Hi Creek Girl,
Your needs and lifestyle sound a lot like mine. I'm not in college anymore, but I like to keep my cooking as simple as humanly possible, and I want to keep my meats, etc. Like a lot of the other people who have responded, I've made up my own plan. I do a high protein + low carb/low fat thing, but I actually don't count anything (not even calories) because I just couldn't handle it. I focus on what I NEED to eat to be healthy, and look at food now as fuel. I'm primarily trying to get as much protein as I possibly can. I haven't eliminated fats or carbs, I'm just very aware of them and try to replace them with protein and/or "good carbs/fats" as often as I can. I think my plan may be "vaguely Atkins" but I really have no idea.
And I started off by making SMALL changes at first, which was really the only way I could do it and survive. A drastic "diet" started all of a sudden would have lasted about 8 hours with me.
Here are some examples of little changes I made at first: (I've used a lot of brand names here, but I don't mean for it to sound like a commercial!)
1. I switched from sugar to Splenda in my tea.
Oddly, this was probably the hardest thing I had to do (initially) because I'm a tea addict and didn't want anything to "ruin" the tea experience. But it only took about 3 days for me to adjust -- and because I drink too much tea a day ANYWAY
this was a great way to eliminate lots of excess sugar from my diet. If you eat cereal with sugar, Splenda tastes *almost* just the same and it's really easy to adapt to. It IS quite expensive compared to sugar, but I've found it's cheaper if you order online.
2. I bought a George Foreman grill
Sounds ridiculous, but it really changed my life. I can't cook. Seriously. So, for most of my life it's been "Boil water. Put in pasta." Not good
. But now, I have beef, veggie burgers, salmon, or Quorn every night of the week on my grill -- all great sources of protein and WAY lower in carbs than my tortellini/macaroni habit.
3. I started eating breakfast
Totally key, and something I just wasn't doing before. I like to have a hardboiled egg (I usually make 6 or so on a Sunday and keep them in the fridge), and whole wheat toast with almond butter.
4. I discovered protein shakes
I don't use them to REPLACE meals like Slim Fast or whatever (yech
), instead I make one up in the morning and bring it with me so I can have a 10am snack. I use the EAS powdered version (chocolate) and usually mix it with milk, a banana, and ice. It's quite yummy! With your lactose issue, you can replace the milk with water and it really tastes just as good -- or try soy or rice milk instead.
5. I started exercising
....and I started out SLOW. I joined a gym (maybe you have a fitness center at school?) and started out by weight training. I added cardio later (I HATE cardio) and the weight really started dropping. And I know that MANY people just start walking. Cheap and easy, and very effective for alot of people. I joined Jenny Craig about 10 years ago (and found it WAY expense so I didn't continue with it) and the one thing I still remember is the suggestion that you park as far away from the mall (or whatever) as possible. Even those extra 3 - 4 minutes of walking really build up over time and help! I STILL do this...I take every opportunity to "create a walk."
So that's my plan. It works well for me, and I like that I'm not spending extra cash to be a part of an "organized" plan. Also, perhaps most importantly, I don't "forbid" myself to have certain foods that I love. I couldn't handle that -- too depressing
. So I DO have tortelli sometimes -- maybe twice a month, and I even went to McDonalds last week (for the first time in 6 months). I simply got a Happy Meal with no soda and only ate half my fries. I felt kinda gross after eating it, but I was "in the mood" and didn't want to deprive myself.
Like alot of other people on the thread, I also recommend a food diary -- at least initially. You could enter what you eat into the FitDay site and get a sense of what you're REALLY eating. Then, you'll have somewhere to start and be able to see where you can make those changes. I really recommend SLOW changes at first, as this is a lifestyle change and not just a "diet."
Good luck...you can DEFINITELY do this without spending too much money and keeping variety (and your sanity!)