When the dining hall looks like it's serving mush, everyone's go-to is the salad bar. Unfortunately, even the same combinations of dressing/cheese/lettuce/toppings gets tiring, too. 

I love to use the fresh foods at the salad bar to make my meals taste better (or when the dining hall is having a bad day, edible) without just eating lettuce.

So here are some quick, re-invented salad bar meals from me to you.

1) Bagel with Veggie Cream Cheese

Being a Jersey Girl, I've grown up with bagel dough in my veins. So, the flat, mass-produced bagels and individual containers of plain cream cheese just don't cut it for me. 

I usually double or even triple-toast a bagel, lather on the plain cream cheese on one end of the bagel, and then head to the salad bar. From there, I'll put on chopped peppers, chopped onions, and shredded carrots on the cream cheese-d side of the bagel. You can put on any veggies your salad bar offers that hold a crunch necessary for veggie cream cheese.

Then, cover the remaining side of the bagel with more cream cheese and it's ready.

2) Asian Veggies

cauliflower, kale, cabbage, vegetable, broccoli
Emily Hu

I'll grab a bowl and put some broccoli, peas, baby corn—whatever is available that day that I like. Most salad bars have some sort of sesame, peanut, or other Asian-style dressing. Cover the veggies in a touch of olive oil and some of the Asian dressing (soy sauce works, too!) and you now have a delicious Asian veggie bowl...without the calories of a wok.

Tip: My dining hall has rice every day, so sometimes I'll add a scoop of brown rice to the bowl, too.

3) Pasta Salad

tagliatelle, penne, spaghetti, carbohydrate, macaroni, wheat, pasta
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

This is te only "salad" that's on the list, I promise. But this one doesn't even have lettuce. Most schools have a pasta bar, but the cheese and creamy sauces available to put on the pasta can actually be more calories than the pasta itself.

So I grab a portion of plain pasta and head over to the salad bar. From there, I'll add beans, broccoli, corn, peppers, tomatoes, onions, or whatever else looks fresh. Then, I'll add olive oil and red wine vinegar.

SpoonTip: If you want to ditch the pasta, add more beans and make it a bean salad.

4) Soups

Although this one isn't quite a recipe, I still had to share it with you all. I use the salad bar a lot to add extra texture in my soups. A lot of the dining hall soups are canned and mushy, with no fresh veggies or crunch. Depending on the type of soup, I'll add croutons, beans, or cheese.

Now, don't get me wrong. Salads aren't bad, but sometimes you just can't. eat. another. one. Try one of these tips to add some veggies into your meals while still having something that tastes great and different from what you ate yesterday. Although the cute dining hall chefs might be personally offended that you don't love their creations, they'll get over it.