Healthy & Easy Meals: Great for College Students or Busy Professionals

by Anjali @ The Picky Eater on August 8, 2010

Earlier this week, I got a comment from Monica – she’s a college student and doesn’t have much time, but wanted some easy, healthy recipes that she could use during the week. I thought it was a great question – and would apply to anyone who is super busy and just doesn’t have more than 15 minutes to spend in the kitchen. So here are 5 simple, healthy recipes: one for each night of the week — and you only need to buy 5 vegetables in order to make them! You can just use the same veggies in different ways throughout the week, the rest of the ingredients should be pantry staples that you have on hand. The other great thing is that each of these meals is super balanced with veggies, whole grains and protein, and none of them should run you over ~400 calories. Enjoy!

The Secret: Cut all the veggies when you buy them or have extra time (like on a Sunday). That way, when it comes to actually making the weeknight meals, all you have to do is throw the ingredients together and you’ll be done in under 15 minutes!

So here are the 5 veggies you need:

  1. Bell peppers – any color will do – just get your favorite (red/yellow/green/orange – they’re all good!)
  2. Tomatoes – I like roma tomatoes the best, but again just get your favorite
  3. Baby spinach, pre washed & bagged
  4. Garlic
  5. Red Onion

Monday – Egg White Scramble and Toast


Ingredients you will need:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes (chopped)
  • 3 egg whites (note: you can add a pinch of the yellow of one of the eggs if you like the flavor)
  • 1-3 tsp 1% milk
  • Cooking spray
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Whole Wheat bread
  • Ketchup or other condiments that you like with your eggs

Directions:

  1. Heat a large non-stick frying pan to a setting just above medium.
  2. In large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and salt. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Add veggies to the mixture.
  3. Spray the pan with cooking spray. Add the eggs mixture to the pan. Do not stir immediately. Wait until the first hint of setting begins. Start the Martha Stewart scrambling technique (“Using a spatula or a flat wooden spoon, push eggs toward center while tilting skillet to distribute runny parts.”)
  4. Continue this motion as the eggs continue to set. Break apart large pieces as they form with your spoon or spatula. You will come to a point where the push-to-center technique is no longer cooking runny parts of the egg. Flip over all the eggs. Allow the eggs to cook 15 to 25 seconds longer. Transfer eggs to serving plates. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve with ketchup and two slices whole wheat toast.

Tuesday – Veggie Quesadillas with Refried (or whole) Black Beans


Ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes (chopped)
  • Low fat shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Refried black beans or whole black beans
  • Taco seasoning
  • Cooking spray
  • High fiber tortillas (either whole wheat or Mission low carb tortillas will do – each one should have ~120 calories and over 3g fiber)
  • Salsa

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small pan, heat beans over medium heat. Add taco seasoning to beans, stir until mixed through and heat for about 5 min until beans are cooked through.
  3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Lay tortillas out on the baking sheet. On each tortilla, spread 1/4 cup refried beans (or whole beans), 2-3 Tbsp cheese, and veggies.
  4. Fold tortillas over, and broil on low for 10 minutes or until tortillas are browned and crispy on top. Serve with salsa & enjoy!

Wednesday – Quick Pita Pizzas


Ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes, garlic (chopped)
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Whole wheat pita pockets
  • Shredded cheese (fontina, parmesan, mozarella – just get your favorite – any one will do!)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • On each pita pocket, spread pizza sauce, garlic, veggies, and 1/4 cup cheese (max) on top.
  • Broil in the oven for 5-10 min or until pita pockets are toasted through and cheese is melted & bubbling.

Thursday – Healthy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches


Ingredients

  • Whole wheat bread (I like Oroweat Double Fiber bread)
  • Tomatoes, Onions, Spinach, Garlic – chopped
  • Your favorite cheese – I like Fontina or a Mild Cheddar
  • Ketchup
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Heat a pan over medium high heat (or if you have a grill pan/panini press – warm that up)
  2. Layer one slice of bread with a couple thin slices of cheese (shouldn’t be more than 1oz)
  3. Top with healthy serving of all veggies, salt & pepper and the second slice of bread (make the sandwich!)
  4. Spray pan / grill pan / panini press with cooking spray
  5. Grill on both sides until crispy and cheese is melted. Serve with ketchup!

Friday – Asian Stir Fry


Ingredients

  • Bell peppers, red onion, spinach, tomatoes, garlic (chopped)
  • Soy sauce or bottled Thai Red Curry Sauce
  • Tofu
  • Cooking Spray
  • Minute brown rice

Directions

  1. Cook brown rice according to package directions, set aside
  2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray
  3. Saute tofu in the pan with soy sauce until lightly crispy on the outside. Set aside.
  4. Saute veggies and garlic until tender, add soy sauce half way through cooking. Add tofu back to the pan, add 1/4 cup of thai red curry sauce (or other low calorie asian sauce) if you like – towards the end of cooking
  5. Serve with brown rice.

Thanks Monica for a great comment that inspired this post! And a quick note for you: For an easy Indian Meal – check out this recipe – super easy Channa Masala that will taste great!

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Torviewtoronto August 8, 2010 at 1:48 pm

delicious and healthy

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Baking Serendipity August 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I love easy meals, especially now that my summer break has come to an end and I am back to teaching full time. Definitely holding on to these meals…thanks for sharing!

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Kayla August 8, 2010 at 3:39 pm

This is great! I’m going to try to start eating healthier. I feel like this is often difficult as a college student constantly on the run when it’s so easy to stop at McDonalds. Although I personally love to cook & usually make time for it, some simple healthy meals are a great idea for the days of the week where my life is more hectic

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Kristy August 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Everything looks delicious, especially the grilled cheese! I love the idea of pita pizzas, too! Thanks for sharing!

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monica August 8, 2010 at 6:05 pm

thanks so much anjali! everything looks so good and I love all the variety! I can not wait to try these out as soon as the semester starts!

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Kim (Liv Life) August 8, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I have a 14 year old Freshman in High School who is just beginning to learn to cook, the first 3 on this list will work wonderfully for him, and he can do it all himself. Thanks for getting us thinking!

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May Ling Wu August 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Love all of the ideas. Cooking for one can be so hard. I always end up throwing out veggies becuase I can’t eat them all. Thanks for the great post!

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Lauren @ Fun, Fit, and Fabulous! August 9, 2010 at 5:15 pm

These all look delicious. I work late a lot during the week, so these would be great to whip up when I got home or even to take with me! Thanks for the great ideas!

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anjalim August 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Thanks everyone for the comments! I’m so glad these recipes are helpful! 🙂

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Johnny August 11, 2010 at 12:48 pm

hhummm….Yummy
Everything looks delicious
thanks for your sharing

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Ellen January 6, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I’m a busy college student…I came across this blog post, and I LOVE it. You should do more weeks of quick and easy meals like this 🙂

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater January 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Oh thanks so much! I’m glad it was helpful for you. You’ll be my inspiration for my next quick and easy meal post – stay tuned and thanks for following The Picky Eater!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater January 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Hi Ellen! I just wanted to let you know that I just created 8 quick and easy breakfast recipes – inspired by your comment! 🙂 Here’s the post: http://74.220.215.66/~pickyeat/2012/01/15/8-quick-and-easy-breakfast-recipes/ Hope it’s helpful for you!

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Lauren January 13, 2012 at 1:30 am

Thanks for the great recipes! I’m really trying to stick to the 400-calorie mark for meals, so regarding the tacos and the pita pizzas, how many per person is around 400 calories?

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater January 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

No problem! So glad you like them! So for the pita pizzas: 1 whole wheat pita from Trader Joe’s is about 130 calories + 1/4 cup of cheese is about 100 calories + 1 serving of sauce is about 30 calories + 20 calories for the veggies = 280 calories. So if you had about 1.5 pita pizzas that would be 420 calories. For the quesadillas: 1 tortilla is ~120 calories + 1 serving of beans is 100 calories + 1/8 cup of cheese is 50 calories + salsa/veggies is 20-30 calories = 300 calories. So if you had 1.5 that would be 450 calories which is a bit over your limit. Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions!

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Amber February 8, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Very helpful! I am a college student and am tired of frozen dinners but am short on time & money! Thank you!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater February 10, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Hi Amber! I’m so glad this is helpful for you – you’ll have to let me know how you like these simple, budget-friendly recipes! Happy cooking! 🙂

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Mary Kate May 24, 2013 at 11:42 am

These recipes are absolutely delicious! I am trying to change my diet, and I usually don’t want to cook on weeknights because it can be quite time consuming. But these recipes are simple and quick to make, and taste so great. This was the first thing I’ve tried on this blog and I love it! Its such a great help.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater May 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I’m so happy to hear that Mary Kate!! So glad this list of meals was helpful for you! 🙂

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Vera Chambliss July 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm

These all look really good but there should be a wider variety. I have a fiance, a 3 year old daughter, and I work and go to school, so it is hard for me to cook everyday. Is there anymore suggestions that you could possibly give?

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater August 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Hi Vera! Thanks for reaching out! I totally understand it can be hard balancing everything when you have so much going on! This post was only meant to give 5 quick recipe ideas for weeknight meals (so it wouldn’t have a super wide variety). But you can find a much wider variety of recipes by clicking on my “recipes” page; or by clicking on my “quick and easy” tag. Both will give you simple, fast, healthy meals that are ready in under 30 minutes – and you will have plenty of options! You definitely don’t have to cook every night — my suggestion would be to make a double batch of one of my recipes, and use the leftovers the next night. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

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Rashaaax3 November 2, 2013 at 11:04 am

That was very helpful! Thank you so much! 🙂

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater November 2, 2013 at 8:04 pm

No problem! So glad you found it helpful!

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Laura July 14, 2014 at 12:20 pm

I absolutely love this! I’m a college student and don’t have enough time or cooking skills to make real meals so this is perfect. I love that it uses the same vegetables in all the recipes. It’s easy to find fast easy recipes all over the internet but they don’t seem to go together like these ones do. Whenever I get in the urge to cook I always have so many left over vegetables and ingredients that weren’t all used up in the one recipe. Then they go bad because it’s hard to find another recipe to use them up in! I was wondering if you had any other groups of recipes like this or if you would post some more!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater July 16, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Thanks so much Laura!! I’m so glad you found this post helpful 🙂 I totally hear you on not being able to use up all the ingredients when you’re cooking for one person and don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen! I don’t have another post like this already up, but I’ll work on developing another one soon! Thanks and hope you enjoy these recipes!

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Christina Aleman December 19, 2015 at 6:36 am

I love all the recipes that you shared, it looks delicious. Fantastic.

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater December 19, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Thanks Christina!

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Daniel Assefan July 8, 2016 at 4:05 pm

I’m a student and these meals seem easy to cook. Definitely gonna try some of them. Really descriptive and helpful article! Stay healthy!

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Anjali @ The Picky Eater July 10, 2016 at 5:36 am

Thanks Daniel! Hope you love these recipes!!

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