It’s mid-March of your second semester at UBC, you walk into the cafeteria at Vanier, Totem, or Orchard Commons and spend 10 minutes inspecting your lunch choices for the day, as if you're not going to head to the "Grilled Kitchen" (Orchard Commons) and order a grilled cheese sandwich anyway. Afterwards, you approach the cashier station and swipe your UBC card praying you still have money on your meal plan, and when you do (how is this even possible at this point?), you sit in one of the tables feeling that the only pair of jeans that fit you are starting to give up on you... guess from now on sweatpants are your only friends.

Scaring scenario, isn't it? But don't think for a minute that I made it all up. Unfortunately, that was me last year, and all I can gather from that experience is that it has made me a stronger person. However, I do feel compelled to share my lessons and my mistakes with everyone, especially with first-year students who still have no idea what they're in for here at UBC. So, without further ado, I present to you my 10 commandments for the cafeteria experience:

1. Know your options

onion rings, onion, french fries
Yael Apt

 Be aware of all the different sections in the cafeteria and what they have to offer before you head straight to "Cedar Grill" and order a burger with onion rings.  

2. Know what a good meal consists of

apple, pasture, juice, vegetable, peach
Yael Apt

 Nutritionists say that your plate should consist of ¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrates, and ½ fruits and veggies. Come again with that pizza? 

3. Look out for your quantities

"Everything in moderation" because portions matter regardless of what you eat. Also, if you eat from the salad & fruit bars, you are going to pay according to how much your food weighs.

Which inevitably brings us to...

4. Keep track of your meal plan balance 

 I can't stress this enough! My meal plan ran out in mid-February and I, to all my shame, had to ask my parents to add more money to it. 

To avoid this haunting experience, check your SSC regularly, figure out how much you spend on your meals, and calculate if you are going to make it to the end of the semester.

5. Don’t be repetitive

vegetable, pepper
Yael Apt

Eating from the vegetarian section for every meal might be great for your health and your wallet, but I promise you it will be old news by the end of first semester. Try some pasta, grilled chicken, custom sandwiches, a wrap, or even an omelette! 

6. There’s nothing wrong with dessert

ice, sundae, cream, chocolate, whipped cream
Yael Apt

 But hold up, how about we only make it once a day? And while we’re at it, how about if instead of having a cookie or a muffin, we switch it for an apple or a banana once in a while? Just looking out for you, fam. 

7. Take a look at what you're actually eating

Yael Apt

 Starting from this year, every food section in UBC cafeterias has a poster with the nutritional values of every food they have to offer. So how about you take a minute or two to read rock-solid evidence that your custom stir-fry is healthier than your personal pizza? 

8. Be aware of cafeteria closing times

This rule doesn't apply to Orchard Commons kids because their cafeteria closes at 10pm (IKR?). But for the rest of us, mere mortals, trying to make it to the cafeteria for dinner before it closes at 8:15pm on weekdays and 7:30pm on weekends, is a struggle. Try your best to make it to the cafeteria around 7pm when there are still enough options to choose from, so you won't have to resort to Triple O's, Pie R Squared, and so on. 

9. Cheat days are important

Yael Apt

 This is where all the no-gos should pop in your head. Enjoy brunch on the weekend, have pizza for lunch, and ice-cream for dessert, the world is your oyster! But hey, buyer beware, make sure it's only one day of the week. 

10. Finally... Drink water with every meal

jam, juice, marmalade, strawberry
Yael Apt

 Avoid sodas and juices high in sugars and calories, drink water instead; no calories, no sugars, no artificial flavors, and it's free! Tea is also a good option, and since you're a college student running on four hours of sleep every day, don't forget your coffee.

So there you have it folks. I bet you didn't know that eating could be this complicated, believe me, neither did I. But if you just remember these 10 tips to eating in UBC cafeterias, your first year will run way smoothly.