College Nutrition: How to Make the Most of Your Cafeteria

Can’t seem to balance the buffet style food at your school with a healthy lifestyle? Tired of feeling overwhelmed by unhealthy options? Leave it to College Cures to get you back on track and back to eating healthier!

Bring Tupperware With You

Once your cafeteria closes, you have to rely on the food in your dorm or on take-out menus to fill your grumbling stomach.

So why spend extra money or gorge on unhealthy snacks when you can bring your own containers and fill up on food for later?

Buy a plastic Tupperware container with dividers and put it in your backpack or purse. When you get to the salad bar, deli or area where you can serve yourself, stock up on the goods!

Make yourself a healthy salad or sandwich, pack it into your container and voila! You have a meal for later!

The same applies for Ziplock bags; if your cafe has some tasty, healthy snacks, why not throw some in a bag and save it for later?

I used to go to the cafeteria, scope out what was there, then I would come back an hour later with a Ziplock bag and take granola or cereal for later!

Skip the Sweet Drinks

Have you ever seen the workers in the cafeteria “refill” the drinks? I have.

They dump huge bags of syrupy crap into a dispenser, it mixes with water, and that is what you are getting every time you opt for drinks like Nestea, lemonade or assorted “juices.”

Skip all those extra calories by drinking ice water! A glass of one of the sugary drinks (soda too) packs at LEAST 100 calories/glass, usually more!

Go For Items YOU “Make”

If you skip the “main courses” or the ones the cafeteria puts together, you have more control over the food (and the # of calories) going into your body.

Instead of picking up the roast beef sandwich oozing with cheese and sauce, head to the serve-yourself deli and make a roast beef (or whatever) sandwich yourself. You can control the amount of cheese and condiments used and even add some healthy items like tomatoes, onions, spinach or lettuce.

The same goes for the salad bar; why eat the soggy Cesar salad dripping with dressing when you can make yourself a better salad that is healthier?

Check the Menu Before You Go

A lot of schools post detailed menus on their website. If you check out what they are serving before heading down to the cafe, you can read up on the nutrition facts, the number of calories/serving and recipe ingredients in order to decide if it is worth eating.

Many times you will eat unhealthy items at the cafeteria because there are no other appealing options. If you check ahead of time, you will know what they are serving and whether or not you want to choose a healthier option.

Skip Fried, Go Baked

Instead of picking up a pile of fries or some other fried food, go for items that are baked or broiled. The person behind the counter will usually know how the food was prepared, so if it is not indicated on a label, just ask!

Add Some Green to Your Plate

Rather than slopping mashed potatoes or some other unhealthy side to your dish, why not check out the vegetables, fruits or whole-grain options?

Eating a greasy sandwich? Don’t make it worse with a side of chips. Opt for a side of green beans, broccoli, carrots, or any other vegetable to try and balance your meal.

Once you get into the habit of eating vegetables on a regular basis, your body will begin to expect them and eventually crave them when you don’t provide!

Try Some Recipes

This may seem crazy since you are in a cafeteria where most of your food is already prepared, but there are certain items you can make yourself with the food provided to you.

A lot of schools have great salad bars with a lot of different items in them. Use these things to your advantage to make your own food!

Recipe 1: Three Bean Salad

If your salad bar offers these things, you can make a GREAT bean salad which is high in fiber, protein and is absolutely delicious:

– Chick Peas (circular, light brown), Kidney Beans (dark red/brown), Cannellini Beans (white/cream colored)

– Red onion (white will work too)

– Celery

– Cucumber

– Feta Cheese

– Red Pepper Flakes (usually over by the pizza or other condiments)

– Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar (any light vinaigrette will work, should be in the salad dressing area)


Throw a couple of spoonfuls of each of the three beans into a bowl. Next, cut or rip up the onion, celery and feta cheese into small pieces. Cut the cucumber into small pieces, throw on the vinaigrette and shake on a some red pepper flakes. Lightly toss with a spoon or fork.

Now you have a delicious, healthy, filling snack or side-dish to add to your meal!

Recipe 2: Marinated String Beans

– Cooked String Beans

– Oil & Red Wine Vinegar (or whichever vinaigrette you prefer) **Note: if you have rice vinegar, this is better**

– Grey Poupon Mustard (this or a substitute can be found in the condiment isle)

– Salt & Pepper

Throw some beans into a bowl. Combine vinaigrette and half a spoon of mustard into a cup and mix well. Throw some salt and pepper on the beans and toss them with the vinaigrette!

This is a great snack or side dish packed with lots of fiber and is sure to keep you full!

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