11 ways to stay healthy while eating in the college cafeteria

By Joe Swenson
Guest Writer

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The common Freshman 15 phrase asserts that students start to gain once they hit the college campus. Factors for this weight gain include numerous runs to local fast food joints, late-night snacking while studying, stress induced eating, and of course, freedom of choice when going through the cafeteria line.

In a study published in the Journal of American College Health, researchers found that students don’t quite gain the Freshman 15, but they do gain weight at a rate nearly six times faster than the general population with an average gain between 3 and 10 pounds. This weight gain is especially concerning because it might establish a  pattern of weight gain for future years.

One way to offset weight gain is to make better choices when eating in the college cafeteria. Here are some tips to help you avoid making split decisions when choosing between a salad or french fries when you next enter the cafeteria.

  1. Having self control is one of the biggest keys to staying healthy, and that can be difficult when you see pizza, french fries and fried food. Try to stay mindful and dedicated to sticking to your diet. This will help you decide not to grab those unhealthy foods and snacks.

  2. Surround yourself with a group of friends who want to stay healthy and fit. Use this group to hold you accountable with staying healthy as you also hold them accountable.

  3. Go to http://rc.edudine.com to download menus and nutritional information before you enter the cafeteria. This site is run by Aladdin Food Management Service, which manages the Fletcher Center Cafeteria and the Atrium Cafe for Rochester College. You can check out the nutrients in the food for that day, and educate yourself on healthy food plans.

  4. Ask the chef or a cafeteria employee. Miles Levtov, who works in RC’s cafeteria, says, ““First thing I do is try to stay away from fried foods. Anything deep fried will have a lot of saturated fat. I always try to alternate the kinds of protein I ingest whether it is meat, chicken, fish or plant protein. I also try to balance my protein with carbohydrates and a small bit of fat,” he said.

  5. Use the Myfitnesspal smartphone app, which is free. You can set a daily calorie goal and record your daily food and exercise to make sure that you stay on track.

  6. Eating breakfast will give you energy to start the day to stay focused in the classroom. If you aren’t a big breakfast person, then opt for something light with high protein and vitamins. For all you breakfast lovers, omelettes are perfect for a quick and easy meal with lots of healthy values.

  7. Drinking water throughout the day is important to keep hydrated. Invest in a water bottle that you can have with you throughout the day.  

  8. For lunch, choose grilled chicken and vegetables, and mix in a salad or spinach for an even healthier meal. Mixing things up a bit a crucial, especially when they do not always have the exact same items every day. Make sure you do not over eat for lunch.

  9. Use the salad bar. The salad bar is mandatory because the chefs usually mix up the vegetables they serve. Choose leafy greens for fiber and mix them with vegetables for nutrients. To get enough protein, add chickpeas, soybeans or nuts.

  10. Dinner is essentially your last meal of the day. Eat a solid meal so you don’t feel like you have to eat another full meal two hours later. Continue finding different items within the cafeteria like a veggie heavy stir-fry.

  11. Enjoy an occasional light snack — nuts, protein bar or a simple shake. Make sure you do not eat too close to bed, which will disrupt your metabolism. Having a well rested sleep can make a huge difference on how you feel in the morning.