Thinking back to it now, it probably wasn’t the healthiest idea to live off pepperoni pizza and french fries freshman year of college. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? But seriously, walking into a university cafeteria is like every fast-food fanatic’s dream, and it’s kind of hard to fill your plate with baby spinach and kale when there’s an unlimited supply of grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream scoops at your disposal. If you’re wondering how to eat healthy at the dining hall, it’s not impossible. The trick is to avoid temptation to the best of your ability.
Oftentimes, students will pop into the cafeteria for a quick re-fuel before their next class, or a get-it-and-go option to take back to their dorm. The problem is, these establishments are geared toward giving students what they want (convenience) rather than what their bodies need (nutrition). It may take some digging, but between the many to-go stations and snack bars are healthy alternatives you know and (can grow to) love.
Listen, I understand how difficult it might be to bypass to-go breakfast sandwiches the morning after Thirsty Thursday, but a bowl full of fresh fruit will do your body good.
If you’re uninterested in a fruit-based breakfast, grab an apple or banana to take with you for a snack in between a hectic schedule.
2. Whole Grains
Things like wheat bread, pasta, and oats are full of fiber and can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. This isn’t me telling you to ward off white bread altogether, but cutting down is a small swap with large benefits.
Whether they’re sautéed, grilled, or assorted on a salad bar, you can never go wrong with vegetables. Get in the habit of adding vegetables to your meals so that even if your main dish is an indulgence, you’re at least getting in those essential nutrients.
4. Grilled Foods Over Fried Foods
You know the drill, here.
There’s no denying fried food tastes amazing, but choosing a handful of greasy tenders as a regular meal does no good for your gut. Scope out the grilled options on the menu for a healthier alternative.
If you’re one of those people who wouldn’t order fish at a diner, this is probably a touchy subject for you. While I would probably skip fish sticks in a college dining hall, if there’s a chef cooking the food in front of you, you’re probably safe.
Bonus: Not only is fish an excellent source of protein, scientists agree oceanic delicacies improve brain performance!
Hi, my name is Julia and I am an egg addict.
I could probably eat eggs for every meal and never get bored of the taste. Scrambled, fried, boiled, as an omelet, eggs provide your body with protein, vitamins, and minerals that keep you full and fueled.
7. Black Coffee/Tea
Coffee and tea have so many health benefits, but the second you dilute them with milk, cream, and sugar, you practically negate their good qualities.
If you’re addicted to the added sweetness, switching to that pure roast taste can be a challenge. But, speaking from experience, it definitely grows on you (and you’ll sound way more badass at the Starbucks counter).
Sandwiches can be a safe, healthy option among all the other cafeteria temptations. It all depends on what you dress them with.
Most dining halls have a build-your-own sandwich station, so you can control what and how much protein, veggies, and condiments you want.
This is kind of a no-brainer, but if you’re anything like my undergrad self, an unlimited supply of soda and milkshakes is hard to pass up. Indulge every once in awhile (because free soda), but for the most part, opt for good ol’ H2O.