Doing Dorm Food Right

students walking towards a college campus

FREEDOM! The freedoms discovered when you go off to college are a breath of fresh air. You get to choose what time you wake up for class (just remember to set that alarm!). You get to choose what you wear each day (pajamas really aren’t THAT cool, I promise). And you get to choose what to eat in the dorm cafeteria.

The first time you walk into the dorm cafeteria, you very well may want to eat everything in site. You can, too, right? I mean, it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, so why not?

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. As 1 Cor 10:23 reminds us, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up” (ESV). Overeating can result in short-term and long-term consequences such as indigestion and bloating or weight gain. We should enjoy what we eat but not in excess.

Below are a few tips for navigating the dorm cafeterias. Bon appetite!  

cafe in a dorm

Pick your strategy

Before beginning to fill a plate, tour the cafeteria and decide on a strategy (soup & salad, meat & potatoes, etc.). If you see two themes you like, pick one this time and plan to choose the other one the next time it is served. You don’t have to eat everything each time you go in for food.

Be friendly with the staff

A little bit of kindness goes a long way. The better your relationship with the staff, the more likely they will accommodate special requests.

Take it to go

Many dining halls offer the option to take your food on the go. This is a great way to avoid the tendency to go back for seconds. Grab your food and take it outside on a nice day, over to a friend’s room, or back to your own room. Don’t turn on the tv; instead, listen to some music, call your family or a friend for a phone dateline you were sitting at a restaurant, or read a book.

Make veggies the star

At least half of your plate should be vegetables. Make a fun goal of incorporating at least 2 vegetables at every meal with one of them being green (spinach, kale, collards, green beans, peas, chard, etc.).

Take your sauces on the side

Ask for sauces and dressings on the side and use them sparingly. Taste your food before adding sauces or dressings – you may find you like the food as it comes! 

buffet of food representative of dorm food

At the salad bar

  • include a quality source of protein like grilled chicken or hard-boiled egg
  • include a quality source of fat like avocado, whole nuts and seeds, or olives
  • get your dressing on the side
  • avoid processed, crunchy toppers (sesame sticks, croutons, etc.) and opt for whole seeds and nuts

Avoid fried foods

Ask for steamed or roasted vegetables instead of sautéed or fried. Be generous with spices. Go for the grilled chicken instead of the fried chicken.

Skip the rolls

If you fill your plate with vegetables, high quality protein, and good fat, you won’t need the empty carbs.

Pass on dessert

You didn’t eat dessert after every single meal every day of the week when you lived at home, and you don’t need to now. Pick a day or two of the week to enjoy some dessert. Otherwise, skip it and pick up a piece of fresh fruit.

Choose water

If you need some sort of flavor, squeeze in the juice from a lemon or orange. Flavored drinks and sodas contain excess sugar and food dyes which can be harmful to your brain and body. Save the sugar for a more dense snack later (check out the countless options on the Baked Goods & Snacks or Snack Bars pages!)

Skip the rolls.

Nix dessert.

Drink water. If you need some sort of flavor, squeeze in the juice from a lemon or orange.

Have fun and enjoy being exposed to new foods and flavors! College can be a wonderful experience, and making good dorm food choices will set you up for success.

Recommended Posts