How to Healthy Hack the Dining Hall

Creative combinations in the dining hall are right in front of you, and are available to almost every college kid.  

Coming to college, and having so many food options on campus, can be both a good and a bad thing.  There are endless options ready for you in the dining hall, and it can seem overwhelming at first.  Yet, we all somehow end up complaining about the food: whether you dislike the taste of the food, the seeming lack of variety, or the few healthy options that actually seem edible, we all tend to fall into a food rut from time to time.  Often, people tend to gravitate to eating the same food, but, there are also so many creative ways to finesse healthy eating in college, and there are so many ways to mix it up, while doing so.

A lot of these options work really well for vegetarians or vegans, so don’t feel left out, and hopefully, you will also have some interesting takeaways from these ideas! Here are some innovative ways to healthily hack your dining hall, using universal options, found on most college campuses:


Veggie burger sandwich or wrap

  • Get a sandwich or wrap with anything you like, and add the veggie burger.  Add hummus, condiments, or dressing to make the veggie burger less dry. Veggie burgers are usually made with beans, which are a good source of protein.  This is a good way for vegetarians to get the protein they need, and a delicious way for non-vegetarians to try something new, if you haven’t tried a veggie burger before.  I’ve tried and tested this myself, and making a sandwich on multigrain bread, or getting a wrap, is a much healthier alternative to a burger bun.  


Quinoa or rice with chicken, from the salad bar, or tofu (add soy sauce for extra flavor)

  • This lunch or dinner option is comprised of simple staple carbs with protein.  Get a bowl and add rice, or quinoa, and prick a protein: chicken, pork, or steak work well, and are usually available either hot, or at the salad bar. Vegetarians can add tofu. Add multiple vegetables, and it’s similar to Chipotle, just healthier and more accessible!  Try drizzling your bowl with soy sauce for extra flavor!  


Multigrain toast or bagel with peanut butter, a drizzle of honey, and sliced bananas on top

  • Toast a slice of bread or a bagel, spread with peanut butter, add a drizzle of honey for sweetness, and slice the bananas on top.  This is a great substitute for dessert, and will definitely curb a sweet tooth, while keeping you full and healthy.  


Plain yogurt with honey and blueberries

  • This is a great breakfast pairing.  Honey makes plain nonfat yogurt sweeter, without adding extra sugar, and blueberries are a great source of antioxidants.  Pairing things together, instead of eating them separately, is the way to go! Especially for a breakfast on the go! You can even put this in a cup and take it to class for when you sleep through your alarms, but still have to make it to your 8 am.  


Oatmeal with cinnamon , a tablespoon of peanut butter, and berries

  • Oatmeal may be simple, but adding things to it makes it very tasty.  Oatmeal keeps you full for a long time and is a great fuel for athletes.  Add protein powder, or peanut butter, to work in your extra protein source, which is great for vegetarians.  


Apple slices with peanut butter, topped with granola

  • This is a cute and creative little snack that tastes good and looks pretty.  There are lots of texture combinations, and it is also a great dessert substitute that will keep you fueled for studying.  Simply slice an apple (which can be quite challenging with the dining hall butter knives, but is still doable), spread each slice with peanut butter, and put granola on top of each slice.  You’ll see peanut butter a lot on this list, as it is available at every dining hallin college, and is an easy protein substitute when you can’t get behind eating yet another piece of dry chicken.  


These are just a few ideas that I’ve had the opportunity to try, and they could be a start, for you, on your journey to healthier eating. Or just for you, as you look for new and exciting ways to continue your healthy eating habits!