bowl of oats

Fall is upon us, which means that it’s back to school for millions of college students across the country. With many working part-time, even full-time jobs, the quality of food present in diets can take a hit. It’s not that hard trying to cram a quality meal into your busy schedule. In fact, you might just have the ingredients on-hand to put together a few of these simple, low-budget concoctions. If you’re, or know someone who’s, strapped for cash, take a look at this college student meal plan. We enlisted the help of Molly Kimball, sports dietician with Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans.

College Dorm Food Options 


Egg Beaters

There may be no finer breakfast meal than eggs. Eggs are loaded with protein (6 grams per egg) and contain an abundance of vitamins

Kimball says: “Just spray the inside of a microwave-safe coffee mug with nonstick cooking spray, then add the egg substitute and an add-in such as sliced turkey, cheese, or a chopped-up veggie sausage patty. Microwave for about a minute, stir, then microwave another 30-45 seconds, and you’ve got hot (and portable) scrambled eggs.” 

Protein/Coffee concentrate

We get it; you need your coffee. Studies have shown that it’s both good and bad for you. What if we told you that you can have your coffee and make it even healthier? Kimball has the scoop. 

“Protein drinks can stand in as a quick breakfast or snack on the run, or add a coffee concentrate for a DIY protein-rich iced coffee,” says Kimball.

Overnight Oats

Recipe (via Spoon University):

  • 1/3 cup oats (I use old-fashioned from Quaker)
  • 1 cup almond milk (you can also use water, soy milk, regular milk—take your pick)
  • Small pot
  • Preferred sweeteners and/or flavorings
  • Mason jar

How to make it:

  • 1. Mix the oats with the almond milk and warm in the pot on low to medium heat.
  • 2. Stir frequently, and feel free to add extra liquid, until the oats look ready to eat.
  • 3. Add any sweeteners and/or flavors you want to your oats, once they’re fully cooked.
  • 4. Since these oats are for the next day, get out a Mason jar (or Tupperware, if you’re really classy like me) and store them in the fridge over night to eat cold in the morning.

Kimball suggests: “My recommendation for overnight oats is to start with a base of oats and Greek yogurt so that you’re guaranteed to always have a fiber– and protein-rich breakfast. Mix things up with flavors like peanut butter, or almond butter, and just a bit of jelly.”

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College Student Meal Plan


Annie’s Microwavable Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is oh so good, but imagine if it were made with more tasty and healthier substitutes. That’s exactly what Annie’s line of products boasts; cleaner alternatives to otherwise notorious unhealthy treats. Oh, and we failed to mention it’s microwaveable. 
Kimball says: “They’re definitely better than traditional easy mac, as they’re at least a blend of whole grain and white flour — plus they’re made with no artificial ingredients.”

Peanut Butter & Jelly Banana Dog

Ah, an old classic — or better yet, a hybrid. This multi-dimensional concoction is sure to keep you full throughout the morning. Just make sure you’re using a whole-wheat wrap or bread and regular peanut butter

Ingredients (recipe via Chiquita bananas):

  • 1 whole Chiquita Mini, red or manzano Banana

  • 1 tbsp. Honey

  • 1 tsp. butter

  • 1 bunch whole-wheat hot dog bun

  • 1 tbsp. jelly – your choice

  • 1 tbsp. peanut butter 

Kimball says: “My recommendation is to round this out with a source of protein; a glass of milk (Fairlife milk has 50% more protein and half the carbs/sugars), or a ready-to-drink protein shake.”

Avocado Fruit Salad

This isn’t your ordinary fruit salad. Packed with energizing carbs and muscle-building protein, it beats any salad that your cafeteria makes.  


  • 1 avocado, cubed

  • 1 mango, peeled and cubed

  • 1 cup blueberries or blackberries

  • 1 banana, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup cashews or 
almonds, chopped

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened
coconut flakes

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • 1 tsp. orange zest

  • 2 tbsp. cacao nibs (optional)

  • 1/2 orange, juiced

Kimball says: “I love that the carbs are primarily from nutrient-rich fresh fruits, and it’s rounded out with protein and good fats. It’s nearly 500 calories though, so those trying to cut back may want to use just 1/2 avocado and skip the banana.” 


Perky Jerky


Perky Jerky

Skip the chips and snag some turkey jerky if you’re in need of an on-the-go snack. 

Kimball says: “This jerky has real ingredients, no added nitrites/nitrates—and the sodium is relatively moderate, compared to many brands of jerky. This can definitely be a good, protein-rich snack on the run.”


And, for when you have a craving, go healthy and purchase a bag of the less salty kind. 

“They have two times more protein and three times more fiber than regular tortilla or blue corn chips,” Kimball says. “They’re still a ‘treat’ but at least have the nutritional benefits of real, whole beans (white or black). My favorite flavors are Chipotle Black Bean or Nacho Cheese White Bean.”



Smoky Grilled Chicken with Zucchini Ramen

A flavorful spin-off of an otherwise normally sodium-drenched mess. If you have some downtime, in between juggling homework and tests, give this recipe a try (via


For the Grilled Chicken:

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs (5-6)

For the ramen:

  • 2 small zucchini, spiraled
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • ½ cup sliced red sweet peppers
  • ½ cup sliced onions
  • 3 cups assorted raw vegetables
  • 8 cups chicken stock

Kimball says: “It may be worth noting that if it seems daunting to make zucchini noodles, it’s super easy with a spiralizer. It takes zero effort or skill.”  

Veggie Breakfast Tacos
Who says you can’t make these for dinner? On an off day, veggie breakfast tacos are a delectable treat that your taste buds will thank you for cooking up. Between the eggs and vegetables, you’re sure to start your day off right.

Ingredients (via

Veggie filling

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced into 2-inch long, thin strips
  • 1 small yellow squash, sliced into 2-inch long, thin strips
  • 1 red pepper, seeded, membranes removed and chopped
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • Salt
  • Pinch red pepper flakes

Scrambled eggs

  • 6 eggs, scrambled
  • Hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped

Kimball says: “Make sure it’s a whole grain wrap. I love the high fiber/lower carb wraps and even 100 percent corn tortillas can be a good whole grain option (and are often lower carb/cals than traditional whole wheat tortillas).”

Lean Beef Burger

The leaner the patty, the healthier the burger. Go with a high percentage for a less fatty burger and try topping it with diced tomatoes, mushrooms and onions, if you feel like getting fancy.

Kimball says: “Great idea. They can be made ahead of time and frozen. You can even ask mom to make a few batches ahead of time.”

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