Forget Freshman 15: Create a Healthy Care Package

College kids have hit the mid-term mark in school. Are you wondering if they can use a bit of love (and energy and health) from home?

Transitioning to dorm life for incoming freshman (and even upperclassmen returning after a summer at home) can be an adjustment. Many times, college student’s nutrient intake declines as they grab fast, and often unhealthy, meal and snack choices on the run.

Why not surprise them with the comforts from home (and a much needed nutrition boost) with a healthy care package? 

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I surveyed some of our nation’s top nutrition experts for the best must-have care package items that will pack a powerful nutrition boost while providing your scholar with a hint of home. According to Rachel Begun, MS, RD, CDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “When putting together a care package for your college students, it's important to consider your children's lifestyle at school in addition to the actual foods you'll be sending them. Provide foods that might not be available at cafes and convenience stores on campus and which you'd prefer that they eat in lieu of empty calorie options.” Quick options they can grab on the run between classes and activities, she points out, are often best. Begun’s healthy care package go-to items include: 

  • all-natural granola and energy bars

  • nut butters with whole grain crackers

  • bags of their favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits so they can make their own concoctions of trail mixes

  • resealable baggies so it's easy for them to carry around these snacks

For quick meals, Sharon Palmer, RD recommends “including some items that can help them whip up meals in minutes over a hot plate, such as tubes of pesto (shelf stable) to serve with whole wheat pasta; instant steel cut oatmeal packets, and soba noodles to cook with Asian sauce.” For the occasional treat, Palmer also recommends “Stick in a gift card for a more wholesome food outlet, such as Starbucks, Subways, and Jamba Juice.” Even a gift card to the local grocery store or market can be a great treat and a way to help your child stock up on healthy snack and meal options.

Related: 7 Gifts to Surprise Your College Student

And don’t forget about produce. As Melissa Halas-Liang, MA, RD, CDE points out “apples are an easy grab and go item and stay good for days. If your child has a mini-fridge, apples and oranges can last for weeks!” And don’t forget hydration. As Halas-Liang mentions “A BPA-free water bottle is great for toting to and from class- one with the school logo on it is even better!”

Additional nutrient-loaded snacks that are perfect for the dorm include:

  • Boxes of whole grain cereal

  • Low fat microwave popcorn

  • Tuna canned in water

  • Canned fruit in juice (sometimes this can be even higher in nutrients, such as canned peaches which actually contain more vitamin A than fresh varieties!)

  • Baked chips

  • Dried soup mixes

And for those that have access to a mini refrigerator/freezer, try sending:

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