Sustainable Meal Ideas for a Busy Student

For busy students, the idea of creating a meal that is quick, sustainable, and fuels your body can sometimes be daunting. But, if you use some of the resources we’ve compiled here, you will find that it isn’t as mystifying as it seems! Still not sure? Try some of these ideas just one day or even one meal at a time. Eventually, these sustainable and healthy practices will become habitual. 

The first step you can take towards eating more sustainably is taking into account the types of proteins and dairy products you’re eating. Cows specifically produce more greenhouse gases, so avoid beef and dairy products made from cows when possible. Another step towards eating more sustainably is buying local produce that is in season. One reason why it’s important to buy local produce is that Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the country, and buying from local farms one way we can “vote with our dollars” in support of our local food system. In addition, purchasing in-season produce that isn’t grown in hothouses (heated greenhouses) is important because it is a lot less energy-intensive.

Local In-Season Produce
Local In-Season Produce

If you want to eat more sustainably, but feel like a cooking novice, check out some of the cooking videos posted by MHealthy. Not only are there sustainable and healthy recipes that are included in this resource, but you can also learn more about how to select, clean, and cut your produce. For a more comprehensive list of recipes, M-Dining’s guide has a good selection of recipes that are quick, easy, and budget-friendly. These recipes range from small snacks and sandwiches to larger meals and dessert ideas! 

Preparing Ingredients for a New Recipe

Luckily, Michigan summers (and winters) have an abundance of fresh and yummy produce made available. Here are some of my favorite meals:

  • Sustainable spaghetti ⁠— Start by substituting your noodles for spaghetti squash and prepping your sauce while the spaghetti squash is cooking. My favorite sauce recipe uses fresh tomatoes, carrots, onions, celery, and basil with other spices like parsley, salt, olive oil, and pepper which makes for a great and aromatic sauce
  • Quick veggie stir-fry — Using zucchini, you can create zucchini noodles and cook them with whatever veggies interest you. Peas, broccoli, carrots, onions, and mushrooms are some of my favorite ingredients to include that are in season during the summer months
  • Sweet salads — For a sweeter salad, I tend to enjoy mixing strawberries, onions, dried cranberries, nuts, and feta cheese into my greens and topping off with a strawberry vinaigrette.
  • Savory salads — Roast sweet potatoes, summer squash, and carrots with olive oil in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes. Then, throw them on top of greens with feta cheese, onions, and apple cider vinaigrette. This makes for a hearty and delicious meal! 
Sweet Salads
Sweet Salads

If this blog has piqued your interest in sustainable food, subscribe to the U-M Sustainable Food Program’s newsletter to learn about other ways to support local farmers and food producers.

What are your favorite seasonal recipes? Share them in the comments section below!