The Pros and Cons of Choosing a Meal Plan in College
Pro: Plan in Advance
Con: Lots to Lose
Pro: Great for Full-Timers
Pro: Your Financial Aid May Cover It
Con: It’s Complicated
Let’s be real – when it comes to eating all your meals in a dining hall cafeteria, you’re probably less than thrilled. Having the perks of someone making your food for you dies away when you grab your first plastic tray and head in line. Still, eating your first dining hall meal can’t be all bad, can it?
It’s here! It’s here! Your first day eating in a college dining hall! This is one of those moments you’ll probably remember forever. At least, you hope it will be. You may be the only one ready and eager to try out the delicious treats your campus’ chefs have cooked up, but don’t let that stop you from being giddy with excitement.
Wait, this is totally different from your high school cafeteria’s setup! What do you do with this tray? Do you weigh your food yourself? Would you look horrible if you took two boxes of cereal? How do you use this meal card?! Why must this be so complicated!?!?
That looks like real food, smells like real food—but is it really real food? Those upperclassmen are avoiding the pasta line. Best follow their lead and stay clear as well. Who knows what’s going on there.
Okay. Your first piece of food probably looks edible. But you know that looks can be deceiving. It’s time to face your fears. Dive in and see what it actually tastes like.
Bottoms up! Take that first taste with confidence. After all, you’re going to have to get used to it whether you like it or not!
WHAT IS THIS?! That bland cafeteria food turned out to be exactly what you suspected all along: inedible mush. It’s time to call your parents and blame them for letting you buy the most expensive meal plan offered. Hopefully they can still get their money back!
You should probably just stick to granola bars and ramen noodles for the next four years. Maybe your parents will even send you care packages if you ace your first exams. It may be hard on your diet, but it has to be better than that first taste of food…
But wait! What is that guy eating? It looks amazing and smells like something your mom would cook for you. Perhaps you should give this a second go. After all, you would hate to spend the next four years holdup in your dorm room chowing down on microwave popcorn. This could be a sign that you could survive your first year of eating in a college dining hall.
That other student totally has this figured out! That taco platter you made was totally worth the strange looks you probably got going for your second round of food. They may even be worth going back for a third time! If every meal has at least one great dish, you can totally make cafeteria food work. It’s all about finding what will satisfy your picky appetite.
Don’t just stop at one cafeteria or one food selection! There are others to try. Only a couple more hours until the dining hall opens up again so you can satisfy your new hunger. Better go wait in line before the food gets cold.
It’s still up in the air as to whether the freshman fifteen is actually a “thing”. I’ve decided it’s just a rash generalization, and although it does happen to some, it doesn’t happen to all (or even the majority). But how can you make sure that you’re not one of the victims of the freshman fifteen while being at the mercy of the dining hall cooks?
Keep healthy snacks in your dorm – It’s easier to resist those calorie-loaded snacks in the food court if you know that as long as you hold off for a little while longer, you can have a similar low-calorie option in your room later if the craving still persists.
Everything in proportion – Keep in mind that it’s okay to splurge on that soft serve ice cream machine every once in a while. Just remember that you don’t have to fill the bowl to the brim- maybe put it in a cup instead. This rule holds not only for dessert but the main course as well. Decide how full you will fill your plate and what portion of it should be carbs, veggies, protein, etc.
Make it quick – In order to keep your portions down, don’t turn dinner into social hour… or two or three. Lingering in the food court can cause you to go back for seconds even when you’re not necessarily hungry. Instead, leave when you finish eating and socialize elsewhere!
Fruits and veggies – Unless they’re dowsed in oil and butter, it’s pretty hard to mess up vegetables… and the same goes for fruit unless they’re coated in sugar. Keep your plate bright and colorful with fruit and veggies. If you’re worried about how they may have been prepared, keep them fresh and head to the salad bar.
Create a routine and/or plan ahead – Creating a routine is a great way to ensure that you are eating right. It also makes things easy – you won’t have to worry about your nutrition everyday if you are eating the same foods/ types of food. Sometimes the food court doesn’t offer the same items though. In this case, check the menu online (if it’s offered). This way you can go straight for the healthy option you picked out ahead of time and not get side tracked.
How have you combated the Freshman 15? Is it a source of concern for you? Let us know!