term cardiac health. Additionally, vitamin C helps you fight off infections and keeps your gums healthy, while folate helps your body form red blood cells and is essential for the health of a developing fetus.

Vegetables and fruit are low in calories and fat and contain no artery-clogging cholesterol. Along with their benefit to the digestive tract, fiber-rich foods leave us with a feeling of fullness and may encourage us to eat fewer calories. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies can lower your blood pressure and lead to reduced risk of cardiovascular illness later in life.

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