Fresh Thoughts: The Dining Hall, Cyber Dilemma

By: Sara Scheler

October 2, 2013

Eating healthy on campus can seem like a losing battle when you walk into the Dining Hall and see mounds of chicken tenders and waffle fries. Here are a few simple things you can do to make eating healthy a little less of a struggle:

1) Don’t go back for seconds. Portion control is very important if you are trying to limit your caloric intake, so fill your plate modestly the first time you go through the line and try not to go back.

2) Start at the salad bar. Fill your plate with a good handful of salad greens, some vegetables and some filling protein, such as black or garbanzo beans. Go easy on the dressing, though! Ranch can pack as many as 150 calories per serving. Try Italian or balsamic dressing instead.

3) Make half of your plate vegetables. The USDA recommends we fill half of our plates with fruits and vegetables. However, many of us consume plenty of fruit and fruit juices, so if you are going through the line at lunch or dinner, focus on vegetables. But, do keep in mind that corn and potatoes count as starches, not vegetables. This might sound hard to do, but a medium-sized salad can easily fill half of your plate.

4) Limit your meat. Protein portions in the U.S. are usually way too large. A 12-ounce restaurant steak is three times the recommended serving size. If you have several meat options to choose from, select one and choose a small piece. Whatever meat you choose, the serving should be no bigger than a deck of cards.

5) Balance with grains. Limit your starch (corn, potatoes, bread, pasta) to what you can fit in the palm of your hand. If there are several starch options that look good, take half a serving of each.

5) Avoid the dessert tray. Never take dessert at the start of a meal. Instead, focus on filling your plate with vegetables, proteins and grains. Your sweet tooth may go away after you eat a satisfying meal, but if those turtle brownies are calling you, take only a small piece.

If you are grabbing a sandwich at Cyber Cafe, opt for wheat bread and limit your cheese, meat and sauce. Both turkey and chicken are relatively low in calories and the vegetarian subs are also good options. Choose fruit instead of chips, or, if you are really craving something crunchy, opt for Baked Lays or Sun Chips. Finally, unsweetened tea can save you a load of calories. A 16-ounce soda or iced tea can add as many as 200 extra calories to your diet, half of the recommended caloric allotment for lunch or dinner.

Cream-based soups are typically very high in calories, so if you have the option, choose Cyber’s chicken noodle, minestrone or black bean instead. Remember that soup is also very high in sodium, so try to balance it with low-sodium options, like a fruit cup.

Healthy eating can seem like more trouble than it is worth, but a balanced diet can give you a much-needed energy boost and beef up your immune system for the upcoming cold season. Even if you are still optimistic, the main point is to try out some of these simple tips and be mindful of your food choices on campus.