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College Dining Hall and Cafeterias



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ELISARA2005
Posts: 95
2/9/13 1:44 A

I've been having a similar problem with my school's cafeteria. We just got a new building and meal program and it's all nice and shiny but there is *0* nutrition info for ANYTHING. Since they make most everything on site this only leaves prepackaged snacks as the things with info. The food is decent but there is no way to tell if you're getting 300 calories or 800. It's really screwing with my tracking /scowl.

Part of my solution had been foods that don't need to be cooked or refrigerated. I take 2 or 3 granola bars *one for me and one for my son with an extra just in case*, a home made trail mix, a bottle of water, and maybe a piece of fruit. By not needing any outside help with our snacks I'm saving money and saving extra cals. I hope this helps a bit.

GL



HENRYNOLAN
Posts: 866
2/6/13 10:50 A

i lived in residence in university for 5 years, eating all of my meals in an all-you-can-eat buffet style dining room. it was a HUGE struggle daily for me to make good choices when there was an endless supply of fatty high calorie foods, especially desserts (we even had an ice cream bar that was there all day every day!!). i had to balance out eating with a LOT of exercise to make up for some really poor food choices. luckily campus has all the great stuff you need to stay active - tennis courts, gym, pool, etc and an endless supply of people to have fun being active with!



PCVCHRISTINE
SparkPoints: (9,251)
Fitness Minutes: (20,784)
Posts: 62
2/5/13 11:03 P

I like the idea about seeing if there is a nutritionist on campus. My university includes nutritional counseling as part of the student health fee, so if you have the same type of thing on campus that person is probably very familiar with the offerings at your university and might be able to give you some specific advice.

A lot of people also mentioned portion control, which can be uniquely challenging in buffet style dining. There is a slideshow here that shows some common comparisons that help you keep proper portion sizes in mind: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/slides
how.asp?show=12 (and the "related contents" links on the right hand side have lots of other information about portion control). Good luck.



GRATTECIELLA
SparkPoints: (23,316)
Fitness Minutes: (14,955)
Posts: 737
2/4/13 5:44 P

Salad bar FTW!



RAYLIENET
SparkPoints: (7,035)
Fitness Minutes: (2,684)
Posts: 140
2/4/13 2:52 P

Add me too, I'm in the exact same position!



HAPPYMENOW58
Posts: 2,264
2/3/13 4:15 P

Go for the salads, veggies, and soups...And remember to watch your portion sizes...Unlimited portions give you that awful, unlimited body...Limited portions give you a limited body with a great self esteem!!!! emoticon emoticon



ODDMENTTWEAK
Posts: 1,389
2/2/13 1:31 P

In college, my dining hall was terrible and overpriced! One of our meal plan options was to have kitchen access in the residence building vs. a food allowance for the cafeteria- if this is an option, I highly recommend it!



C-MERRIE11
Posts: 734
2/1/13 4:07 P

im going to be soooo unhelpful.... my college dining hall was always rated #1 or 2 in the country while I was there... they had so many healthy options... and its not like i was one of the really super expensive schools- ie, its possible for colleges to have good cafeterias, why are there so many bad ones?? BUT I was at boarding school for part of my sixth form education and the dining hall there was TERRIBLE. Heres how I survived: do what you can with salad bars, bring your own dressings if you have to. with protein options that are cooked in unhealthy ways, do things like peel off fried skin or just skin etc. just deal with the soggy vegetables- there may still be some nutrients left in them ;) most dining halls will have a bowl of fruits available and milk cartons- use those! and if you can, buy a mini fridge!! and keep it stocked with fresh precut veggies, hummus, babybel cheese. also keep things like almonds and trail mixes at hand in your dorm room :) best of luck!



FRAGILEWRITER
SparkPoints: (5,132)
Fitness Minutes: (2,315)
Posts: 510
2/1/13 11:35 A

It's too bad that universities don't have a dining room for kids to eatl well/healthy & socialize, where junk food is just not permitted/acceptable



FIELDWORKING
SparkPoints: (22,607)
Fitness Minutes: (43,618)
Posts: 622
2/1/13 9:48 A

When I went off to college, I actually lost weight. I'm a picky eater and visual. If it didn't look right to me, then I didn't touch it (even if I recognized the food). Anyway, I kept a lot of pb&j in my dorm room. I had a small fridge/freezer combo and a microwave in my room.

If there is a suggestion box, then make suggestions for healthier options or, at least for more options. Are soups available (like vegetable soup)? Having the veggies in the soup might make it easier to get your veggies.

Does the school have a nutritionist? If not, they should have a nurse. You could always talk with the school nurse about options based on what is available and on your likes and dislikes. I guess you could also talk with the student government association to see if they can talk with someone about providing more options.



EGRAMMY
Posts: 12,851
2/1/13 5:26 A

The Ohio State Univ offers options



JAZZTHEJAZZ
Posts: 197
2/1/13 12:55 A

Ahh, the dining hall.

My dining hall was actually really good when it came to health... but we were a bit of a hippy college (our biggest sports team was Crew aka rowing and we had no football team) so fresh food was important. The chefs even began putting the calorie and nutrition on a print out in a stand in front of every option served. And every steamed vegetable was not touched with butter.

But, regardless of how lucky I was to have these options... here are some suggestions! (Please keep in mind my dining hall was buffet style, this might not work for other kinds of dining halls)

Hard boiled eggs! Especially for breakfast. I would get four hard boiled eggs, some fresh cut fruit, and peel all four for the egg whites only. A little pepper or ketchup, and my pile of egg whites and fruit was breakfast!

Rice. Yes, it was usually white rice, but it was something the chefs kept plain. And you can put plenty of things on top of it.

Being creative with the things provided. That meal has a chicken breast? That one has pasta? And that one has a side of steamed veggies? I'll have the chicken, no bun, and that pasta, no stroganof, and the veggies, no meatloaf. All of a sudden, I've got chicken pasta and some veggies!

Again, I know I was really lucky with my dining hall. We had the normal selection of tempting foods (Pizza at every meal but breakfast, pancakes ever morning, all the burgers and fries you could want, self-serve ice cream, cookies, cake, you name it, it was probably there) but there are surprise ways to eat a little healthier.



HANNSOLO
SparkPoints: (1,486)
Fitness Minutes: (1,840)
Posts: 6
1/31/13 9:06 P

Wow! I am so overwhelmed that everyone is so nice and helpful! I love this website :) I'll definitely try your suggestions, and next year, I'll switch to a smaller meal plan and cook more for myself so I can control what I eat. I guess I'll even choke down some vegetables until I get used to them, haha. Thanks everyone so much!!



LMB-ESQ
Posts: 10,924
1/31/13 4:40 P

I had to click on this when I saw "dining halls" in the title. It's been, oh, a thousand years or so since I was an undergrad living in the dorms and eating out of the dining halls. But I still remember it as the time I started being attracted to extremely unhealthy foods and when I started gaining weight. I've struggled with it ever since.

Back then (late 70s), there was no such thing as a healthy choice. It was all fatty meat, salty sauces, sugary desserts. We had a salad bar once a week, with wilted veggies, canned meats, and pasty dressing. Gross. Institutional food at its finest. And we were not allowed to cook in our rooms.

I was pleasantly surprised when I started looking at colleges with my kids, because obviously things have changed. There are much better choices now than there were then. And now most schools do allow you to cook in your room. And now I'm in grad school and the student union does offer a few healthy choices, as well as the standard chain restaurants. There's a Subway, an extensive salad bar, and a sushi stand for starters, although I'm not sure I trust sushi in a college.

So following my little trip down memory lane, HANNSOLO, what I'll ask is why do you "have to" eat in the dining halls? Does your school require you to be on one of their meal plans? If so, then you'll have to make do for a while, and like everyone else said, learn to like veggies. But if not, I'd suggest you ditch the food plan and buy your own food and do your own prep. You will save money and you will save calories. I couldn't believe how much my son's college bills dropped when he no longer had to eat dorm food. And I no longer have to listen to him complain!



JILLO137
SparkPoints: (8,170)
Fitness Minutes: (5,092)
Posts: 149
1/30/13 5:11 P

I never eat the Cafeteria lunch.. I just don't like it, it's too junkie for me..



SCINNDY
SparkPoints: (9,120)
Fitness Minutes: (4,594)
Posts: 13
1/30/13 1:26 P

All salad items are a no go? You can try a single vegetable with a little ranch dressing-shredded carrots, maybe, or red cabbage. Both of these are pretty sweet and most people like the ranch dressing. Sunflower seeds add a nice crunch as well.

Ranch dressing is also ok on bland cooked veggies like cauliflower, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese helps perk up the taste on veggies.

Raw veggies like shredded carrots, onions, tomato or shredded lettuce are good mixed into chili or a spicy soup, try thinking about it being a taco in a bowl!



ERICNJ28
Posts: 61
1/30/13 4:50 A

Bring a prepared lunch to work or school. Not only are you saving calories, you are saving money as well. Cooler bags are a good investment



SUSANBEAMON
Posts: 2,806
1/30/13 1:41 A

i guess it depends on the size of the college you go to and how they set up their food service. I went to a small school, 4000 students i think, and only breakfast and lunch were "cafateria" style. we ere expected to dress up a little for dinner, which was served "family" style. the food was brought to the table in serving dishes and passed around. this was before salad bars, but salad was served. i don't know if they still do things this way now days, but i didn't gain weight until i fell in with a small crowd and we went drinking on the weekend.



FARRARI17
Posts: 4
1/29/13 3:21 P

Add me as a friend! I'm currently a college student living in the residence halls, so I have very limited access to ways to cook my own food. This results in creative microwave cooking and eating dining hall food. Add me if you have questions! I've been living on campus for 3 years and so I've learned the ins and outs of eating healthy while in college. It can be challenging, but really isn't hard once you get used to it.



KSCHRAUT
SparkPoints: (46,254)
Fitness Minutes: (34,884)
Posts: 2,333
1/29/13 11:36 A

When I was in college, I yo-yo'd with my weight every year until 2nd semester junior year when I took weight loss seriously. I moved off campus summer after sophomore year, which made it easier.

Try working on your veggie dislike .... You may be surprised w what you do like. As kids we "don't like" veggies but as we get older A our taste buds change and B were not typically as simple minded when it comes to food as we are when we are kids



MICHELLEXXXX
SparkPoints: (6,179)
Fitness Minutes: (5,730)
Posts: 1,785
1/28/13 8:21 P

Do you like any veggies? Roasted, raw, steamed, grilled, fried? Every color, every shape, every size... I believe there has to be at least a few you are willing to work with. :)



RAINDANCERJESS
Posts: 50
1/28/13 6:22 P

If you can get sandwiches, those can be healthy-ish if you take off the mayo.

Try new combinations of things, you may find a combo that you like that you wouldn't have thought of. Put fruit in your yogurt, in your oatmeal, on your sandwiches. Put veggies on your sandwiches or fresh veggies in hot soup to hide them from yourself. Put a salad on top of your burger instead of just lettuce (that cancels out some of the salad-ness) or pour salsa over your salad instead of dressing. Heck, break up a burger over a salad! The more crazy things you try, the more likely you'll find good options.




COTTERR
SparkPoints: (10,706)
Fitness Minutes: (6,923)
Posts: 112
1/28/13 4:07 P

You might want to change your perception of veggies. It'll be very difficult having to take out an entire food group, especially the lowest calorie food group.

Three years ago I didn't like any kind of beans, peas, broccoli, yogurt, oatmeal or squash. I now eat yogurt daily, beans 3-4 times per week, and regularly eat oatmeal. It takes about 10 attempts to like any food. Keep trying with various cooking methods and combinations-raw, steamed, grilled, roasted, stir fried.

Leave comments with your dining hall manager. Ours were extremely receptive to suggestions and added many healthy vegetarian main dishes, varied the salad add ins, had special vegan options (including dessert!) at every meal. Many chefs and cooks will welcome the challenge as they often don't get to 'express creativity' in places like dining halls.



CALLMECARRIE
Posts: 1,598
1/28/13 3:26 P

I gained 30 pounds my first two years of college. I lost the weight during the summer between my sophomore and junior years, and in my junior year I started living off-campus, so I was able to keep the weight off. (Being perpetually broke helped.) If possible, stay with "countable" things like slices of bread, fruits, yogurt, and lean protein sources. Avoid the cheap but tasty cafeteria fare like cookies and macaroni and cheese! Those were my downfall.



HAILEYLW
SparkPoints: (2,240)
Fitness Minutes: (1,753)
Posts: 13
1/28/13 2:35 P

I, too, frequented the salad bar, but I'm sure that's difficult with you not liking salads.

Our cafeteria was laid-out food court style, and after enough requests/complaints, we eventually got an entire section reserved just for vegan/vegetarian options. It was wonderful, but that doesn't mean that it was faultless. On the off chance that I didn't feel comfortable with those options, I would either go for soup, sushi, or oatmeal.



HAPPYLISA17
Posts: 213
1/28/13 12:53 P

Whenever I am faced with a cafeteria situation, I always go for the salad. It's just too hard to tell how much mayo is on a sandwich or how much salt has been added, etc. I just have a little something to hold me over, then when I get home, make myself something that I know won't break my calorie budget.



SONICB
Posts: 4,196
1/28/13 9:42 A

It's worth considering slowly introducing veggies into your diet until you start to get used to them and eventually like them.

Check to see if there are soups offered or cereal + milk + fruit. Yogurt & a piece of fruit make for a quick, healthy breakfast if you choose a low-sugar option for the yogurt.

Otherwise work on controlling portion size. It's okay to leave food on your plate.



TBOURLON
SparkPoints: (9,311)
Fitness Minutes: (26,660)
Posts: 408
1/28/13 9:10 A

Funny, I work at a University, and at least this one has vegetarian options (due to the population of Asian international students, I guess). I like veggies but don't want to be a vegetarian. If you live in the dorm, you can rent a small fridge & keep apples & carrots in there. And yes, learn to like veggies, look at that salad bar and try some different things. Veggie soups are also good, like Sunshine said you can cook some stuff in the dorm, soups heat up quick in a microwave. I'd also encourage you to find a way to put pressure on the campus to offer more healthy fare. Maybe a few letters in the campus newspaper or just look for some student groups - I'll bet there's already a few out there. Demand healthy food! Power to the People, Right On!!!



REYNINGSUNSHINE
SparkPoints: (20,346)
Fitness Minutes: (41,738)
Posts: 523
1/28/13 1:02 A

I feel your pain. I moved off campus because of the lack of food without excess butter and lack of alternative meats. We would have either pork or beef products (neither of which I eat) and then there would be ONE "vegetarian" option which would be ridiculously fatty tofu in an overly buttered dish... Uh, I want something healthy!

The truth is, campus food is NOT made to be healthy... I have my suspicions on why... First, football players basically run the school I go to (seriously, most of the funding goes to that program, because that's what draws the most people in), and football kids need to eat a lot. Second, while making MASS amounts of food, they need to make it "taste good" somehow while keeping costs down, and that just equates to more butter and cheaper cuts of meats for some reason.

It's silly.

So, we've established that it's pretty uncommon that something actually HEALTHY will be on the menu, so when you can't eat the healthiest you want to, the other option is just to exercise good portion/calorie control with what is available.

Most campus dining halls have a website that you can go and look at nutrition info for the meals they prepare. Mine does. It isn't always perfect because you have to eyeball (or... be like me... and bring your food scale with you). It sucks but might be necessary.

Don't go back for seconds. Seriously. Limit yourself to one portion.

Blot any excess grease. I don't know how many napkins I have soaked with grease from pizza at the dining call... but I do know once, I filled up 3 napkins. This will cut back on fat and calories.

If you want a burger, take off one of the buns and don't eat it. It's about 100 unnecessary calories, plus more for the butter they put on the bun while they "toast" it on the grill (yes, they do this... my boyfriend's friend works in the kitchen at our dining hall and is responsible for the grill during weekend dinners). Added bonus: blotting the meat patties. Seriously, just blot everything. A fun science experiment you can do: Blot as much grease as you can off of a burger or pizza and save the napkins. Let them dry over night. Weigh out 1 gram of vegetable oil and drop that on a napkin... Then, let that dry overnight. Compare the area that the 1 gram takes up and the area that the grease you blotted off of the burger or pizza took up... You'll find you can save probably 5 grams of fat per burger, and 2-3 per cheese pizza slice.

The cooked veggies also tend to be loaded with butter and salt to make them more palatable... Boyfriend worked as a server our first year of college and can attest to the fact that they cook their veggies in butter and then stir even more in! So... I know you hate veggies, but here's another reason not to eat any that are in the line.

Most dining halls need to have something for people with allergies, so they will have alternative milks, and I know some are doing the 'gluten free' thing.

The salad bar usually has fruits. If you don't like veggies, then load up with fruit instead.

You could also just try to learn to like veggies... Funny coming from me, because I'm like you- I cannot stand them. I will eat SOME, but either root veggies (lol, like potatoes or radishes for some reason) or things that are actually botanically fruits (tomatoes, cucumbers) and then I can't eat too much. But if you don't have much choice with what you can eat, just eat it anyway...

Consider switching to a smaller meal plan and cooking more of your meals in your dorm. You can get microwave meals for healthier and cheaper than a food plan... and if you stock up on healthy staples (oatmeal, whole wheat bread, potatoes, etc) you can end up saving a lot of calories... and a lot of money.



HANNSOLO
SparkPoints: (1,486)
Fitness Minutes: (1,840)
Posts: 6
1/28/13 12:11 A

Hi! I need some pointers! I have to eat at the dining halls, but I hate veggies! I need pointers on making good healthy nutrition decisions when there are limited options, like no whole wheat, no low-fat, etc. (I HATE salad, by the way, which makes it a lot harder for me).



 
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