By, Julia Ciampa
As a second-year student in college, eating healthy is something that I always seemed to struggle with. The fear of the infamous “freshman fifteen” always taunted me, as I considered what meal I would have every day. The reasons why eating healthy has always been tough definitely stem from the limited food options in campus dining halls. However, with the help of some creativity and thoughtfulness, eating healthy in your own campus dining hall can be easily achieved!
When I walk through the dining hall on my campus, I am often left feeling as if I have little to no healthy options for my meals. However, as the years went by, I shortly picked up on some secrets within the dining halls. The first tip on how to eat healthy in the dining hall would have to be to start by scoping out the allergy-free food station. From my own experience eating from these stations, the food served here tends to be way more appetizing and healthy compared to the “normal” food dishes that are provided. Usually, the chefs that work at the stations cook with healthy, non-fattening oils and ingredients that are relatively healthy and nutritious. At these stations, I frequently find spin-off pasta, fresh vegetable dishes, and even delicious omelets! All of these dishes taste authentic and leave me feeling nourished every time.
Another piece of advice to consider when striving to eat healthy in the dining halls on campus would be to reach for the salad and soup bars. The best part about the salad bar is that you can customize your own salad, including whatever healthy toppings you would like. In my own opinion, I never truly get bored eating salads in the dining hall, as I tend to try different combinations of ingredients every time that I make one. Some of my favorite salads consist of chicken for protein, walnuts for protein as well, grains and cheese for carbs and balsamic dressing to add a zesty taste to the meal. In addition to salads, a soup can pair perfectly with one. Usually, the dining halls can also have a soup station, with different types of soups every week, Personally, chicken soup and lentil soup are both very high in fiber and protein, and are extremely healthy options to choose from.
The next recommendation that I would suggest in regards to eating healthy in the dining hall would have to be to eliminate extra sides with your meals. Depending on what sides are available in your dining hall, some may tend to be high in fat or unhealthy inclusions. If you are looking to include sides into your meal, reach for healthy ones such as fruits, yogurts, granola, vegetables, couscous, pudding and many other healthy options.
Another suggestion for making healthy selections in the dining hall would be to focus on the basic food pyramid structure. If you are not entirely familiar with this structure, the pyramid works itself up from the bottom, addressing how many servings of each food group are necessary to eat nutritiously. At the very bottom of the pyramid, there are food items such as bread, cereal, and pasta. On the second from the bottom pyramid section, there is the fruit group. The third section from the bottom is the poultry group, consisting of fish, meat, beans, eggs, and nuts. Finally, at the top of the pyramid, there are fats, oil, and sweets. These are listed at the top of the food pyramid because they are the least nutritious and healthy for you. If you remember this food pyramid scheme, you will be on your way to eating healthier every day!
There are so many ways to eat healthier on campus, but these are just a few. I hope my tips and tricks can encourage you to eat healthier in the future!