When it’s time for dinner, you don’t have to rely on your college dining hall or the fast-food and pizza parlors that surround the campus. In fact, you shouldn’t. Dining hall buffet tables are loaded with breads, pastas, potatoes, fatty meats and limp, soggy vegetables. They also encourage overeating. The restaurants that surround college neighborhoods are fine for occasional evenings out with friends, but you shouldn’t be getting your everyday meals there.
If you have a microwave in your dorm, you can easily whip up a muscle-building dinner that is quick, cheap and tasty. You also have the convenience of eating in your room on your own schedule, not someone else’s. That said, there are also some quick, high-protein dinners that you don’t even need a microwave to make.
Here are four of my favorite dinners that you can make in just a few minutes. They taste great and cost less than a fast-food meal that will leave you looking and feeling awful. You will notice that I use some of the same ingredients in several of these, like fresh baby spinach, cooked shrimp and eggs. That makes it easy for you to buy just a few groceries and eat like a king all week.
Curried Stuffed Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes rock, guys. They cost about 69 cents per pound and are loaded with fiber, protein and beta-carotene. You can cook one in the microwave in about 10 minutes. Cook a few at once and save the leftovers for one of my other sweet potato recipes. Cost: about $3.50.
1 large sweet potato
3 ounces chopped cooked Canadian bacon or chicken breast
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Prick the sweet potato several times with a fork and place it on a paper plate or microwave-safe dish. Cook on high power for 8 to 10 minutes or until a fork goes through it easily.
Use the tines of the fork to prick a line down the center of the potato, lengthwise, and then press on both ends until it pops open. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and place it back on the plate or dish, leaving the skin intact.
Mash the flesh with the fork until all of the large pieces are broken up. Mix in the coconut oil until it’s completely melted, and then mix in the Canadian bacon or chicken. Sprinkle with the curry powder, salt and pepper, and mix again. Scoop it all back into the skin, and reheat, if needed, before eating. Makes one serving.
Miso Soup With Shrimp
Shrimp seems expensive when you look at the price per pound, but it’s actually a protein bargain. While you may pay $7 or more for a pound of 31-to-40-count shrimp, that pound will make five or more meals if you don’t go crazy with it. Six shrimp give you a good portion of protein and are filling enough when combined with other foods. Most supermarkets will steam them for you free of charge. Between the miso, the shrimp and the egg whites, this is a protein-packed meal for very little money. Cost: about $3.25.
1 packet miso soup mix*
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
5-6 medium cooked shrimp
2 boiled egg whites, chopped (use the yolks later in a sandwich or for a snack)
Salt to taste (be sure to taste the miso first)
1 dash red pepper flakes
1 chopped green onion
*Find packets of miso soup for less than a dollar in Asian markets or the Asian section of your supermarket
In a microwave safe bowl, combine the miso soup mix and the water, using a fork to mix well. Add the spinach leaves and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp, egg whites, salt and pepper flakes, and microwave for one minute more. Top with the chopped green onion and enjoy! Makes one serving.
Here’s another meal you can make with that same pound of shrimp, and you don’t even need a microwave. Spinach is loaded with vitamins and antioxidants and is also one of the vegetables highest in protein. Strawberries are high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. The olive oil and walnuts provide healthful fats. Even better, this salad tastes amazing. Cost: about $5.50.
1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
5-6 large strawberries, sliced
5-6 medium cooked shrimp, cut in half
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons extra-light virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Combine the spinach leaves, strawberries, shrimp, onion and walnuts in a large bowl. Mix well. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mustard in a small dish or jar, and mix very fast with a fork until creamy. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss well to coat. Makes one serving.
This recipe is kind of a riff on traditional eggs Florentine but a lot easier to make and much better for the microwave. You get protein from the eggs and Canadian bacon; iron, vitamin C and fiber from the spinach; Vitamin D and flavor from the cheese; and it’s all ready in about five minutes. (I specify mozzarella string cheese for this recipe because it is such a great thing to have on hand in the dorm. No need to run out and get shredded cheese). Cost: about $4.00.
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 large, organic eggs
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, torn
3 ounces Canadian bacon, chopped
2 mozzarella string cheese snacks, pulled into several strips
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Spread the olive oil over the bottom and sides of a shallow, round microwave-safe casserole or glass pie plate. Beat the eggs and pour them into the casserole. Sprinkle the onion, spinach leaves and Canadian bacon on top. Place the strips of cheese on top in a tic-tac-toe or lattice pattern. (The cheese may sink a little, but that’s fine.) Season with salt and pepper.
Microwave on medium for about 3 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through. Use a spatula to remove the frittata to a plate, and enjoy. Makes one serving.
As you can see, you can get several delicious, high-protein, whole-food meals out of just one bag of groceries, and none of them will set you back more than a few dollars. Save the pizza, chicken wings and other less-healthful meals for celebrations, occasional nights out with friends or as designated cheat meals. By eating healthfully the rest of the time, you can enjoy those treats without guilt, without sabotaging your fitness goals and without going broke.
Editor’s note: Vince Del Monte packed on an amazing 40 pounds of muscle in 24 weeks. He’s know as “the Skinny Guy Savior” and has a number of courses to help you go from twig to big, including No Nonsense Muscle Building. For more information or to sign up for his free-tips newsletter, visit www.VinceDelMonteFitness.com. IM