Healthy and Simple College Meals
Updated: Mar 10
Going to college is not all about getting a degree. There are many life skills that you will learn as you begin your journey into adulthood, including cooking. College is commonly the first place where young adults need to take care of their own needs in the kitchen. For many, it can be quite overwhelming. However, having a healthy diet is incredibly important, and it is worth taking the time to learn. Making healthy meals does not have to be complicated; it can be quite simple. Remember, it is completely normal if it feels overwhelming. Learning to create healthy meals takes time, and you can take it one step at a time.
Importance of Healthy Meals in College
The impact that your diet has on success in college is a growing field of research. However, current research indicates that a healthy diet plays a role in a student's success in academics. While more research is needed to better understand why this is the case, many theories currently exist. Some researchers believe that a diet high in micronutrients increases a student's ability to be successful in the classroom due to the increased frequency and amount of energy that is delivered to the brain. This is highly important as it increases brain functioning.
For those who have decreased executive functioning, this can be even more important. There are many reasons why some students may struggle more with executive functioning, scheduling, and focus. These include anxiety, depression, and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Research indicates that a healthy diet impacts your executive functioning, showing that an increase in processed food, also known as junk food, is associated with executive dysfunction.
Simple and Healthy Meals in College
Finding simple and healthy meals in college can feel daunting. However, the key is to make a routine. Many factors will go into what option(s) are best for you. It can help to focus on one meal at a time, practice integrating one meal into your daily routine, and see how you like it. When you are brainstorming options, consider the following:
What do you like?
How much time do you have or want to spend preparing a meal?
What fits into your budget? How much are you willing to spend on a specific meal?
Are there items you already know how to make?
What are some things you are interested in learning to make?
While it may feel like you do not have any skills in the kitchen, many meals can be made quite simply. Getting support from a coach or trusted friends and family can help. If you have seen someone make something like oatmeal and you are not sure how it works, reaching out to them is one option. Another option is to consider meals which you do not have to prepare due to how you buy them. For example, if you like yogurt, that alone could make a great breakfast that does not take any preparation.
Regardless of what you choose, it can help to use some creative tools to help you think of possibilities. Sitting down and making a list is a great way to start. We suggest choosing a meal and writing out three to five options that may work for you. Remember, it may take some experimenting to find what will work for you. If you try something and do not like it or it doesn't work for you for another reason, that's ok. Try moving on to the next on the list to see if it works better for you.
Tips to Simplify Healthy Meals
If you have ever watched someone make a complicated meal like for Thanksgiving or Christmas, it may seem like complicated is the only way. However, there are many ways that you can simplify meals that can help. Below, we will outline some ideas to consider when thinking about healthy and simple meals.
Meal Prepping and Making Leftovers
Cooking can bring great joy to some, but for those of you who it does not, meal prepping and making extra leftovers can be a great option. This means that you are spending an hour or so cooking but making extra that you can grab when you have less time. Scheduling time to do this into your week is important for this to work. However, once you find some meals or options you like, you can make a big batch of something you can eat all week!
Having a Few Key Meal Options
It takes time to learn what you feel comfortable cooking and enjoy eating. However, once you have a few options, you can make these a staple in your diet. Ideally, for a healthy diet, they will include some protein, fruits and vegetables, and minimally processed foods.
Taking It One Step at a Time
Remember, cooking for yourself is a skill that takes time to learn. Getting support can be helpful in this process. However, regardless of how you choose to learn this skill, it can help to take it one step at a time. Try focusing on one meal or making one new thing a week until you feel you have found a routine that works for you.
Cooking is often a brand-new skill for many college students. However, it is vital to learn to cook healthy meals that can support your brain and body. This is a skill that young adults will take into their adult lives, and thus can help you to be successful in college and beyond. At Northwest College Support, our coaches determine areas of need and begin teaching new skills in the kitchen for continued independence. We recognize that each student will have unique needs, and many will already have some skills to build on. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, call us today at (877) 485-2776 to speak with a staff member.