It’s like a fact of life that no matter how good your school’s dining halls are, you will hate them by the second month of your freshman year. However, that doesn’t mean switching to a take-out and vending machine diet is a good idea. That is how you get scurvy, folks. No, you should probably stick with your cafeteria as much as possible, especially if you have a meal plan. After all, that means it’s already paid for! With that in mind, here are four healthy meals I’ve put together from my school’s least-great dining hall.

Oatmeal with Brown Sugar and Cottage Cheese. This is what I have for breakfast literally six mornings a week. The other day is Saturday and I sleep through breakfast. It’s great, because oatmeal fills you up, and the cottage cheese gives my poor vegetarian body the protein it needs to keep on keeping on. If I have a nice portion of each, I’m usually not hungry again for like six hours.

Spaghetti plus Salad and Garlic Bread. The trick here is to remember that the garlic bread is a SIDE, not an entree. Spaghetti is another filling food, which combined with the veggies in your salad will help you stay full without resorting to delicious cheetos later.

Waffle with Fruit. A waffle on its own is just fancy bread! Or so I tell myself. Try eating your next waffle with berries and a little whipped cream, instead of pouring on syrup. All the tasty, without the liquefied sugar to cause a sugar-crash later. Win-win.

Stir-fry and Noodles. The stir-fry we have in this dining hall is basically some lightly seared veggies. Obviously, if your school has stir-fry and covers that stuff in eight kinds of oil and soy sauce, it’s not going to be quite as healthy. Still better than pizza, though. I usually pair this stir-fry with some noodles from the self-serve station, and then cover it in soy sauce myself. Tasty, and it has actual veggies. Go me!

The key for all of these is portion control. Heaping butter and sugar and salt on stuff will make even the healthiest options bad for you. Keeping an eye on what you eat, and how much you eat, will serve you really well in the long run, I promise!

Other pro tips:

  • Do your best to eat one fruit or vegetable per time you eat. This includes snacks. This will fill you up and maybe help you eat only a quarter of the candy in your room, instead of all of it. (RIP me.)
  • Steer clear of any food that requires you to completely douse it in ranch/syrup/butter/cheese in order to actually eat it. It’s not worth it. Find something you can put in your mouth without adulterating it.
  • If you know you’re not going to make it back to the dining hall for a meal, bring something with you. I have stolen many a bagel at breakfast to eat it for lunch later. You paid for the food, after all.
  • Dessert is great. Limit yourself to one, though.
  • Don’t worry about taking an occasional day to eat whatever you want – just keep them occasional. Moderation in all things, including moderation.


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