There comes a point in our lives when we have to face the brutal reality of college cafeteria food. You might not think you will ever be ready for two semester (or more) of your school’s cafeteria, but there are definitely ways to not only survive cafeteria food but also eat better and healthier with it. After a semester of trying different approaches, I’ve gathered a few tips. Hope this helps!
1. Take advantage of the salad bar
I know this doesn’t sound very exciting, but the salad bar is one of the most underrated aspects of college cafeteria. My school, located in the ultra-healthy conscious city of Austin, provides surprisingly decent salad bars with a variety of options. If your school does the same, you can switch up the ingredients and try to make half to most of your meal salad. It might be difficult to make meal out of salads, especially on days when you have insane cravings. However, this strategy makes sure you get enough greens, protein, and carbs throughout the day with appropriate calorie intake. Here are some ways to make salad-eating slightly more appetizing!
- Choose a type of greens as a foundation and switch it up from day to day. Sometimes eating veggies is hard enough, so more variety really helps.
- Pile in other vegetables to add more flavors to your salad (carrots, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, etc.).
- Pick a type of meat or, if you are vegetarian, a soy option. This is a great way to add proteins and texture to your salad.
- Top your salad with appropriate amount of cheese and dressing. I discovered that vinaigrette and other vinegar-based dressings usually have fewer calories and are less likely to be over-processed. It’s always tempting to go for rich ranch or Caesar as a dressing, but keep in mind that some of those deliciousness contain more chemicals and fat than they’re worth.
2. Choose your sweets carefully
One of the downsides of cafeterias is the unlimited sweets and soda options. Believe me, it can be difficult not to reach for the second slice of pie or having an extra scoop of chocolate ice cream. It’s also not hard to fill your cup with soda to drink throughout the day (Don’t do it). It’s completely okay to get treat yourself to dessert once in a while, but please don’t go overboard.
3. Don’t be afraid to wait
The lines in college cafeteria that are the fastest are usually the ones with fast, fried or over-processed foods. Unless you are on a rush, you shouldn’t go to those lines just out of convenience. Even though the barbecue ribs and buffalo hot wings look incredibly appetizing, they also contain high amount of calories and sodium. Instead of immediately picking those into your plate, go for baked, roasted or steamed food options, they can be just as delicious but a lot healthier.
4. Track your calories
Cafeteria foods are typically common food options and can be easily tracked with different fitness apps. I used MyFitnessPal to track what I eat on a daily basis last semester, and I’ve been pretty consistent because cafeteria food is very convenient to track. Just make sure you track really quickly during or after each meal so you get an idea of what you eat and what options you have with cafeteria food.