Healthy Meal Prep Ideas for the College Lifestyle

Discover easy and healthy meal prep ideas for the on-the-go lifestyle of college students

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Whether your college semester is virtual or face-to-face, you’re busy attending class, studying, doing homework, working on projects and taking exams. You’re on the go, from class to class, call to call or both, and it’s exhausting no matter which way you cut it. Time is in short supply. And if you’re like most college students, cash is limited, too. 

As we’ve shared before, brain food is a real thing and it’s important for both your cognitive performance and your immune system. It’s probably no surprise that healthy foods with immune-boosting properties also serve as natural cold remedies. But when time and energy are short, it’s easy to reach for foods that may end up working against you in the end.

Or maybe you find yourself going for long stretches without eating. Do yourself a favor and practice self-care by preparing healthy meals ahead of time. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, we’ve got a great list of budget-friendly meal prep ideas to keep you going strong through the semester and living your best college life. 

Food Storage Containers 101

An important part of meal prep is using the best food storage containers available to you. Most likely you’ll be doing meal prep for the week ahead. Sometimes you’ll meal prep for the next few days, depending on what you’re doing, where you’ll be and what you plan on eating. Will you have a microwave oven available? Can you leave your food in a refrigerator until you’re ready to eat? The answers to these questions will help you decide what meals to prep.

Regardless if you’re keeping your food in the fridge for the week, taking it with you or saving leftovers in the freezer, make sure you have the right tools for the job. Reusable plastic containers are going to keep your food fresh and keep it from getting crushed in your backpack or satchel. Sometimes a Ziploc freezer bag or sandwich bag will suffice. It’s a good idea to keep both on hand.

If you don’t feel like putting dirty utensils back into your bag, get some compostable utensils

Healthy Meal Prep Ideas for Breakfast

You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, it certainly is a good way to start your day. Even if you’re not a breakfast person, these easy meal prep ideas are perfect for any other meal or a healthy snack throughout your day.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Cook time: 12 minutes

You can eat these any time, of course, as with any of the other items. Once you get the method down, hard-boiled eggs are a quick and easy way to get high-quality protein as well as vitamins A, B6, B12, D, E and K, and important minerals like zinc (an immune booster), iron and copper.

Add a bit of sauce—BBQ, ranch, sriracha or Frank’s RedHot—for a kick of flavor, or simply a sprinkle of salt, and enjoy. 

Find out how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs. Once you’ve made a dozen or two, peel them and store in a container in the fridge. Your future self will thank you. Make however many you plan to eat within about 5 days.

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Breakfast Burritos

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Scrambled eggs are even easier to make than hard-boiled eggs. Make a half dozen breakfast burritos for the coming week and heat them up when you’re ready to chow. Wrap each one in some aluminum foil and store them in a Ziploc freezer bag. Freeze whatever you don’t need for the week ahead. Just make sure you remove the aluminum foil before you reheat them in the microwave!

Get the recipe for easy and scrumptious freezer-friendly breakfast burritos. Watch the video below.

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Overnight Oats

Different jars containing various overnight oats recipes
Source: Wholefully

Oatmeal is a great choice for many reasons. One is that oatmeal is healthy. It’s naturally gluten-free as well as a good source of fiber and is one of the least processed foods that’s also readily available. Oats are often rolled in flour or come into contact with other grains that contain gluten, so brands like Quaker Oats ensure that their gluten-free oats truly are as advertised. Look for containers specially marked as gluten-free.

Also, oatmeal can be prepared in many different ways, so it’s easy to find a recipe (or a few of them) to enjoy and then change things up if you’re ready for new flavors. The tasty combinations of fruits, sweeteners and spices are endless. 

We think overnight oats deserve their own time in the spotlight. And in your stomach. Prep several of these for the whole week and have an extra cup of coffee or an organic cold-brew oat milk latte with your extra time.

The world of overnight oats is vast, to say the least. Scroll this list of amazing overnight oats recipes. Then check out these recipes. And these ones, too. Overnight oats will last about 5 days in the refrigerator when sealed in an airtight container.

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Breakfast Bars

Breakfast bars arranged in a grid pattern
Source: epicurious

As versatile and varied as overnight oats, breakfast bars have the advantage of being easier to carry and not requiring refrigeration. Choose any of these breakfast bar recipes or these breakfast bar recipes and you’ve got a healthy breakfast or snack bar that is packed with nutrients and flavor.

Check below for some of the most commonly used ingredients.

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Healthy Meal Prep Ideas for Lunch

Lunch can be a tricky proposition. Sometimes you’re hurrying from class to class. Other times you have to decide between eating and squeezing in some last-minute prep before your next class or shift at work starts. This is when stopping to find and eat lunch doesn’t seem like good use of your time.

As tempting as it may be to skip, eating a healthy lunch can help get you through the rest of your day. Avoid that 3 pm slump. Forego the sudden onset of fatigue halfway through an evening class. These easy meal prep lunches can carry you through the week and save you a lot of time and money in the long run. 

In addition to using the storage containers of your choice, make sure to have a good stir-fry pan and a pot or frying pan suitable for making soups on hand. You’ll be surprised at how many meals can be made in a Crock-Pot or slow cooker.

Egg Roll in a Bowl

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Egg roll in a bowl is easy, fast (20 minutes from prep to ready), gluten-free and so incredibly delicious! This dish is dense and satisfying. Fiber and protein help keep you feel full longer. Heat it up and add a dash of soy sauce, teriyaki or sriracha for a punch of flavor. Prep these for the week since freezing won’t be kind to the slaw mix. Watch the video below and then get the recipe.

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Turkey Taco Meal Prep Bowls

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

All of the amazing flavor of turkey tacos in a handy carrying case that doesn’t get soggy like a tortilla! You can customize these to suit your taste, of course. Prep these for the week as some ingredients won’t freeze and thaw well. Get the recipe here

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Caprese Chicken Salad Meal Prep Bowls

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

So much flavor and goodness in such a small, convenient package. Caprese chicken salad for the win. The fresh greens and tomatoes won’t be so fresh after freezing, so prep however many of these you plan to eat within a week. Get the caprese chicken salad recipe.

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Hummus & Multigrain Chips or Pita Chips

This, friend, is as easy as it gets. And we’re here to help! Simply order from Gopuff and let us deliver it to you. Done. Check a lunch or two off the list and even a few snack times. Don’t have the Gopuff app yet? Download it from the Apple Store or Google Play to make ordering even easier.

An 8-ounce container of Hope Original Recipe Organic Hummus
A container of Sabra Snackers Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Pretzels

A bag of Multigrain Tortilla Chips from Food Should Taste Good Brand
A bag of Late July brand Sea Salt No Grain Tortilla Chips
A bag of Stacy’s Pita Chips, Simply Naked

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Chicken Fajita Lunch Bowls

Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Eat them right from the bowl or carry some of your favorite wraps to load up on the spot. Just add your favorite hot sauce, taco sauce or salsa. Make whatever you plan to eat in a week.

Get the recipe here.

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Healthy Meal Prep Ideas for Dinner

After a long day of going to classes and working and whatever else you’ve got going on, the last thing you want to do is figure out dinner. Prepare these easy and affordable meals over the weekend and give your future self the gifts of time and tasty dinners throughout the week ahead.

Easy Lentil Soup

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Lentil soup has a lot going for it—and for you. It’s warm. It’s filling. And it’s super healthy. Plus, it’s so easy to make a batch big enough to carry you through a week of dinners and freeze the leftovers. Get the recipe here. 

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Crockpot Honey Sriracha Chicken

Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Sweet and spicy pulled chicken. Put it together in the morning and let the slow cooker do all the work. Then lay it on a bed of rice, riced cauliflower or put it on hamburger buns for a great sandwich. Get the recipe here.

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Curried Chickpeas with Spinach

Prep time: 5 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

A pan of curried chickpeas
Source: Budget Bytes

Superfoods chickpeas and spinach team up with curry, a truly magical spice, to make a filling and healthy dish blazing with flavor. Freeze whatever you won’t eat in a week. Get the recipe here.

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Vegetarian Chili

Prep time: 20 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

It’s tough to beat warm chili for comfort food on a cold day. Plus, it’s super easy to make. Warm it up wherever you are, or warm it up in the morning and take it with you in an insulated container. And if you have more than you’ll eat in a week, this one is easy-freezy. Put the leftovers in freezer bags or freezer-safe plastic containers. Get the recipe here.

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Balsamic Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Total time: 30 minutes

Balsamic chicken with roasted vegetables served on a plate
Source: Skinny Taste

Get ready for a flavor explosion after a long day of classes and work. Recharge your batteries and wake up your brain with this super easy meal. It checks all the diet boxes: keto, paleo, gluten-free and Whole30. This meal can be made on a non-stick baking sheet. Don’t forget the cooking spray! Get the recipe here.

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Get some healthy snacks to fill in the cracks!

Meal prep is important. Three squares a day (does anyone even say that anymore?) is a good start and noble goal. Sometimes it’s just not so easy to achieve. Keeping healthy snack mixes on hand will help fill in those moments when cravings strike, whether you need a midday or late-night snack. or when it’s all you have time or money for. 

And remember that you can order lots of healthy snacks from Gopuff to get you through days  full of classes and nights full of studying and homework and, hopefully, at least a little bit of a social life!

An RxBar Blueberry protein bar

Also available in Chocolate Sea Salt

GimMe Organic Sea Salt Seaweed snack

Also available in Teriyaki flavor

A bag of Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips, Kool Ranch flavor
A bag of Rhythm Superfoods White Cheddar Cauliflower Bites

A bag of Biena Chickpea Snacks, Rockin’ Ranch flavor
A bag of Planters Peanut Butter Chocolate Trail Mix

Also available in Nuts & Chocolate

A bag of Peeled Snacks Organic Dried Apples

Also available: Organic Dried Mango

Do you have the Gopuff app yet? Download it from the Apple Store or Google Play to make ordering even easier. 

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