Some of our best college moments happen in the dining hall. It’s a place for friends and roommates to gather and enjoy a meal together, or for college students who might need background noise and a hot fudge sundae to study efficiently for their next exam. It can also be a social and nutritional nightmare if you don’t know anyone or are trying to keep the freshman 15 a personal myth.
If you’re going off to school in the fall and don’t know what to expect when it comes to the cafeteria on campus, CL has a few fabulous tips to put your mind at ease.
There are always a lot of different options to choose from. Typically, dining halls provide a few “hot options” at each meal in addition to a grill line, salad bar and even an all-you-can-eat ice cream machine. The most important thing to remember is to try new things each time you go. You don’t want to have pizza for every meal for the first two weeks and not be able to look at pepperoni for a month afterward.
“When I was a freshman and on a meal plan, the biggest struggle I had was choosing from the same options on a daily basis. I tended to stick to the same meals every time I went, thus I got sick of them fairly quickly. I would constantly get up in search of something new, and I would end up leaving overly stuffed an unsatisfied! I would advise students on a meal plan to branch out and try the daily special options.” – Andy Hitt, senior at Georgia College & State University
You can eat healthy and still enjoy all your school’s dining hall offers. Whether you’re unsure how to turn a bland chicken breast into a delightful main course or you’re worried all the options will be too overwhelming to make healthy choices, eating foods from each food group and choosing a variety of foods at each meal throughout the week will keep you feeling full and fabulous. Include a mixed salad, any available fresh fruit or vegetable soup or stir-fry with your meals to obtain your necessary nutrients from food that tastes good, too.
“It was a little difficult to eat healthy at times because it was all-you-can-eat. But I tried eating salads or veggies with every meal. And if my friend and I didn’t like what was on the menu, we’d head straight to the cereal bar – because you can never go wrong with cereal! – Emily Bastaroli, senior at Point Park University
“My roommate and I would set goals for ourselves each week in regard to what we would eat at the dining hall. For example, no ice cream a certain week or eating a salad before every meal for another week.” – Whitney Mosel, LSU
Usually, the cafeteria isn’t your only option. Aside from restaurants off-campus, many schools provide other meal options outside the cafeteria such as a grab-and-go lunch stations, smaller sandwich places and coffee shops. Even if these options don’t always coordinate with a meal plan, it’s sometimes refreshing to meet up with friends in another quieter location and try something new for dinner.
“I was ready for lines and mediocre food. I did really like the made-to-order pasta and stir-fry lines though. Mostly, I was already used to the atmosphere due to high school, and the food was much better quality. What I really enjoyed was also having other options such as the convenience stores on campus and two other a la carte eateries. – Kaitlin Green, Duquesne University alumnae
While keeping a variety of foods in your diet and trying out different cafeteria options while at school are important, you can’t enjoy a good meal alone on a daily basis. Making mealtime social time will help you to balance your college social life with healthy eating habits as well as academics extracurricular clubs. Ask your roommate if she wants to head to breakfast before your morning classes or head to an early dinner with a few classmates from your afternoon activities. The food, the atmosphere and the laughs are what make meals in the cafeteria moments you will never forget.
Check out the articles below for more college tips and preparation advice. How do you use your school cafeteria to balance your classy college life?