The College Girl's Guide To Calories: What To Know Before You Indulge In These Coed Staples

August 21, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

Congrats are in order if you’re headed off or back to college–you’re about to have the time of your life. But the Freshman 15 (and Sophomore 10, Junior 5, etc.) is no joke. Now that you’re in complete control over what you eat, it can be extremely difficult to make healthy choices, especially when popular “college foods” are usually simple to make, cheap, readily available at all stores and school cafeterias, but also typically not very healthy.

While your focus should certainly be on your studies and social life– not your waistline–it is important to remember that you are what you eat and that filling up on empty calories will not only lead to weight gain, but will zap your energy quicker than you can say, “8 a.m. physics class.”

So to help you out, here are 25 popular college foods and the average number of calories contained in each–know your numbers so you can make wise decisions. With the exception of Chinese Food, which is provided by, the following average calorie counts come to you courtesy of Calorie King.

1. Beer. I had to start out list with this one, for obvious reasons. The calories in beer vary depending on the brand of beer you select, but to give you some idea of what you’re up against: one can of Heineken has 148 calories. A bottle or can of Coors Light contains 102 calories.

2. Wine. A glass of white wine typically contains 121 calories, while a glass of Merlot contains 124 calories.

3. Pizza. One 14″ slice of pizza with cheese and no toppings clocks in at 272 calories.

4. Bagels. One medium-size bagel contains about 289 calories. And that’s before you add butter, jelly or cream cheese.

5. Pop-Tarts. One yummy strawberry Pop-Tart (and once you open a package containing two are you really going to stop at one?) packs 210 calories.

6. Ramen noodles. It’s impossible to get through college without Ramen Noodles, but be wary: a cup of Maruchan Instant Lunch Roast Chicken Flavor Ramen Noodles contains 290 calories.

7. Sushi. When you’re in the mood for “fancy” take-out, sushi always hits the spot. Here’s what to expect in calories: two pieces of California sushi rolls contains 129 calories, two small raw salmon rolls have 61 calories and one cup of cooked sushi rice has 298 calories.

8. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Ah, classic PB & J. If you’re buying one off of the kid’s menu at Panera Bread, expect to consume 400 calories.

9. Cereal. It depends on the cereal. One cup of corn flakes is just 113 calories (before adding milk). In the mood for something more sugary? One cup of Lucky Charms contains 147 calories.

10. Hamburgers. A plain McDonald’s hamburger has 250 calories, but a Big Mac contains 549 calories.

11. Macaroni and cheese. One cup of canned mac and cheese has 200 calories.

12. Soda. One can of Pepsi contains 94 calories. The same amount of Sprite has 100 calories. One can of Mountain Dew has 106 calories.

13. Potato chips. One small package of Lay’s Classic Potato Chips contains 160 calories.

14. Energy Drinks. One can of Red Bull has 110 calories. One serving of Monster Energy has 100 calories.

15. Ice Cream. Sorry to single out Ben & Jerry’s, but is anything more delish? A single serving of plan Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice-cream has 230 calories. Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream, otherwise known as heaven, contains 360 calories.

16. Microwave popcorn. One cup of Microwave Oil Popped Popcorn contains 59 calories.

17. Canned ravioli. One cup of canned Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli in Tomato & Meat Sauce has 230 calories.

18. Chinese food. Chinese food is an easy option, but depending on what you order, you can typically expect to find a lot of calories, fat and sodium. One cup of Beef Chow Mein has 420 calories. One cup of fried rice contains between 235 and 370 calories. One egg roll has between 300 and 350 calories. One cup of chicken and broccoli contains 280 calories. And your little fortune cookie? 25 calories (but every single one is well worth it so you can read your fortune).

19. Nachos and cheese. An average 9″ plate of nachos and cheese packs a whopping 859 calories.

20. Hot pockets. One Hot Pockets Ham and Cheese Stuffed Sandwich contains 300 calories.

21. Chicken wings. One piece of Dominoes Pizza Hot Chicken Wings has 50 calories.

22. Chicken fingers. One plate of crispy chicken fingers from TGIFriday’s has 999 calories.

23. French fries. A small (about 3 ounces) portion of french fries that are fried in oil contains 267 calories.

24. Canned soup. When you’re far away from home and feeling under the weather, it’s tempting to want to snuggle under a blanket with a warm cup of soup. One cup of Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup has 175 calories, while a cup of Condensed Beef Soup with Vegetables and Barley has about 155 calories.

25. Protein bars. So, you’ve had enough of fast food burgers and fries and want to cut back on calories? Protein bars may not be the ideal way to do it. A Luna Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar contains 190 calories, while a Clif Chocolate Peanut Butter Builder’s Protein Bar has 270 calories.

For more great tips, check out why should think twice before you throw away expired food and 5 delicious recipes you can make in a microwave.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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