Let’s face it: eating healthy sucks. There is no healthy eating plan that includes any of my favorites: thin crust sausage pizza, Starbucks iced lemon pound cake, grilled cheese, anything involving ice cream, etc. The truth of the matter is, we all struggle to walk the fine line between a little indulgence and eating poorly, a struggle that is further amplified by the college lifestyle — small budget, late nights, big dining hall buffets, mixed drinks made by fraternity brothers…
What sucks even more than eating healthy is “health food.” Cardboard-y, boring and lacking resemblance to anything with taste, packaged health foods can feel like you ordered a romantic night with Ryan Gosling and got an awkward coffee date with Mickey Rourke where you ended up footing the bill. Sort of the same thing, but not really. The good news is that there is “health food” out there that tastes like your favorite thing without ruining your otherwise healthy day.
Kashi Chewy Cherry Dark Chocolate Granola Bars: I am prone to an afternoon chocolate fix, and these do the trick. Kashi is great at making products that have all the nutrients you need (5g of protein! 4g of fiber!) while still tasting like a candy bar (dark chocolate, people. And it’s real.). Dried cherries provide a tartness that stands out against the chewy sweetness. Add a glass of milk and you’ll make it to dinner sans Mars Bar binge (for experienced chocolate users, try the Mocha Almond version).
Sargento Natural Light String Cheese: A perfect addition to any breakfast, this version of the lunchbox favorite is only 50 calories. If you’re concerned about balance in your diet but hate that dairy has so much fat, these little guys can add to your serving count without adding to your waistline.
Lean Cuisine Traditional Pepperoni Pizza: Say it with me, people: Pizza is good. A staple for both late night post-party noshing and hangover cures, you can’t escape college without encountering pizza. While this version may lack much nutritional value, it is a great way to get your fix without breaking the calorie bank. My favorite way to enjoy it is to drizzle on a little ranch (light, if you must) and fold the single serving in half.
Kashi Pesto Pasta Primavera Frozen Entrée: This one is simple: great ingredients, lots of veggies, low calorie count (only 290 for the whole entrée!) and a quick cook time. However, dorm dwellers beware: it can (and does) stink up an entire floor upon cooking.
Skinny Cow Caramel Truffle Ice Cream Bars: I used to be morally opposed to diet ice cream products. They tend to be watery, tasteless and so unsatisfying that you end up eating the whole box on your quest for satiation. These bars (and the entire brand), I can promise you, taste nothing like anything related to a diet. The truffle bars are by far my favorite because they are reminiscent of a treat you’d find at your hometown dairy bar — creamy and satisfying. Try the whole brand, but start at the truffle bars.
Kashi 7 Grain Waffles: I love Eggos just as much as the next girl, but have you seen the oil that gets left behind on your plate after you toast them? Terrifying. Kashi’s waffles (which also come in blueberry: score!) essentially taste like Eggos without the oil, which if you ask me, is the best possible situation. For another great substitute, use honey instead of maple syrup: still sweet, but naturally so.
Laughing Cow Cream Cheese Spread 1/3 Less Fat: For any cheesehead, this brand is one worth exploring, but the light cream cheese is my personal favorite because it makes my other favorite, bagels, a little less shameful while still tasting normal. With only 45 calories in one wedge (which is more than enough for schmearing your morning Einstein), you can have a delicious breakfast (in various other flavors) without wanting to skip lunch.
Navigating college (and life) in a healthful, balanced way can be tricky and unsatisfying, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. When I think about what I’m doing to treat my body right, I always remember that it is an opportunity to explore, not a limitation. Also, I never say no to cookies. But more about that later.