14 Healthy Ideas For The Microwave and Mini-Fridge Diet

January 12, 2012   18 Comments

Some of you probably get hives just looking at the photo above, yes, that is a college dorm. This dormitory is located at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

College Student Healthy Snacks

What were they thinking when they built it? How can we make these buildings as ugly as possible? sheesh

(sorry, UMASS)

I received an e-mail from a college student in November and I thought we could help her out. From Hillary:

I'm a freshman dance major at the University of Texas and have been having some troubles eating healthy. I thought that as a dancer it would help me to keep off that infamous "freshman 15", but alas it has not.

The food offered on a college campus is truly meant for the high metabolism teenage boys (i.e. chicken strips, fries, hamburgers) and usually the only "healthy options" are salads with high in fat dressings!

So I was wondering if you could please help a girl out with innovative ways to eat healthy without a kitchen. All I have is a microwave and a fridge! A thousand thanks if you could help!

I will take just one "thanks" if I can help. A thousand seems disproportionate to the help that I can offer.

Well, Hillary, I have been there. I spent 9 years in higher education - most of the time I was eating really crappy food - so I am proud of you for catching on in your freshman year how crappy the food is at UT. Awesome!

So, now, what are we going to do about it? You will need some basic supplies - can opener, kitchen knife, cutting board, utensils, and dishes - but I think we can come up with some healthy food that will help you manage to keep from gaining the freshman 15.

I have compiled a bunch of ideas here on Snack Girl that can work if you only have a microwave and a fridge. I will say that during grad school (when I got smarter), I would always have a can of black beans, fresh salsa, and grated cheese.

I would make myself a "burrito bowl" in the microwave as a cheap meal that was big on nutrients and low on calories and preparation time.

The key to remaining healthy is going to be to eat the fruits and vegetables that you aren't being offered - try to get your 5 servings a day - and you will save yourself from all that fatty food.

Here are some food ideas that will work in a dorm room:

1. turkishbreakfastb Rethink Your Breakfast: Turkish Style

2. carrotbiteb Create A Better Snack With Carrots

3. cantaloupebowlb How Cantaloupe Can Keep Your Dishes Clean

4. Elegant, Easy, and Under 100 Calories

5. bananaquesadillab The BEST Post Workout Snack

6. walnutyogurtb.jpg Try This Breakfast Solution: Faster and Healthier Than Cereal

7. cottagecheesesnackb Mix It Up For A Delicious Snack

8. Appleslicerb This Gadget Will Change Your Life

9. fruitsaladb Imagine Being On Vacation

10. Ants on a Log Fun for kids to make and eat (adults too!)

You can cook these in your microwave:

11. broccolipeanutb Broccoli With Peanut Sauce Is For Everyone (Even The Broccoli Haters)

12. portabellomushroompizzab A 100 Calorie Pizza That Will Rock Your Sox

13. kettlecornb Makeover Kettle Corn Into "Can Do" Corn

14. muffinpizzab Quick and Healthy Pizza

Please share your healthy meal/snack ideas for Hillary.

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Student cookbooks designed for people trying to eat healthy are the greatest! I used lots of those (and still do, I just make more now). Also, I would cook meals at home and freeze them in order to nuke them later. Helped a ton!

I try to avoid using a microwave as much as possible, but I guess sometimes it can't be avoided. Fig Foods makes an organic tomato soup that comes in a BPA-free carton. Vegetables and brown rice come in steamable bags. Fresh fruit and string cheese were 2 things I always had on hand. Canned tuna and deli meat for protein. You can even cook eggs in the microwave. If you can get a blender in there, you can make fruit and vegetable smoothies.

HEY! That's my alma mater (UMass)!! :)

College students definitely need better meal options and plans than what's provided for them. I'd advise against the use of microwaves though. Don't trust them at all.

Did you see the study about watering plants with microwaved water? It died much faster than the plant using plain water. Scary.

I remember smuggling a lot of fresh fruit from the dining halls, as well as filling up my own thermoses with milk and bringing them back to my dorm room to have milk with (low-sugar) cereal. I also kept certain frozen meals (low-sodium, balanced) on hand for nights when choices at the dining halls were particularly dismal.

Other essentials I kept on hand were peanut butter (so versatile - for sandwiches, as a veggie dip, for dessert... the possibilities are endless!), low-carb/high-fiber tortillas (a more versatile alternative to bread), hummus, tuna/salmon in packets, and oatmeal. With these essentials and a few other ingredients that can easily be smuggled from the dining hall or picked up at a grocery store (or even Wal-green's), it was easy to keep myself well-nourished and not depend on the dining halls.

Good luck, Hillary!

I agree with HIllary about sandwich fixings. The best thing I ever bought was a microwave rice cooker.

I could make a mahatma bag of red beans and rice and at 99 cents that was a cheap and easy dinner. Its also a great way to steam veggies and a microwaved baked potato with tuna and cheese was a favorite.

Microwaving is actually healthy for you--it preserves the nutrients in vegetables, for example above other cooking methods. Microwaving in plastic that can leach out chemicals is not--so find some ceramic stuff to use... I also recommend a microwave rice cooker… and I also recommend Trader Joe's brown jasmine or basmati rice--they don't create a mess when you cook them (the starches in shorter grain rices gum up the rice cooker when you cook them especially Japanese rice including brown... oh and if you live near a Japanese market that makes its own non-GMO soybean tofu, buy "okara" which is a paste left over from pressing the soy milk--it's mainly fiber with a protein and a small amount of fat (most of the carbs are fiber)and it's flavor neutral--if you buy that and heat it up with salsa or soy sauce as flavor, plus brown rice and veggies, you have a great source of protein (amino profile combines well with rice) and fiber and it's VERY CHEAP as a "waste product."

I wish I'd known all this back when I was your age... I gained 15 pounds in two years, not one, and it was complicated by having my leg in a cast the summer between freshman and sophomore years--less movement, more boredom eating.... That was the summer I hit "triple digits" on the scale and I cried (I'm short.)

I recommend the "Dorm Room Diet" by Daphne Oz - Dr. Oz's daughter. She discusses how to eat healthy with limited resources in that book and I found it on for only about $3.00 and it might also be available in the public library. Just a thought! :)

Thanks to everyone for all of the ridiculously helpful comments and the article! You guys definitely mentioned things I never would've even thought of! Thank goodness for everyone that believes in living a healthy lifestyle (you would be amazed at the comments I get from ignorant college students that think I'm crazy for wanting to eat healthy instead of ordering a pizza!)

Perdue also has (PERDUE® SIMPLY SMART® Original Grilled Chicken Strips)you should look this up no need to cook just heat in the microwave

When I was in college (a million years ago), I got the book Tray Gourmet, which was all about taking the stuff available in the dining hall and turning it into something resembling a decent/healthy meal. I checked and it's still in print, although I guess I don't know if it applies to dining halls these days. ;) It's cute though and worth a look!

All I can say is if ya decide to go vegan in college, DON'T buy Peta's college cookbook. Those mainly consist of mock meat recipes and are EXPENSIVE.

Sure they can all be made in a microwave, but still. Its far too expensive! I'd recommend Vegan a go go. :)

Sue, is the Amazon rice cooker you mention plastic? BPA free? Thanks.

get a pan & a "hot plate" (electric burner) if possible.

I thought the Turkish breakfast was one of the best breakfast ideas I have heard in a while. I love these foods too but I would never have placed them in a breakfast combo. What a great way to start the day off right!

A Microwave Rice Cooker is essential! You can cook rice, yes, but also beans, quinoa, couscous and many other healthy grains. Don't cook in plastic bags or steamer bags as they can leach carcinogens into the food at high temperatures. I got BPA-free Microwave Rice Maker's for both of my college kids and they love the Microwave line from Tupperware with its Lifetime Warranty. (visit my site or that of my U.S. counterpart if you'd like and order directly on-line for delivery to your dorm) I live in a cold climate and the ability to put healthy food in our tummies while using less energy in the microwave and preserving the nutrients in a quick easy to use format is mandatory. site is: for any Canadians reading the post I just made.

The amazon rice cooker that I mentioned has plastic OUTSIDES (outer container, lid, inner thing that lets the water overflow/steam out) but the actual INNER container that contacts the rice is ceramic. If you don't overfill it, it won't touch the plastic. The way it works is that if your rice and water combo start to boil over, they go through these vents and go in between the ceramic part and the plastic outer bowl... but that water still cooks and comes back as steam helping it cook so even if you lose some water that way it's not really lost and you don't have to adjust the water proportions at all.

(If you spray a little oil using a pump or nonstick spray on the inside of your cooker, the rice if you're using short grain comes out a lot easier and is easier to wash.)

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