Dining Hall Hacks: Finding That Balance

Three weeks into college living, and I’m already sick of the food. Living in a freshman dorm has its limits when it comes to cooking, so I’ve been eating most of my meals at the dining hall, Seasons (or The 921, whatever the kids are calling it these days). This article reflects on how I’ve come to terms with the food at Bentley and what I’m putting on my plate. I also refuse to gain the freshman 15, so I’m honestly writing this as much for myself as I am for you!

Take a Lap -- Dinner

The #1 rule of buffet eating is to take a lap and see everything there is before you put anything on your plate. You want to make sure that you aren’t winding up with a plate of pizza, mac and cheese, and mozzarella sticks simply because they're the first things you see. That, my friends, is a recipe for disaster (pun intended).

So let’s back up: you swipe into Seasons (The 921), pick up a plate, and walk over to the food area. You do a quick walk around the perimeter, checking out the deli station, the grill station, the home-style meal of the day, and so on. You notice that they have your favorite pizza, mac and cheese, and mozzarella sticks. You choose the mac and cheese today; that’s your carb. Now you need a vegetable and protein. My personal favorite is the grilled chicken.

After settling on mac and cheese and a piece of grilled chicken, you need a vegetable. I find that even if I don’t like the home-style meat or main dish, they usually have a good vegetable option like cooked carrots or string beans. If there’s a vegetable I like, I take it. If not, I head to the salad bar and make a small side salad. Now that my plate is full, I go to get a drink. Just have water. I repeat: just have water. All of the sugary options may look tempting, but save those calories for something better. 

Below is a chart of the typical available foods at each meal sorted by category. Make sure to choose one from each category and avoid filling up your plate with mainly carbs.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream -- Dessert

I’m a firm believer of eating in moderation. I could never give up chocolate and ice cream, and I don’t think you should have to give up that type of food. Everyone should enjoy their lives and the food they put in their mouths. If I quit sweets cold turkey, I think I would just end up binge-eating them one day. Instead, I treat myself occasionally—and sometimes when I really need a pick me up, a little more than occasionally— and that’s okay. I try to keep my actual meals on the healthier side so that I can indulge in desserts. 

Let me just put a disclaimer out there: the dessert I'm about to describe to you is not something that you should be eating every day. But you had your balanced meal, and now it’s time for dessert. I always walk past the dessert table to see if there’s anything there worthwhile. Personally, I only really like the chocolate chip cookies and the brownies. The other day it was pretty hot out, so I had my heart set on ice cream, but when I was walking past the dessert table I saw brownies. I was at a crossroads, and I mean this very seriously, as dessert is very important to me. I figured that I had eaten healthy the whole day, and I could make myself a treat.

I grabbed a coffee cup (note that I said coffee cup. There isn’t enough mixing room in the small ice-cream bowls for what I was about to attempt) and swirled my ice cream about halfway up the cup. I went back to the dessert table and put a brownie on top of my ice cream, proceeding to mix it all together.

After seeing my concoction, my friends naturally looked towards me as their dessert advisor, so the following week a friend and I went up to get dessert for our table. We could’ve brought back a few cookies, but no— we dreamed big. I saw a girl walk by me with a chocolate waffle on her plate. My friend and I exchanged looks and ran over to the waffle maker. There were two kinds of batter: maple cinnamon and chocolate. Considering that I’m paying $60,000+ dollars in tuition every year, I chose both. We made the waffle and excitedly waited for our masterpiece to be ready. After plating the waffle, we topped it with ice cream. We walked back to our table, fielding envious stares from our classmates while also feeling some embarrassment about the gluttonous dessert before us.

The moral of the story is to get creative. Just because one food item is paired with another doesn’t mean you have to eat it with that. Take advantage of all the stations and mix and match.

 

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