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Turn Your Dining Hall Food from Bland to Bearable

One thing I learned from going away to college, food is not the same. The dining hall can be an experience and finding something that is good for you and tastes great are two of the biggest challenges. I’ve taken a few of the dining hall options and added things to make it a little more bearable. Here are a few tips and tricks for you to test out at your university.  

  1. Add Vegetables – The hardest part for me is not having vegetables with dinner. I always looked forward to them and when I saw the options here that were not an option. A way to get in at least one or two servings of vegetables is by adding them to my favorite pasta. I get a bag of microwave steamed vegetables and add that into any of the pasta I pick up at the SURC. Typically, I go for chicken alfredo, so I get some protein and then dump it in a mixed bag of vegetables.  
  2. Customize your salads – Salads are ultimately the biggest customizable item on a menu. You can go all out and add as many toppings as you want, or you can keep it simple with lettuce and dressing. The problem was is that I love Caesar salad, but I could not live off them every day in college. I like to add certain things to my Caesar salad to kick it up a notch. Bacon crumbles are probably the best thing ever to add to a salad. I bought a big bag at Costco that will last you months without going bad. I also like adding shredded carrots and even black olives. It’s little things like these that will take an ordinary prepackaged salad and make it a bit more flavorful.  
  3. Make you own Fruit Bowl – Fruit is something I try to incorporate into my meals at least once a day either in breakfast or lunch. I like to have different fruit added whether it’s mixed berries, melon or pineapple; it’s nice to have variety. It is filling and works just as well for a full meal.  
  4. Yogurt Parfait – Sometimes you want your yogurt to have a little more something and to be honest the pre-made ones do not look as appetizing. I usually will get a couple of cups of my favorite strawberry or raspberry yogurt, chop up some strawberries or blueberries and a small handful of granola. It’s an easy breakfast and everything can be premade and ready for you when your morning is off to a busy start.  
  5. Root Beer Floats – Sometimes I crave something sweet and nostalgic. My favorite thing as a kid was having root beer floats. I’ve even done orange or coke floats too. It is just as easy as making it at home. Grab a pint of your favorite vanilla ice cream and your favorite root beer or soda of choice and enjoy. It’s a great treat at the end of the day.
  6. DIY Snack Mix – When it comes to trail mix or snack mix, I can be super picky. I hate letting things go to waste. Making your snack mix can be simple whether it’s pretzels, nuts, raisins or other dried fruits. Make it your own! Take your favorites to combine in a large bag and portion them out for snacking later.  
  7. Spices – Spices can help upscale bland vegetables or protein and make them feel like you’re having a little bit of home cooking. My go-to is garlic powder or garlic salt. I enjoy adding them to unseasoned vegetables with a little bit of butter or olive oil and drizzling over top. Just the little amount makes a big difference.  

Dining hall food can be a drag after a while, but the important thing is to try new ways of using the same food offered and making it a little different with a few simple changes. This can help curb your hunger for that homecooked food you miss so much. 


My name is Katelyn Richardson. I am 27 years old. I am currently attending Central Washington University studying my bachelors degree in food and sciences to become a nutritionist and later a diabetes educator for kids. I've been personally battling type 1 diabetes since I was six years old. I love being outside, vintage shopping, watching movies, and going to stock car races!
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