How One Dietitian Is Stocking Her College Kid's Pantry This Year

With grab-and-go dining halls and fewer food offerings, college kids will be needing those care packages more than ever.

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September 03, 2020

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I never thought I would be sending my son to college during a pandemic! Low and behold, the day has come that I will be driving him from New York to Ann Arbor to attend the University of Michigan. The university’s cafeterias will be open initially for grab-and-go meals only, which leaves me, as a dietitian and mom, stocking his dorm shelves and fridge with more than I normally would. Here's what groceries I'm sending my son for his first semester.

Microwave Snacks and Meals

To store food in his dorm room, my son and his roommate will have a mini refrigerator and a small microwave. He'll also have a set of plastic cereal bowls, cups and plates that are both microwave- and dishwasher-safe. I'll also stock him up on dishwashing soap and sponges.

Given that the extent of his dorm room kitchenware is rather limited, here are some snacks and mini meals I added to his dorm.


These gluten-free packets are easy to make in the microwave. Pour in a microwave-safe bowl, add 2/3 cup of water or milk and stir and then microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes. My son loves their Dark Chocolate Almond flavor which provides 170 calorie2, 5 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.

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Just stir in milk or water and place the open cup in the microwave for a delicious muffin — perfect for breakfast with a fruit or snack. Flavors include double dark chocolate, cinnamon roll, blueberry and chocolate chip.

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These quinoa quick meals come in a cup with already cooked quinoa, a vegetable sauce to mix in and a spork. You can eat it hot or cold. It can be microwaved in the BPA-free cup. Flavors include artichoke and roasted pepper, jalapeno and roasted pepper, mango and roasted pepper, and basil pesto.

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Popcorn is a big must-have in my son’s dorm room and given that it’s a whole grain you won’t get any complaints from Mom, the dietitian. Three cups popped has 130 calories, 1.5 grams saturated fat, and 3 grams each of fiber and protein.

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Refrigerated Items

It’s a small refrigerator, but there are a few snacks my son insists on stocking up on that can be refrigerated.

Made with skim milk, this string cheese provides 80 calories and 7 grams of protein per stick and 20% the daily recommended amount of calcium.

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These single serve cups of smashed avocado made with 100% avocado are perfect to spread on whole wheat crackers or to dip tortilla chips or baby carrots in. He can also add it to sandwiches or dishes he brings in from the grab-and-go cafeteria.

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My son certainly has a sweet tooth, so I’m stocking him up with better-for-you peanut butter cups made with dark chocolate and sea salt.

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My son has been drinking a tall glass of skim milk ever since he was a toddler. However, milk spoils quickly, so I opt for Fairlife’s milk that has a longer shelf life and provides 13 grams of protein, and 6 grams of sugar.

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Shelf Stable Snacks


A favorite snack has always been almonds, which provide 6 grams of plant protein, 4 grams of fiber, healthy unsaturated fats, along with magnesium and the antioxidant vitamin E.

Dried Apricots

Another easy snack are dried apricots which are shelf stable and can be mixed with almonds for a shelf-stable trail mix.


Made from USDA organic ingredients like creamy nut butters and rolled oats, these bars provide a balanced mix of nutrients including 5 to 7 grams of plant protein and 9 to 11 grams of whole grains. They are also non-GMO and have no high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. My son prefers Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, but they are also available in Chocolate Peanut Butter, Coconut Almond Butter, Peanut Butter, and Maple Almond Butter

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My son is a big fan of jerky and KRAVE makes fabulous flavors from beef, chicken and turkey. They come in flavors like Sea Salt Original, Honey Habanero and Garlic Chili Pepper.

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These breakfast biscuits provide 200 calories and 10 grams of protein each. They also come in Protein Blueberry Almond.

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My son loves cereal and one new one on the market is this kid-friendly one by Kashi. Per serving, it provides 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber and is made with whole oat flour, brown rice flour, whole grain yellow corn flower, pea protein and cocoa.

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Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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

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