Eating Smart in Your Dining Hall – Tips for College Students & Parents
by Jen Danowitz
The availability of constant all-you-can-eat style meals, coupled with the lack of parental direction for what should go on the table and the plate, leads many freshmen students to throw nutrition down the trash chute. With an eye on keeping healthy in the buffet-abyss of your dining hall, the following tips will help pile up your plate and not the pounds.
1. Quickly browse all selections before filling up your plate.
When you enter the dining hall, skim over all the selections available before filling your plate. By taking appropriate portions of what you really want, you will be less tempted to pile on too much food. This will also give you a better idea of the healthier alternatives available for your meal.
2. Check out the salad bar.
Most schools offer a variety of healthy salad bar options. Pile your plate with an assortment of leafy greens and other veggies before heading to the other food selections. It will be easier for you to take smaller portions of the less nutritious options, if your plate is already full. However, take it easy with the cheeses, croutons, bacon bits and dressings—too much of these can make your innocent salad as calorie-packed as the dining hall’s greasiest meal.
Many salad bars have a great fruit section as well. Keep this in mind when looking to jazz up your breakfast cereal, grab a quick apple or banana to snack on between classes, or couple fresh strawberries with yogurt to create a nutritious and delicious desert.
3. What are you drinking with that meal?
Filling your cup with soda is a great way to actually dehydrate yourself and pack on pounds. Opt for ice water, or a nutrient-rich beverage such as nonfat milk or 100% fruit juice. If you really want that soda, check out the diet options, or fill your cup only halfway and then add fruit juice to make a healthier (and tasty!) mix.
4. If you’re looking for carbs, look for whole grain.
If it’s not whole grain, it’s essentially empty calories. Why not go for the whole-grain versions of bread, cereal, pita, pasta and tortillas to add both flavor and nutrition to your carb-fix?
5. Get in and get out.
The longer you hang around in the cafeteria, the more you will be tempted to fill your plate with everything your eyes feast on. By piling it up, you will eat much more than your body actually needs. Head for the right choices, and then head directly out. Remember the selections your dining hall offers are probably not one-time deals, so you don’t need to grab everything you see.
6. Never eat when you are pressed for time.
If you head to the dining hall when you are in a rush, you will very likely grab the fastest dish-to-plate meal option. This is not often a nutritious option, which means you will load up on junk and still be hungry after. If you need a quick fix, force yourself to ignore temptation to grab the ready-made burger or greasy pizza slice, and choose a more wholesome option such as fresh fruit or a bowl of whole grain cereal with nonfat milk.
In addition, it’s important to slow down and think about each bite of food you take. Rather than wolfing down your meal so fast you forget what was on your plate to begin with, this will give your brain time to recognize your stomach is full, which means you will be less tempted to overeat. It will also give you time to relax and enjoy your meal.
CollegeTipsForParents.org note: The above tips are a general suggestions, your personal circumstances and needs may be different, Parents and students should always consult their personal physician regarding all health related matters.