February 22, 2017

7 Ways to Eat Healthy When You Don’t Have Access to a Full Kitchen

If you’re someone who strives to make healthy choices whether you’re at home or on the road, but have very limited access to kitchen equipment, you might have some questions. What do you eat? How can you eat? Is eating expired peanut butter okay? (Probably not.)

While you can eat at restaurants for a lot of your meals (hooray, city life!), sometimes it’s nice to get a little “home cooking” and more control over your ingredients. As long as you can access a grocery store, get some basic ingredients, and have at least a microwave (or even a coffee maker!) and a fridge, I’ll show you how to create a myriad of tasty, healthy meals that don’t make you want to cry.

1. Use A Microwave To Make Perfect Scrambled Eggs (And So Much More!)

Everything from oatmeal to over-easy eggs can be made in the microwave.Everything from oatmeal to over-easy eggs can be made in the microwave.

Unless you’re the kind of foodie who needs to sous vide your Hot Pockets, then merely having a microwave opens up a whole delicious world of culinary options, such as oatmeal, bacon, and yes, even scrambled eggs.

To start, you’ll want a wider bowl (a paper one is okay) and a fork or chopsticks to beat the eggs. The secret to fluffy, evenly cooked microwaved scrambled eggs is to do it in intervals. Start with 30 seconds or so and keep an eye on it. Remove the eggs, stir it around before sticking it back in, and nuke it for another 30 seconds. Take it out and stir again. At this point, if it’s still undercooked, put it back in 10-second intervals until the eggs are cooked. Then, salt and pepper to taste. Eat your heart out, Gordon Ramsay.

Another one of my favorite things to make in the microwave is sweet potato chips. It’s simple, healthy, and oh-so crispy. In fact, just peruse this list of all the things you can make in your microwave and you’ll never have to resort to frozen dinners again.

If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the front desk if there’s a microwave somewhere that you can use. Usually, they have one in the lobby, dining room, or employee break room. It doesn’t hurt to ask. 

2. Bake a Brownie in a Coffee Mug

I kid you not, all you need is a coffee mug and you can make dozens of sweet and savory one-mug wonders within minutes. We’re talking quiche, decadent brownies, cinnamon rolls, mac and cheese, and even meatloaf. Yes, all in a coffee cup. If you’re on the road, you can pack a little plastic baggy of flour with you to make things easier, since that’s one of the main ingredients in almost all recipes, and pick up the rest from a store, gas station, or whatever’s convenient.

If you’ve always hated cooking for one (it is the loneliest number) because of the endless dishes and days of the same old leftovers, these meals-in-a-mug are perfect for the solo diner. Just feast your eyes on this collection of recipes from BuzzFeed.

3. Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs in the Coffee Pot

When you’re in a hotel or working with limited equipment, you have to tap into your inner MacGyver to make sure you’re not just living off of Top Ramen. You wanna get some protein, too. Place eggs in the empty coffee pot and add water to pre-measure the proper volume of water. Pour the water into the coffee maker, put the coffee pot (with the eggs nestled inside) back in place, and let ‘er rip. The hot water along with the hot plate will very slowly cook the eggs (about 45 minutes or so). Hey, I said it was possible, not fast.

Additional pro-tip: You can use hot water from a coffee maker to cook oatmeal or instant ramen if you want. Just remember to clean out any coffee grinds in the filter and let it brew a couple of cycles to flush out as much coffee as possible.

4. Invest in an Instant Pot

If you’re in a small studio, getting an Instant Pot, the name of a kind of pressure cooker, is well-worth the investment. It doesn’t take up much space in your kitchen (though weighing in at around 10 pounds, it’s not quite road-ready), and yet, it’s like the ultimate Swiss army knife. The thing is packed with programmable functions and is pretty much like a rice cooker, a slow cooker, and a pressure cooker all rolled into one.

I’ve recently become a proud owner of an Instant Pot myself and have since made a cornucopia of delectable dishes like chicken soup, pulled pork, roasted potatoes, and more. The best part is that I’m not even a skilled cook! It’s so beloved by the internet that you can easily (I daresay…instantly) find dozens and dozens of Instant Pot-specific recipes.

5. Try Overnight Oats and Salads-in-a-Jar

Mornings on the go are so much easier with overnight oats.Mornings on the go are so much easier with overnight oats.

If all you have access to is a mini fridge (like in a hotel room), you can invest in a pack of mason jars and make overnight oats and salads. (If you don’t have a fridge, get a mini-cooler and fill it with ice.)

Overnight oats are exactly as they sound: throw in rolled oats, toppings of your choice, and a liquid, and let sit in the fridge overnight. By morning, you’ll have a delicious and healthy breakfast ready to go. Salads-in-a-jar follow the same idea and they’re just as portable and easy to make. Based on the name, you can probably guess what goes into it. The nice thing is that you can easily add a bit of dressing and shake it around to make sure it evenly coats your entire salad. (Plus, so pretty!)

6. Be a Hoarder

When you’re working with less than your best, desperate times necessitate letting your inner hoarder go wild. Squirrel away those plastic utensils, spice packets, ketchup packets, napkins, and whatever else you can get your grubby mitts on while you’re traveling. If you’re the type to be extra prepared, you can bring your own travel utensils, like this 2-in-1 spoon-fork (it’s not exactly a spork) or this one with a nicer knife for cutting. It also doesn’t hurt to bring a can opener that doubles as a bottle opener.

I’m of the opinion that when you don’t have the luxury of a fully stocked kitchen, it’s hard to be above grabbing what many places let you take for free anyway. Just be cool about it, and you know, don’t take like 50 sugar packets, or stuff three bananas and five apples into your shirt.

7. Stock Up on These Easy Healthy Foods

Stock up on versatile, healthy essentials like carrots, tomatoes, and celery.Stock up on versatile, healthy essentials like carrots, tomatoes, and celery.

If you can get groceries, but are limited by what you can store, you can always lean on the following foods that are versatile, easy to eat without much preparation, and have a longer shelf life—all while being nutritious:

  • baby carrots
  • cherry tomatoes
  • celery
  • fruit
  • canned or pouches of tuna and spam
  • canned soups
  • eggs
  • microwaveable rice pouches
  • nuts
  • jerky
  • cereal
  • oats
  • whey protein
  • aseptic containers of milk

In particular, jerky, whey protein, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, and fruit (fresh or dried) are all very portable and don’t spoil easily, so you can take them with you whenever you need to venture out.

And there you have it. Just because you don’t have a foodie’s kitchen at your disposal doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. Just follow these tips, have access to the most basic of things, and the world will not end. And, of course, there’s always sriracha to turn everything into “gourmet” food. 


Stephanie Lee is a Los Angeles-based writer. She travels the world with her laptop and shares her experiences on her website FY!S to help you stay in shape and productive while traveling. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram for the latest shenanigans.