First Time on Your Own: Healthy Food Ideas

Sadie called me at work after seeing my post this morning and was highly embarrassed that my blog not only featured a picture of her poppin’ a squat, but also showcased her doggie booty for the world to see.

She requested that I post a more flattering picture of her, and since I fear the wrath of Sadie, I had to oblige.

Much Better

Now that that’s out of the way and I don’t have to worry about our apartment being covered in drool and feces, let’s move on to lunch, shall we?


After my appointment at the bridal boutique last night, I headed next door to browse around at The Fresh Market.

I stumbled upon Brie cheese for the reasonable price of $4 and picked some up to enjoy throughout the week.

Oh Brie, how I love thee.

I incorporated approximately 1.5 ounces of the cheese in a broccoli barley bowl for lunch today.

Barley + Broccoli + Brie

Three “B” Bowl!

Eat Up, Buttercup


For dessert I had a small brownie.

Frosted Brownies

I made a small pan of brownies for the guy at work who helped me format our save the dates and had to sample one before they were devoured by the office freegans.

Healthy Food Ideas for Your First Time on Your Own

Last night my sister, Leslie, called me because she recently moved into an apartment for the summer and is now faced with the task of preparing her own meals for the first time in her life.


Leslie lives in her sorority house during the school year where the girls have all of their meals prepared for them, so though my sister will be a senior in college next year, this is the first time she’s been responsible for preparing her own breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. (Hello longest sentence ever!)

Leslie said she felt completely clueless as to what to make and since she wants to make healthy choices, she found herself eating plain, boring “rabbit” food because she didn’t know how to prepare simple, healthy dinners for herself.

I know exactly how she feels because when I graduated college and was faced with making my own meals for the first time, my entrΓ©es of choice were often Lean Cuisines, oatmeal or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I didn’t know where to begin!

We started brainstorming on the phone last night and I came up with the following ideas for simple, yet healthy meals she can prepare on a tight budget:


  • Oatmeal with various add-ins (nuts, fruit, cinnamon, chocolate chips)
  • Whole wheat waffles topped with bananas or sweetened ricotta cheese
  • Whole wheat or protein pancakes
  • Greek yogurt with granola, berries or nuts
  • Eggs or an omelet with veggies and cheese and with whole wheat toast
  • Egg sandwich on a whole wheat English muffin
  • Whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and fruit
  • Smoothies with yogurt (or protein powder), frozen fruit, milk and ice cubes

Lunch and Dinner

  • Whole wheat pasta or ravioli beefed up with lots of steamed veggies
  • Tuna, chicken or egg salad sandwiches with sliced green pepper or cucumber on the side
  • Sloppy joes with lean ground beef
  • Baked potato or sweet potato with cheese and veggies
  • Tacos or taco salad
  • Grilled cheese and vegetable soup
  • BBQ meatloaf
  • English muffin pizzas
  • Flatbread pizza topped with lots of veggies
  • Breakfast for dinner (see above options)
  • Lean chicken sausage with peppers

Some of the ideas listed above may yield portions that are much too large for one person, so I suggested that my sister freeze the remainders of dishes such as sloppy joes or BBQ meatloaf to thaw and enjoy another time.

What were your eating habits like when you were first responsible for making your own meals? If you’re still in school, what are you eating habits like right now?

31 Responses

  1. When I was first responsible for myself, I ate lots of toast, pb sandwiches, and lean cuisines. Oh, and cereal :).

    It took me about a year to figure stuff out! Your sis is lucky though, shes ahead of the curve with you as a sister!

  2. I really applaud your sister for planning this out now and preparing for a healthy lifestyle. I was not so smart in college and found myself eating pizza, burgers, fries, mexican food, chinese food, etc. Not only was I overweight, but I’m sure I was pretty unhealthy too. I didn’t start getting healthy until my senior year of college when I moved home and asked my mom for help and support to start cooking more meals at home. Homecooked meals are the best!!!!!!! πŸ™‚

  3. I lived in an apartment this year and was responsible for making all my own meals, and sometimes it’s hard not to live off of prepackaged foods! Being a vegetarian makes it even more difficult. I love stir-fries though…just a ton of frozen veggies for convenience, plus some tofu, topped with marinara and whole grain bread for sauce mopping πŸ™‚ Super easy and delicious!

  4. When I first started living on my own all of my meals were either pasta or sandwiches. A big help was playing around with cookbooks. At least doing that taught me the basics.

  5. I love the term ‘freegan’! I think I’m going to have to borrow that, because it definitely describes the people in my office! (I’m guility of being one too, from time to time!)

    When I started cooking for myself in college, I had the worst eating habits!! I sustained off of a lot of unhealthy frozen food, no breakfast, and lots of chips! I hope your sister can form healthy cooking habits now! Good luck to her!

  6. When I started out on my own, I ate a lot of grilled cheese… and sweet potatoes. Oh how I love those things. And I still do. Although, I do incorporate other ideas in now… but if I’m in a time crunch, the good-ol’ grilled cheese is always waiting for me!

    I love your blog and look forward to getting to know you. I just stumbled across it today for the first time! You’re a good big sister! πŸ™‚

  7. Lol…I see some of the meals that the college-age bloggers eat, and I’m SO impressed– I didn’t eat like that in college!! Once I got on my own and out of college, I started making things like pasta, stir-fries, and veggie burgers.

  8. I am a student, and I live with my boyfriend. I try to cook healthy food for us, sometimes complicated meals, sometimes simple. I love cooking, so it’s not a problem for me, but when I don’t have time, scrambled eggs and food like that are life savers πŸ™‚

  9. i am a student and
    i eat a lot of kashi entrees πŸ™‚
    an easy dinner meal that i enjoy is a sweet potato in the microwave steam some veggies and bake some chicken and fish.. healthy yummy fast and easy πŸ™‚

    but i also eat a lot of cereal oatmeal and yogurt messes!
    oh and lots of turkey sandwiches and pretzels!
    and huge salads for dinner!

  10. I’ve always been really into making fun food, because I get that much more enjoyment out of it. So even when I was living away at school, I still tried to incorporate a variety of healthy foods everyday. Some days though, like tonight for example when I’m on my own, there’s nothing like a simple bowl of cereal or breakfast food for dinner πŸ™‚

  11. Love this post! I feel like I’ve been in school for FOREVER. I’m a third year medical student, and I still struggle to keep my diet varied… as in… no packed PB&J every day. My new thing is to pack a huge salad for lunch… with whatever fixins I have on hand. Some of my favorite toppers are beans, nuts, a good cheese (usually goat, blue, feta, or parm), artichoke hearts, bell peppers, craisins, hearts of palm, cucumbers… grape tomatoes…and just whatever else I find. Oh… and split peas! Love them as a topper! Anywhoo… that’s my latest thing… because it is super easy and requires no cooking!! I’m always looking for new ideas though…

  12. I remember being broke in college and taking different cans of veggies and cooking them together to make a “soup.” Diced tomatoes or tomato sauce, corn, green beans, etc., and topping it with some parmesan cheese!! Now that I’m all grown up and cook all the time, adding some chicken broth and additional veggies, along with some cooked meat (or rotisserie chicken from the local grocer) would make it a little tastier!!!

  13. Oh! Oh! Make sure your sister knows she can freeze things like leftover tomato sauce when she doesn’t use it in a full recipe! She can also free pancakes, fresh lemon juice (flat in a snack size Ziploc), lime juice, etc. Nuts in the freezer, too!!!

  14. Sadie is so cute! When I was in college, I lived a lot on apples w/peanut butter, pb & j and cereal. Plus, I made the simple meals like tacos, grilled chicken, salad, etc.

  15. For my first 3 years of college I ate oatmeal for breakfast every day (or at least 99% of the time)! Not a bad meal, but I finally hit my limit.
    I think she will enjoy this summer. It’s fun learning to cook and exploring different recipes and combos. Looks like she has a good start up list, too!

  16. i had a TON of pasta…like more than a person should have in a lifetime. too bad i still eat it all the time STILL but in a much more reasonable way πŸ™‚

  17. Those are some great ideas!

    I live alone, so in my opinion, that can be even harder than living with someone else and sharing meals.

    I make a lot of casserole type meals, which are great. Just pop em’ in the oven! Tons of leftovers too for lunches and other dinners.

    I also love my crock pot for some home cooked meals!

    My eating habits have not really changed from college, I always paid attention to nutrition…well, except at 3am when I came home from the bar…but let’s forget about that πŸ˜‰

  18. You and your sis are so cute πŸ™‚

    You have fantastic ideas! Maybe that’s because I make most of them too! hehe jk

    When I was in college I ate wayy too many diety processed foods (lean cuisine, etc.). It’s good that your sis has you for guidance! When I first started cooking I re-created my favorite meals that my momma makes (she’s a great healthy cook!). From there I got a few cookbooks. I think Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean cookbook is FANTASTIC. It’s quick, easy, made with ingredients you’ve actually heard of, and clean!

  19. Seriously my senior year in college I lived off of pasta, frozen veggies and cereal hahaha ultimate fail. I wish I knew then what I knew now about meal prepping and what not so she’s for sure lucky to have you for a sister!

  20. ramen noodles, diet sodas, subway, and chinese food ALL OF THE TIME. no wonder why i was overweight! good lord.

  21. I ate a ton of mac n cheese and pasta. I wonder if I ate any fruit or veggies back then?? πŸ™‚

  22. My freshman year fall semester was the only time I lived away from home. I ate easy mac n cheese, whatever the dining hall had, cookies, candy, cereal (the sugary kind), pizza, chinese.. basically anything convenient. I also did not know much about nutrition (obviously).

    I am still trying to find the best balance of healthy and “junk” foods, but I am also learning how to cook dinners and now just eat something frozen.

    • loooove them! they look just like the real deal! i wish they had them in light pink… πŸ™‚ thanks for the link!

  23. When I was first in my own apartment (my sophomore year of college) I ate a lot of soup, spaghetti, cereal and sandwiches!

  24. Great ideas!! I just started cooking for myself regularly this past year and a lot of what you mentions are meals I will make too!

  25. I lived in a dorm with great food my freshman year but was out on my own from my sophomore year on. I ate a lot of ramen, turkey sanwiches, and peanutbutter and crackers. I I started cooking actual recipes midway through my junior year.

  26. Great list!!

  27. Thanks Jule!! You are the best! I’m loving all the comments too! HUGE help! I made BBQ chicken, corn, broccoli, mushrooms and brown rice for dinner..yayy! Proud? I’m loving that sloppy joe recipe too! Have some more sloppy joes πŸ˜‰

  28. […] talking to my sister (remember the one who was confused as to what to eat now that she’s on her own for the first time?). When she mentioned that she included slices of green pepper in her lunch today, I knew I wanted […]

  29. […] Peanut Butter Fingers – Healthy Food Ideas […]

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