Without recognizing it, Clemson’s dining halls are a mecca of bad decisions when trying to be healthy in college. After spending 30 minutes wandering around the dining hall, it’s easiest to flock towards the beloved chocolate chip cookies and pizza. But if you have the right mind set and several healthy go-to meals, those bad habits can turn into some of the best decisions of your life.
1. Develop a Game Plan
Nobody goes into war without a plan of action, and that’s exactly what the dining hall is; a war. You have to battle with your urges and the temptations that pop up around every corner. However, if you go in knowing what you are going to eat, you can just bee-line towards it before anything else drags you down. In the Clemson dining halls there are always some safe go-to’s available: an omelet, salad (don’t roll your eyes, it can be good if you put in the effort), hummus and pita, smoothies at Harcombe, the list goes on. Just think about what you enjoy and what you know will be available and go in for that specific meal.
2. The Double Swipe
Another important rule in avoiding bad decisions (in the dining hall, at least) is to squad up; safety in numbers, or something like that. Eating healthy can be hard to stick with but if you have someone supporting and helping you, it’s a lot easier. This is where the infamous “double swipe” comes in. Some of our smarter friends don’t have meal plans so it’s hard to convince them to join you for a meal, specifically if you’re out of guest passes. Asking the dining hall workers to ‘swipe twice’ for your friend is a crucial hack to get them in the dining hall with you for free. Now that you got them in, its their job to keep you on track. Pro tip: this works better at Schilleter.
3. Be Kind to the Workers
Sooo your friend didn’t make it past security and you’re on your own (sorry, that one isn’t always guaranteed)… Next step, make friends with the workers! The people at Clemson are known for their sweet personalities and southern hospitality. This has helped me make good decisions many times in the dining hall. When I wanted a healthy mixie freshman year? Sue let me and my roommate take 3 to-go orange juices each. When I want the perfect amount of the ~good~ turkey on my panini? The new deli guy at Schilleter hooked me up. Side note – he’s the bomb. Seriously. The workers in every dining hall are so kind and devoted to making our experience the best that they can. I once had a conversation with somebody at the Clemson House dining hall about how they used to be a main chef in a restaurant, who would have thought? They know what they’re doing and would love to help you get healthy and creative with your meals.
4. Substitute For Your Sweet Tooth
Harcombe cookies are 84% of Clemson students’ vice and that’s definitely a proven statistic. Before making it to that tray of warm melted cookies, stop at the yogurt. I know that’s not what you want to hear but bear with me… Getting the yogurt is a great source of dairy, and then you can add some mix ins to make it delicious! Get some granola for a small serving of grains, drop raisins and banana in for fruit, peanut butter for protein, and then chocolate chips because congrats on skipping that cookie. Now you have a nutrient-packed sweet dessert!
5. Fork…Taco Night, Again?
Appropriate that this is number 5 because it’s taco night in Schilleter 5 nights out of 7. The hack for this bad decision waiting to happen is salad. Not your typical iceberg lettuce and Italian dressing salad, but taco salad. It’s a simple fix to satisfy your craving but also keeps you healthy with a balanced meal. Grab a bowl and some leafy greens and bring it over to the taco station to fill up! Avoiding the processed tortillas and taco shells is easy because you can still get everything else. I recommend the chicken over the beef but whatever suits you better. Then go ahead and add your toppings, just be careful and limit your guacamole and cheese intake.
6. The Meat Scares You
I’m sure I don’t need to paint the picture for you here, it’s pretty plain and simple; sometimes the meat is downright questionable. My solution for this is pretty easy (specifically in Harcombe). When the meat of the day scares you, just go grab one of the grilled chicken patties by the hamburger station. Grilled chicken is a lean meat and honestly Harcombe’s is pretty tasty. If it tastes too bland you can always make up a little tomato-corn salsa and put it on top. It adds a great (and healthy) natural flavoring. This is a really useful hack because instead of skipping your protein when the meatloaf is just a solid “no”, you will have a backup to eat instead.
7. Eat Before Class, Not After
If nothing else sticks with you, please remember this: eating before class is crucial because it limits you when you lack any self-restraint of your own. I have had days in the dining hall where I get seconds, thirds, and fourths… and then dessert. Boredom and procrastination is your worst enemy when you’re eating because it can lead to unnecessary snacking and overeating. The hormones that tell your body that you are full don’t kick in until 30 minutes after your meal, which is why we continue to eat or feel hungry even after we’ve had enough. It is so easy to wake up earlier or budget time in your day to go eat before your classes, rather than after, so that you can make sure you don’t over consume!