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22 College Eating Hacks That Are Cheap, Easy, And Healthyish

Snacks, meals, and strategies for dining hall ninjas and dorm chefs.

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We recently asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their best tips for eating a little healthier at college.

BuzzFeed Health also reached out to registered dietitian Abby Langer, owner of Abby Langer Nutrition, to get her advice.

Btw, most of these tips are for dorm living — like when all you have is a microwave, mini-fridge, and/or access to a dining hall. But a few of them assume you have access to a kitchen, too.

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2. Hoard the dining hall's free condiments to make tasty snacks.

Instagram: @ro_view / Via instagram.com

"My dining hall had honey packets, peanut butter minis, and low-fat cream cheese minis in the condiment section. I would load up on those and put them in my mini-fridge to use as snacks for late night study sessions. Honey on low-fat yogurt, peanut butter on apples or graham crackers, and cream cheese with celery were my healthy alternatives during the week."

Danni Vasquez-Corpus

4. Make slightly healthier choices when it comes to liquid calories.

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When you drink alcohol you're getting all the calories with none of the nutrition or satiety, which is why a night of drinking often ends with takeout (more on that shortly). So when it comes to booze, Langer recommends moderating your intake and, if you're interested in weight management, choosing the lowest-calorie options available — like light beer or something with a calorie-free (i.e. not juice, not soda) mixer.

5. Have homemade versions of your favorite late-night snacks.

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If your Thursday through Saturday nights typically end with a pizza or takeout run, use the opportunity to make slightly healthier choices. You can make your own savory foods — like pizza bagels or frozen french fries — instead of ordering delivery or takeout, Langer says. Whatever you make is almost definitely going to be be lower in sodium and calories than whatever you'd order.

6. Keep chicken tenders in the freezer for snacks and meal toppers.

Instagram: @mamaharriskitchen / Via instagram.com

"You get a ton for no more than $10, and they last forever. Boil them in some water to cook, chop up, and add to ramen or even mac 'n' cheese to give you a heartier meal with added protein."

—Amanda Rochon, Facebook

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7. Keep sweet potatoes on hand for an easy, microwaveable snacks that can be savory or sweet.

Instagram: @healthyliving_happy / Via instagram.com

"They’re cheap, more nutritious than regular potatoes, and they keep you full! You can throw them in the microwave for eight minutes or so (be sure to pierce the skin with a fork!), add some brown sugar (or whatever, they’re good with butter and salt, too!), and go to town."

catawampus

8. Learn how to make a next level avocado toast that's filling and delicious.

Instagram: @ferortegam / Via instagram.com

"I use avocados with just about every meal. One of my favorite meal preps is to mash up half of an avocado with some salt and pepper until it has a creamier consistency. Then I put it on a piece of pita/flatbread/bread and top it with raw spinach, cut up grape tomatoes, feta cheese, and a little bit of olive oil. It’s super quick, easy to make, and surprisingly filling."

bmw94

9. Stock your room with snacks to fall back on when the dining hall offerings are mediocre.

Instagram: @curlyjewess / Via instagram.com

"I used to keep lots of healthy(ish), filling snacks in my room so I wouldn't be super hungry when the dining hall food was inedible. Nothing that required any more cooking equipment than a microwave, obviously — eggs (can be scrambled in a microwave), rolls, cheese and crackers, apples and peanut butter, veggies and hummus, berries and yogurt, premade chicken salad, etc."

—Cate Robbins Wright, Facebook

Langer recommends stocking nuts and nut butters, dried fruit, whole wheat crackers, cheese (if you have a fridge), and chip alternatives like unsweetened coconut chips or kale chips. The idea is to always have something on hand if you're hungry and in a rush or can't face what's being offered at the dining hall. If you skip meals, you're likely to get super hungry and make not-great food choices later on.

11. And hold potluck dinner parties to save money and get a balanced meal.

Instagram: @flowinglikewater / Via instagram.com

"One thing we used to do all the time in my dorm was get a group together and each make a different part of the meal. For instance one person made the main course and two others made sides. You spend less on groceries, you get a balanced meal, and you get to hang out with your friends. You can even snag pre-cut veggies from the dining hall salad bar to help cut costs of ingredients."

OMGitsaClaire

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12. Invest in a rice cooker to make nutritious one-pot meals.

Instagram: @hamiltonbeach / Via instagram.com

"Seriously, best thing ever. You can make so many healthy rice dishes by just adding some veggies and beans. Plus you can make more than just rice! I’ve done pasta and potatoes in it, and mine has a basket you can use to steam veggies with. It’s a complete lifesaver."

elfbug

14. Buy rotisserie chickens; one lasts for a bunch of meals.

Instagram: @houstonspompano / Via instagram.com

"It was cheaper than eating in the dining hall every night, and I always had a satisfying meal for a week. It wasn’t top-notch gourmet but I enjoyed it."

kennedyj4b34c70e8

15. Save some coin by cutting down on meat and mastering some simple vegetarian meals.

Instagram: @chicbonitaa / Via instagram.com

"Buy fresh veggies and canned goods when they are on sale, and noodles, rice, and beans from the bulk food section. Also quinoa. Frozen veggies are great because they are frozen when they are completely ripe so you get their full nutrients as long as you don't boil them to pieces.

I also invested in sauces, and the occasional serving of tofu. Sauces can make pad thai, stir fries and curries out of similar ingredients."

—Kendra Reis, Facebook

Get started with some easy vegetarian dinner recipes.

16. And save money by buying generic spices.

Instagram: @jenni_fit86 / Via instagram.com

"If you have a Latin foods aisle, they usually stock spices there that are cheaper than the major brands. I was able to buy Allspice for a buck, whereas McCormick was almost $5. Cumin, garlic powder, etc., all for $0.99."

—Amanda Rochon, Facebook

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17. Mix and match in the dining hall to create a balanced AF meal.

Instagram: @cap_super / Via instagram.com

"I generally try to get rice from one station, chicken, spinach, and beans from another and ta-da: healthy salad bowl."

M. L. Eileen

Langer recommends avoiding rich or heavy items like casseroles or anything in a ton of sauce. Instead, build your own meal. She suggests putting together a meal with lots of vegetables, a simply-prepared protein, and a "reasonable portion" (i.e. a couple tablespoons) of sauce, dressing, or a fatty condiment — like cheese or nuts — to add some extra flavor.

18. Put salad on your plate every time you eat in the dining hall.

Instagram: @mundocatering / Via instagram.com

"I think compromising with yourself by adding a salad to your meal each time you eat, even the times when you don’t pick the healthier option, makes a big difference."

carolinej4b4ffd060

"Filling half your plate with salad is the best way to crowd out the stuff that’s not as healthy," says Langer.

19. Pack up dining hall salad bar items to add to your ramen.

Instagram: @fitandhealthykate / Via instagram.com

"If the dining hall has to-go coffee cups, pack one with raw vegetables at the salad bar (mushrooms, spinach, corn, and tofu are my personal faves). Use the veggies to seriously jazz up your late-night ramen and give yourself some actual nutrition with your delicious, delicious noodles."

claudiacravensm

20. Learn how to assemble tasty, affordable, on-the-go breakfasts.

garnishwithlemon.com / Via buzzfeed.com

"I’ve become addicted to toast with cream cheese and strawberry jam. The ingredients are readily available in my dining hall, but I also bought my own because it’s affordable and easy to make in my room when I need something I can quickly eat while I walk to an 8 a.m. lecture."

laurar47

Langer recommends starting the day with a breakfast that's high in protein so it will keep you fuller for longer. Good options include anything from eggs or Greek yogurt to a hearty breakfast toast topped with cheese (ricotta or cottage or cheddar), avocado, or almond butter.

21. If you have access to a kitchen, master a few easy recipes.

iheartnaptime.net / Via buzzfeed.com

College is a great time to learn skills — like cooking — that you'll want to take with you into adulthood, says Langer. She recommends adding a few simple go-to meals to your arsenal so that any time you can use a kitchen, you can whip up something delicious and healthy-ish.

Try these three-ingredient dinners or these practical and super simple meals.

22. Prep just one or two meals for the week ahead.

budgetbytes.com / Via buzzfeed.com

"For me, prepping food for the week seems too ambitious. [A couple meals a week] might not seem like much, but I save lots of money. Find meals that you don’t mind eating multiple times a week."

ajengghinaf

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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