How I Got My Son to Cook in College | Food Network Healthy Eats: Recipes, Ideas, and Food News

Despite being a cookbook author and nutritionist, my college-aged son is the only one of my three children who has never had much interest in cooking. Until now, that is. As a new tenant, my son is now expressing an interest in cooking and healthy eating that has not been shown in recent years. Here’s what has changed, and how do I make sure my son is eating healthy while he is at the University of Michigan. (Turn blue!)

As an active 19 year old, my son goes to the gym regularly and worries about what he eats with each meal. Now when he picks up food in front of the house, he calls me (his mother, the registered nutritionist) to ask about the healthiest option to order. So what has changed? Data from the American Dietary Guidelines 2020-2025 shows that while teens ages 2-18 are the least likely to adhere to healthy eating guidelines, people ages 19-30 are more concerned and better at following these healthy recommendations. As people get older, they care more about their diet. I think my little boy has grown up!

My son has been a lot more involved in the cooking process since college. A few months ago he asked for mac and cheese with our salmon dinner. My 14 year old daughter, who loves to cook, made the cheese sauce while she explained to my son how to cook and drain pasta. My son was proud to be part of the cooking process and has been much more interested in my teaching him how to cook since then. I taught him how to marinate chicken and cook it in a grill or skillet, scrambled eggs and how to cook oatmeal. But teaching my son to cook at home and sending him to his new college apartment to cook and eat are two different things.

Thank goodness my healthy nutrition expert Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC has just published her new cookbook Healthy, Quick & Easy College Cookbook: 100 Delicious, Budget-Friendly Recipes to Satisfy Your Campus Craving. To help my son cook, he picked a few recipes from Dana’s cookbook and we cooked them together at home before he left. Recipes my son picked included quick and easy chicken noodle soup, BBQ chicken pizza, mix ‘n match stir-fry, sheet pan buffalo chicken sliders, and English muffin pizzas. My son is all about protein, but there are also plenty of plant-based options like ramen pasta salad, panini with roasted vegetables, and veggie pizza burgers.

Don’t miss the off-campus kitchen must-haves section – it’s a helpful list of tools your child will need in their new home. Instead of buying the tools before I go, I plan to visit the large physical stores near campus. This saves space in the car on the way to school.

I also asked Dana to give me three cooking tips for any college kid moving into their first apartment. This is what she said:

Start early! Students who have no cooking or shopping skills have difficulty choosing when they come to school. Nothing special is required, just work on the basics.

Pay attention to food safety. Know how to store and prepare healthy foods without getting sick – there are several tips throughout the book.

Develop health habits from the start. Stock up on healthy snacks for your day, shop regularly, and fall asleep – your body and brain will thank you for it!

Dana was kind enough to share a recipe from her cookbook.

A ramen recipe is satisfying, and even good for you! So, grab some ramen from your roommate’s stash and make this salad … For a protein boost, add some cooked chicken or peeled edamame.

Tip: Make your own sesame dressing by mixing equal parts rapeseed oil and soy sauce with lime juice, honey and roasted sesame oil.

Nutrition Facts: Calories 337; Fat 11g; Saturated fat 0g; Carbohydrates 39g; Protein 10g

* This article was written and / or reviewed by an independent, registered nutritionist.

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