College students are busy and hungry! Here are 45+ ideas for healthy dorm food they can stock to stay nourished and satisfied.
When my son started college, we signed him up for a generous meal plan. We figured that between three dining halls, plus on-campus restaurant options, he’d be covered.
He was still hungry.
Turns out, there are lots of times when college kids need fast, healthy dorm food, like when…
- They’re hungry but the dining halls are closed
- They don’t have time to stop at the dining hall
- They’re running low on spending money for takeout and delivery
- They’re out of “swipes” for the week on their food plan
- They’ve got sudden spikes in hunger between classes and activities
- They just need a break from school food
Helping my kid stock his room with some healthy dorm snacks and meals helps him stay nourished and makes the semester a little bit easier (on both of us).
Looking for healthy dorm food for your kid to take back to school–or to send in your next care package? Here are more than 45 ideas, including some you might like for yourself!
I’ve included both shelf-stable items that can be stashed in a bin as well as refrigerated and frozen items, since many dorm rooms now come equipped with a “microfridge” (combination refrigerator-freezer-microwave).
Shelf-stable dorm food
- Nuts and trail mix
- Freeze-dried fruit
- Rice pouches (plain or flavored): These can be heated and eaten right out of the pouch or combined with reheated frozen veggies or beans
- Pasta pouches (ready-made pasta)
- Protein bars and granola bars
- Hot cocoa mix and tea bags
- Fresh whole fruit like bananas, apples, pears, and clementines
- Peanut butter in individual cups and pouches (or almond butter, SunButter, etc.)
- Shelf-stable flavored milk boxes such as Horizon
- Fruit cups and applesauce
- Microwaveable cups of mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, and pancakes
- Instant oatmeal (packets, cups, or tubs of oats)
- Soup cups or ramen packets
- Boxed crackers
- Popcorn (pre-popped or microwave popcorn)
- Honey for sweetening tea and oatmeal
Dorm food for the refrigerator
- Bottled smoothies
- Cheese sticks
- Guacamole cups
- Refrigerated protein bars such as Perfect Bar
- Yogurt smoothies, cups, and pouches
- Pre-washed veggies such as baby carrots, snap peas, and broccoli florets
- Cups of ranch dip for veggies
- Pre-made snack packs of cheese, crackers, nuts, and meats
- Quarts or cartons of milk (plain and flavored, dairy or non-dairy)
- Salad dressing, salsa, ketchup, and other favorite condiments
Dorm food for the freezer
- Frozen entrees
- Veggie burgers & patties
- Frozen fruit: Great on cereal or oatmeal or plain as a snack
- Frozen veggies: Toss into rice, pasta, or on a baked potato
- Frozen burritos
- Frozen breakfast sandwiches
10 healthy + easy dorm meals
- Cooked Egg: In a mug or ramekin coated with cooking spray, mix together one egg, a splash of milk, a pinch salt and pepper, and some shredded cheese if they’ve got it. Microwave for about a minute or until set.
- Overnight Oats: Combine 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats and 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy) in a small jar or mug. Cover and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Add choice of toppings in the morning, like sliced fruit, a spoonful of nut or seed butter, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
- Baked Potato: Poke a rinsed potato all over with a fork and microwave for about 8 minutes. Top with butter, shredded cheese, and some cooked pre-washed broccoli florets.
- Rice and Beans: Drain and rinse canned beans and microwave for about a minute or until steaming. Combine with a heated pouch of pre-cooked rice. Top with seasoning or salsa.
- Ramen “Plus”: Cook ramen according to package, but add a handful of frozen veggies, extra protein (like teriyaki jerky, peanuts, scrambled egg, or deli chicken), and some sweet/hot chili sauce
- French Toast in a Mug: Spray a mug with cooking spray or melt a pat of butter in it for a few seconds in the microwave, then add one egg and a glug of milk (about equal volume to the egg) and mix well. Then, rip up bread (a couple slices of any kind, a hot dog bun, a dinner roll, or whatever’s available – cinnamon swirl bread is so good for this) and add it to the mug, stirring gently to absorb the custard. Then, microwave on high for 1 minute and check to see if it’s cooked through. If still soggy, cook for another 30 seconds. Eat straight from the mug with syrup, nut or seed butter, honey, or berries.
- Double-Bean Burritos: Spread refried beans on a tortilla, then add a spoonful of black beans (or another kind of beans) that have been rinsed and drained. Add a spoonful of salsa and some cheese, then roll up and microwave for 30-60 seconds to melt. (Note: once opened, a can of beans should be used within 3 days.)
- Microwave Nachos: Cover a plate with chips, then a thin layer of cheese. Microwave 30-60 seconds and enjoy with salsa, sour cream, or other favorite toppings for a quick, inexpensive, tasty nacho fix.
- Microwave “Fried” Rice: Use leftover rice or ready-rice as a base for this easy but substantial snack. Prepare a mug with cooking spray or butter, then add 1/4 cup of frozen mixed vegetables to a cup of cooked rice, splash with soy sauce, and microwave 1 minute or until steaming hot. For bonus nutrition and flavor, try adding leftover chicken or a scrambled egg.
- Power Salad: Combine one bagged salad kit with 1/2 cup drained and rinsed chickpeas, 1/2 cup edamame, a handful of nuts such as almonds, sliced apple or other fruit, any veggies they’ve got, and salad dressing.
Dorm room kitchen gear to make prep easier
Send along these items to make dorm room food easier to prep.
- Large microwave-safe mug: For heating drinks, soups, and cooking eggs. This is the one I gave to my son.
- Microwave-safe plate and bowl: These bowls are pretty and come with lids.
- Microwave-safe steamer: For quickly steaming veggies.
- Salt and pepper set
- Glass or plastic storage container: For leftover take-out or anything they need to stash.
- Kitchen shears: For simple chopping tasks.
- Can opener
- Reusable or disposable utensils: Save plasticware you get with take-out for this.
- Napkins (disposable or reusable)
- Paper towels
- Dishwashing liquid and sponge
Recipes for college care packages they’ll love
A package of homemade treats will make your college kid’s day (and if they’re willing to share, they’ll make their roommates’ day too!).
Make sure baked items are completely cooled and wrap well in zip-top bags or sealed containers. You can order flat-rate priority mail boxes from the USPS delivered free to your door, so you can wrap everything at home then drop off at the post office.
Here are some recipe ideas:
- Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
- Nutty Homemade Granola or Double Chocolate Granola
- Nut-Free Chocolate Oat Bars
- No-Bake Cookies
- No-Flour Peanut Butter Cookies
- Nut-Free SunButter Cookies