Successfully Navigating the College Cafeteria

Navigating the college cafeteria presents a change for college students. With hundreds of daily options to choose from it's a change from pre-college family dinners. Some students worry about overeating. Others find the number of options overwhelming. While, still others feel limited in the selection.

Check out some tips on what you can do to make navigating the cafeteria a breeze. 

Take a quick tour of the cafeteria each time you enter to check out the specials of the day.

We tend to be creatures of habit and college dining is no exception. It's easy to miss new entrees if you are making a beeline for the same the pasta or salad line each day.

After your quick tour, choose the most appealing foods. Build a satisfying plate, one that will sustain you to the next meal without inducing a nap. An easy way to do this is to choose an item from each food category

  • a Fruit (apples, oranges, grapes, berries) to take the edge off of your hunger;
  • a Starch or Grain (such a quinoa, pasta, baked potato) and a vegetable (carrots, roasted sweet potatoes, garden salad) to give you energy;
  • a Protein (beans, tofu, chicken, meat or peanut butter); and
  • a Fat like ranch dressing, mayo or cream cheese to add flavor and keep you full until the next meal.

Building a plate in this way gives you variety and a combination of foods that'll keep you full for about 4-5 hours or until the next meal.

Many students often carry out a piece of fruit or peanut butter sandwich for a mid-day snack.

Experiment with new foods and combinations.

You'll likely have food options you didn't have at home. College is the perfect time to try new things or even foods you've never cared for before. To successfully experiment with new foods, select a small amount at first. Give yourself permission to not eat it if you don't care for it. Keep a napkin handy as a subtle way out if it doesn't meet your taste expectations. It's not uncommon for people to need 5 to 20 exposures to a food before they decide if they like it.

Take one plate of food.

Students often worry about how much to eat. A simple solution take one plate of food (and maybe a dish for fruit or salad). There is always more available if you're hungry for another serving. Should two of your favs be offered on the same day, pick the most appealing or try a half serving of each. Chances are excellent the other food will be offered again.

Give yourself the gift of peaceful eating.

Students who take time to eat regular, uninterrupted meals have a better ability to judge their hunger and fullness cues and sensations. Allow yourself time to slow down and enjoy the meal with your friends. Put away all distractions including your phone, a book or the last minute test notes and be mindful about your eating.