5 Secrets to Eating Healthy as a Busy College Student

This post is generously sponsored by Straight From The Root

Whether you’re a college freshman, a grad student like me, a full time business woman or the parent of four, ‘tis the season for being busy. Holidays are coming, flu season is in full swing, and college finals will be here before we know it. So how are you supposed to eat healthy with limited time and energy?

Well, this gluten free college celiac is partnering up with Straight From The Root to share all of my healthy eating tricks and tips. As always, I want to remind everyone that I'm not a dietician, nutrition expert or meal planning guru. However, I've been cooking all of my own gluten free, healthy meals as a busy college student for over four years now...so I'd like to think I've learned a few healthy eating secrets along the way.

5 Secrets to Eating Healthy as a Busy College Student

So, without further ado, keep reading to learn five ways I answer the elusive question of how to eat healthy in college!

1. Meal prep - but stick to versatile ingredients. 

Food prep is a major buzzword nowadays, especially when “Sunday” in involved. Sometimes, though, you don’t have time to spend four straight hours at the end of the week nonstop cooking. Not only that, but it’s also hard to know what you’ll feel like eating four days from now...and I don’t know about you, but “having” to eat food that doesn’t sound super delicious to me at the time is one of my pet peeves. 

My solution? Food prep...but only the most versatile ingredients, like plain protein (ranging from roasted chicken to beans), cooked grains and roasted veggies. I'll talk more about my approach to proteins and grains in the next section, but my veggies routine is simple: every two days or so, I spend 10 minutes cutting up veggies and tossing them in the oven until tender and browned. 

5 Secrets to Eating Healthy as a Busy College Student

This is also where a company like Straight From The Root can come in handy. They offer a variety of cooked organic vegetables - ranging from sweet potatoes to zoodles to butternut squash - that are vacuum sealed for maximum freshness and cooked sous vide to maintain the most nutrients possible. You can eat the veggies straight from the bag or warm them up by boiling or microwaving the bag for 90 seconds. Add your choice of spices (since Straight From The Root's veggies are just that: veggies and nothing else) and dig in! 

Regardless of whether you cook your own vegetables or get help from a place like Straight From The Root, having a bunch of pre-cooked staples on hand will make throwing together a variety of healthy meals - from loaded baked potatoes to the ultimate vegan snack plate dinner - extra fast and easy. 

2. Your freezer is your friend. 

Another secret weapon of mine? My freezer! As I’ve shared in past posts, my freezer is always stuffed to the brim with gluten free goodies. Beyond my favorite gluten free breads and frozen veggies and fruits, though, I also cook a big batch of grains every few weeks or so and store them in the freezer. 

5 Secrets to Eating Healthy as a Busy College Student

Freezing cooked brown rice and quinoa ensures that the grains stay fresh, and they let me throw together a killer stir fry or grain-based Buddha bowl in five minutes or less. I also freeze most of my proteins. When I have fish, I'll cook it as usual and then freeze leftovers for easy defrosting later on. I do the same thing with cooked beans, freezing them in one layer in a big plastic bag. 

Once I want a bean or grain packed dinner, all I have to do is break off the portion of grains (and/or beans) I want to eat, defrost it in a bowl in the microwave and add my choice of veggies, healthy fats and protein. Bona-petite! 

3. Trying to eat healthier? Don’t forget breakfast! 

Breakfast might be an even more important meal to food prep than dinner, depending on how crazy your mornings usually are. There’s something extra relaxing about waking up and knowing that your healthy breakfast - whether it’s overnight quinoa flakes or a pre-made smoothie bowl - is already ready and waiting.

Although it may surprise you, this is another healthy meal that's even easier with some help from a company like Straight From The Root! I actually whipped up several smoothies using some of their pre-cooked veggies, including sweet potato, beets and zoodles. (And if you love beautiful food, beets can create some of the prettiest pink smoothies). 

5 Secrets to Eating Healthy as a Busy College Student

Want to make your own veggie-packed breakfast smoothie? You can look at one of the various gluten free smoothie bowl recipes on my blog for inspiration, but my usual formula is: some mild-flavored veggies (like zucchini, squash, sweet potato, beets or spinach) + sweet fruits (bananas, berries, etc) + enough liquid to blend (creamy vegan milk like coconut milk works especially well) + my choice of spices and superfood powders (like cinnamon, vanilla, cacao, acai, maca, spirulina, etc <-- affiliate links, FYI!).


For a super easy healthy morning routine, make these smoothies in advance and freeze them in mason jars. When you want to dig into your vegan smoothie, just defrost your breakfast in the microwave (I usually cook mine for 4 minutes at 4 power), add a sprinkle of granola and dig in!  

4. Get creative with avocado, sauces and seeds. 

The easiest way to upgrade a simple bowl of roasted veggies and protein is by adding some healthy fats and flavorful sauces! Nowadays, I eat around half an avocado every day with dinner (and my hair and skin are thanking me nearly as much as my taste buds). Adding a sprinkle of nuts or seeds to your Buddha bowl - like with the almonds in my Happy Belly Roasted Veggie Salad - is another way to sneak in healthy fats and add another texture to your dinner. 

5 Secrets to Eating Healthy as a Busy College Student

If avocado and nuts/seeds aren’t your thang, you can add a punch of flavor with sauces. I’ve shared some of my favorite gluten free sauce recipes on the blog before - like my vegan and nut-free pesto or my radish greens sauce - but you can also use pre-made sauces like BBQ sauce, store-bought pesto, hummus or whatever else is calling your name! One of the easiest ways to learn how to eat healthy in college or how to eat healthy for cheap is experimenting with different condiments. You’ll be amazed at how much a little bit of sauce can transform the entire flavor profile of a dish. 

5. Keep it simple and scrumptious! 

You’ve probably heard of the KISS principle, Keep It Simple Stupid. Well, I’m changing that to Keep It Simply Scrumptious!

One of the best parts about Straight From The Root is that, as I mentioned briefly earlier in this post, all their veggies are just that: veggies and their own juices. While they taste plain on their own, their lack of seasoning lets you personalize the vegetables for whatever meal you like. Since some of the starchier vegetables (like the chopped sweet potatoes and honey gold potatoes) are on the crunchy side of what I usually prefer, these would also work perfectly in a casserole or a cast iron skillet bake.

5 Secrets to Eating Healthy as a Busy College Student

These vegetables are proof, though, that meals don’t have to be super complex to be delicious. Trust me. I’ve been eating roasted veggies, smashed black beans, avocado and Straight from The Root’s sweet and regular potatoes for dinner four nights in a row, and I have no complaints! Experimenting with complicated dinner recipes can be fun and super tasty; at the end of the day, though, learning how to eat healthy can be as simple as learning how to throw together a plate full of well-cooked veggies, starches or grains, proteins and fats.

How to Eat Healthy in College: The Bottom Line

As the end of my first semester of grad school and teaching a college class grows closer, my time (and motivation) to cook is going way down. Luckily, thanks to resources like Straight From The Root and the healthy eating tips I’ve shared above, I can keep eating delicious, gluten free dinners without spending hours in the kitchen. 

5 Secrets to Eating Healthy as a Busy College Student

Because the only thing better than sitting down to a delicious dinner (or waking up to yummy breakfast) during a long day? Being able to whip up that tasty meal faster than you can say "finger-lickin' good"! 


*I received samples of Straight From The Root's sous vide vegetables in exchange for an honest review. However, all opinions, pictures and recipes are my own. Thank you for supporting what supports Casey the College Celiac!*



What’s your top tip for how to eat healthy in college or during busy seasons of life? Have you ever heard of Straight From The Root? Tell me in the comments!

Comments

  1. A great plan for healthy eating at college, where you don't have mom's kitchen at your disposal! But a great plan also even if not at college!

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  2. This is great all of these look delicious! I'm not a busy college student anymore but a busy mom and all of this looks great for me! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Love these tips!! I never lived on campus but I still think that these tips totally apply to anyone with a busy schedule and budget. Plus it's just a great way to eat healthier and save some money!

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