Arriving at North Dining Hall or South Dining Hall and deciding what to eat can be a daunting task, especially at lunchtime when classes have just let out. Too often I hear from students that they simply go to the line that is shortest. While that can certainly help when you are short on time and patience, having a gameplan can be a healthier and better strategy.
Both dining halls are food court concepts with literally hundreds of options and combinations available at any given meal. They are also all-you-care-to-eat, meaning you control the portions and the quantities. A combination of both of these factors can be overwhelming to the fledgling college student whose meals and quantities were often determined by a parent at home. Again, it’s that game plan that can help--have a sense of what you “need” on your plate, what you “want” on your plate, and the general layout of that particular hall.
As for what you “need” on your plate, that’s Nutrition 101: vegetables and fruits, and lots of them. For optimum health we are encouraged to eat 5 to 7 servings of vegetables each day, and 1 to 3 pieces of fruit. These are the food groups that are full of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and fiber. Really, all the good stuff and none of the bad stuff such as trans fats, high sodium, etc… By the way, there are only 25 calories in a serving of vegetables, and 60 calories in a serving a fruit. Perfect contenders for a lifetime of healthy eating and weight maintenance. I always recommend that students have a pattern for getting vegetables and fruits in at mealtime such as always trying to eat 2 to 3 servings of vegetables at a meal, and grabbing a piece of fruit to take out later for a snack or as breakfast the next morning. Another approach is to follow the ideas behind MyPlate which is that half of every plate you make at mealtime be composed of vegetables and fruits.
There is also the important consideration of what you “want” on your plate. We all have cravings for particular foods, and many of us are wired to gravitate towards certain categories such as sweets, salty things, chocolate, etc… It is important to honor that in yourself, and be sure to allow room on your plate or on your tray to have some of your favorites. Eating is supposed to be pleasurable. It’s OK, and even encouraged to make room for your favorites such as a slice a pizza, some french fries, or a slice of pie. The important thing is to check in with yourself and be in touch with what sounds good to you at that particular moment and that particular meal, then balance it against the other things you are putting on your plate. Balance and a bit of self-discipline are the keys.
So the important things to remember are to merge what you should eat with what you want to eat in a balanced way. Arriving at the dining halls during off-peak times can make it much easier to navigate and pick and choose. Our menus are also listed daily on our web site, making it easier to know what’s being served and to plan ahead. The only thing left to do is Buon Appetito!