Eating Healthy in College

Maybe it is fact or maybe it is part urban legend, but stories prevail about the freshman 15, 20 and even more. While there can be many factors in this phenomenon, the college dining hall can be one of the many culprits for unhealthy eating.  However, eating in an unhealthy way is not a matter of necessity and healthy food choices can be made by the student in the college dining hall.

All you can eat is not eat it all

Remember if the policy at the college dining hall is “all you can eat”, that you don’t have to eat it all. Many dining halls are starting to have a serving policy at these buffet style eateries. The newest trend is using serving spoons that are color coded. Green utensils mean the student can have unlimited quantities of a food, yellow indicates proceed with moderation, and red utensils mean eat sparingly.  While student may not be used to eating buffet style every day and every meal, portion control in these instances can be really helpful.

Not all pastas are created equal

Another trend in college cafeterias is to have actual fast food restaurants or other services imitating these styles of restaurants.  One that has become common is pasta.  The student can choose the pasta, the meat, and the sauce.  Be careful on the choices.  By choosing whole wheat pasta and a marinara sauce the student can lower the calories and fat, while selecting a nutritious option. Loading the pasta with fatty calorie rich Alfredo sauce or fatty sausage can over time can create a problem.

Fast food traps

Just like the pasta restaurants, there are any number of pizza, burger and taco franchises setting up business in the college dining halls. Keeping these restaurants for special treats is a good idea or choosing the less fattening options off the menus.  Choosing some of the salads, yogurt parfaits and so on can be a good option.

Home-cooking not so homemade

While many dining halls like to promote certain areas as home-cooking, it usually is not home-cooking.  Many of the items are simply warmed and put out for the students. Beware of some of these items.  Home-cooking means individuality and uniqueness. If every slice or piece of meat looks exactly the same size and shape, odds are that there is nothing resembling home-cooking in that food item.  If it is not really home-made, odds are that it is filled with sodium, sugar, fat and lots of preservatives.  Sometimes these are the foods to walk away from.

A deli can be delicious

Many cafeterias have sub sandwiches or actually delis in the food service area.  These can be a good healthy choice because the student can select the exact topping that are desired. Load up the sandwiches with vegetables, add a side of cottage cheese or yogurt and the student will have a healthy meal.

Don’t drink the calories

Beware of falling into the trap of drinking calories with sodas, juices, and sugary coffees. Part of the problem once again is the unlimited refills and the large sizes of cups that can be available.  Consider no more than 8 ounces of juice at a time, opt for sugar free beverages, and don’t forget to drink some low-fat milk.

Cut indulging in half

Another way to not limit the choices is to cut the portions for the less healthy items in half. Eat half a cheeseburger or half a portion of Fettuccine Alfredo instead of the entire portion.  Try to include some steamed broccoli, a piece of fruit, or the salad bar and then indulging in the tasty less healthy items won’t be as much of a problem.

Eating healthy in a college dining hall isn’t much different than eating at home, the only difference is that parents aren’t there to provide guidance and some of the choices aren’t made with the best of fresh ingredients. So college students need to think about their choices and eating healthy will come naturally.