When heading to college, the most crucial piece of advice girls get is to avoid the cafeteria. The cafeteria is believed to be a place where all unhealthy food lives, and if you eat there, that freshman fifteen will find you quickly. Although it is true that the cafeteria can have some of the unhealthiest food on campus, from the greasy fries to the ice cream machine, you can actually find some really great and wholesome food if you know where to look.
Today, college campuses are focusing on giving students more healthy choices; catering to a wider audience with the choices they provide. This means more gluten-free, vegan options, vegetarian options and better portioned options. This is not to say that cafs have done away with the unhealthy choices, but they are providing you with a wider variety of options. Here’s how you can take advantage of this!
Ask, Ask, Ask!
The chefs who serve the food know the most about the meals they have made. Ask them what the healthy options are in the cafeteria; or even ask them what they would recommend. Request ingredient lists if you have a food allergy or intolerance, or specific dietary needs. If you have a question, do not be afraid to ask!
This also goes with voicing concerns about food services or meal options. Although they may not be able to fix the problem you may be facing, they can point you in the right direction. So, if you would like to request for more vegan options or alternative meals that you can find, ask them who you can go to about the food and meals that they serve.
Look Into the Food
Most schools are starting to provide nutritional information about the food that they provide. Though this is long overdue, it is greatly appreciated! Even if this information is not listed on the menu board, check your school’s dining website for this information.
Knowledge is power, and knowing what you’re putting into your body is important, regardless of if it is from the cafeteria or home! There’s no need to obsess over calories, but be conscious of what you’re consuming, too. Don’t just eat something because it looks or tastes good!
Find Other On-Campus Restaurants
These restaurants may not be part of the cafeteria itself, but most on campus restaurants are part of the school’s dining hall system. At Arizona State University, we can use Maroon and Gold dollars at these on campus restaurants as an alternative to paying out of pocket. Be wary of the options available on campus, this doesn’t mean Panda Express or Chipotle are the best way to go! Rather, check out the little restaurants and stations that are like dining hall restaurants.
These places may also serve unhealthy options, but the food in these restaurants is usually made to order, not processed like other fast food options off-campus. These restaurants can also provide the same meal options day-to-day, but also serve a daily special, opposed to the dining hall where the healthy options seem to change day-to-day.
Check Out Your School Market
ASU has P.O.D., which stands for Provisions On Demand. Campuses usually have a little market for students. The market is usually near the cafeteria, so you don’t have to wander across campus to find it when you’re hungry. These markets also offer both healthy and unhealthy options, so make sure to head to the fresh food section of the market.
From salad, to hummus, to sushi, to light snacks and sandwiches, the school market can have a variety of healthy options for you. Our market takes our school dining dollars, but there is also an exchange program where you can use one of your dining hall meal swipes to get one of the fresh entrees, a side, and a drink! This is a great option if you are looking for something from the market but don’t have cash to spend at the moment!
Actually Eat the Healthy Food
Trust me, I understand how enticing those french fries are, and during my freshman year, they were part of every cafeteria meal. The healthy food tastes just as good as those fries, if not better! The pasta station will fill you up with deliciousness, and the grilled chicken wrap will leave you feeling full and energized for rest of your day! Be wary, though, because that greasy cheeseburger will have you falling asleep mid-lecture, and that side of fries will have you feeling bloated and sluggish for the rest of the day.
The point is, healthier food will push you to finish the things that you need to get done for the rest of the day. You want your food to compliment you and push you to excel at your day, not basically act against you. Healthier food makes you feel better!
Your school wants to serve you food that you want to eat! So, whether it’s the next student government meeting or the suggestion box in the cafeteria, voice your opinion about what you want to see in the cafeteria! You’re the one paying the big bucks to go to the school and eat in the cafeteria!
Don’t be afraid of the cafeteria, you’re in control of what you eat! If you look hard enough, you can find those healthy snacks in a sea of french fries!
Lauren is a fashion and beauty, lifestyle, college, and travel blogger in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a contributor for The Young Hopeful and a junior at Arizona State University. She is pursuing her BA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences with a focus in Business. She is also part of Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. In her spare time, you can find Lauren watching her favorite YouTubers, or sipping a Pepsi and planning with her favorite planner. You can find Lauren on her blog, Twitter,Instagram, and more!