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Ask a Collegiette: Getting Creative With Dining Hall Food

Are you a smart and savvy pre-collegiette looking for answers to some of your most personal questions about college? You know, the ones about boys, classes, roommates and parties that your school’s guidance office can’t help you with? Jen is here to answer those questions! Whatever your concern, she’ll do her best to help you so you can make sure you don’t just survive college, but rock it!

How do you get creative with food from the dining halls when you get sick of it? – Rachel


The joys of the dining hall can fade away as quickly as #AlexFromTarget, but there are lots of ways you can mix things up to keep it interesting!

The first thing I’d suggest is switching up what you eat as often as possible. Maybe one day you go to the salad bar for lunch, then another day you try the pasta or pizza, and a different day you go for baked chicken with brown rice and broccoli. Even if your dining hall serves up the same food on a regular basis, mixing up your choices each time can help give you a little variety, and this will prevent you from getting sick of the dining hall.

When you’re getting tired of the specific contents of certain staple meals, such as a salad, you could try modifying what you add to it. If you like getting salads for lunch, change up your base (such as alternating between romaine lettuce and spinach), dressings and toppings often. By doing this, you’ll have a completely different salad each time you go, which can help when you’re stuck in a rut (or can help prevent a rut in the first place!).

Some dining halls offer interactive food stations, such as stir-fry stations and omelet stations. If your school has either of these, take advantage of them, since they are another easy way to switch things up when it comes to your diet in college. Each day you can change what you put in your stir-fry masterpiece depending on what protein options and vegetables are offered to you, so get creative!

Another way to switch things up would be to visit a variety of different on-campus dining options. Many schools have more choices than just a main dining hall, like a student union café or other choices that will accept your meal plan. Doing so is an easy way to expand your choices, since you could get lunch at the student union café and dinner at the dining hall. This way it doesn’t feel like you’re eating the same meal twice, as the location and the meals themselves will be different. Just a heads up before you diss the dining hall forever – these choices are often more expensive than eating at the dining hall. Don’t be the girl who spends all of her meal swipes on an overpriced morning coffee! This is a good reason to check your balance often to keep everything in check.

Some schools also offer off-campus dining options that accept your meal plan. Local chain restaurants or pizza shops might accept your dining dollars or a meal swipe, especially at city colleges, so be sure to check out which restaurants might accept your meal credit. To see which restaurants accept the meal plan, look at your school’s website or ask your RA for suggestions.

Finally, you can try making your own meals in your dorm or bringing back food from the dining hall to make your own meal if you’re looking for easy ways to eat more healthily in college. Keep in mind that some dining halls do not condone taking food back to your room from the dining hall, so make sure you’re following your school’s rules.

Between all of options for venues and specific meals, there are definitely ways to mix it up and keep it interesting so you don’t grow tired of the same meals! Keep these tricks in mind when you find yourself in a dining-hall rut. Good luck!

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Jen is a 2016 graduate of Messiah College, where she majored in journalism and minored in gender studies. She's a proud Bostonian who is obsessed with tattoos, puppies, magazines and Sephora. She's been reading Her Campus since high school and was thrilled to join the HC team as a National Contributing Writer in September 2013. She became an HC Beauty Blogger in February 2014 and continued to write on-trend beauty posts until July 2016. A few highlights from her time writing for HC included attending and writing about two BeautyCon events and Cosmopolitan's Fun Fearless Life in 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @JenFlanagan14 and on Instagram @jenlea14.
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