Quick ways to add flavor to cheap meals

College funds restrict healthy eating, but basic ingredients, spices can turn bland meal into stellar dish



Even macaroni and cheese can be made healthy with replacements like nutritional yeast, hemp seeds and creative use of fruits.

MAGGIE QUINLAN, Evergreen reporter

On a tight schedule and tight budget, students make a lot of simple meals on the go. If sandwiches, pasta and microwavable food are staples of your diet, you might be wondering how you could quickly — and cheaply — enhance your meals.

Energized mac and cheese

What can you do to add some sweet health benefits and a little pick-me-up to boxed mac and cheese? Sprinkle in some nutritional yeast, a yellowish powder that tastes cheesy and nutty. It’s a common cheese-flavoring additive for vegan recipes, so it won’t throw your taste buds off.

Nutritional yeast’s protein and B vitamins will give you an energy boost since the powder helps break food down into energy. It’s like caffeine for your Easy Mac.

Brain food in your chip dip

If you’re ready to pig out while watching the next away football game, there is an easy way to reduce guilty feelings about your raging chip addiction. Evelyn Bullington-Schneider, person in charge at the Moscow Food Co-op Deli, suggests adding hemp seeds to dips like spinach artichoke, bean dips or onion dip.

“Adding hemp or any soft nut or seed in dips is a solid source of protein and natural oils,” Bullington-Schneider said.

Hemp seeds are super rich in two essential fatty acids, which your body can’t produce by itself. You need those fatty acids to develop your brain, produce hormones and keep your immune system on point.

Anti-inflammatory pasta

Store-bought pasta sauce makes dinner a breeze, but it doesn’t scream “nutrition.” For a meal that will reduce your body’s inflammation, opt for a red sauce. Tomatoes are anti-inflammatory, which means they ease pain and smooth digestion.

Jarred pasta sauce tastes 10 times better with a teaspoon of curry powder or turmeric powder. The turmeric in curry powder is extremely anti-inflammatory. Plus, it has antioxidant properties. For a flavor bonus, curry powder won’t turn marinara into masala, but it will add some dimension.

Probiotic tuna sandwich

A tuna sandwich is super easy to make and the ingredients are cheap. To bring it up a notch, take inspiration from the Moscow Co-op’s tuna salad recipe. You can add some probiotics to your tuna by replacing mayonnaise with Greek yogurt. Then, to add a little crunch, some fiber and vitamins, you can mix in diced apple and ginger.

Vitamin-packed yogurt or smoothie

For a quick and easy “at-least-I-sort-of-ate” breakfast, a cup of yogurt is a classic choice. To add extra flavor, you can sprinkle in a teaspoon of spirulina powder.

“Spirulina is an algae that’s packed with vitamins and other beneficial molecules that can be added to any smoothie with minimal flavor change,” Bullington-Schneider said.

This bright green superfood dust will provide you with lots of vitamin B, iron, antioxidants and protein.

Upgrading your diet can be as easy as sprinkling some supplemental, complementary powders into the food you already make.