Dorm Dining: How Does This Work?

All schools have multiple rules about what can and cannot be kept in a dorm room. Although it would be nice to have items like a stove or oven, space is also limited. This makes it difficult to make healthy choices while living on campus. A big tip is to keep your room stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, bread, cereal, pastas, nuts, plain instant oatmeal, peanut butter, and limit the amount of snack foods. Also make sure you have utensils and dishes to eat with and on. The following are suggestions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks that can all be made and stored in a common dorm room.

·         Oatmeal
o   Add dried fruit or nuts
o   Mix in a tablespoon of peanut butter
o   Fresh fruit, such as bananas, apples, and berries can be thrown in
o   Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon
o   Tip: Cooking instant oatmeal with milk (skim, 1%, or soy) instead of water gives it a creamier texture with more taste
o   Pre-packaged oatmeal mixes are higher in sugar and less natural, as well as less filling

·         Cereal
o   Tip: When walking down the intense cereal aisle at the grocery store, look for cereals with less than 10 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and the words “Whole Grain” first in the ingredients list
o   Add fresh strawberries, bananas, or dried fruit to cereal to add flavor
o   Recommended Cereals: Fiber One, All Bran, Special K, Kashi, Quaker Oatmeal Squares, Chex, Cheerios

·         Eggs
o   Believe it or not, scrambled eggs can be made in a dorm room!
o   Spray a small, microwave-safe dish with non-fat cooking spray; crack eggs and “whisk” with a fork; microwave 45-60 seconds, stirring after the first 30 seconds
o   Sprinkle cheese or your favorite seasonings
o   Add a spoonful of salsa or a dash of hot sauce
o   Put on a whole wheat English muffin or toast with turkey sausage to make a sandwich

·         Waffles and Pancakes
o   Frozen waffles and pancakes are a quick and easy option when living in a dorm
o   Choose whole wheat or multi-grain waffles or pancakes
o   Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter and slice bananas to put on top
o   Don’t overdo the butter and syrup, although small amounts are good
o   Add yogurt for a creamy topping
o   Fresh fruit or nuts add flavor and crunch

·         Other Ideas
o   Yogurt Parfait: layer yogurt, granola/nuts/seeds/high fiber cereal, and fresh fruit
o   Rice cakes with peanut butter
o   Egg Sandwich

·         Soups
o   Microwavable soups are easy and healthy options
o   Choose soups with a light broth and avoid cream-based soups
o   Soups are a great way to include vegetables in your diet
o   Soups with lean proteins are good options
o   Remember beans have protein! Soups don’t need the common forms of protein (meat)
o   Chili is a great choice – meat, beans, and vegetables
o   Depending on the soup, a small sandwich, whole grain crackers, pretzels, yogurt, or piece of fruit pairs well

·         Sandwiches
o   Bread: purchase whole wheat, high fiber, or multi-grain bread. It keeps well on a shelf in a dorm room and is a healthy food item to always have on-hand. Choose breads with flavor – don’t force yourself to eat bread that tastes like cardboard. When in the bread aisle, look for breads that have whole grain/wheat as the first ingredient, and DON’T have any type of sugar in the first three ingredients.
o   Try different grains: pitas or wraps are great!
o   Meat: deli-sliced or pre-packaged meats work well. Turkey, ham, roast beef, pastrami, and chicken are good choices. Avoid highly processed meats like bologna.
o   Hummus is a great source of protein that can add a different flavor to any sandwich
o   Cheese: Cheeses provide some protein when assembling the perfect sandwich. A fun tip is to try different cheeses to mix up your routine sandwich
o   Toppings: Raw veggies come in handy here! Vegetables like spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, and carrot slices are great ways to add vitamins in your day.
o   Watch the amount of fat-based spreads or dressings you put on your sandwich: these are okay to include, however don’t load up on them.
o   Add a small cup of soup, yogurt, piece of fruit/fruit cup, pretzels, trail mix, or salad for a satisfying meal

·         Salads
o   Salads are a great way to load up on veggies, fruits, and protein
o   Get creative!
o   Add at least one source of protein: this can be meat/fish, hummus, seeds, beans, or nuts
o   Try to include two different vegetables (besides lettuce!): raw peppers, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli
o   Choose green, leafy lettuce; don’t use only Romaine lettuce (make your salads half spinach, half Romaine or Iceberg lettuce)
o   Try adding nuts, cheeses, trail mixes, dried and fresh fruits for something different
o   Dressings: stick to clear dressings like vinaigrettes; if you want a creamy dressing, use sparingly

·         Grains
o   Believe it or not, pasta and rice can be made in your dorm room!
o   Fill a microwave-safe bowl with the appropriate amount of water, add the pasta or rice, and microwave accordingly until it is finished cooking
o   Use your favorite sauces on pasta; use the heavy, creamy sauces sparingly
o   Be sure to include a protein with the carbohydrates: grilled chicken, shrimp, and fish that are refrigerated/frozen
o   Throw in some vegetables for a “Garden Pasta”
o   Make pasta salads for future meals
o   Rice and beans
o   Choose brown rice over white

·         Meat
o   Finding meat to cook in a dorm room is easier than you may think
o   Frozen/pre-cooked chicken and turkey breasts and seafood are easy and good sources of protein
o   Some frozen meats/meat substitutes are quick meals: for example, MorningStar Black Bean Burgers have great flavor and make a good sandwich; turkey sausage is also a good choice

·         Vegetables
o   Frozen vegetables are also very easy to find, as well as prepare
o   Put in a microwave-safe bowl and cook until done (adding water for cooking isn’t necessary; it actually causes most of the vitamins and nutrients to be lost)
o   White and sweet potatoes can be easily cooked in a microwave – just make sure you poke them with a fork to avoid explosions!

·         Frozen Meals
o   These are easy and quick
o   Microwavable dinners: Choose dinners with LESS than 400 calories, LESS than 600 mg sodium, LESS than 10 grams fat, and AT LEAST 3 grams fiber. (Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones)

·         Hummus and pretzels/raw veggies
·         Yogurt
·         Fresh fruit
·         Whole wheat crackers and cheese
·         Peanut butter and celery/crackers/fruit/pretzels
·         Baked chips
·         Fruit and cheese
·         Trail mix

Contributed by:
Lauren Marucci
Dietetic Senior
Penn State University