eating healthy at your campus dining hall

Posted : September 22, 2014
Last Updated : August 19, 2019

eating healthy at your campus dining hall

Eating healthy during college is especially important because the foods you choose to put in your mouth not only affect your waistline but also affect your energy, concentration, and memory. With the plethora of food choices available in your campus dining hall, you may find it difficult to select nutritious options on an everyday basis. Use these suggestions to make healthy choices so you can stay properly fueled and energized during your college years.

Eat three meals a day.

Organize your schedule so you have time to swing by your dining hall for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is the most important meal, as it gives you energy to face the day. Follow up breakfast with a balanced lunch and dinner and eat small snacks between meals. Sticking to this eating schedule will keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day, allowing you to stay alert for your college studies and activities.

Choose soup/salad appetizers.

Eating a soup or salad appetizer before lunch or dinner is a good way to increase your vegetable intake. Doing so will also help fill you up with fiber, making you less likely to overindulge on less nutritious options. To keep the appetizers healthy, choose a vegetable-based soup over a cream-based soup and drizzle your salad with olive oil, lemon juice, or salsa instead of fatty salad dressing.

Watch your portion size.

Many campus dining halls arrange their food in a buffet style, making it easy to overeat. The divided plate concept can help you control portion sizes: ½ of plate should be vegetables, ¼ of plate should be protein, and ¼ of plate should be starch. Remember that the appropriate amount of food a person should eat depends on age, gender, and activity level.

Go for variety.

You may have a go-to food in your campus dining hall, but remember that variety is the spice of life. Consuming the same foods every day will quickly become boring and even unhealthy since you need a varied diet to obtain the nutrients needed for optimal health. Try foods that you have never before tasted. Eat lots of different colored fruits and vegetables. Your taste buds will thank you.

Pick the right foods.

You already know that you need to eat from the five basic food groups each day to keep a healthy diet, but you should also pay special attention to how the food is prepared by the dining hall staff. Choose protein that is grilled, baked, or boiled instead of breaded or fried. Opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy. Instead of selecting fruit and vegetable sides (that are usually prepared with added sugar and fat) from the main buffet bar, head over to the salad bar and pick out fresh fruit and veggies. Try to keep white starches off your plate by opting for sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grain bread, etc.

Remember moderation.

Obviously there will be days that you won't be in the mood to eat healthy but will instead crave a doughnut or a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake or a few slices of pizza. Don't feel bad about giving into your cravings. Everyone deserves to treat themselves with comfort food now and then (such as when you receive a bad grade on a research paper!). By following the 80/20 principle, you will be able to moderate your indulgences. Eighty percent of the time, you focus on eating healthy. Twenty percent of the time, you have the freedom to indulge as you please.

Avoid sugary drinks.

Sodas, sports drinks, and lattes may give you a temporary energy boost to help you study or work out, but these drinks are loaded with sugar which will only make you feel lethargic in the long run. Stay hydrated by choosing healthier options, such as water or unsweet tea.

Share desserts.

If you have a sweet tooth, bypassing the dessert bar in the dining hall can be a real challenge. All those delicious delectables are just sitting there, staring at you. Well, you can have your cake and eat it too…by splitting it with a couple of friends. This way you get a small treat without too many calories.

Don't linger.

The longer you sit in the dining hall cafeteria, the more likely you are to go back for seconds. This doesn't mean that you should gulp down your food either. Eat slowly and converse with your friends. Once you finish eating your meal, move the chit-chat to another location in order to avoid being tempted to grab another cookie or piece of cake.

If you have nutrition questions, would like additional guidance in choosing balanced meals, or need recommendations tailored for individual dietary needs, contact a student health dietitian at your school. For more information about leading a healthy lifestyle in college, check out Beat the Freshman 15. USA, LLC

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