Since I’m an RA, I’m back at that unlimited swipe life, which has its pros and cons. Pros: I don’t have to cook or do dishes. Cons: the siren song of dining hall carrot cake.
However, I have gotten good at learning how to beat the system and eat healthy at a dining hall determined to use its temptress powers to sway me away from the land of clean eating where focaccia bread is not a major food group (sadly).
Here are 5 tips on how to survive the dining hall and get the healthiest meals!
1. Fill your plate with healthy stuff first. No dessert or foccaccia bread until you’ve finished your veggies and lean protein first! I know it’s tempting to grab that brownie on your first pass but you may overeat if you grab dessert every time and then feel obligated to eat it when you may not want it after you finish your healthy food anyways.
2. Win at the salad bar. I recently discovered some of my favorite salad bar combos! Vinegar dressing on spinach and romaine topped with olives, green pepper, hard boiled egg, and sunflower seeds. I didn’t become a Master of the Realm of Salads until I really got to know what ingredients were offered what days of the week and made the most out of my salads. One of my proudest salad accomplishments was my jicama/peach salad. Peaches were by the oatmeal during brunch, and jicama was a new ingredient for Wednesdays. Do your homework and make good salads!
3. Go for more frequent, smaller meals. I know that dining hall hours aren’t always great for eating fewer, smaller meals, but if possible sneak some fruit out and try and get some snacking in. In a perfect world for our metabolisms, we’d have large breakfasts, small morning snack, medium sized lunch, small afternoon snack, and a small dinner. See if you can swing by the dining hall on your way home from class to get a small salad or another healthy snack.
4. Watch the sugar and white flour. Most dining hall probs stem from the abundance of white flour (pasta, pancakes, pizza, breadsticks) and endless sugar cereal, brownies, cookies, and latte machines. During your year, make sure to eat complex carbs (potatoes!) and whole wheat when possible.
5. Eat slower on small plates. When classes are in full swing, it’s easy to run to the dining hall, eat all the pizza, and then run back to resume studying (or procrastinating on that essay). But you won’t win any awards for rushing through your meals. Savor your food, eat clean the best you can, and then get on that essay because it’s due at midnight and you’re still wasting time on Yik Yak.