Freshman year is all about taking everything in — the lessons you learn in class, the different social scenes, and (most importantly) the different food scenes. Throughout this year of learning, lots of food tips and tricks are collected.

In college, meals are entirely up to your own discretion. There's no mom calling you downstairs for dinner and no lunch period automatically built into your schedule. With all of the new freedom and busy schedules college brings, it can be hard to plan times for eating. This can lead to skipping meals or to binge eating later on, which are things you definitely want to avoid.

I learned so much about myself, how certain foods make my body feel, and how to make smart food choices my freshman year. Now, as a sophomore, it's time to put these things into practice, so I'm here to help you conquer your food foes. These are some of the major hacks I learned after my freshman year:

1. The Power of Oatmeal

banana, sweet, nut, almond
Rachel Resnick

Before college, my only impression of oatmeal was that it was a gross, gloopy mush I'd eaten on hiking trips way too early in the morning. So, frankly, I associated oatmeal with being an unhappy camper. Fast forward to freshman year: I got sick of everything in the dining hall, and I decided to give oatmeal another chance.

Adding banana, peanut butter, and cinnamon to what was once gloopy mush transformed this meal. Not only did it taste like what dreams are made of, but it also kept me full until lunch time, and I didn't experience the normal mid-morning slump I'd get from eating sugary cereal or heavy pancakes. Oatmeal has so many health benefits, and there are endless ways to upgrade your breakfast bowl.

2. On the Go Goodies

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Class schedules often conflict with standard meal times, so in order to keep you going throughout the day, it's important to pack snacks to eat between lectures. I know that in the beginning of the year, I got super hungry after my morning lecture, but didn't have time to get lunch before my next hour and a half lecture. After almost falling asleep in class due to a lack of energy, I started packing goodies in my backpack to whip out whenever I needed them.

Grabbing extra fruit from the dining halls, packing an energy bar, or bringing a Ziploc bag of cereal are all easy ways to ensure that you always have something on you. It's important to have snacks with you because you never know when your stomach might have an internal breakdown and require immediate nourishment. 

3. Smart Snacking

sweet, strawberry
Ashley Blume

2 am pizza orders, candy overload, and late night Ben and Jerry's dates are frequent occurrences during freshman year, and that is totally fine — as long as it's not every night of the week. I know that having every type of chip or type of cracker in my dorm room would be way too tempting for me. It's so easy to reach for the bag when you're bored and finish it off without a second thought. 

That's why, this year, I know what snacks to store in my room to keep me going, but what ones won't consume me. Trail mix, dried fruit, peanut butter, rice cakes, and if you're feeling crazy, almond milk and chia seeds (for chia seed pudding) are just some of the snacks everyone should keep in their room. These all make for filling, energizing snacks that won't lead to mindless eating.

4. Bulking Up Salads

vegetable, pepper, parsley, rice, corn, legume, salad, cereal
Katherine Baker

Similar to the oatmeal discovery, I also learned how to turn salads into hefty meals. We all know it's important to eat our greens, but a simple salad gets pretty old pretty quickly. That's why I used my dining hall's resources to transform my boring salads into parties on my plate. I strayed outside the traditional salad anatomy and figured the more ingredients, the better. If there was a wild rice or a quinoa dish at the dining hall, you better believe I threw that into my salad bowl. 

Going to the burger bar and asking for grilled chicken was also a major discovery. Cut that up, and you've got a chopped chicken salad. Grilled veggies were a frequent star in my dining hall, and they often made coveted guest appearances in my salads. Mixing it up, literally and figuratively, kept things interesting when meals in the dining hall can often get pretty monotonous.

5. Saving Freebies

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The amount of free food in college is amazing. Almost every club meeting comes with a free slice of pizza or a cookie. The freebies are often used to entice students, and oh boy does it work. Especially in the beginning of the year, it seems like everyone on campus is hounding you with samples or inviting you to events with the promise of free food being there. So, listen closely when I say, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THESE OPPORTUNITIES. When mini Cliff bars are being handed out, take five and store them in your room or in your backpack for when you need a pick me up (yep, already talked about this — it comes in handy people!) When you're out of dining dollars you will be so grateful for the food freebies, so be sure to take advantage of 'em and hoard 'em (if you can.)

You're welcome. Freshman year is a lot of trial and error, but hopefully you can use some of my errors to lessen yours. Be sure to use these food tips to help you get through the moments of hunger, boredom, and insufficient funds.