Advice for Eating at College

College Life with EmmaGrace: Part 5

There are so many new adventures at college and so much to get adjusted to: of course, eating is one thing that will be very different than before. Whether you made all your own meals at home, or you went out a lot, life at college will be very different. You are going to be running around to classes, and you might forget to eat lunch or dinner sometimes. Or, maybe at lunch you only have ten minutes between classes and you have to skip it for the day (I would suggest not doing this, and I will let you know how to avoid it). No matter what, dining at college is going to look at lot different than at home. Plus, dining this year(with COVID) is going to be even tougher. I am here to share with you a few tips on getting adjusted to college eating.

Dining hall hacks: How to get students to eat on campus |

#1. Look at all the options

When you get to college, scope out all the dining halls have to offer. Does each dining hall have separate options, or all they all the same? If you are vegetarian, or have other dietary needs, is there a specific dining hall for that? Most colleges provide special services and foods to people with have dietary needs. For example, we have a vegan zone, and a gluten free zone.

You should really get to know all the options of each dining hall, and what they provide each day. There may be a salad bar you really like at one hall, or a really good hot meal line at another. Make sure you know when each hall opens so you know the times you can go eat. You may realize one hall is only open for dinner, or one has extended hours. Lastly, figure out if they post the meals ahead of time, so you can look at them before you enter the dining hall.

#2. Understand your body’s needs

The most important part of eating in college, and out of college, is to listen to your body’s triggers. Eat when you are hungry, your body deserves it. With everything going on, sometimes we forget to take the time to eat, but try not to let that happen. If you skip meals, your body will feel it later. You will most likely get into a routine of when you eat each day, and your body will get used to that as well. For me, I eat every day around noon and I start to get hungry right around 11:30. If you aren’t hungry but you know you should eat, maybe just make a smaller snack. But, when your body IS hungry, never deprive yourself of a meal.

#3. Plan your meals out

Plan a time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. It may be different times daily, or it could be the same. It’s super easy if you always eat at the same time, but if not plan time the night before for all your meals.

If you can see the dining hall menu ahead of time, try to look at that so it alleviates some stress walking into the hall. It also helps you choose the healthier options if you can plan out a meal ahead of time. Sometimes walking into the hall, we just pick the first thing we see, but looking ahead of time allows you to figure out what you will or won’t like. If you can’t see the meals ahead of time, no worries. When you get into the hall, navigate it with a good mindset. Try to balance your meal with fruits, veggies, and proteins.

#4. Get in your essential nutrients

We all know that protein, carbs, and fats are necessary macronutrients for life. But… how many of us strive to get the nutrients we really need? In college(and any other time in your life), it is really important that you fuel your body. Make sure you are getting in your fruits and veggies in every meal, and some source of protein. You need energy to function, which is why it is so necessary that you eat food that will keep you full and give you energy for the day.

While it is really important to fuel your body right, eat what you want as well. If you have a dessert at night, that’s okay. Enjoy your food, go get ice cream with your friends, eat out at a nice restaurant sometimes. Everything is okay in moderation, never let anyone tell you you can’t eat something! I am a big advocate in doing what makes you happy, and if that is having dessert with dinner, do it.

#5. Take what you ACTUALLY want

When you get into the dining hall, it will usually be a buffet where you can take as much or as little as you want. You may see a soup and salad bar, a hot line, a breakfast bar, and much more. Some bigger campuses have huge dining halls with fifteen choices, and you may have no idea what to get. Like I said before, it is really useful if the college posts the menu ahead of time. Then you can walk in on a mission knowing exactly what you want.

While it may be temping to get a little bit of food from every part of the hall, try to think about what you will actually eat in one sitting. Think about how much you would normally eat at home and try to base it off that. That way you don’t leave with so many meals that you either try to eat all at once or just leave in your room forever. If you take it back to your room, chances are it will just get thrown away at some point. One exception is if you know you won’t have time to go to the hall later that day or for your next meal. For example, maybe you have a class that goes all the way through lunch. In that case, I would plan on grabbing some food for your next meal or a snack.

#6. Relax while you’re eating

One thing I always strive for is to take a break from school and work while I am eating. Your brain really needs a rest because it is unhealthy to just sit there and study for hours at a time. Rather than watching Tik Tok every fifteen minutes as a brain break, use your meals as a time to relax. It may only be half an hour, but it is a set time in the day where you can give yourself a break. I try to eat with friends a lot too because it is a great time to socialize and you know everyone has to eat. If you want to eat alone some days, that’s fine too. My advice is to just get out of the room for awhile and enjoy yourself.

Of course, there will be times when you have a huge test to study for and you don’t have time to take a break. When that happens, at least eat while you’re studying, and try not to just skip a meal.

#7. Try something new

College dining is a great time to reach out of your comfort zone and try some new foods. At home, we tend to resort to the same types of food all the time. In college, the meals are always rotating and there are always so many options. Whenever I look at the menu, there is always something I’ve never heard of. There may be a new vegan meal with a special type of tofu, or there may be a new type of ethnic dish. Whatever it is, try something new at LEAST once a week. Plus, you can always grab a salad or something just in case you don’t like it.

Who knows, you may get some ideas for making dinner when you get back home!

#8. Stock up on some healthy snacks

If you’re anything like me, you get hungry at the most random times. Like 10 pm, right when you want to go to bed. It’s the worst! This is why I always think it is important to keep a few light, healthy snacks in your room.

The point is: you might get hungry when the hall isn’t open, or you may not have time to actually go get food one day. So, if you get some healthy snacks from the store(or from the dining hall) you will always have something easily accesible. Try to make these snacks things that won’t go bad quickly so you can just keep them and not have to worry. You don’t want a week old burger sitting around rotting! Lol.

Something I really appreciate in my dining hall is that they always have cereal, fresh fruit and granola up for grabs. I like to stock up on these in my room just in case of emergency. I also try to keep some more filling snacks, like protein bars and peanut butter. Since I have a lot of early classes, I often don’t have time to run to the dining hall before. So, I will just eat some fruit that I grabbed from the dining hall the night before, or a granola bar.

Like I said in #4, try not to grab more than you know you will eat before it goes bad. However, if you stock up on some cereal, it’ll stay good in your room for awhile and you know you always have it.

#9. Eat all your meals

Eat three meals a day! Try your absolute best not to miss meals! Like I mentioned before, if you know you don’t have time to get to the dining hall for a meal, grab something before hand. You may have a class that goes right through lunch time, but that doesn’t mean you just shouldn’t eat lunch. If you miss meals, you won’t be fueled and ready to go for the rest of the day. With all the added stress that college brings, you really want to make sure you’re fueling your body.

That also means that you SHOULDN’T skip breakfast. I have a lot of early classes, and I always want to sleep in until the very last minute. Instead, I make myself get up to eat some breakfast. Plus, I usually don’t have time for a snack between breakfast and lunchtime, which is why it is so important I have a real breakfast early in the morning. So, wake up an extra ten minutes early to eat, and don’t press that snooze button. If you don’t wake up in time for breakfast, make sure to have a snack to get you going until lunch.

No matter how busy you are, always make time to eat. If that means planning out your day by the hour so you ensure you have time, then do that. If you know you can eat everyday at noon, do that! And, if you’re hungry throughout the day, get a snack. The best thing you can do is listen to your body.

#10. Give yourself, and your body, a break

The MOST important piece of advice I can give!!

We’ve all heard about it and we all fear it: the freshman fifteen. It is a common belief that when you go to college, you will gain “fifteen pounds in your first year”. The truth is, you might gain a bit of weight, and that happens. Going to college is a huge life change, and you will likely be eating much different than at home. Give your body time to adapt to the change, while doing what you can to stay healthy and happy.

A part of the problem is stress and lack of sleep! Sometimes you may be so stressed that you don’t sleep, or you just don’t go to bed until two in the morning. Remember that this hurts your body, and you need sleep! It may contribute to weight gain, but I encourage you not to think about that part of it. Instead, focus on how your body needs sleep to function. If you get a good amount of sleep, you will feel so much better physically and mentally.

Yes, you might gain some weight, and that is totally okay AND totally normal. Forget about the scale and focus on your mental health remind yourself that you are beautiful no matter what, and don’t be so hard on yourself.

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