Ramen Picture

Okay, any way you slice it, those fried and dried instant ramen noodles are NOT good for you. However, we appreciate the difficulty of a college budget, and have compiled a list of ways to improve your ramen feast, and make it a little healthier.

Related: We Love Ramen (Infographic)

ramen ingredients

First of all, for those of you who are like, “Hey, um, instant ramen is, like, totally Japanese soup, so it’s like, definitely healthy.” You’re wrong! (For the record, “sushi” as we know it in the U.S. is also not automatically healthy.) You’re embarking on a feast of a mere 380 calories paired with upwards of 800mg of sodium! While those homemade ramen dishes in Japan and China probably contain some real food products, their instant counterparts found in block form have few remnants of food remaining. Seriously, try reading the back of the label! That being said, here you will find a few ways to reduce the havoc ramen might otherwise wreak on your body, while improving the taste along the way.

1. First Step: Kill the Seasoning Packet

I know, I know, the seasoning packet is the often whole point of eating ramen, but if you want to shed some ickiness from this meal, you really should ditch, or at least reduce, the seasoning. Take a look at the back of the label. The first ingredients, in order, are: Salt, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), and Sugar. It is my suggestion to get rid of the packet as frequently as you can, but using only half of it can cut out a lot of chemicals.

2. Vegetables

This is the easiest way to get a little more out of your packet of ramen. Open up a bag of frozen veggies and add them to the broth when you add the noodles. You’ll instantly quadruple the nutritional value, AND double the volume. Now you can eat ramen-con-veggies for at least two meals.

3. Egg

In Chinese cuisine, it is very common to crack an egg over a steaming hot bowl of soup. Do the same for your ramen noodles to get more flavor, more texture, and a little protein in every bite. This is also a great way to hide the fact that you didn’t use the seasoning packet!

4. Stir-Fry Ramen

This is one of the easiest dishes around, but often seems intimidating. When you’ve got a packet of dry noodles and some frozen veggies, it’s so simple! Boil the ramen as usual, while simultaneously sautéing your frozen veggies in a large saucepan, pot, or wok. Toss in some type of sauce – soy, Teriyaki, Sriracha, etc. – and drain your ramen noodles. Combine it all together and enjoy!

5. Peanut Noodles

So. Freaking. Easy. After boiling your ramen noodles, drain out almost all of the water, saving just a little to help loosen up the peanut butter. Add about 2 tablespoons of creamy or chunky peanut butter, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and some sort of spicy element if you’ve got it (Sriracha sauce, red pepper flakes, chili oil, etc.). Voila, you’ve got a heartier version of ramen that won’t make you feel so sluggish!

To get the most out of your little packet of ramen, you can do all 5 of these steps in one! You can basically follow the simple steps for the stir-fry, but scramble an egg over the vegetables, and reserve a few tablespoons of the ramen water to help create a sauce when you add the peanut butter. Enjoy!