Healthy meals on a college budget? It’s totally possible and with the right planning, it can be done.
College is expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be. I often found myself scrambling for easy and cheap meals after a long day of classes. Cooking my own worthwhile meals was the way to save money. Here’s a look at the healthy meals I ate on a college budget:
Easy, Cheap & Healthy College Meals
Eating healthy on a college budget isn’t only possible, it can also be absolutely delicious. For those nights when the dining hall isn’t calling your name try one of these healthy recipes you make in your dorm room. Find easy microwave recipes, no-cook meals, healthy snacks and even a mug cake to satisfy all your cravings—no kitchen required.
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Hummus, Feta & Bell Pepper Cracker
A savory topping of feta cheese, hummus, and sweet bell pepper make this super-easy, tasty crispbread snack a perfect munch for the long, warm days of summer.
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This so-simple 3-ingredient recipe turns apple slices into “donuts.” Topped with nut butter and coconut, they make a satisfying no-added-sugar dessert or healthy snack.
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Greek Salad Wraps
Zesty Greek salad packed with tomatoes, cucumber and olives–plus chickpeas for a protein punch–gets tucked into a whole-wheat wrap for a healthy vegan lunch that’s easy to pack for work. It’s so flavorful and satisfying, you won’t miss the feta!
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Peanut Butter, Blueberry & Oat Energy Squares
These one-bowl, no-bake energy squares ensure a quick way to refuel during long meetings, tough workouts or that mid-afternoon energy slump. Feel free to swap the blueberries for your favorite dried fruit and the pistachios for your favorite nut–but keep the maple syrup as is; we found using less than 1/2 cup resulted in crumbly bars.
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Classic Cobb Mason Jar Salad
Pack classic Cobb salad “upside down” in a mason jar for a healthy lunch that won’t get soggy while sitting in the fridge all morning. Or pack it up the night before for an easy grab-and-go lunch in the morning.
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This easy pizza-inspired roll-up is a kid-pleaser.
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No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies
We gave no-bake cookies a healthy makeover, bumping up the peanut butter and cutting back on added sugar and butter. The result is a chewy, peanut buttery, oat-packed delicious cookie. It’s easy to whip up a batch of these–only a few simple ingredients are needed to make these chewy peanut butter cookies and there’s no baking required.
Black Bean-Smothered Sweet Potatoes
For a quick and satisfying last-minute supper, it’s hard to beat a sweet potato zapped in the microwave. The fragrant filling of beans and tomato adds protein, making it a nutritionally complete entree. Be sure to eat the potato skin; it’s full of fiber.
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Chocolate & Banana
Satisfy that chocolate craving with a drizzle of melted chocolate chips over banana slices for an easy treat.
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Microwave Potato Chips
You don’t need a deep fryer to make crispy potato chips. We toss thinly sliced potatoes with just a touch of olive oil, pop them in the microwave and voilà! Crispy, crunchy homemade potato chips with 8 grams less fat per serving than regular chips.
Healthy Meals for College Students
These are meals that aren’t only healthy, they’re easy to make and inexpensive! Here are great meal ideas that won’t make a dent in your bank account and promisingly tasty, not to mention good for your health.
1. Overnight Oatmeal
Regular oatmeal is also an awesome breakfast meal, but if your mornings are a bit rushed, then this is the perfect breakfast on the go.
- Ingredients: ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ½ cup water, little bit of salt, ½ cup blueberries, 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon toasted chopped pecans (or other nuts), 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup or honey
- Directions: Combine oats, water and salt in a mason jar or bowl. Simply cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you can heat it up if you want or leave cold, and top it with the blueberries, yogurt, pecans and syrup.
2. Avocado Toast
Avocados are a superfood, low in saturated fat and high in valuable nutrients, like vitamin K, potassium, folate, and vitamin C. It’s a great way to get some energy in the morning, but it can also be made as a snack too. Simply make some toast and spread some fresh avocado on top. Put some sliced tomatoes or bell pepper on top for some added taste and nutrients.
3. Veggie Omelet
A great way to get protein in your diet is to eat eggs. Add some veggies to that omelet and you got yourself a nutrient-packed breakfast that will keep you full until the next meal.
- Ingredients: 2 eggs, veggies of your choice (spinach and mushrooms are great to add to omelets and they’re super healthy)
- Directions: Whisk up the eggs in a bowl and add the spinach. Fry together in the pan. If you’re adding mushrooms, it’s best to fry the mushroom first and then add the whisked eggs to the pan. Add a piece of whole grain toast and you’re a happy camper.
Wraps are the perfect lunch food. You can make them and eat them at home or prepare them and bring them to school. And one of the best part about wraps is that you can be totally creative and they’re so easy to make! Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or meat eater, wraps can suit everybody. The ingredients are inexpensive and the prep time is a matter of minutes. Here are some ideas for wraps:
- Veggie wrap: lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, pickles and your favorite sauce
- Chicken wrap: piece of cooked (baked or fried) chicken, lettuce, bell peppers, pickles, and mustard
- Turkey wrap: turkey slices, pickles, lettuce, and cheese
2. Veggie and Hummus Sandwich:
Here’s a vegetarian lunch that is warm, yummy, and good for you! It’s also super easy and something you can make often. Here’s what you need:
- Ingredients: 2 slices of sprouted whole-grain bread, 2 tablespoons hummus, 4 slices of cucumber, 2 slices of tomato, 3 slices of avocado, 1/4 cup grated carrots, and 1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts (for an added crunch)
- Directions: Toast your bread, spread on the hummus, layer the veggies, and enjoy!
1. Chicken Salad
One of the best things to do with leftover chicken is to make a salad with it. But even if it’s not the result of leftovers, a chicken salad is a great healthy meal for students to enjoy. The chicken gives you the boost of protein and the veggies provide you with all the nutrients your body is craving.
- Here’s a great chicken salad recipe: Pieces of cooked chicken, lettuce or other greens (spinach is super healthy), cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and an olive oil and lemon salad dressing or vinaigrette. It’s best to ditch the heavy cream dressings as they’re full of extra calories.
2. Chicken Vegetable Quinoa Bowl
This dinner meal may take some more effort than the other ones on this list, but it’s worth it and it’s super healthy!
- Ingredients: 1/2 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes, cut up pieces of broccoli, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper, 2 ounces precooked grilled chicken breast, 1/4 cup of cooked quinoa, tahini, and lemon juice
- Directions: Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place your cubed sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and cover with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the broccoli pieces to the same baking sheet, add some more olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for another 20 minutes.
While that’s cooking, take some tahini, lemon juice, and some water to mix up together to create a salad dressing. In a serving bowl, add the pre-cooked quinoa, roasted vegetables, and the precooked chicken. Drizzle on the the tahini dressing and you’re done!
Healthy College Meals That Won’t Bust Your Budget
Learning to cook for yourself is challenging enough, but trying to cook healthy meals on a college student’s budget can seem downright impossible. Fortunately, we’ve curated a collection of simple, good-for-you meals for any budget. If you know a college student with limited time and money — or maybe you are that college student — you’ll want to bookmark these recipes for healthy college meals.
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Cherry Almond Oatmeal
The combination of vanilla almond milk and dried tart cherries makes boring oatmeal something you’ll actually look forward to in the morning. You can switch it up with your choice of milk (try chocolate as recipe creator wisweetp suggests) and a bit of honey or agave nectar.
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Paleo Teriyaki Stir-Fry Zoodles (Gluten Free)
Whether or not you’re on the paleo diet, this stir-fry is a great way to have a plate full of vegetables. Use a box grater or a vegetable peeler to make zoodles if you don’t have a spiralizer.
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Peanut Butter and Maple Oatmeal
Oatmeal with peanut butter will give you the energy you need to start the day. You can also use quick oats instead of steel-cut to save time.
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“Skinny” Chicken Tacos
Here’s a lightened up take on tacos that doesn’t skimp on flavor: “Pretty darn tasty! The fresh taste of the lime just makes this dish so unique,”
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This throw-together linguine makes a great alternative to heavier, cream-based pasta dishes. Garlic, zucchini, Cheddar cheese, and nonfat yogurt are all you need to transform plain linguine into an exciting dinner.
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Orange Chicken with Asparagus
Opt for this lighter, healthier orange chicken instead of takeout. Serve over rice.
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LaWanna’s Mango Salsa on Tilapia Fillets
Mild tilapia is seasoned with a pepper blend, pan-fried, and topped with a vibrant fruit salsa. This recipe can also be made with salmon instead of tilapia.
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Vegan Smoothie Bowl with Carrot and Banana
Sometimes smoothies are just more fun when served with a spoon. Medjool dates, banana, carrot, almond milk, cinnamon, and ginger combine to make a sweet smoothie with a striking color. Top with coconut and goji berries.
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Dried red chile peppers and tomatoes are all you need to prepare this super simple dinner that’s as good as it is easy. Serve with quinoa or rice.
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Asian Cabbage and Tea Rice
Rice is cooked in green tea-infused water and topped with steamed cabbage, edamame, almonds, and bell pepper.