A major struggle for students living in residence halls is preparing balanced meals for themselves, with only access to a microwave and refrigerator.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, getting groceries and eating on campus presents new risks many haven’t had to face in previous years.
Dylan Levering, a resident assistant and a junior in ecological engineering, said it can be difficult to cook in residence halls that do not have kitchens in the suites.
“Unless you want to drag dishes to the common kitchen in the building, you really have no choice but to do all of your cooking with a microwave and other housing approved appliances,” he said.
Even though it’s difficult to cook in resident halls on campus, it is possible.
Levering said his favorite meals to cook are frozen meals that can be easily placed in the microwave. He sometimes puts eggs, spinach, peppers and cheese in a bowl and makes a microwaved omelet bowl.
With the risk of infection, Levering said cooking has become more difficult because he tries to avoid going to the grocery store.
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“I go less frequently, always wear my mask and make sure to maintain appropriate social distance from others in the store,” Levering said.
When cooking meals in the residence halls isn’t cutting it anymore, Levering said eating on campus is always an option.
“I typically prefer to eat more on campus than cook for myself simply because it’s so much easier to get nutritious, full meals rather than sodium-packed frozen meals,” Levering said.
Lily Zandieh, a graduate research and teaching assistant in the School of Kinesiology, said healthy fats, complex carbs, protein and fiber are some essential parts of every balanced and nutritious meal.
Zandieh said healthy fats can be found in foods such as nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado and seeds. Complex carbs like beans, brown rice, oatmeal or anything labeled whole grain are important components to a meal.
Protein, such as chicken, beef, tofu, salmon and tuna, Zandieh said, are also important. Consuming fiber found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains are also healthy options.
There are meals that students in resident halls can make that include these essential nutrients. Zandieh said a few easy sources of protein and nutrients can be stored in a refrigerator or be microwaved.
“Eggs, oatmeal, popcorn, beans, soups, fruit, mac and cheese, any sandwich, chocolate milk, milk and protein powder,” Zandieh listed as possible meal choices.
It is also possible to cook meals while on a tight budget.
“I would suggest students purchase the grocery store brand,” Zandieh said. “For Kroger or for Wal-Mart, their brand is called ‘Great Value.’ Students can purchase those items instead of the name-brand items.”
Zandieh said some stores may also apply discounts to food that is about to expire.
This can be a great option, she said, as long as you inspect the food first before purchasing to ensure it is still good to eat.
Sofia Sanchez, extension specialist in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, provided some ideas for easy meals to cook in residence halls.
“Wraps are so easy,” Sanchez said. “Tortilla wrap, lunch meat, cheese, cherry tomatoes. Use hummus as the spread. Add avocado if you’re fancy.”
Sanchez said another idea is frozen pasta or rice bowls you can easily place in the microwave, or cottage cheese.
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