Nutritious ideas for the college-bound

31 Aug Nutritious ideas for the college-bound

Chicken Chow Mein


Granted, it’s been more than a few years since I was the head-in-the-clouds coed happily heading off to college.  Looking back on that first quarter away from the comforts and confines of home, I sure learned a lot of life lessons, some of the most important of which were related to making healthy choices. Thinking of my friends who are sending their kids off to college this fall, I collected a few of my favorite healthy eating lessons I’ve learned along the way.

                First and foremost would have to be that beer, it turns out, is not a food group. Oops. I’ll never forget my Great Aunt Bertha’s reaction when I walked into her Queen Anne hill home partway through my freshman year of college. Never one to mince words, she let me know I had gotten “rather fat” in my short stint at the University of Washington. Yikes.

                A better beverage choice for me would have been water, of course, and drinking several glasses a day does wonders for your skin, your brain and your overall health, I’ve since learned. Tossing in a few lemon or orange slices adds a refreshing citrus flavor to water stored in a pitcher in the fridge, a small version of which many college students bring with them to school.

                Beer’s perfect pairing, the pizza, while admittedly inexpensive and quite convenient, might best be limited to a once-in-a-while treat, not the frequent occurrence my sorority sisters and I often found ourselves indulging in while we compared notes (on classes we were taking, of course) with each other that first month of college.

                If only we had remembered that salad, fresh fruits and vegetables are your friends. The fiber and water content in plant-based foods make them a wise food choice for all of us, but especially for college students who may not have access to home-cooked meals that might include a healthy portion of fruits and vegetables.  

                Remembering that bread is a filler would have been wise as well. It’ll fill you up. It’ll fill you out. So, being mindful of how much bread you’re eating is a smart choice. I remember a sorority sister losing a few unwanted pounds during college merely by skipping bread at mealtime.

                It’s worth mentioning that selecting smaller-sized plates when faced with a buffet or when choosing plates to outfit an apartment would have encouraged us to eat less and avoid any unwanted weight gain in that freshman year. Oh well, live and learn, I say.

                As summer draws to a close and students head off to college, I wish them all a healthy and happy year.  Here are some easy and economical ideas for cooking with limited time and equipment when away at school.  This week’s Special of the day: Off to College with recipes for Instant Oatmeal with Apples, Brown Sugar and Walnuts, Simple Southwestern Salad and Chicken Chow Mein. Enjoy! 

Oatmeal with apples, walnuts and brown sugar

(serves 2) 

2 packets instant oatmeal
2/3  cup water
½ apple, chopped
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
1 tablespoons brown sugar
 Empty oatmeal packets into two microwave cereal bowls.
Add water and stir.
Cover and cook in microwave for 1 minute.
Remove from microwave. Top with chopped apples, walnuts and brown sugar. Serve with milk.

Simple Southwestern Salad

Simple Southwestern Salad

(serves 2)

3 cups mixed greens
¼ cup salsa
 1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, and sliced
½  cup black beans, drained (from 15 ounce can)
½ cup baby corn, drained (from 15 ounce can)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Toss greens with salsa in mixing bowl and divide among plates.
Arrange avocado, black beans and corn atop greens and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Chicken Chow Mein


Chicken Chow Mein

(serves 4-6)
1 deli rotisserie chicken
12 ounce bag microwavable Stir Fry Vegetables (produce department)
2 cups brown rice
2 cups water
3 tablespoons soy sauce + additional for serving
2 tablespoons sesame oil (optional)
Crunchy Chow Mein noodles (Asian foods aisle) 
  1. Remove skin from chicken and pull meat off of bones.
  2. Dice chicken meat into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Pierce Stir Fry Vegetable bag with fork, place on microwave-safe plate and stem for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Remove from microwave and let rest.
  5. Combine rice and water in microwavable covered dish. Cover and cook for 7 minutes.
  6. In medium sized microwavable bowl, combine chicken, steamed vegetables, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir to mix. Cook in microwave for 1 minute to heat.
  7. Spoon brown rice over serving plate. Top with chicken chow mein and crunchy chow mein noodles.
  8. Pass additional soy sauce.

                Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at

  • Robyn Flipse, MS, RD
    Posted at 18:11h, 31 August Reply

    Your recipes are unbelievably simple, yet appetizing, and definitely more nutritious than a beer and pizza! You and your followers may also be interested in the recipes and guidance in my book, Fighting the Freshman Fifteen, available at

  • Sydne
    Posted at 18:35h, 31 August Reply

    Well, thank you for stopping by. I will have to check out your book now.

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