A recipe for college success

As college students, preparing meals is probably one of the last things on our minds, however, it is also one of the most important things to do when living without a dining plan. There are many important things to consider when off the dining plan, such as grocery shopping, preparing lunches, preparing dinner, cooking balanced meals, finding meal inspiration, etc. … 

First off, grocery shopping is very important when preparing meals. It’s important to prepare a grocery shopping list that is focused on planned meals for the week. If you are shopping just for yourself, it is clever to only buy the essentials, especially for college students who have part-time jobs. Look at the ingredients of the meals you are planning on cooking and add them to your list, choosing meals with similar base ingredients (eggs, milk, etc…) as to avoid buying too many different items that won’t be used across multiple recipes. 

Another important thing to remember is to stay healthy. Eating balanced meals is very important to keep a healthy lifestyle. Eating microwavable and frozen food can be good once in a while to save you the trouble of cooking but it is best to stick to fresher foods. A balanced meal consists of 25% proteins to carry oxygen throughout your body and fuel your energy, 25% fiber or carbohydrates to promote heart health and 50% of fruits and vegetables as a form of vitamins for an overall healthy body. Here is a good example of a balanced meal: 25% rice, 25% salmon, chicken or another protein, 25% broccoli, green beans or vegetables of your choice and 25% of fruits with yogurt. It is also important to remember to add dairy to your diet to build bone strength. 

Additionally, cooking can be very therapeutic. Obviously, cooking balanced meals helps promote your physical health, but cooking can also help your mental health. Cooking food for yourself can help soothe stress and relax because you are focusing your mind on a specific and great-smelling task. Knowing what you are putting in your body also makes you feel better overall and can even make you happier as you have control over your diet. You can also feel more free in the decision making process of your meals. Cooking can be a great coping skill when you are feeling overwhelmed because you get a feeling of control over what you are making. You can choose to follow the recipe or not and you can make your own delectable cooking creation. 

Rather than letting your tasks get ahead of you, prepare a meal schedule to organize them ahead of time. Cooking your food every day can be time consuming but knowing what you are going to cook beforehand can be reassuring and takes much less time. A good suggestion is to sit down every weekend in your kitchen, before grocery shopping, and decide what you are cooking every night for your dinner and the lunch you will be eating the next day. Write down all of your planned meals on a piece of paper that you attach to your fridge so you don’t forget what you have planned and stick to your schedule. This way, every evening, you can cook your dinner and prepare tomorrow’s lunch. 

Even though making food every night is time consuming, having specific “you time” to make whatever you want to eat can be very helpful as you can find peace within yourself. You are making something for you and forgetting your homework, classes and problems at that moment that you are taking for yourself. By creating a pattern and repeating this every night, you know for sure that you have some time to unwind and be by yourself. 

On the other hand, being too repetitive can get boring, so you can also make preparing meals more fun! If you cook with your friends and make a movie-themed dinner, it can make cooking so much more interesting and exciting. If you cook with a romantic partner, it can also be a sweet date night that you spend together, laughing and preparing food as a couple. Preparing a meal does not only have to be for you and it does not only have to be time for yourself because the amazing thing about cooking is that you can share it or keep it to yourself, depending on your mood. 

Cooking does not have to be a hassle it can also be something fun and entertaining that you can do for yourself or that you can share with friends and family. Although cooking is not the highest priority in college, it does not only contribute to your physical health, but also to your mental health. If you have fun preparing your food, it can be a pleasant activity to lower your stress levels and calm you down after a long day.

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