10 mini-fridge makeover tips for college or at home
Every year at this time, I see hundreds of students on campus carrying load after load of bedding, clothing, small appliances and other supplies to their dorm rooms. This year, I will have my second child entering college life.
As I was helping our daughter pack for her freshman year in college, I thought back to my own college experience. Life was a lot simpler and less color-coordinated back then.
Back in the “old days,” if we students had a popcorn popper and a “hot pot” to heat water, we thought we were “living large.” Many of my friends were quite ingenious in their use of small appliances and limited space, especially if they were not on the college meal plan. One even made pancakes in her popcorn popper.
All the studying we did often led to “snack attacks” late at night, whether the snacks came from a restaurant or a nearby grocery store. As a result of snacking habits, college years can be a time of weight gain, with all the sitting and studying. Often, snacks are a regular late-night pastime.
By the way, lack of sleep often can be mistaken for hunger. Eating a healthful diet and getting exercise and rest are important throughout life. Just 100 extra calories per day can result in a 10-pound weight gain during the course of a year.
Small refrigerators are among the appliances brought to dorm rooms and sometimes installed in recreational areas in homes. Regardless of your age and location, we all can benefit from stocking our refrigerators with healthful snacks.
Here are 10 ideas from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Choose MyPlate” website (http://www.choosemyplate.gov) for some foods that can conquer snack attacks. Be sure that refrigerators are set to maintain a temperature of 40 F or lower. Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator to monitor the temperature.
Low-fat cheese: Pair one slice of cheese with 100 percent whole-grain bread for an easy snack or munch on a cheese stick for a quick bite between classes. Low-fat cheeses even can be used when making omelets and quesadillas in your dorm microwave.
Vegetables: Prewashed and precut varieties are convenient for quick snacks and meals. Try incorporating green, red, orange and yellow vegetables into your diet. Pair veggies with your favorite dips, such as carrots with hummus or celery with peanut butter. Add veggies to omelets and quesadillas.
Fruit: Remember that fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits all count. Just watch out for varieties with added sugars or syrups. Add a tablespoon of raisins or dried apricots to your morning oatmeal or yogurt, and grab an apple for a natural source of energy during a late-night study break.
Water: Keep water in your fridge. Investing in a water-filter pitcher is a great way to store water in your dorm room. Drinking water instead of sugary drinks is a healthful choice.
Nuts and nut butters: These will last longer when stored in the fridge. Try walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios or cashews. Peanut butter and almond butter are delicious on apple slices or whole-grain toast.
Eggs: Use a microwave-safe bowl or mug to scramble eggs for a quick, convenient breakfast or snack. Toss in raw veggies and a tablespoon of cheese for added flavor.
Milk and yogurt: Fat-free (skim) or low-fat milk can be added to oatmeal or whole-grain cereals for a filling, nutritious breakfast. Individual containers of low-fat yogurt or low-fat Greek yogurt are convenient and portable. Mix yogurt with fruit and nuts for an energizing breakfast or top with a few chocolate chips and cinnamon for a healthful dessert.
Hummus: Hummus can be paired with almost anything. Enjoy dipping red pepper slices, carrots or other raw veggies into this delicious dip. Spread hummus onto a whole-wheat pita with tomatoes and cucumbers for an easy, nutritious lunch.
Salsa: A fresh salsa with tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro and onions is a fun way to incorporate veggies into your diet. Pair low-sodium salsas with a small serving of whole-grain tortilla chips or raw veggies.
Shop smart: Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose beverages and foods at the store. The label contains information about total sugars, fats and calories. Reading the Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods can help you make better choices.
Here’s a super-simple snack that people of all ages can make without any special appliances.
Vanilla Yogurt Berry Grahams
4 graham cracker sheets
1/2 c. vanilla yogurt
1 c. strawberries, sliced
1/8 c. blueberries
Break graham cracker sheets in half. On each half, top with 1 tablespoon yogurt, strawberry slices and blueberries. Serve immediately.
Makes four servings. Each serving has 45 calories, 0.5 gram (g) fat, 2 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 35 milligrams sodium.