When you’re in college, top of the mind is getting your assignments completed and making sure you’re prepared for class each day. Not to mention fraternity and sorority recruitment season, when you barely get a moment to yourself. Some nights you might forget to eat, let alone make a healthy meal, but you need a good dinner to be prepared for your upcoming day. You can make quick meals that are not just tasty, but also packed with nutrients and good ingredients.
Try one or more of these 10 healthy dinner ideas when you’re in your dorm or apartment. They should take no more than about 30-45 minutes of your time and are totally worth it. Also, invest in a few small aluminum baking pans from your local dollar store so that you can make small meals for yourself (and maybe your roommate).
Lemon Garlic Butter Baked Fish
White fish is so easy to cook and tastes delicious with basic ingredients. That includes flounder, cod, and turbot. Put a couple of clean pieces in one of your aluminum baking pans and add a few pats of butter. Sprinkle garlic, cilantro, and squeeze some lemon on top, then add a few lemon slices before putting it in the oven. Set the temperature to about 375 degrees and let it cook for about 30-45 minutes, watching it closely.
Cheesy Chicken Roll-up
Slice a chicken thigh into chunks (remove as much of the skin as you can and discard the bone). Season it with garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian salad dressing. Fry the chicken in a bit of olive oil and toss in some sliced red and green peppers if you have them. Pop two soft spelt or spinach tortillas in the microwave for 10 seconds so that they will be warm and soft, then add a layer of your favorite shredded cheese. Add the chicken mixture and roll it up like a burrito.
Rice Noodle Soup
Rice noodles are considered a healthier alternative to standard noodles. You can find them in the international aisle of your favorite grocery store. You’ll need a box of Pho or Ramen broth, chopped scallions, and mushrooms at minimum. Cook the veggies first then add the broth. Place the dry noodles in a bowl, pour the hot broth over them, and cover the bowl with a lid until the noodles soften. You can also use mung bean noodles, sometimes called bean threads.
Quick Spinach and Mozzarella Rigatoni Bake
Those small bake pans that you can find at the dollar store are magical and inspirational. You can make all sorts of baked meals with them, including Italian dishes. Heat up some tomato sauce with Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add spinach as well as mushrooms if you like them, and boil rigatoni or penne pasta in a separate pot. Layer the sauce, then the pasta, then the mozzarella cheese, and again until the aluminum pan is full. Bake on 350 for about 45 minutes, watching it closely. Your roommates and probably people down the hall in your dorm will want to know what’s cooking after a while.
Crispy Potato Wedges
It’s recommended that people consume at least 4700 mg of potassium each day for good health. Yet very, very few people get anywhere near this level. So, it’s also good to incorporate a few potatoes in your diet each day (preferably not the greasy fast food fries). Make some baked crispy potato wedges instead.
Chop them up in whatever way you like, boil them with some salt for about 20 minutes, then drain the water. Let them cool for a while, then pat your potatoes dry and coat them with a mixture of cornstarch, paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic. Sprinkle with olive oil or peanut oil. Bake in the oven for another 20 minutes or until they reach your desired crispiness.
Turkey Meatballs and Gravy
Making healthier meatballs is not as complicated as you might think. It’s just a matter of getting a clean bowl, some seasonings, and a pack of ground turkey which is often only a few bucks at the supermarket. Turkey is a healthier choice compared to beef. Put a half pack of ground turkey in the bowl, Italian seasoning, some Italian dressing, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, adobo seasoning if you have it, an egg, parmesan cheese if you have it, and a good dollop of olive oil. Get your hands into the mixture and combine all of the ingredients thoroughly. Roll up into meatballs (your desired size) and place them in your mini baking pan. If you have some of the mixture left over, just freeze it.
Bake in the oven on 375 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour until they’re fully done. To make gravy, pour the liquid left into a cooking pan, add vegetable broth, water, and cornstarch or flour for thickening. Whip it all together and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Pour it over your turkey meatballs and enjoy.
Mushroom Stir Fry
Mushrooms have a number of health benefits, such as antioxidants, protein, and fiber. They also have a delicious flavor and the consistency of meat. If you’re trying to do a meatless Monday, make a quick mushroom stir fry with carrots, sliced red and green peppers, and onions. Just let them all fry together in some olive oil and then douse the mixture with some low sodium soy sauce. Add some garlic powder, salt, and pepper and you’re good to go. Remember to fix some rice to serve it with, or rice noodles.
Easy Chicken Parm Sandwich
You don’t have to deep fry a chicken breast in bread crumbs to make a decent chicken parmigiana sandwich. Just season the sliced chicken, then fry each side in olive oil until done. Pour your tomato sauce over the chicken in one of your mini baking pans and cover with mozzarella cheese. Let it bake for about 30 minutes on 350 degrees while you finish reading the assignment for your class tomorrow. If you can find it, use an artisan bread roll to house your cheesy parmigiana. Remove some of the inside of the bread roll, because there’s no reason to have that much bread if you want a healthier choice — it’s all about the chicken, sauce, and mozza after all!
Roasted White Potatoes and Spinach
Spinach is a miracle food. It has loads of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay active and healthy. It’s enough to make you want to eat spinach all day long, at every meal. Spinach is especially delicious with some boiled then roasted potatoes, olive oil, garlic powder, and a little salt. Use an air fryer for your potatoes if you have one.
Chicken Drumsticks Dinner
If you want a delicious dinner that is easy to prepare, healthy, and affordable, go with chicken drumsticks. They are probably the least expensive type of chicken you can purchase. Other than the drumsticks, all you need is a white onion (chopped) and some standard seasonings (paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder). Clean the drumsticks and remove as much skin as you can. Put them in your aluminum baking pan and mix everything together with your hands. Bake on 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until done. Serve over rice.
These 10 healthy dinner recipes will give you motivation to eat better throughout your college years, and most likely inspire you to chef it up in the kitchen after you graduate and impress your sorority sisters, fraternity brothers, friends, and family. Pick one to start and go from there.