The dining hall is life, but it’s not always a college student’s friend. Sure, it’s a very valuable and convenient resource for staying fed and fueled on campus, but the options aren’t always healthy or tasty. If you’re serious about treating your body and brain right on that first year at school, the best bet is to cook, at least once in awhile. That might not sound like the simplest option, but it’s worth it, and it doesn’t have to be complicated at all.

There are lots of quick, nutrient-rich and affordable recipes that require little more than a cutting board, a good knife, a mason jar and hot plate, if that. You’ll have to reserve a little room in the tiny dorm-room fridge for fresh ingredients, but that’s better than stocking it with leftover pizza and sugary soda anyway.

Fig and Vanilla Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are essential to a college student’s culinary repertoire—and they’re so, so easy. On a late night study break, just throw the ingredients together in a mason jar and pop it in the fridge; it’ll be ready for breakfast on-the-go the next day. Not to mention, it’s wholesome and energizing—perfect brain fuel.

Pumpkin Overnight Oats

Eating the same old thing every morning increases the likelihood of falling off the health track fast. Change things up with a quintessentially-autumn version of overnight oats.

Creamy Coconut Chia Pudding

Another breakfast of champions. Same concept here—whip this up effortlessly the night before. It’s already rich in fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, but topping it with some fresh fruit adds even more clean, green energy.

Classic Avocado Toast

Can’t go wrong with avo toast for breakfast, lunch or even dinner. Depending on the season, avocado might feel like a splurge at the grocery store, but it’s definitely more economical than ordering it at the fancy cafe near campus.

Mediterranean-Inspired Matzo Pizza

For a quick, nutritious lunch or snack, take some crispy matzo flatbread and top it with hummus, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and basil. Done and done. Tip: Keeping a potted basil plant saves room in the little fridge and also helps freshen up the room.

Kale Brussels and Pomegranate Salad

A meal this clean doesn’t exist only in health-conscious restaurants; it’s so simple to toss together in the comfort of your own room.

Watermelon Feta and Mint Salad

Another fresh option that’s packed with so many palate-pleasing flavors. Pick up some sliced watermelon from the grocery store so you don’t have to worry about hacking into a giant melon in your room.

Caprese Bites

Caprese is one of the most sublime and satisfying dishes, and there’s no cooking required.

Veggie Chopped Quinoa

All you need is a small pot and a hot plate to make quinoa that’ll last at least a couple of meals. With a medley of tomatoes, red onion, avocado, black beans and hemp seeds, this meal provides a healthy dose of protein and fiber as well as tons of vitamins and minerals.

Tortilla Soup Noodle Pot

Forget ramen. You can do so much better. Here’s a genius recipe that’s almost as easy, and with way better payoff. Just combine the ingredients in a mason jar and add boiling water when you’re ready to eat. Keep it simple and skip the chicken for a veggie-friendly dinner.

About the Author

Dana is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer and editor with a focus on eco lifestyle and beauty—from vegan cooking to natural, cruelty-free skin care. Also a wildlife enthusiast, naturalist, and advocate for conservation and environmental stewardship.