Dining Hall Tips (and Others) for Avoiding Serious Weight Gain!

Welcome to the Dining Hall! It is a new year, but the menu hasn’t changed much since the spring semester. While its cuisine might fall short of the five-star Michelin rating, your dining hall is still offering the same mediocre-to-decent fare that you’ve been demanding as students with only a few minutes to eat, anyway.

As a freshman, you might have been awed by the mere expanse of food before you. Inspired by the hustle and bustle of upperclassmen milling expertly around the different food stations, you were elated to find that dessert is served at every meal. But come October, the honeymoon glow dimmed to a faint flicker, and your affair with the dining hall turned into something of a mess.

The economic, all-you-can-eat style buffet, serving food that is generally fatty, sugary, and over-processed, leads many collegiates to pack on the pounds as they struggle to navigate this danger zone. Whether you’re shoveling tasteless food as fast as you can to make a class in ten minutes, or leisurely enjoying a couple hours of all-access binging while chatting with friends, the cafeteria offers a wide variety of ways to overindulge. Here are a couple of tricks to help you avoid the pitfalls of college dining:

1. Survey the Scene. Make a tour of the available options of the day so that you don’t load up on all the stuff at the beginning of the line, only to have to nab a second plate for the food at the next station.

2. Use Your Head. You’re in college. You know that salad is healthier than a cheese steak. Make sure that you fill up on foods that are high in fiber, with good protein and complex carbohydrate content, like big leafy salads with lots of veggies, or a sandwich on whole grain bread. In general, limiting fat is a good idea, though there are such things as “good” fats (think avocadoes, or fatty fish, like salmon). Beware though: things that should generally be high in fat and sugar (like cookies or chips) but that claim to be healthier versions are generally just loaded up with sodium and artificial sweeteners, which are TERRIBLE for your body.

3. Subsitution When You Can, Moderation When You Can’t. What this little motto means is that, if you’re happy to enjoy an apple instead of your banana-split sundae, that’s a great way to cut down on sugar- and caloric-intake (obviously). But if you really just can’t make this switch, be sure to observe moderation, whether that means only eating half the portion offered, or maybe even just a couple of bites.

4. DON’T Deprive Yourself. If you’ve ever tried a diet that demands you give up all the “bad” (and often delicious) foods you enjoy, you know that these sort of cold-turkey routines fail. When they do, they leave you diving for the forbidden food, only to gobble up five times the amount that would normally have satisfied you.

This lesson is very relevant in a dining hall setting, where chances are menus will repeat on a bi-weekly basis. Don’t get caught up in the famine-mentality that tells you to eat everything you can now because you’ll never be able to eat this meal again. If you really enjoy a particular dish made at your dining hall, don’t deprive yourself. But if it happens to be a full-fat macaroni and cheese, or a double fudge brownie the size of your knee, make sure that you limit how much you allow yourself to indulge (see tip 3).

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