It's hard to eat healthy sometimes, especially when you're a college student balancing classes, work, extracurriculars, AND  sleep. But the food you choose to eat does contribute to how you feel throughout the day, affecting your study habits as well as your energy level.

While you could fill your dorm with nutritious snacks, there are plenty of healthy options to choose from at our dining halls, if you know where to look. Some of these suggestions might seem obvious, but they're easy to forget as you navigate the Rams Head and Top of Lenoir looking for anything that might taste like mom's cooking.

Jinna Hatfield

1.) Pile on the vegetables

Whether it's fresh spinach and beets from the salad bar or steamed carrots and cauliflower from the Veg Out station, try to fill your plate with veggies that you like. If you're not a big veggie fan, try incorporating vegetables in your favorite foods, like getting veggie pizza or mixing some broccoli in your mac and cheese!

#SpoonTip: Try the roasted butternut squash, it's AMAZING.

2.) Eat enough protein

Laura Palladino

It doesn't matter if you're a meat-lover or vegetarian, everyone needs their protein. The hot food stations offer a variety of different meat and fish options throughout the week. If you're a vegan or vegetarian, the Veg Out station offers vegan entrées every day (like grilled jerk tempeh or lentil meatloaf). You can also hit up the salad bar for plant-based proteins such as tofu, hummus, and kidney beans.

#SpoonTip: Try to choose "green" meats, like grass-fed beef burgers from the The Grill station or sustainably-raised Cajun Spiced Catfish.

3.) Choose whole grains

Christin Urso

There are plenty of whole grains to choose from, including gluten-free options. In the morning, try oatmeal with toppings like berries and cinnamon to give you energy to start the day. If you're ordering a sandwich, opt for whole wheat bread to get some extra nutrients in.

For lunch and dinner, there's always quinoa at the salad bar and whole wheat penne at the pasta station. On certain days of the week, there's brown rice or a whole grain blend at some of the food stations.

4.) Stay away from soft drinks

Christin Urso

As wonderful as that first sip of Coke tastes, getting accustomed to having a soda every day with lunch can become an unhealthy habit. Water or milk (which also happens to be local!) is a much better choice. 

5.) Don't overdo the dessert

A chocolate chip cookie once in a while doesn't hurt, but grabbing a brownie at the end of every meal at Lenoir isn't a good idea if you're trying to stay healthy. Instead of baked goods, take an apple or banana before exiting the dining hall for your next class.

6.) Don't forget to treat yo' self

Nobody can eat perfectly healthy all of the time, so be sure to give yourself a break once in a while! Have an extra slice of cheese pizza, a scoop of alfredo, or a cupcake. Everyone has their favorite comfort foods, and there's nothing wrong with giving in to our cravings sometimes.