By Chef Lauren Cox, Closer to Your Food

In our previous article, What is the Freshman 15 Anyway?  we explored why college freshmen tend to pack on the pounds in their first year away from home. In the second half of this article, collect the essential tools and clean-eating tips to avoid those pesky pounds.

Dorm Room & Apartment Essentials

Because cooking for yourself and taking your food into your own hands is really the best way to achieve optimal health, cooking in your dorm should become a way of daily life. Remember, food can be simple and delicious. You don’t have to make it complicated or spend a ton of money on pre-made foods. Here are the kitchen gadgets you shouldn’t be without:

Electric Tea Kettle

This can be used for more than tea! Try making up a soup bowl in a mason jar with an organic stock cube, dry rice noodles, and chopped veggies and herbs. Boil water in your kettle and add it to the jar. Let it sit covered for 3-5 minutes and you have yummy (and affordable) soup! You’ll also need instant hot water for oatmeal, a breakfast staple.

Electric Grill

There is not much you can’t do with this appliance, which is portable and the size of your laptop. Use it for cooking marinated grilled meat and burgers, reheating sandwiches, making a panini, grilling pancakes – you are only limited by your imagination!

Feeling fancy?Try some of our favorite BBQ Sauce and Marinades!

Mini Crockpot shutterstock_452057899

These are great for making a batch of your favorite dish, appropriate for 1 person. Try an easy healthy recipe, let it cook while you are in class, and you’ll have leftovers for the better part of a week. Talk about eating cheap!

Beans are very affordable and are even easier to cook in the crock pot. Plus, you can cook a batch and store them in the fridge or freezer to eat on-the-go.

Crockpot Beans

Dried beans (try pinto or black beans)
1 teaspoon of salt per pound of beans
Optional seasonings (peeled garlic, bay leaf, dried herbs, etc)

Rinse and soak beans in a bowl overnight. Be sure to pick out any moldy beans or rocks. In the morning, rinse the beans and transfer them to your crock pot. Add salt and seasonings if desired. Pour enough water into the crockpot to cover the beans by 2 inches. Cover the crockpot with the lid and turn on low. Your beans should be ready in about 6 to 8 hours.

Toaster Oven

This is your microwave substitute. The jury is still out on the effects microwaves have on your food and health, but we suggest avoiding them all together and use a toaster oven instead. Food will be crispy and hot, not mushy and weird.

Mini Fridge

Keep everything cool in a compact mini fridge. It will encourage you to keep fresh ingredients around your dorm that you can cook to make great meals and snacks.

Small Blender

You can make so much in a blender, but you will discover that smoothies with good ingredients and powders are the best way to get fast, yummy, easy nutrition. You can also use them to make blended coffee and tea drinks, soups, your own nut milk and butters, and more. Add a twist to your morning smoothie with this fun (and nutritious) recipe:

Sunrise Smoothie Bowl

1 frozen bananasmoothiebowl_580x326
¼ cup frozen mango
¼ cup frozen strawberries
½ cup plain non-dairy yogurt
1 scoop plain, vanilla or fruit protein powder of choice
¼ cup fresh orange juice
½ cup almond milk
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon hemp hearts
1 tablespoon blueberries
1 tablespoon unsweetened toasted coconut flakes

In a blender, mix together the banana, mango, strawberry, yogurt, protein, OJ, almond milk and lime juice. Blend until very smooth and pour into a bowl. Sprinkle the top of the smoothie bowl with the hemp hearts, blueberries and coconut.

3 Days of Healthy Eating

Use this 3-day guide to plan your meals at the beginning of the week. Meal planning helps you stay on budget, and helps you stay out of the fast food restaurants. When you are working on your shopping list, keep in mind that you should only purchase what you are planning to eat within 1 week. This will encourage you to buy fresh and nutritious organic veggies that won’t go to waste.

Day 1

Morning –  Green tea with Whole Grain Organic Avocado Toast with Hemp Hearts

Snack – Apple and Almond Butter

Lunch – Simple Green Salad with Organic Protein of Choice, Non-Dairy latte

Afternoon Snack – Veggie Chips and Hummus

Dinner – Red Beans and Rice, Chocolate Banana Smoothie

Day 2

Morning – Protein and Greens Smoothie

Snack – Whole Grain Toast with Peanut or Almond Butter and Banana

Lunch – Organic Turkey and Avocado Wrap

Afternoon Snack – Iced Green Tea, Fresh Fruit, Handful Mixed Nuts

Dinner – Organic Soup and Whole Grain Crackers


Day 3

Morning – Organic Oatmeal with Maple, Chia and Fruit

Snack – Fresh Veggies and Goat’s Cheese

Lunch – Whole Grain Flatbread with Organic Chicken and Veggies

Afternoon Snack – Organic Fruit and Superfood Smoothie Bowl

Dinner – Veggie Curry and Brown Rice,  Fruit Salad


Now that you have the tools and tips for a healthy school year, you are on pace to help avoid the dreaded “Freshman 15.”

Read the first part of this article here: What is the “Freshman 15” Anyway?

Interested in other school articles? Read our other Back to School content. 

Closer to Your Food is a wellness blog focused on eating and cooking for health and sustainability with recipes
and lifestyle tips formulated around a plant-based diet and home-grown local foods. Chef Lauren Cox holds a B.A. from the le Cordon Bleu in Culinary Management with over 8 years of fine dining experience in private dining, catering and Michelan star restaurants. For more information, please visit and follow Closer to Your Food on Twitter and Facebook @Closer2YourFood. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.