Make Some Dining Hall Magic

Cafeteria cuisine doesn’t always match up to mom’s homemade fare — in flavor or nutrition. Companies like Sodexho have goals that include providing healthy meals to students, but the balance between nutritious and delicious isn’t always apparent. Doctoring up your dorm delicacies will save your money and waistline from the dreaded Freshman 15.

How do you turn that cafeteria fare into something edible delicious? I’ve got some ideas that would make even The Barefoot Contessa proud.

(Note: Some of these require a little…erm…smuggling. Grab a Ziploc bag or those Tupperware containers your mom made you buy and load ’em up in the caf. Then sneak ’em out and save that stuff for later.)

– Use taco meat or shredded chicken from the Southwestern/Mexican line for midnight nachos. Because of the combination of protein, dairy, and fresh veggies, tacos and nachos can be a balanced alternative to heavier burgers.

– Soak fruit from the salad bar in cheap red wine for a makeshift sangria.

– Toast leftover bagels from breakfast with margarine for a New York style treat. Only eat half, though—one bagel is equivalent to five pieces of bread.

– Make a fun cocktail of different juices from the drink dispenser. My old roommate combined 1/3 cranberry juice, 1/3 apple juice and 1/3 orange juice. Sounds weird, but it worked! (Especially if you sneak that mixture out and throw in some vodka later…)

– Combine crumbled ramen noodles, cereal, nuts and dried fruit as a snack mix.

– Use hot fudge from the yogurt machine and  dip pretzels/fruit into the warm chocolate for a late night fondue.

– Make an old classic interesting and put a pb & j through the toaster. Sprinkle with powdered sugar like they do in restaurants.

– And speaking of peanut butter, try smearing it on a leftover waffle from breakfast. Top with raisins and chocolate chips.

– Grab some salad bar veggies, drizzle them in olive oil and ask the cooks to throw them onto the burger grill to make fresh, sauteed veggies.

– Use different types of breads and cheeses from the deli line for a new grilled cheese sandwich.

– Dress up the boring baked potatoes from dinner and bake them —twice. Hollow them out and mix with whatever’s available: milk, cheese, onion and sour cream.

– For the pack rats who happen to have a blender on hand, try a nutritious smoothie before class. Just combine ice, milke and fruit from the salad bar.

– Get rid of those hot chocolate packets that mom stuffed in your care package and make a yummy frozen drink. Blend the mix, ice, milk and whipped cream and place in that mini-fridge for a few hours.

– Avoid a late-night Wendy’s run and make your own natural-cut fries. Take unsalted fries from the grill line and doctor them up with olive oil and sea salt.

– There are always grits at breakfast—they’re cheap and healthy! Mix them with margarine, cheese and garlic powder for a southern spin.

Any other suggestions on how to make the most of your dining hall food?

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