I went off to college skinny and happy. I’d heard of the dreaded “Freshman 15,” but I didn’t believe it could happen to me. After all, I was active, drank lots of water and ate fairly healthy meals. Little did I know the havoc that dorm life would wreak on my diet and my figure. Not only was I drinking thousands of calories in cheap beer, I was eating grilled cheese and hot dogs every day in the dining hall. Once my mother started sending me care packages stuffed with Slim Jims, Rice Krispie treats and Tastykakes, I was doomed.
The staples of the typical college student’s diet are Ramen noodles and Easy Mac packets. Needing only water, these can sustain you through moneyless weeks with some form of nutrition, even if the main ingredient you ingest is sodium. Though these quick meals are not the best on their own, they can be improved with the addition of a little George Foreman-grilled chicken or beef, or by mixing in some steamed vegetables. Vegetables and protein should be the key words for anyone trying to keep their high- school body. The following tips can help juice up fast and cheap meals if you don’t want to look like that beer keg you are drinking from.
Spice it up.
Keep seasonings around. Figure out what you like – be it Tabasco, paprika, salad dressing, garlic or whatever, and have it in your house or room to make anything taste livelier.
George Foreman (or similar brand) grills are quite inexpensive now, and you can make lots of healthy protein on them. Grill turkey burgers, steaks, chicken breasts, even portabella mushrooms for a dose of non-carbohydrates when you just can’t face the Ramen one more time.
Use the vendors.
The Oriental Gourmet lunch truck sells lots of veggie items for less than three dollars, and they make great sides. Reheat in a small pan or the microwave as an accompaniment to your healthy grilled items.
Exploit the salad bar.
If you don’t have time to go shopping regularly for vegetables, stop by the salad bar in the Student Center and load up on pre-washed and sliced veggies. You can cook them however you like at home, with no preparation.
Buy good rolls and wrap them up individually in plastic wrap, then seal a bunch into a plastic zip bag. Freeze them, and whenever you want warm, fresh bread, pull one out, unwrap it, and microwave for 30 seconds.
Eat like a European.
For a small meal or a satisfying snack, try bread, cheese, pepperoni and some olive oil for dipping. Throw in some raw carrots or an apple, and you’ve got yourself a very continental, balanced meal. Add wine at your own discretion.
Clementines are abundant now, so buy a box and have a sweet little orange anytime you want. Choosing seasonal produce is also easier on the wallet.
Eating better, even in college, doesn’t have to be a struggle. If you consciously include more lean protein, veggies and fruits in your diet, you don’t have to deny yourself cheap beer or chocolate. Once I told my mom to quit it with the Slim Jim packages, even I started to drop my “Freshman 15.”
Felicia D’Ambrosio can be contacted at Caspian@temple.edu.