The dining hall is a place that makes living/creating a healthy lifestyle a challenge for many college students. Eating nutritious meals seems ridiculously hard in college, especially on a meal plan. Not only are you busy and not cooking for yourself, but there’s also an omnipresent spread of pizza, French fries, and dessert available in the dining hall 24/7. 

I mean, campus meal plans have their pros and cons. You can’t complain when your university prepares variety of healthy food items. Yet even then, it’s difficult to eat normal portion sizes – many cafeterias present you with an unlimited buffet.

But even if you do live on campus with a meal plan, there is hope to eating healthily on the regular. Here are some strategies I follow:

Seek Out the Healthy Items

Yes, being on a meal plan is limiting, but you have the choice to choose the healthy options at the dining hall. Most dining halls have vegetables, a salad bar, omelettes, and grilled chicken. Next time you are at the dining hall, search for these types of items. You can even combine them in creative ways to prevent boredom.


Want to reduce your temptation to snag unhealthy food items? Tell a few of your friends about your health goals so they can help you stay on track. Make a game of it and try to see who can make the best healthy meal out of what’s available.

Be Smart About Navigating the Dining Hall

My number one tip is to load up on breakfast. Why? Because it helps give you some energy to start your day and makes you more likely to make healthy choices all day. Some of the dining hall options I usually stick to:

  •  Oatmeal mixed with fruit and yogurt with nuts, fresh fruit, and granola. This is usually the fastest meal to get because you don’t really have to wait in line. Plus, it’s sweet, satisfying, and full of healthy carbs and protein.
  • Omelets. Because you can pack them with veggies and eggs are protein powerhouses, omelets are delicious and nutritious. If you don’t have time for an omelet, grab a hard boiled egg and some fruit.

For lunch and dinner, try to be creative and have a good balance of produce, protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrate-rich foods. Something like a sandwich with veggies and your favorite protein would be a great meal combo. Instead of a normal salad, you can throw some chicken, veggies, or tofu together and add corn, potatoes, or rice for some extra carbs. Don’t just stick to the same thing every single time or else you will get board of eating healthy very quickly.

And of course, if you want some fries or dessert, have them – just maybe not every day. Still, they’re delicious and balance is important. You can also make some healthier and dorm-friendly desserts when the sweet tooth hits. 

Want more ideas on how to build healthy meals in the dining hall? Follow me on  to see how I stay healthy on a meal plan.

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About The Author

Landy is a 4th year student at Andrews University where she is majoring in Biology. She's a typical college student who splits her time between work, school, and working out. During her free time she finds herself scrolling through Pinterest for new healthy recipes or workout routines. After graduating, Landy plans to attend dental school where she hopes to specialize in pediatrics.

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