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Dining Hall Food: 9 Ways to Make Healthy Choices

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Researchers have found that the Freshman Fifteen may be more like the Freshman Three, but packing on the pounds can happen to the best of us—especially new college students who are living away from their parents for the first time.

It’s incredibly easy to overindulge when faced with all-you-can-eat smorgasbords at every single meal. If you’re not careful, habits like eating ice cream for dinner “just this once” can turn into regular occurrences and before you know it, your favorite jeans no longer button.

Here are nine ways to help avoid the Freshman Fifteen (or Sophomore Seven, or whatever you want to call it!)

1. Practice moderation.

It can be tempting to eat pancakes, bacon and eggs every single morning, but your waistline—and your cholesterol levels—won’t be very forgiving. Try oatmeal or whole wheat toast and fruit during the week and save your faves for the weekend.

2. Don’t drink all of your calories!

Skip sugary sodas and sip water instead, and choose skim or low-fat milk instead of whole milk. Watch the number of lattes, frappes, and other coffee concoctions that you consume to stay caffeinated, too—some have as many calories as an entire meal! If you drink alcohol, limit yourself. Even light beer has calories. (The term “beer belly” is more than a joke about old men.)

3. Limit fried foods.

Opt for grilled, baked, broiled, or stir-fried chicken rather than the oh-so-popular fried chicken tenders.

4. Take advantage of the salad bar.

Making salads in your dorm room can be a pain—buying fresh produce and chopping veggies without a real kitchen? No thanks! Making yourself a small salad to eat with your lunch and dinner—or topping a larger salad with protein for the entire meal—has the potential to help you save tons of calories. Just limit high-fat, creamy dressings. Drowning your lettuce in Ranch can be counter-productive.

5. Eat one dessert.

Dessert is awesome, especially if your college dining hall makes a mean brownie or apple pie. If your parents didn’t have dessert regularly, you might start eating it every single night just because you can. Resist the urge to grab second helpings or share that piece of pie with a friend.

6. Step outside your comfort zone.

It’s easy for students to get into a rut and eat the same thing for every single meal or only eat at the dining hall that’s closet to their dorm, but most campuses have multiple dining choices and many are making accommodations for students with food allergies or other dining preferences. Check out your school’s vegan or vegetarian options. You may find a meat-free dish that you love!

7. Take time to chew and swallow.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but busy college students are constantly on the run. If you take enough time to thoroughly eat and enjoy your meals, you will be less likely to overeat. If you are always speed-eating, you might not even realize that you’re already stuffed.

8. Grab a banana or an apple on your way out.

Fruit is a much better snack to eat than a bag of chips or cup of ramen noodles when you’re studying in your room late at night . It is rich in nutrients and low in calories.

9. Eat when you’re truly hungry.

If it’s dinner time but you’re not really hungry yet because you had a big lunch, get a sandwich or salad to go and eat it later. Don’t fill a tray with food only because your friends are eating—you’ll probably wind up picking and nibbling your way through way more calories than you need.

Related Posts:

Freshman 15 is More Like the Freshman 3

The Dreaded Freshman 15: How to Avoid Gaining Weight in College

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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