Let’s be real here. Going to college is a hard transition. The added pressure of figuring out meals from time to time — especially given that eating dining hall food gets old fast — makes it even more difficult.
It is definitely important to get the experience of navigating a dining hall and working with minimal kitchen access. It gives you the chance to eat with different kinds of people and experience various foods. You also learn what works best for you and that sometimes pizza might be what your body needs or wants at the time. However, there are a few tips to ease the college transition.
Prioritize grocery trips
I eased the transition by keeping the comfort of my favorite foods in my life. This meant prioritizing a grocery trip for myself every couple of weeks. I would make a list of snacks and ingredients for breakfasts to keep in my dorm. I kept options like yogurt, fruit, vegetables and nut milks in my mini fridge. On the non-refrigerated side, granola or protein bars, crackers and oatmeals were essential to my first-year survival.
Breakfast can be challenging if you don’t like getting up in the morning. However, breakfast is often an underrated meal in the eyes of tired and busy college students who really do need the energy to make it through long days of classes and activities. Oatmeal is a staple that I learned to make very easily in my dorm or on the go. Snag an oatmeal cup, pour water in and microwave according to the instructions, or create your own bowl with my dorm-friendly recipe.
Hot oatmeal on the go three to four days a week was so useful I invented my own method — thermos oats. Simply boil or microwave nut milk or water. Meanwhile, pour half a cup of oats, one to two tablespoons of flaxseed meal for protein and optional protein powder or chia seeds into a thermos and mix. Then pour the hot liquid into the thermos, mix and put the top on quickly so heat doesn’t escape. This is key because the thermos traps heat and cooks the oats.
These oats can be ready within 30 minutes and stay hot for around three hours before thickening and getting colder. I pack fruit and hemp seeds to add — don’t put your toppings in with the oats while they cook unless you want them to be mush. You can top with whatever you want!
Store snacks on the go
Snacks are key to surviving college. When your days are packed with meetings, classes and projects, a trip to the dining hall might be pushed aside. It’s important to keep snacks in your dorm and backpack. Don’t be ashamed to carry around a lunchbox, and always carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated — trust me, you’ll be walking a lot.
Yogurt is one of my favorite options. Instead of reaching for a dining hall Yoplait, try looking for a Greek yogurt option or a yogurt made from real ingredients without a lot of added sugars.
I try to grab Siggi’s Icelandic-style Skyr on my grocery trips. Siggi’s skyr is a thicker yogurt like Greek yogurt. It has more protein than sugar, real ingredients and is a great base for dining hall fruit. Berries and granola sprinkled on top make for a great snack.
I am almost always found with a Perfect Bar or a GoMacro bar. Their real, wholesome ingredients like honey make for better options than average cereal bars which are often packed with additives and ingredients like corn syrup or cane sugar. Non-artificial sweeteners like honey offer a lower, slower rise in blood sugar.
If you're looking for a place to start with either of these bars, some of my favorite Perfect Bar flavors are chocolate hazelnut crisp, chocolate walnut brownie and peanut butter.
As for GoMacro, I recommend the peanut butter flavor. There is also a sunflower butter and chocolate flavor which is nut-free for any allergy-bound friends. These vegan, gluten-free and organic bars are essential to have on hand in the library when cramming for an exam or writing a paper.
Veggies and hummus are also easy and healthy snacks. Carrots are my lifeline — ask anyone who knows me. Throw other vegetables in the mix, and you will be the epitome of health.
If there is anything I hope you remember, it is that everyone is doing their own thing in college and finding what works. Embrace this time as a chance to try new things, learn what it means to be out there on your own and do what is best for you. You will likely save Plus Dollars along the way if you choose to keep snacks on hand and follow the above advice.