How to “Healthify” the Dining Hall

How to “Healthify” the Dining Hall

For most of us, college is a busy, fast-paced, exciting four years. Balancing classes and extracurricular activities while maintaining a social life can take a toll on one’s health. Too often, we resort to making bad choices in the dining hall that affect us in other parts of our lives. Making a few simple changes in our eating habits can help us stay focused, energized and in a good mood throughout the day! Here are seven tips on how to “healthify” the dining hall:

1. Eat breakfast. How many times have you heard the phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day?” Well, it is. Eating breakfast kick-starts your metabolism for the day and awakens your body after fasting overnight. Eating a breakfast that is high in fiber and protein will fill you up and give you energy that will last throughout the day, preventing crashes and overeating later on. Good options for breakfast are eggs, oatmeal, smoothies or yogurt with some fruit and honey. If you can’t get yourself to the dining hall, have breakfast on-the-go! Try bringing a granola bar or a piece of fruit with a packet of peanut butter with you in the morning.

2. Eat your vegetables! You want your plate to look as colorful as possible. Take advantage of all of the pre-cut and pre-cooked vegetables in Val. They are convenient, full of nutrients and essential to staying healthy! At each meal, fill up at least half of your plate with veggies, and split the other half of the plate between proteins and complex carbs such as brown rice, whole-wheat pastas or sweet potatoes.

3. In college, we are often reminded to be careful about what we drink. This applies to the dining hall as well! Drinking too many sodas and processed juices will fill your body with unnecessary sugar and chemicals that will spike your energy and leave you feeling drained and hungry later. It is easy to get dehydrated when you are busy all day, so carry a water bottle around with you and aim to refill it a few times. A good rule of thumb is to try and drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. So, if you weigh 140 pounds, aim to drink about 70 ounces of water per day. Try squeezing some lemon juice into your water. This will help aid digestion and cleanse your liver. Also, experiment with some other healthy beverages: milk, tea and coconut water are all good options.

4. Keep dessert as a special treat! Before you got to college, you probably didn’t have dessert after both lunch and dinner at home. In college, dessert can be tough to resist, especially when it is available at all meals. Try choosing one meal to have dessert after per day. This way, you still allow yourself to have a treat without going overboard! Also, try creating your own healthier dessert! Here are a few options that might help satisfy that sweet tooth: a piece of fruit and peanut butter, a little fro-yo with some cut up fruit on top or some yogurt and honey.

5. Beat the 3p.m. slump and eat snacks! The typical college student has a very busy schedule. Eating a small snack between meals will help you stay full and focused throughout the day. Some good snack on-the-go options are trail mixes, carrot sticks, apples with peanut butter and granola bars. Snacks that contain healthy fats, such as nuts, will keep you satisfied throughout the day. Throw these options into your backpack so that they are available when hunger strikes! Working out in the afternoon? Try having some coconut water with some protein powder mixed in before your workout for a punch of energy.

6. Wait at least 20 minutes before going back up for seconds. When eating buffet style for every meal, it is easy to fill up on seconds or even thirds simply because there are so many options available. After you eat your first plate of food, wait at least 20 minutes before getting up to get seconds in order to give your body enough time to digest and recognize if it is still hungry. If you are still hungry after 20 minutes, refuel with something protein-packed in order to keep you full until your next meal or snack.

7. Don’t fall into the sugar-free trap! Many low-calorie foods, such as non-fat dressings, diet sodas and sauces contain artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame and Sucralose (Splenda) that are low in calories and high in sweetness. Too often, people assume that these things are healthier than their higher-calorie alternatives. However, these chemicals have been proven to have many negative side effects such as stimulating insulin levels in the blood, spiking sugar cravings and promoting body fat storage. Try experimenting with some natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup or stevia (Sweetleaf).

8. Moderation is key. Find a balance between eating healthfully and treating yourself. In the long run, moderation is the key to forming healthy habits that will last. If you really want dessert, eat a healthy meal and then go for it! Get creative in the dining hall and find meals that work for you.

For more ideas or questions on how to eat healthy in college, email me at [email protected] or follow my Instagram: @Lizzie_Living!