While in college, one of the hardest things to navigate is figuring out what to eat and how to cook for yourself. Once you move to college it can be a serious learning curve. It also takes a lot of self-control to not go out and grab fast food every time you get hungry.
Cooking and grocery shopping are already tricky, but when cooking for one, cooking can sometimes present even more difficulty. When it is just you eating, it is hard to know how much to cook, how many groceries to buy, and how to make healthy, filling foods without feeding a small army.
Here are a couple of tips for cooking for one while in college and meal ideas for every single meal (along with some simple recipes that you can use to impress your friends).
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We have all heard it a million times! Eating a filling breakfast helps you feel full all day and can even help stop cravings later in the day.
Something that people often overlook is getting protein during breakfast. We often think of protein as just meat, but there are a lot of other protein options. Protein helps you feel full longer, and fills many healthy gaps in your diet that you probably didn’t even know you had.
One of the simplest things to eat for breakfast is a protein shake or smoothie. This simple breakfast allows you to get in some fruits (and vegetables if you want to shake it up) and is an easy way to get protein as well, which will help you feel full longer. It is also a great on-the-go breakfast.
Chocolate Protein Shake (serving size: 1 shake)
- 1 cup ice
- ¼ cup milk of choice
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter (optional)
Add all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
If you have a little bit more time, consider one of the most enjoyed breakfasts of all—waffles. Waffles can be a simple way to get some great nutrients, feel full, and add all the toppings you want. Trust us and try these waffles even if you don’t like cottage cheese—you’ll thank us later.
Protein Waffles (serving size: 2 waffles)
- ½ cup Kodiak cake mix (or other protein pancake mix)
- ½ cup cottage cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 egg white
- Dash of cinnamon
- Dash of vanilla
- Chocolate chips
- Shredded coconut
- Peanut butter
- Whipped cream
Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until combined. Once smooth, pour into a greased waffle iron or onto a greased pan for pancakes. Cook until golden brown. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!
Other simple breakfast ideas include:
- Scrambled eggs
- Grab and go protein bar
For a lot of people, lunch can be the hardest meal of the day. Often, you don’t have time to cook something big and you just want to eat as you go throughout your day, especially during the busy years of college.
One of the best things you can eat for lunch are leftovers. When you cook dinner the night before, cook a little bit extra so you can finish it off for lunch the next day. Leftovers are an easy, fast, and yummy way to eat lunch without going out or spending an hour cooking.
To simplify leftovers even more, purchase some glass Tupperware containers so that you can separate your leftovers into one meal portion size for convenience in the future. When you are ready for lunch, you can simply grab one of your portioned containers out of the fridge and pop it in the microwave.
If you are in the mood to cook something yummy, one of our favorite lunches is a salad. This particular salad is easy to customize for yourself. It has a base of quinoa to help you feel more full with the carbohydrates and proteins that it offers, shredded chicken for protein, and plenty of greens and vegetables.
The other great thing about this salad is you can top it with any dressing you want. If you are in the mood for Mexican, top it with some salsa and sour cream and you have a taco salad. If you are craving something spicy, use a little bit of buffalo sauce for a yummy buffalo bowl. You can also top it with teriyaki sauce, ranch, Italian dressing, or simply some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt.
Best Salad Ever (serving size: 1 salad)
- ¼ cup cooked quinoa (or rice)
- Large handful of your choice of greens
- ¼ cup shredded rotisserie chicken
- Your choice of additional toppings (cucumber, cherry tomatoes, black beans, avocado, bell peppers, green onion, almonds, sweet potato, or anything else)
Simply add everything to a big salad bowl and mix it all together. Top with your choice of dressing (salad dressing, buffalo sauce, teriyaki sauce, salsa, lemon juice, etc.), and enjoy!
Other easy lunch ideas if you are in a rush include:
- Grab and go protein bar
- Protein shake
- Veggies and hummus
By this point in the day, you are probably ready for a big hearty meal. Usually by dinner time, you may have a little more time to cook something yummy rather than just throw stuff in a bowl or blender like breakfast and lunch.
A good rule of thumb for dinner is to have a complex carb (pasta, rice, quinoa, etc), protein (chicken, tofu, ground beef, etc.), and plenty of assorted vegetables.
You really can make anything following these rules. While you are in the kitchen cooking, you may just want to make a large portion so you can enjoy leftovers for lunch, snacks, and even quick dinners later in the week. Some people, when cooking for themselves, find it simplest to cook 3 meals a week and eat the leftovers for lunch and dinner for a couple of days before cooking again.
Especially when cooking for 1, you may find that you need to adapt recipes. But, if you look at it like meal prep and eat leftovers later in the week, it may be worth cooking the normal amount and giving yourself easy lunches.
If you are in a rush during the evening, one of the best ways to plan is to purchase a crock pot or instant pot and throw in your meals before heading to class for the day. You will shock your roommates with prepped food before you even walk in the door after class.
Pasta (serving size: 4)
- ½ pound ground beef
- Uncooked pasta
- 1 jar Rao's pasta sauce
- 1 zucchini (diced)
- Large handful of spinach
- 7 diced mushrooms
- 1 cup shredded carrots (optional)
- ¼ cup minced onion
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 2 pieces of your choice of bread
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- ½ tablespoon garlic salt
Begin by adding the minced onion and garlic to a pan on medium-high heat and cooking until the onions are translucent and the garlic makes your kitchen smell amazing. Add in the ground beef and stir until cooked.
While the beef is cooking, add your pasta to salted boiling water and follow the directions on the box to cook. Preheat the oven to broil.
Once the beef is cooked, add in the diced zucchini, mushrooms, shredded carrots, spinach, and stir until the zucchini is soft. Add in the pasta sauce and let simmer on low heat.
When the pasta is done, strain it.
Mix the softened butter and garlic salt in a bowl and then butter your bread. Once the oven is preheated, broil the bread—watching carefully to ensure it doesn’t burn.
Serve the pasta, sauce, and bread together, and enjoy! Place the leftovers in single Tupperware containers to easily enjoy the next day for lunch.
Crockpot Mexican Shredded Chicken (serving size: 4)
- 2-3 chicken breasts
- 1 cup salsa
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup water
- Cooked rice to serve
- Black beans
Add all of the ingredients to a crockpot and stir together. Cook for 4 hours on high or 6 hours on low until the chicken is tender and can be shredded.
Shred the chicken and enjoy it on top of rice with your choice of vegetables. Store in single-serving airtight Tupperware containers for easy leftovers.
Other simple ideas for dinner include:
- Stir fry bowls
- Lettuce wraps
- Stuffed peppers
Cooking for one during college can be stressful and daunting, but with the right tools, a little bit of thought, and an understanding of what fuels your body, you can set yourself up for success. One of the most daunting things can be buying groceries, but with some thought, you can conquer that and find things that you love.
If you or someone you know is looking for housing with a great kitchen, feel free to contact us at Hillcrest Townhouses. We’d be happy to give you more information about life as a college student.