Easy, Healthy Recipes for College Students
More and more evidence has shown that adopting a plant-based diet is beneficial for you in many ways, such as lowering your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, preventing and even reversing heart disease, decreasing the risk of cancer and diabetes, better weight management, prevent and alleviate inflammatory diseases such as asthma, premature aging, mental diseases, obesity, inflammatory bowel diseases, and so much more. Even if you are not trying to become a full-fledged vegan, adding more vegetables and legumes into your life is always beneficial. And yet, as college students, it feels like it is next to impossible to improve our eating habits when we rely heavily on dining hall foods. If the battle is between providing healthy options or popular ones that people prefer, the latter always wins. But fret not, if there’s a will there’s a way. Here are five simple and easy recipes that you can follow to improve your eating and snacking habits while even when you’re restricted to the microwave or a small dorm apartment kitchen.
- Chocolate Chickpea Spread – Adapted from Hannah (BitterSweet)’s Recipe
While the idea of putting chickpeas and cocoa powder in one dish might sound gross, hear me out. This simple spread tastes absolutely amazing. It’s my current morning favorite! It is also SO good for you, with the list of ingredients equivalent to the dream team of plant-based foods – chickpeas, peanut butter, olive oil, cacao powder, and coconut sugar. What can be better than getting to eat Nutella all day every day without the guilt associated with anything chocolate-related? It’s also cheap to make, and it cannot get any easier – you just dump everything into a small food processor* and blend it all up! So, what are you waiting for?
(Credit: Hannah Kaminsky’s Blog)
1 can chickpeas
1 tbsp peanut butter (Choose the one without added sugar!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup sugar of choice (granulated/coconut)**
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
2-4 tbsp water
Mix everything but water in a food processor. Stop to scrape down the side if necessary. Slowly add the water in until you get to your desired consistency.
The original recipe called for 1 tsp of instant coffee powder. I omitted it in mine, but if you want an extra kick in the morning, then it is definitely a good thing to add!
*You can get a small food processor on Amazon for about $25, and it’ll more than pay for itself. It is an extremely versatile piece of kitchen equipment, which I will prove you by the end of this article!
**This is the amount of sugar in the original recipe, but I tend to use half to a third of the amount called for to reduce my sugar intake. It is really up to you how sweet you want it to be, and just adjust it accordingly!
- Raw and Sugar-Free Thumbprint Cookies – Adapted from Thrive Market’s Recipe
This recipe again calls for the amazing food processor (did I tell you that I cannot live without mine yet?), and it is equally easy to make (no baking involved!). The only additional step is to shape the tiny cookies at the end, which can be really meditative if you ask me! It is great for a quick breakfast, a mid-day snack, or a pick-me-up when you are up at night studying. There is no flour involved, and you can even make it gluten-free by substituting for GF rolled oats. I call it the cookie-without-guilt, which I always thought was non-existent. You can also make a small batch and put them in a cute little mason jar and decorate it with stickers – a great low-budget, high-impact gift for your loved ones!
(Credit: Thrive Market Blog)
For the cookies:
2/3 cup almonds
2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp raw honey*
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
¾ cup rolled oats
For the jam
1 cup mixed berries of your choice (blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are in the original recipe)**
2-3 tbsp raw honey***
4 tbsp chia seeds
For the cookies:
Mix everything but the oats in a food processor until it becomes a thick dough. Add the oats and mix a bit more so that they break down and blend with everything else, but not too much. Then it’s time to play with dough! Form little balls and make a thumbprint in the center for jam. Put in the fridge for an hour for everything to set and come together.
For the jam:
Use the food processor (again) to blend the berries and honey- how smooth it is depends on how chunky you want your jam to be. Transfer to a jar/bowl and add the chia seeds. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then fill the cookies with jam.
*You can adjust the amount of honey, but keep in mind that it also acts as a binder for the other ingredients. If you cut down too much, your cookies might fall apart. If you do decide to cut down, substitute in some peanut butter.
**You can use frozen berries, just thaw them thoroughly before blending them.
***When my berries are sweet, I omit the honey.
- Easy White Bean Dip with Sun-Dried Tomatoes – Adapted from Jaymi Heimbuch’s Recipe
I am always game when it comes to chips and dip, but with the amount of calories in the store-bought dip, I don’t exactly feel great about myself post-indulging. Well, guilt no more! This recipe delivers a perfectly decadent company for some whole-grain tortilla chips (or fresh vegetables if you want to up your healthy eating game), without being overpowered by the bean taste. It can be as complex as you want (if you have access to a kitchen) or as quick and simple as needed. It takes about ten minutes to make, and it guarantees enough satisfaction for both you AND your roommate, if you are generous enough to share!
1 can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp parsley leaves, finely chopped *
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes**
1 tbsp capers***
1 tsp paprika
Juice from half a lemon
1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper
Sauté**** the diced onion and minced garlic with some olive oil until translucent.
In a food processor, blend the beans with lemon juice, paprika, and the onion and garlic *****.
Dice sun-dried tomatoes and chop the parsley. Add the rest of the ingredients into the bean mixture. Mix thoroughly.
Enjoy it with bread/chips/vegetables/anything your little heart desires.
*You can find parsley and other herbs (not basil) for REALLY cheap prices at Haymarket.
**I love sun-dried tomatoes, so I add more into my dip, but it really depends on your preference.
***I left this one out when I made mine because I didn’t have any on hand. It still tasted great.
****If you don’t have access to a kitchen to sauté, substitute with 1 tbsp of onion powder or omit the onion altogether.
*****You can puree it, or you can leave it chunky if you want some texture.
- Zoodle (Zucchini noodle) with cilantro cashew pesto – Adapted from Annie Chesson’s Recipe
Pasta is great, pasta is awesome, but pasta also gives me a big, bloated belly whenever I finish it (mostly because I refuse to stop even if I cannot swallow anymore). Enters zoodle- the wonderful creation of the internet that allows people like me to stuff my face with more pasta without feeling guilty. The great thing about this recipe is that you can eat it raw, or you can cook/microwave the zucchini for a more tender bite. It is also super quick, and you can keep the extra pesto in the fridge for later.
1-2 medium sized zucchini
1 cup packed cilantro leaves (about two bunches) *
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup cashews **
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ – ½ cup water
For the pesto
Blend the cilantro, lemon juice, cashews, and garlic in the food processor. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in, followed by water until you get to your desired consistency. Add salt and blend some more.
For the zoodle
Use a spiralizer to make zoodle, or simply use a vegetable peeler to make thin stripes. Either eat raw or microwave in 30 second increments until the zoodle gets tender enough to your liking. Alternatively, if you have access to a kitchen, you can heat up the pesto in a small pan and mix the zoodle in until slightly cooked down, which should only take about three minutes!
*Like parsley in the recipe above, cilantro and zucchini can be found for very cheap at Haymarket.
**Even though the recipe is called cashew pesto, you can easily substitute for other kinds of nuts/seeds in here depending on what you have on hand. I’ve tried traditional pine nuts, walnuts, and cashews, and they all taste equally great! You can lightly toast the nuts/seeds before blending for a stronger flavor.
- Microwave sweet potato chips
I love sweet potatoes to death- I could eat them everyday for the rest of my life. The microwave can do wonders to sweet potato, making it even more versatile for people without access to an oven. You can boil it, steam it, or make sweet potato chocolate cake out of it (yes you can!). However, if I had to choose, I’d call microwaved sweet potato chips the microwaveable recipe of the year. This snack is crispy, slightly salty, addictive, and just all around amazing. But there is one down side to this recipe. It is a bit more labor intensive than the other ones, because you need to stand next to the microwave to keep an eye on the chips that can burn easily. However, given the nutrient and the taste, I’d say it’s well worth it. It is also very cheap to make, because the only ingredient you REALLY need are sweet potatoes (which are sold by the pack of 4 for $1 at Haymarket). Within just 5-10 minutes, you have a small batch of healthy and satisfying chips.
1 sweet potato
2 tsp of olive oil
Sea salt (as needed)
Thinly slice the sweet potato, either by a sharp knife or with a mandolin (the mandolin will save you A LOT of time!).
Lightly coat the sweet potato with olive oil and salt (or with any seasoning you’d like to try. I’ve seen people coating it with cinnamon, though I have never tried it myself).
Arrange the slices on a large, microwave-safe plate. Make sure it’s a single layer, so everything can dry evenly. If you don’t want it to stick to your plate, put some parchment paper under the slices – it’ll make your life a lot easier with the clean up.
If you can adjust the power level of your microwave, turn it down to 6 or 7, and cook it until the chips are dry. I normally do it in several intervals so that the chips have time to cool down between the heat waves, which prevent them from burning. I prepare two plates of chips to alternate in the microwave, and cook them in 2-minute intervals, reducing the time towards the end. If not, just put it on power level 5 and cook them for 5 -7 minutes straight.
When you feel like they have dried enough, take them out and let the chips sit for a couple of minutes. The chips will crisp up.
You will have a much easier time if your slices are even, which is much more achievable with an inexpensive mandolin.
Healthy eating does not need to be hard, you just have to make one good choice at a time! By arming yourself with these fool-proof recipes, you’re that much closer to a healthier, flu-resistant body for this semester. There are always a million of things to do around campus, but don’t forget to put yourself first! Your health and soul will thank you for your love and effort.