If there is one thing that almost every college student knows, it's that meal hall food sucks. The initial excitement of being able to grab any number of greasy junk food favourites for all meals of the day soon wears off as your jeans start to fit noticeably tighter than they did when you first arrived at university.
You start dreading going to meal hall, and then spend your time there trying not to think about that box of Lucky Charms in your room calling your name.As a first year student living in residence, I know the feeling. However, with the help of some friends, I've been able to come up with a list of ways to make it through the meal hall woes alive.
1. Kitchen Sink Cobb Salad
This meal hall salad is one of the easiest to make because you can put literally anything you want in it. Start with a bed of iceberg lettuce, then add as many vegetables as your heart desires.
I usually go with tomatoes, cucumbers, and mushrooms. Next, make your own personal judgement on how edible the chicken is looking on that particular day. If it's up to snuff, pile it on. If not, you're better off sticking with eggs as your protein. Finally, pile on the dressing, nuts, and seeds. Enjoy!
2. Spinach Salad Variation
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." While I have a feeling that salad bar hacks are not quite what Teddy was expecting his wisdom to be applied to, it is important nonetheless for our list.
In absence of strawberries, candied pecans, and goat cheese, we are going to use the meal hall's dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, and sunflower seeds. Pair these items with a bed of spinach, some mushrooms, drizzle some poppyseed dressing, and you're good to go.
3. Greek Salad
This meal hall hack is the simplest of all. Load up on tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives, purple onions, and feta but ditch the greek salad dressing.
The secret to this salad is using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a little bit of lemon juice instead. It gives your salad that tangy, refreshing taste that make greek salads so good. If you don't see these alternative dressings in your meal hall, just ask one of the staff members; I'm sure they're hidden somewhere.
4. Tuna Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Even if you're not feeling green, the salad bar is your friend. To make this home comfort, your first step is to grab a bowl and fill it with 2-3 scoops of tuna. Next, take your bowl over to the grill station and ask the cook if they can add the tuna to your grilled cheese. The key to this is to ask for two slices of cheese and to ask nicely. Kindness can do wonders.
5. Tofu Friendship
If you're in the Howe meal hall and are not a fan of the meat options on a particular day—or aren't 100% sure if it's even meat—your best bet is to befriend Tom the pasta guy. Not only will he chat to you about your day and listen to you complain about early morning classes, but if you play your cards right Tom will fry your tofu for you in between pasta dishes.
While this may seem insignificant, it takes your tofu from a sad white square to something you will actually enjoy eating.
6. Sandwiches and Wraps
Last but not least, the most overlooked item at the meal hall salad bar is the wrap and sandwich ingredients located beside the dressings. These items are life-savers when every single food item in the cafeteria makes your stomach cry and all you want is something mildly healthy and edible. The salad bar contains everything you need to make a good wrap/sandwich and salad dressings that are surprisingly good in between bread.
#SpoonTip: Make two sandwiches— one for your meal and one to-go. As long as you don't put your to-go sandwich in a container before you leave the meal hall, you should have no problem taking it back to your dorm for a mid-class snack.
Although there will still be days when the meal hall will make us want to do rage yoga, this list will make sure we're never without options. When things are looking bad, just pull this article up and decide what hack you're going to be using that day. Then enjoy!