Healthy Eating with Campus Dining

Healthy eating isn’t something that’s completely unrealistic in a college/university setting. Even if the most you have is a microwave and a mini fridge, there are many ways to utilize the tools you have to keep you going and keep at a healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Eating with Campus Dining


Self-Serve/Buffet Style Cafeterias

  • Try to aim for a salad at least once a day. It can help you eating healthier and get your veggies in for the day. It doesn’t have to be a large salad, or be the only thing you eat.
  • I loved the mandarin oranges in the salad bar. Mine also had the occasional beets, yogurt and dried cranberries. Like them? Put them in a bowl and eat them.
  • You don’t have to stay within the different sections. You can add chicken from the grill to your salad or throw some baby spinach leaves in your pasta.
  • Protein is a huge part of a healthy diet. Make sure you’re getting enough, especially now that you’re walking around to class every day. You may need to up your intake from your less active high school career.
  • Take a piece of fruit every time you leave. My cafeteria had apples and bananas you could quickly grab and go. Having something simple to snack on when you’re hungry later can prevent you from hitting up the vending machine for a snack later on
  • Like tea? Grab an extra tea bag on your way out too.
  • If they have something like “Waffle Night” where the main attraction is giant Belgium Waffles, try not to smother it in whipped cream, chocolate syrup and sprinkles too much. Throw some chopped strawberries in there.
  • Stick with water or fruit water to drink. Mine had a few containers that had lemons, oranges or other fruits mixed in with water to give it flavor. No need to extra soda or empty calories
  • Soups are the bomb. Chicken noodle is easy and usually a standard with food places on college campuses.

Make the most out of this place. You’re paying for your meal plan, might as well get your money’s worth. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated.

Related: 5 Habits Every 20-Something Should Have

Station-Style Cafeterias

This is for more of a place where you can order from a variety of different places in the same room, but you have to pay by what you order rather than just a lump-sum meal in the other cafeteria.

  • These places are usually more expensive. You may need to base your food around what you can afford. Salads, soups and sandwiches are usually a good start.
  • Don’t eat pizza every day. It may sound like a dream, but I doubt your digestive system will think so.

On-Campus Restaurants

This is another area where budget may make your food options for you, but it’s worth a shot to eat healthy, right? The one on my old campus was more of a grill, so it had chicken tenders, burgers, pizza, and the like.

Try not to make this a habit. It’s grill food, or pub food, or whatever yours happens to have. Unless it’s serving pan seared salmon with a salad every night, it’s not going to be worth it to your body to eat there all the time.


Overall Take Away

  • Get you servings of fruits and veg in. There’s nothing quite like trying to go through the day on junk food and grease
  • Take advantage if you can. Grab an apple on the way out of the pay-first caf, or maybe a banana or a cup of tea.
  • Salads are your friend (Unless you have IBS, then I’m very sorry)
  • Make sure you get enough protein. Protein = fuel
  • Soups are an easy way to get protein and veg (the terrible excuse of “mac & cheese soup” my school had doesn’t count)
  • Don’t overdo it with the fried, greasy or heavy foods.


Have any other tips on utilizing campus dining to eat healthy? 

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