Guest Post: How to Eat Healthy on College Campuses

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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First off–I want to thank Tina for giving me this awesome opportunity to guest post! What an inspiring woman with a passion for a healthy body and living life to its fullest! Definitely one of the bloggers I look forward to catching up on everyday. My name is CaSaundra and I am currently a college student in Minnesota. You can come visit me at http://apinchofthisandadashofthat.blogspot.com/ I’d be glad to have you!

How to Eat Healthy on College Campuses

Whether you have already finished college, are currently attending college, or even if you haven’t gone to college, but maybe your sending a child or know someone who has decided to further their education, one of the challenging parts[besides writing 100’s of papers, reading, etc.] is trying to maintain a well-balanced and healthy diet. It may sound easy, but can be rather hard and confusing when your faced with so many options and usually have lots of other things on your mind. [Like how you are sure you’re going to fail your final exam next class] When I was preparing to take on the journey of college life, I often pictured myself faced daily with jumbo greasy pizza slices and so many junk food choices that would cause my head to spin. Well this proved to be half true; of course there is a multitude of not-so-good for you food choices, but there is also plenty of healthy options if you know where to look and how to tweak your options to make something lean a little more towards the healthier side.

So join me on a “virtual” walk through one of my campus dining establishments; the food court, and see what tips and tricks I discovered to make eating on campus almost as healthy as eating a meal made at home [or dorm in this case].

Campus Dining Survival Guide

First stop is the Sub Shop. Our’s is called Montague’s Subs(no clue why), but it is set up pretty much the same as Subway, and I am sure most campus sub shops are. 

Sub Shop Tips

  • Don’t just pick iceberg lettuce; load on the spinach and any other greens for more of a nutritional boost than iceberg alone would provide.
  • Skip heavy dressings and opt for mustard or flavored vinegars instead.
  • Always try and choose wheat bread over white for more of that keep-you-full fiber and good for you grains!
  • Hold the cheese if you can, otherwise opt for a sprinkle of shredded which goes a long way vs. the 3 or more slabs they usually slap on.
  • Most sub places offer some sort of soup–go for broth-based and you’ll have a well-rounded and satisfying meal.
  • Load up on all the colorful veggies.(I’m sure everyone already does, right?!)

Next stop is our pizza and pasta joint called Bene Pasta. When faced with pizza and pasta, sometimes it’s hard to resist. You don’t have to with these tips!

Pizza/Pasta Place Tips

  • You should try and opt for a thin crust pizza. All the flavor minus extra carbs. Although, if you simply want a thick crust, skip eating the edge and that will shave off some calories for ya.
  • If you’re pizza place allows for customization(or even if they don’t advertise it, it never hurts to ask), you can ask them to half the amount of cheese and double up on sauce and veggies.
  • If you need some protein on your slice, try chicken or ham instead of sausage and pepperoni which are higher in fat (and usually give me heartburn anyway–ouch!)
  • And as we all know, the breadsticks are usually found here as well, and I do have to admit they are a perfect pair with pizza. So just have one vs. a whole basket and try blotting the excess butter/grease from it and stick with marinara instead of cheese sauce for dipping and you should be good to go!
  • As for the pasta part, most pastas are pre-made(they are on my campus), so basically just stick to the standard portion which is comparable to the size of a fist. And if possible add some steamed veggies from another part of campus to bulk it up!

Ohh the authentic Asian/Chinese food. Just the smell can lure you in. That was the next stop; It’s called Jump Asian Express Cuisine.

Chinese/Asian Eatery Tips

  • Definitely try to avoid the numerous deep fried dishes such as Kung Pao Chicken, General Tso’s Chicken, Mu Shu Pork, or even Egg Rolls. If you do cave, make sure to keep the portions on the lighter side.
  • Instead of ordering fried rice, opt for steamed rice instead. Rice is a complex carb and those boost the metabolism!
  • Steer clear of the dishes drowning in some “mystery” sauce–usually they’re loaded with sodium, MSG, etc.
  • Also if you know your going to be eating Chinese food the day that you do, try and cut out excess sodium elsewhere in your diet to avoid sodium overload and that dreaded bloat.

We also have a “home-cooked” style dining offered called “Home Cookin”. It specializes in all those good(but not-so-good for you)comfort foods that your grandma or mom would whip up for you when you come home from college. Instead, they now bring it to you, which in a sense can be bad, but there are a few tips.

Home-Cooked Style Dining

  • These places typically offer some sort of soup. If they do have chili, a cup would be great! Or any other broth based, or tomato based soups. Just try and steer clear of grandpa’s good ol’ cheesy cream of potato.
  • Skip vegetables slathered in sauce and go for the steamed or boiled veggies instead. Also steamed cabbage or steamed rice can hit the spot in a healthier fashion!
  • Sometimes cuts of meat are offered. Stick with the lighter colored meats and fish. Avoid the baked with skin meats or the fried fillets soaked with grease and butter.
  • Dig in to the baked sweet or regular potatoes! Top it off with some fresh salsa.
  • Yes, you can have the bread and eat it too. Just eat one slice and instead of butter, top it with a smear of peanut butter or almond butter for some protein with your carbs!

Last is the coffee shop. For all you die-hard Starbuck’s fans and the like, I am sure you already know your favorites and get them once a week(or possibly every day!), but if you only have coffee and coffee treats occasionally like me, there are a few pointers you might want to remember.

Coffee Shops

  • You should really skip the muffins and breads since most of them are more dessert-like rather than something suited for breakfast. Just bring a Vitatop from home instead!!
  • They usually offer up some fresh fruit, so if you are hungry or simply want something with your drink–pair it with some healthy fruit.
  • Request that your drink be made with fat-free milk or low-fat instead of whole.
  • Order the smallest size available.(Saves money too!)
  • Forget all the fancy-smancy syrups and flavorings. They may seem innocent, but are loaded with as much sugar as most candies. If they do have sugar-free syrups, you can opt for those if you must.
  • Skip the whip! Really, that small dollop can add some damage..plus it pretty much dissolves before you get to it anyway.

So I hope you all learned something new, and even if you didn’t it can be used as a little refresher!!


“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”


Anthelme Brillat-SavarinThe Physiology of Taste, 1825, French gourmet & lawyer (1755 – 1826)


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10 Comments

  1. Very thorough tips! The cafeteria wasn’t as much of an issue for me. My biggest problem was late night pizza/breadsticks after going out! Oh, the horrors of college…

  2. I agree with Ali on the late night dining. We would always load up on Mozzarella Sticks and Fries. I think I was actually pretty spoiled in college. Boston University had awesome dining halls and often had visiting guest chefs. Mmmmm. Oh and Lobster night. I loved Lobster night

  3. I actually work for the company that does the food service at your Campus (I can tell by the branded concepts). Your tips are exactly what our registered dietitians recommend. Bear in mind that the managers and directors should also be willing to share nutritional information with you for almost all entrees and menu items!!

  4. Although these tips are pretty healthy, they sound like dieting ideas. As if college students needed more pressure to watch their food? I know many girls have no idea about nutrition and may seek guidance, but the majority average college girl already knows TOO much if you ask me. I do not know about anyone else, but I would be pretty upset if I watched my best friend throw away half of her pasta since it was not the size of a FIST. Us students need more fuel than that, and it’s a little ambiguous. If my friend started blotting bread sticks, I’d be worried. I am in recovery from anorexia, so maybe this is bias, but I would love to see a guest post about how we can take the focus off from dieting and watching our weight.

    Thanks.

  5. Great guest post! Thanks for the tips, I’m graduating from college in a couple weeks, but I certainly learned my way to eating healthy in the dining halls and on campus, with the use of many tips like yours!! Thanks!!

  6. this is a great guest post! i didnt have a lot to worry about with school food- i didnt live on campus when i went, but buffets are still everywhere.. and they are scary!!

  7. Rice is a complex carb? I never eat rice. It’s nothing but empty carbs! Brown rice is a complex carb though but I tend to stay away from that too.

  8. Yeah, as a college student, I have to disagree with some of these pointers and agree with Lee that they sound like generic diet tips. Cafes often have healthy and nutritious muffin, bread, and parfait options that are completely acceptable to eat on a regular basis. And you don’t go to a homestyle restaurant to eat steamed vegetables and plain fish. Everything in moderation – even grandpa’s good ol’ cheesy cream of potato.

  9. I have never had any type of disordered eating, so maybe I’m thinking about this a little differently, but I don’t think of things like “the size of a fist” as diet tips but simply a guideline for an average serving size, something to go off of. A lot of people tend to overeat and having a guideline can be really helpful, especially when pasta dishes in cafeterias can cover entire dinner plates and easily be 3 servings. Again, I don’t look at this as dieting at all, just being aware of portion sizes.

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