5 Tips for Cuisine in College Campus Cafeterias

Eating in the Cafeteria

Eating Utensils

I cannot stress enough how badly you need to take advantage of cafeterias on campus freshman year. There were a few on the Alabama campus and many of them would have fun deals certain nights of the week. My new freshman friends and I would get together on those nights and spend hours there thoroughly enjoying ourselves and getting to know each other. Our favorite was breakfast for dinner. The tricky part is when you have a student account, you do not know how much you are spending and can end up spending all your “dining dollars” within a month (may or may not be speaking from experience here).

  1. Take advantage of the fresh greens. Get a salad and fill your plate up with greens and a variety of nutrient dense salad toppings. Most school cafeterias have great salad bars similar to Ruby Tuesday’s endless, create your own salad bar (aka the best type of food bar). Try to add some fresh vegetables like bell peppers or broccoli to your salad to achieve a high fiber dish. If you want to make a salad your whole meal, get some chicken from the home-cooking station, to add some filling protein on top. Get creative and add some colorful fruit like blueberries and strawberries for some potassium and vitamin C. And remember, you need carbohydrates to help fuel your active lifestyle so consider adding high fiber carbohydrates such as black beans, corn, or roasted sweet potatoes!
  2. Since most of you are living in dorms, walk to the cafeteria (not alone if late at night).  Most of my exercise freshman year was from walking around campus, to and from class. In this case the walk will be more enjoyable because it ends in a delicious meal rather than a boring class.
  3. If you have a sweet tooth, use cafeteria nights as a time to treat yourself! Unless times have changed, it does not cost extra to get a soft serve cone with your meal– save your fro-yo money for a fun time out!
  4. Make it a game. Try out all the college cafeterias and find which ones best fit your palate. Many provide: Asian, pasta, pizza, home-cooking, and special breakfast nights! For the Asian station, fill your plate up with stir fry vegetables over a bed of rice and a side of chicken. This will provide the most bang for your buck with fiber rich grains, high protein in your chicken, and immune boosting vitamins and minerals in your stir fry veggies. If you are craving pizza, make it fun and add some other vegetable toppings to get creative with adding extra nutrients. And for those special breakfast nights, you have many options for whole grains and protein but as a delicious example: whole grain buttered toast and sausage links with a side of scrambled eggs and bowl of fresh fruit topped with a dollop of calcium rich yogurt! (or for my personal favorite breakfast treat, waffles topped with whipped cream… YUM).
  5. Don’t waste your money elsewhere, if you already have money on a food account through the school, don’t let it go to waste and eat sushi or delivery every night. I have used this word a few times but take advantage of this– this money on a food account will not be coming back again!

Therese Bridges

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