College Advice Blog

Sep 20, 2012

Tips for Staying Healthy on a College Meal Plan

If college is known for anything as far as nutrition is concerned it’s that most people completely disregard it and fall victim to the infamous “freshman 15”. The majority of people attribute this weight gain to the ample access to unhealthy food and lack of any discernible curfew, which almost always leads to late night binge fests at fast food restaurants where the thought of healthy eating is nothing more than a distant memory. And while these eating habits are definitely a contributing factor, they aren’t the only cause of college weight gain. A lot of excess weight is gained through the meals that college kids eat every day at their dining halls. Most colleges have multiple dining halls on campus, ranging from buffet lines to restaurants, and almost all of them offer fat-filled foods like French fries, fried chicken, and endless pasta. Having easy access to these foods on a daily basis results in many kids eating unhealthy fare at meals, morning, noon, and night, with no regard to how it affects their diet. This is largely because no one is there to tell them otherwise. To avoid gaining weight while eating on a college meal plan, use these five tips:

1. Save the fried foods for one meal a week. Instead of loading up on fried foods at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week, save a fried meal for just one meal a week. Cutting back on how much fried fare you consume will help you drastically slash the number of calories you’re eating at each meal.
2. Grab fruit to snack on between classes. When you hit up the buffet line grab a few extra pieces of fruit that you can take with you once you leave the dining hall. Having fruit to munch on between classes is a much better option than a bag of chips or candy from the vending machine.
3. Go easy on the dressings. While you may want to douse your salad, pizza, and French fries in ranch dressing, you’re not going to be doing your waistline any favors by doing so. Instead, use a light vinaigrette for your salad dressing and eat your pizza and fries sans the ranch. Heavy dressings like that pack in tons of extra calories that you don’t need.
4. You don’t have to eat everything on the buffet just because it’s an option. Really pay attention to your portion sizes when you’re going through the buffet line. You don’t have to get six plates of food and sample one of everything at every single meal. Stick to one plate and fill it with vegetables, lean proteins, and a side of fruit.
5. Figure out which dining halls offer healthy fare, and which don’t. Not all dining halls are created equal, and you should try to stick to the ones that offer the healthiest fare the majority of the time. Limiting the number of times you visit the dining halls that offer unhealthy fare will help you avoid caving and ordering foods that are full of extra calories.
As you eat your way through college, remember that just because something is available doesn’t mean you should eat it. Try to eat healthy, clean foods the majority of the time, and save splurges on unhealthy fare for once or twice a week. This way you’ll still get to indulge every now and then, but you won’t overdo it to the point that your pants stop buttoning.

About the Author
This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of She welcomes your comments at her email Id: - jdebra84 @


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