The Freshman 15 – A College Dining Dilemma

How do you feed hungry college students?

Hailey gives us her take on college foodservice.

By Hailey – A millennial

The hardest things in college are choosing your major and deciding what to eat each day. When you first start college, as I did last fall, dining hall food really isn’t that bad, but after some time it just gets old, uninspiring and heavy.  There comes a time when burgers and pizza will not suffice, not just because of the repetition, but because the scale is screaming at you and so is your health.

At my university, more than 25% of students live on campus. Although there are three foodservice dining hall locations on my meal plan, I usually eat at the closest one because of time constraints and let’s face it…pure laziness. We have four different choices of meal plans. Many females choose the 10 or 14 meal plan but guys and athletes choose 19 or unlimited meals.

How many calories?

What shall I eat today?

Looking around the dining hall, there are lots of different choices. It is set up buffet style with a salad bar in one corner, two main dishes in the middle, pizza and burgers in the other corner, and a cereal station. Here’s the usual food breakdown: Pizza, soup, salad, burgers, fries, pasta, make-your-own sandwich bar, and cereal bar. Then there are two main entrées that change everyday. Revolving entrees that come to mind are chicken fried steak, raviolis, and barbeque salmon. There are also ethnic inspired choices like teriyaki chicken, gyros, and burritos.

Another temptation lies outside the dining hall but still on campus – food courts. The one across from my dorm houses a Panda Express, Papa Johns, Subway, Chic-fil-A, and so much more. This makes things harder when trying to stick with a diet and eating healthy (with the exception of Subway). It just seems impossible not to gain the dreaded freshman 15. The smoothie shop does help with meal replacement and healthier food consumption. You wouldn’t believe how good real fruit tastes some days. They offer parfaits, energy boost smoothies, and frozen yogurt.

Our dining hall accommodates dairy allergies with soy milk.

For those with dairy allergies and sensitivities, our dining hall provides alternative solutions to milk.

Accommodating special diets is also a consideration on campus. For example, at the dining hall’s cereal station, almond and soy milk are provided for those students who are lactose intolerant. Also, some pizzas are made with gluten free crust for students avoiding gluten because of an intolerance or lifestyle choice. Additionally, many of us want to “eat clean” and/or organic.  It is actually really easy to eat clean if you stick to the salad bar and only grab a baked, grilled or roasted meat from the entrée line. The struggle is repetition. A salad and a plain turkey patty is not something we really want to eat every meal of every day. As for organic, we definitely aren’t seeing it.

Salads are usually your best choice for a health-conscious meal.

The salad bar is a way to keep your diet on track.

I know MyPlate and the new healthier eating initiatives set forth by Mrs. Obama are trending but I’m still unsatisfied with my college dining experience thus far. I think that more can be done to help college students enjoy eating on campus. First, make the caloric intake visible on the menu, not just online. Second, let us know what we are eating by placing an ingredient card next to the food. Third, offer samples of food so that trying new foods isn’t super scary. Dumping uneaten food makes us sad, too! Fourth, make sure there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (possibly organic) to choose from as well as lean meats and seafood. Fifth, implement cook on demand areas like stir-fry and brick-ovens. Finally, consider purchasing organic. Set up a station that only serves organic food. Try it just to see if your business picks up!

The one big difference from home to college is always having dessert available.

Save room for dessert!

Although I talk a good number about eating healthy, please don’t take away my option for a hot fudge sundae or a chili dog! Millennials are hard to please and we want everything instantly but you know we are the future and we’re eating out.

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