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Inside: Get tons of ideas for healthy snacks for college, whether students are living in a dorm, in an apartment, or at home.
If there was a Venn diagram of college must-haves, my kid and I would overlap on a few things, like flannel shirts and shower shoes.
And snacks. Lots of snacks.
Because while college life looks a lot different today, snacks are still as essential as extra-long twin bed sheets.
Snacks are helpful to college students for a few reasons:
- They’re busy, so they may end up skipping meals
- They need nourishment when the dining hall is closed
- They’re up late (sometimes into the wee hours) and may need a substantial snack (or two)
If you’re a college student, use this list to give you ideas for what to stock in your room or apartment.
If you’re a parent, here’s inspiration for surprise care packages and InstaCart grocery deliveries for your college kid!
Snacks for a dorm room
Stash these snacks in a mini fridge/freezer:
- Fresh fruits that keep well, like apples, oranges, and clementines
- String cheese
- Individual yogurt cups and tubes (Greek yogurt is a high-protein choice)
- Fresh vegetables that are pre-washed and pre-cut, like baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and celery sticks
- Frozen edamame
- Frozen fruit such as blueberries and raspberries
- Veggie dip (tubs or individual cups) or use a favorite salad dressing as a dip
- Cottage cheese tubs or mini-cups
- Smoothies, large bottles or individual sizes
These shelf-stable snacks can be kept in a bin:
- Protein bars and energy bars
- Packets of nuts and seeds, such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, and trail mix
- Peanut/almond butter (jars or individual packets)
- Dried fruits like raisins and dried apricots
- Whole wheat crackers (like Triscuits and Wasa)
- Fruit cups and applesauce
- Granola and cereal
- Shelf-stable cartons of milk (plain or flavored)
- Rice pouches (to microwave)
Snacks for a college apartment (or at home)
Snacks to prep in advance:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Washed and chopped veggies such as cut bell peppers and cucumbers
- Bistro boxes like the ones above (get 10 Bistro Box ideas here)
- Protein pancakes
- Protein waffles
- Peanut Butter Protein Balls
- Homemade muffins such as Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cups and Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Muffins
- Muesli: Toss a baggie of it in your backpack to mix into yogurt
- Fro-Yo Bark: Spread vanilla yogurt on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Press sliced fresh or dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips into the yogurt. Freeze until firm and then break up into pieces to eat. Store leftovers in a container in the freezer.
- Roasted Chickpeas: Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas and toss with olive oil and favorite seasonings (such as 1/2 teaspoon each chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt for a taco-spiced version). Roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 20-30 minutes or until crispy, stirring halfway through baking.
17 snacks that are cheap & healthy
These snacks are all centered around affordable, healthy foods.
Potatoes: Choose either white potatoes or sweet potatoes (both have great nutritional value, even if you don’t eat the skin). Potatoes cost about 40 cents a piece! Scrub the potato, poke several holes in it with a fork, and microwave it on a paper towel for about 8 minutes on HIGH. Slice and top with shredded cheese, canned beans, salsa, steamed broccoli, butter, sour cream, or whatever you want!
Yogurt: Buying a large tub is cheaper than cups if you have space. Top with frozen fruit.
Cereal: A bowl of cereal with milk costs, on average, 50 cents per serving, and it’s got important nutrients like iron. Look for cereals made with whole grains, and go “halfsies” with unsweetened and sweetened cereal. See what else I look for when reading nutrition labels on cereal.
Eggs: They’re an affordable source of high-quality protein–only about 20 cents per egg. And there’s protein in the yolk too, so don’t just eat the whites. One large egg has six grams of protein and lots of vitamins and minerals. (There are no nutritional differences between brown and white eggs.)
Canned Fruit You can use canned fruit in a smoothie–it’s typically cheaper than fresh or frozen. Use the 100% fruit juice it’s packed in to sweeten the smoothie. Here’s my recipe for a Starter Green Smoothie that contains banana, pineapple, and spinach.
Oats: Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast, and all varieties (including instant) are 100 percent whole grain and rich in fiber. You’ll save money buying a big tub versus packets. Here’s a recipe for DIY oatmeal packets. You can also make snack balls with oats. Here’s a recipe for Peanut Butter Protein Balls.
Tuna: Canned or pouch tuna is a high-quality protein source. Eat tuna with crackers or rice cakes, or straight with a fork.
Peanut Butter: It costs about 18 cents for a 2-tablespoon serving and contains protein and fiber. Spread it on apples (one of the cheapest fresh fruits) or make a “peanut butter spoon” snack by dotting a spoonful of peanut butter with mini chocolate chips.
Chickpeas: Make or buy prepackaged roasted chickpeas, a crunchy snack that packs protein, iron, and fiber. Or blend a can of chickpeas, some olive oil (a healthy fat), and seasonings for your own batch of fresh hummus. Serve with raw veggies or wedges of pita bread for dipping. Get my simple hummus recipe.
GORP (Good Ol’ Raisins + Peanuts): Peanuts are the most affordable nut around, raisins are an inexpensive dried fruit and contain no aded sugar. You can also add chocolate chips, other dried fruit like cranberries or chopped apricots, and whole-grain cereal pieces to make an easy, nutrient-dense trail mix.
Healthy Vanilla Shake: This is a delicious snack rich in potassium and calcium that’s simple to blend up and has a lot less sugar than a regular milkshake. Blend 1 cup milk (regular or non-dairy) + 1/2 frozen banana + 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey + a drop or two of pure vanilla extract. Don’t do dairy? Use non-dairy milk like soy.
Cottage Cheese: A large tub is cheaper than individual cups. Add fresh, frozen, or canned fruit on top of this high-protein, calcium-rich snack. Or try a savory cottage cheese snack with black pepper.
Toast: Toast a slice of whole grain bread, spread with nut or seed butter, and top with sliced strawberries or bananas. For a sweeter version, dot a slice of peanut butter toast with a spoonful of mini chocolate chips.
Popcorn: A bag of popcorn kernels is affordable (and makes a ton!). Popcorn is also a natural whole grain food, rich in fiber. Here’s my fool-proof recipe for stovetop popcorn. Sprinkle with salt and parmesan cheese.
Celery: Bunches of celery are budget-friendly and full of hydrating fluid. Make the classic fun snack “ants-on-a-log” by washing a stalk well (dirt often hides in the bottom crevices). Fill with a thin layer of nut or seed butter or cream cheese and dot with raisins or dried cranberries. Here’s an easy how-to.
Refried Beans: Canned refried beans are affordable and high in protein. Spread them a whole grain tortilla and sprinkle with cheese. Cook under the broiler or in a toaster oven until melty. Fold and cut into wedges. Serve with salsa for dipping. It’s fast, easy, satisfying, and packed with protein,
Avocados: Avocados are loaded with healthy fats and they’re filling too. Snag them when they go on sale and keep them out until they’re ripe (stick ripe ones in the fridge if you can’t eat it for a few days). Here’s my simple 4-ingredient guacamole recipe. Eat with chips or spread on toast.
Store-bought college snacks
Need ideas for ultra-easy, packaged snacks? Here are some options I found at ALDI, Target, and the regular grocery store:
Snacks From ALDI
- Granola: Sprinkle on yogurt or eat on its own
- Gluten-free pretzels: Dip into hummus or eat with string cheese
- Trail mix: All types of nuts are nutritious
- Acai bowl: Find these in the freezer section
- Popcorn: It’s a natural whole grain
- Snack packs of cheese and dried fruit: Easy to toss into a bag and go
- Quinoa pack: It’s a complete protein, great when you need something extra-satisfying
- Hummus: Pick up a bag of baby carrots to eat with it
- Sweet potato chips: Pair with a protein source like cheese
Snacks from Target
- Mixed nuts: Stash individual packets in your bag
- Popcorn: It’s naturally rich in fiber
- Snack packs of dried fruit, nuts, and cheese: Provides a combo of protein + carbs
- Smoothie bowl: Look in the frozen case for these
- Jerky: It’s high in protein and satisfying
- Hummus and pretzels: All-in-one packs are easy to take along
- Hard-boiled eggs: When you don’t have the time (or the stove) to boil your own
- Trail mix: Fill up individual baggies to grab on the way to class
- Guacamole squeeze packet: Squeeze onto toast or chips
Snacks from grocery stores
- Guacamole mini packs: No worries about browning when you have single servings
- Seaweed snacks: Salty and savory, low-carb, low-cal, and vegan
- Roasted chickpeas: A salty snack that’s rich in protein and fiber
- Yogurt cups: Siggi’s is a good lower-sugar variety
- Cottage cheese: High in calcium and protein
- Mini peanut butter tubs: Pack these shelf-stable tubs with some apple slices
- Chocolate milk: This variety is ultra-filtered, which makes it higher in protein than regular milk
- Almond butter squeeze packets: They come in fun flavors too, like vanilla and chocolate
- Seasoned pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds contain protein, fiber, and minerals like iron and magnesium
- Veggie dip cups: You’ll eat more veggies when they’re paired with a yummy dip
- Individual cheese: Portable protein to eat with crackers or fruit
- Smoothies: Squeeze pouches with no added sugar
- Popcorn: Individual bags make it portable
- Raisins: Contain some fiber, iron, and potassium; eat them with a handful of nuts
- Veggie Chips: Unlike some veggie chips, these are pieces of real vegetables (peppers)
- Dehydrated veggies: Like a cheese puff crossed with a sugar snap pea
- Egg bites: Protein-rich eggs baked into bites with veggies and cheese
- Soup cups: Microwavable and warming on a cold day