Healthy College Eats: Dining Hall Dos & Don’ts

Avoid buffet-style blunders.

Even the healthiest diets can be wrecked by an all-you-can-eat college dining hall.  The trick is to set some buffet-beating rules for yourself and stick to them, no matter how far your eyes wander.  A few suggestions:

  • Avoid all fried foods, including chicken (cutlets, nuggets, tenders, etc.), French fries, onion rings, fish sticks… Basically, stay away from anything that’s been breaded and dunked in a vat of oil.  When it comes to the protein spectrum (chicken, seafood, beef, eggs, tofu), stick with options that are grilled, broiled, poached, steamed, or baked.  Virtually all non-fried foods are better than their fried equivalents.
  • Go heavy on the veggies.  Salad is a terrific way to load up on produce, and most college dining halls have impressive salad bars with huge varieties of creative, tasty toppings.  If you’re not a big salad eater, dive into any veggies you spot at the hot entrées bar.
  • Minimize starch servings, including pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes.  Starches are more calorie-dense than other foods and they’re easy to overeat because… well, they’re comforting.  If you keep looking, you’ll probably find a source of comfort at the next counter.  (Think: turkey-bean chili, chicken-and-veggie stir-fry, yogurt-and-fruit parfaits… All the ‘good-for-you’ comfort foods.)
  • Nix soda.  #duh
  • End on a sweet note.  Stick to fresh fruit as often as possible, and when a dessert craving is too tough to resist, limit yourself to half a serving.  Or try this trick:  Fill an ice cream cup with fresh fruit and top it with frozen yogurt (rather than the other way around).  You’ll get a hearty helping of antioxidants and fiber, plus the sweet satisfaction you’re craving, for far fewer calories than from a full cup of fro-yo.  Double score!

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