5 mouthwatering plant-based desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth

Reading Time: 3 minutes Made with whole-food ingredients and minimal added sugar, these desserts won’t leave you feeling sluggish—and some are even pretty dang healthy. Dig in!

UCookbook: Bean burrito bowl

Reading Time: 2 minutes Make this bean burrito bowl for a super quick, satisfying, and delicious weeknight meal.

Five 5-ingredient mug meals—in 5 minutes or less

Reading Time: 6 minutes When hanger hits mid study session, ramen isn’t the only answer. Enter microwavable mug meals.

Next-level grilled cheese (and you’ll want fries with that)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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Are you a master or disaster in the kitchen? Most likely, you’re somewhere in between. If the thought of moving beyond the microwave creeps you out, that’s all the more reason to get the hang of basic cooking techniques and quickie recipes.

Your healthier, prep-it-yourself options go way beyond salads (not dissing salads—just saying). Want some grilled cheese with those fries? Here we demo a revamped version of the classic American comfort meal.

Gooey cheese melted between two slices of bread: Can it get any better than that? Actually, it can.

How we made this grilled cheese healthy

The fresh tomato adds a burst of flavor, Vitamins A and C, and lycopene, an antioxidant. We’re sneaking in a bit of spinach too, because it’s packed with nutrients, including magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, manganese, Vitamins A and C, folate, and fiber. You can hardly taste the spinach, so even if greens aren’t your thing, this likely will be.

Go for a whole-wheat or wholegrain bread. This crisps up nicely like a grilled cheese should, provides a sturdy base to balance the melting cheese, and adds fiber and antioxidants. Look for bread that has wholegrains or whole-wheat flour listed as the first ingredient and contains at least 3 g of fiber and 3 g of protein with little to no added sugar (aim for less than 3 g of sugar) per serving.

What’s not to love? Cheese is flavorful, it melts into ooey gooey glory, and it tastes ridiculously good. It’s got protein and calcium, but it falls a little short on the healthfulness factor due to the high fat and calorie content. The solution? Choose a strongly flavored cheese, so a little goes a long way. Our favorite for grilled cheese is sharp cheddar. Other options: Swiss, pepper jack (for a spicy kick), goat (if you’re feeling adventurous), or crumbled feta. You can also use dairy-alternative cheeses made from soy or almond.


  1. Rinse the tomato under running water because you never know.
  2. Cut it into slices.
  3. Assemble the sandwich. Use two thin slices of sharp cheddar (or whichever cheese), tomato slices, and a handful of baby spinach leaves.
  4. Spray or spread a thin layer of oil in the frying pan. Turn a burner on to medium-high heat and let the pan heat up for 1–2 minutes.
  5. Place your sandwich in the pan. Using a spatula,  press down on it to ensure the underside is crisping up.
  6. Periodically check the bottom of the sandwich. You want it to turn brown but not burn. Once it’s a crisp brown color, flip the sandwich and reduce the heat to medium-low. If you find that your bread is turning brown very quickly, turn the heat down further. Once the second side is brown, flip the sandwich over again and heat for another 30 seconds, or until the cheese is melted.
  7. Remove the sandwich from the pan, slice it in half, and artfully arrange it with the oven fries for your Instagram pic.
  8. Eat. Savor. Be happy. Watch those likes accumulate.

TomatoSlicing a tomatoUncooked sandwich assembledGrilling the sandwich on a frying panFinished sandwich on plate with french fries

Oven-baked fries

Who doesn’t love their french fries soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside? But that frying thing is so 10 years ago. Try this much- better-for-you baked version.

This recipe is what you’ve been looking for—the ideal way to recognize World Cancer Day (February 4) and National Wear Red Day (February 5), organized by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Right? Way to let those awareness days keep you alive and kicking (as in kickboxing) longer.

Make these fries at home or school, and bake instead of fry them. Baking your fries removes that whole restaurant-trans-fat situation (the worst type of fat for your health) and reduces the amount of fats and calories overall. Deep-frying foods in oil—the way most french fries are cooked—adds a load of fat and increases your risk of chronic health issues, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Also, you won’t set the kitchen on fire.


Serving size: 2

  • 1 Russet potato (the long brown kind) or sweet potato (higher in nutrients than a regular potato)
  • Canola or olive oil (the spray cans work great, or you can use the regular liquid version)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)
  • Spices & herbs if desired (try any combination of rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, or oregano)

Supplies you’ll need

  • A sharp knife for chopping
  • Chopping board
  • One large baking sheet
  • An oven (toaster or conventional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. A toaster oven works for this too (use the conventional oven or bake setting).
  2. Rinse the potato under running water, and scrub with a clean brush or dish towel.
  3. Chop the potatoes into matchstick shape (as shown).
  4. Lightly oil a baking pan with olive or canola oil. Alternatively, line the baking pan with parchment paper (no oil needed) or aluminum foil (needs oil). Spread the fries out on the pan.
  5. Drizzle a small amount of oil (1 Tbsp.) or spray oil over the top of the fries, and sprinkle with salt and pepper (if desired). Mix the fries around so they are evenly coated. Spread the fries into a single layer so that they aren’t touching—this helps them crisp up more.
  6. Bake for 25–30 minutes. Halfway through, use a spatula to flip them over and make sure they are cooking evenly. The fries are done when the edges are browned and they’re as crispy as you like.
  7. Remove the fries from the oven. If desired, toss them in your favorite herbs or spices, such as garlic powder and rosemary. Serve them with ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce.

Slicing potatoesSlicing potatoes furtherA potato half slicedFully sliced ptotato



Sliced fries going into ovenSliced fries on panFinished plate with grilled cheese and fries

[survey_plugin] Article sources

Photography by Joanna Carmona

American Heart Association. (n.d.). Trans fats. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp#.Voq4smQrIsk

Cahill, L. E., Pan, A., Chiuve, S. E., Sun, Q., et al. (2014). Fried-food consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes and coronary artery disease: A prospective study in 2 cohorts of US women and men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(2), 667–675.

Colorado State University. (2015). Colorado spinach. Retrieved from https://farmtotable.colostate.edu/docs/spinachfactsheet.pdf

Harvard Health Publications. (2015, February 3). The truth about fats: The good, the bad, and the in-between. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good

MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Food label guide for whole wheat bread. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/19343.htm

TeensHealth. (2014, September). Which bread is better: Whole wheat or whole grain? Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/nutrition/grains.html

United States Department of Agriculture. (2012, October). Tomatoes, fresh. Household USDA Foods Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/factsheets/HHFS_TOMATOES_FRESH_Oct2012.pdf

University of California Berkeley. (n.d.). Is cheese bad for your health? Berkeley Wellness. Retrieved from https://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/slideshow/cheese-bad-your-health

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Grocery store hacks: How to shop like a boss

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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Do you wander the aisles of the grocery store hoping for a nutritional breakthrough? Ever read a food label or price sticker and find yourself groaning out loud? The obstacles to efficient grocery shopping include confusing nutrition info, busy schedules, limited transportation, and low budgets.

The most common challenges for students are related to reading food labels and budgeting, says Meghan Windham, a dietitian who provides guided student tours of grocery stores at Texas A&M University in College Station: “There are many important things to look for, including, from a budget standpoint, knowing when to choose a name brand versus a store brand.” These tips and tricks will help you navigate your local grocery store and get the most nutritious bang for your buck.

QUIZ: Can you identify these mysterious shelf items?

Where do students get lost in the grocery store?

In a recent Student Health 101 survey, students reported which food items from our list they could find easily in the grocery store, and which would be more difficult.

Students could find these easily:
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Cornflakes
  • Salsa
  • Low-pesticide conventional fruit
  • Nuts
These could be hard to find:
  • Sugar-free peanut butter
  • Gluten-free cookies
  • Dairy-free “butter”
  • Condoms
  • Ramen noodles (surprise!)

Fresh fruits and veggies

Usually at the entrance

  • Great nutrient source: choose a mix of colors
  • Filling: good for appetite control
  • Anti-aging

For best pricing and quality
Think local, seasonal, whole (versus pre-cut)

Does organic matter? 
It depends. Organic produce can be considerably more expensive than conventional produce, so pick your battles. Some types of produce (especially the “dirty dozen”) are more prone to retaining pesticide residues.

Frozen fruits and veggies

In an aisle

  • Berries, mangoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn
  • Antioxidants, immune boosters
  • Look for the frozen veggies without added sauces or creams.
  • Flash-frozen fruits and veggies are picked fresh and frozen immediately, to retain their nutrients

How to cook frozen veggies
Boil or sauté, and add butter and salt to taste (moderation is key). You can also add your veggies to a stir-fry or pasta dish for extra fiber.

Grains and gluten-free alternatives

In an aisle

  • Bread, pasta, rice, oatmeal, quinoa
  • Long-term energy boosters
  • Buy store brand, minimally processed, in bulk

Does whole grain matter?
Whole grains (such as whole wheat bread or brown rice) have similar calorie and carbohydrate content to their refined (white) alternatives, but they are higher in fiber, which tends to make them more filling and satisfying.

Which conventional fruits and veggies are most pesticide-prone?

Meats and fish

Usually along the perimeter of the market

Red meat: beef and lamb

  • Builds strength (protein, iron, B vitamins)

To minimize cost and maximize health:

  • “Frozen is easier and a bit more economical—an excellent option if you don’t want it to go to waste or find yourself throwing anything away,” says Windham.
  • Consume red meat in moderation: one or two servings per week.

Does “grass-fed” matter?  
Grass-fed beef is higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fats, and lower in overall fat content. Opt for grass-fed if you can. The average cost of grass-fed beef is about $2–3 higher than its conventional counterpart.

Poultry: chicken and turkey

  • Low-fat, stress-relieving (protein, tryptophan, B vitamins)
  • Buy raw; fresh or frozen. “Pre-cooked and ready-prepared chicken tends to be more expensive and higher in salt and preservatives,” says Windham.

White meat: Pork

  • Lower fat, and high in thiamine (Vitamin B1) for energy metabolism.
  • Buy raw; fresh or frozen.


  • Brain food (omega-3’s, Vitamin D).
  • Frozen is usually fresher, and doesn’t need to be cooked right away.

Does “wild” matter?
Wild fish is lower in harmful pollutants and significantly higher in Vitamin A than farm-raised fish.

Try this easy chicken dish

Need a healthy reason to hit the store?

Honey Dijon Chicken


  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. butter (preferably organic), melted; plus more
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, butterflied (carefully slice the chicken breast in half widthwise, almost to the other edge)


In a small bowl, mix the honey, mustard, 1 Tbsp. of melted butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Put the mixture into a large plastic resealable bag. Add the chicken, seal the bag, and shake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Set a burner to medium heat and lightly butter a frying pan.

Remove the chicken from the bag and arrange it on the frying pan. Cook over medium heat, about 5–7 minutes per side, until cooked through the middle. Enjoy with veggies of your choice.

Modified by Jenna Volpe from https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sunny-anderson/easy-grilled-honey-dijon-chicken-recipe.html

Beans and nuts

In an aisle

  • Beans, peas, lentils, nuts/nut butter, peanuts/peanut butter
  • Fiber, folate, minerals
  • Buy in bulk, e.g., large cans, packed in water with no added salt

Does low-fat matter in peanut butter?
Low-fat alternatives to peanut butter are higher in salt and refined sugars. Opt for natural, full-fat peanut butter.

Canned, jarred, and other preserved items

In an aisle

  • Applesauce, canned pineapple/peaches, green beans, tomato sauce, soups, tuna
  • Easy and portable

Are canned foods nutritious?
It’s better to eat canned produce than no produce. That said, canned and other preserved foods can be high in sodium or sugar, and are lower in vital enzymes than fresh produce. Use sparingly and opt for alternatives labeled “low sodium,” “packed in water,” or “packed in 100% fruit juice.”

What about the chemicals in the packaging?
Metal and plastic packaging is a source of Bisphenol A (BPA) contamination, which has been linked to several diseases. More acidic foods are especially prone to this. Opt for tomatoes and other acidic foods in jars.

Milk, cheese, yogurt, dairy alternatives

Fresh—along the perimeter of the market

  • Bone-building (calcium, Vitamin D, phosphorous)
  • Buy in bulk—e.g., large tubs of yogurt or cottage cheese versus individual serving sizes; whole blocks of cheese versus pre-shredded.

Does “grass-fed” matter?
Grass-fed dairy is higher in heart-healthy fats, comparable to the types of fats found in walnuts and fish. It is pricey (almost double the cost per half-gallon). The nutritional superiority may justify the splurge.

User-friendly grocery store guide

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