All plates prepared exclusively with dining hall food. See?! Not so bad.
Ah, September: what a jubilant time of year it is. Reuniting with your friends, classmates, school email account that you obsessively check because you’d rather do ANYTHING than start your homework, and most importantly - returning to your meal plan.
Like most things in college, the meal plan is often an exploration of freedom: huge amounts of food, unlimited swipes in, long hours of operation, very social environment, constant stream of clean plates to be filled, and absolutely nothing to keep you from sitting in the dining hall from 6 am to 9 pm eating deep fried mac 'n cheese. On pizza. This is a real thing.
Alas, the college environment’s dangerous combo of high stress and unlimited quantities of food can prove to be a recipe for disaster, and a quick route to the infamous freshman 15 / 50 / 500 that definitely doesn’t just affect freshmen.
Fear not! As a proud dining hall connoisseur, enthusiast and veteran, I have compiled three easy tips that help me rein in my dining hall habits.
1. Remember: Food is not a limited resource.
I personally found myself needing to confront this my first week at school when I ate absurd quantities of food each meal, often qualified with a statement like “oh my gosh this is the best quiche I have ever eaten!!” or “these quesadillas are unreal!!!” and then proceeding to eat enough food for three or four meals. I would get so excited about the large quantities and variety of food, as though they would not have the same offerings next week. My advice is not to restrict yourself from food that looks good, but rather to sample it, because realistically, you will be able to have it again in the near future.
2. Take your time while eating.
While it is true that many things you do in college are under some time constraint like writing an 8 page paper before midnight while also trying to do your math homework AND code a website by 8 pm, there’s no reason for eating to be rushed too. Slow down! Grab a bowl of soup and glass of water to begin, and as you consume these, you will become aware of how hungry you actually are. Eat in courses, allowing your food to settle a bit between your stir-fry and fajitas, so maybe you don’t actually need those three bowls of cereal you intended to follow your meal with. Slowing down also allows you more time to talk to the people you are eating with, and to enjoy your food.
3. Finally: Prepare a meal, don’t just graze.
It is very easy to walk into the dining hall, scarf down a bowl of cereal and a bagel, then look around and realize there are a lot of other foods you would have actually liked to eat. Prepare a meal, and then sit down and eat it. There’s no reason it can’t be fun and healthy!
Some of my favorite dining hall healthy snacks include: Apple Cinnamon Bites (using cinnamon from the breakfast station, pouring it on apple pieces and microwaving), PB Banana Quesadilla (whole wheat tortilla filled with peanut butter from the sandwich station and cut up banana), and Buddha bowls (filling a bowl with goodies from the salad bar like edamame, corn, beans, peppers, cucumbers etc. and topping with hummus or salsa).
All of this being said, enjoy the dining hall experience! Eat up, and try putting your phone down to talk to the person sitting next to you. You might be surprised to find out that just like you, they too are passionate about tator tots and Greek archaeology.
~Sarah W. -Guest Blogger, oatsandwoes.com
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