6 Tips for Healthy Eating in College Dining Halls

Updated: 8/2/18

Having a meal plan with a college cafeteria with endless and bottomless options can be a recipe for disaster but you can avoid the freshman 15 by following these six tips.

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Plan It Out
Review all of your dining options before you settle for a specific line.  If you have a better view of the offerings, you’ll be able to devise a plan so that you have a general idea of what you want your plate to look like while practicing portion control.

Eat Breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal of the day but it doesn’t mean you should head straight for the sugary cereal dispenser.  Fresh fruit, yogurt or high fiber cereals with skim milk are great choices.  You may feel that a caffeine boost is necessary, but when it comes to coffee, skip the cream and sugar which can add extra unnecessary calories from sugar and fat.

Quench Your Thirst
In addition to watching your caffeine intake from coffee, sodas and energy drinks, fruit juices are often high in sugar despite the “all natural” or “100% fruit juice” labels.   Swap these beverages for water or Crystal Light.  Use a refillable bottle and you can refill virtually anywhere on campus and help the environment by creating less plastic waste.  You can even add a splash of juice or slices of citrus fruits to your water.

The Salad Bar is Your Friend
Salad bars are a great way to ensure you are getting enough veggies without the boredom.  Add some lean protein like grilled salmon, chicken, tofu or hardboiled egg for a complete meal.  Low fat cottage cheese can double as a creamy dressing.  Skip the croutons, heavy dressings and preserved foods such as deli meats which are often very high in sodium.

Know What’s In Your Food
Most campus dining services have become more proactive about making nutritional information and ingredients readily available to diners.  Avoid dishes with butter, oil, heavy cream, sugar or fat and seek out roasted, baked, steamed or broiled options instead.  If ingredients are listed, they will be listed in order of predominance by weight, which mean that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first and the last ingredient has the least amount.

Snacking Between Meals
A healthy snack eaten every 2-3 hours can stimulate your metabolism, keep your appetite suppressed and provide a boost of energy.  Stash snack foods in your dorm room such as low carb crackers and rice cakes, whole fresh fruit like apples and oranges or pre-washed and cut vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli and cauliflower as they are easy to grab and eat on your way to class.   A healthy stash in your room will also give you better options for late night snacking without the guilt.

It will take some practice, but consuming a well-balanced diet with less sugar and salt will help keep you more alert while understanding and practicing portion control will keep your weight stable through your academic career and beyond!