It's easy to develop unhealthy lifestyle behaviors when we're off at school. Friends, high work loads, and wacky schedules can increase stress and inconsistency in anybody's life which means your body needs lots of help powering through.

As I work on my degree to become a dietitian (here's why I don't call myself a dietitian yet), my goal is to get the most balanced meal I can from the dining hall—some days prove to be more of a challenge than others. 

My friends do this thing when they eat out with me: they either ask me what I would order or they seem to worry that I will judge them based on what they choose to eat. If there's one thing you should know about your aspiring nutrition and dietetics friends, it's that we do not food shame.

In fact, we love food. We sit in lecture all day talking about food and then stampede to the food court right after. By following different practices and mantras, we are able to emphasize our nutrition-oriented philosophies into every tray we slide along the cafeteria line, and have a grand ole time doing it.

Take a peek at what myself and my fellow dietetic students hit up in the dining hall to fuel up for that demanding college life.

The Plate

egg, bacon, avocado, fried egg, toast
Helena Lin

Try to choose a smaller plate. If you grab a bigger plate, you will instinctively fill it up with more food. Also, be aware of the portions you're taking, even if they're being doled out by someone else. You can ask for a lesser scoop and come back for seconds if you're still hungry.

The bottom line is we, as dietetics students, usually aim to fill at least half of our plate with fruits and veggies—and color is key. Make it pleasing to your eyes and your body will thank you.


sandwich, lettuce, cheese, tomato, bacon, bread, bun, meat, beef
Nicole Lacasse

Sometimes sandwiches get a bad rep, and frankly, that makes me sad. People see bread and their brain immediately tells them, "Carbs! Back away slowly."

In reality, we absolutely need carbs in our daily diet and a sandwich proves to be a prime option with a balance ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Make sure that the bread is whole-grain, try to stick to leaner meats like turkey, and top on lots of veggies to bring on the color, flavor, and satiation. 


sandwich, cheese, bun
Caroline Liu

I'm not going to pretend that since I am studying nutrition I miraculously don't have any craving for French fries, burgers, pizza, chicken tenders... wow, my mouth is now salivating.

When I walk into a dining hall, I try to ignore the tempting smells and hope to God I don't make eye contact with a slice of steaming cheese pizza, but sometimes it's just impossible to resist—I'm only human.

So when this happens, I practice a very key rule: everything in moderation. I only take one slice of pizza or a couple of tenders and make sure to fill the rest of my plate up with vegetables or salad. Sometimes you just have to feed the beast.


pasta, penne, macaroni, basil, vegetable, sauce, spaghetti, tomato
Lily Allen

Similar to our beloved sandwiches, pasta can sometimes be classified as "unhealthy." By portioning out 1 to 1 1/2 cups of whole grain noodles and limiting the amount of sauce you put on, you're not splurging as much as you think. Go the extra mile and stop by the salad bar to pile on extra vegetables to accompany the pasta.

#SpoonTip: Grab some cherry or sliced tomatoes, poke holes in them, and microwave for 15-20 seconds. Use a fork to mash them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and voila, you have your own pasta sauce.

Salad Bar

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

So because we love nutrition, we only eat salads and ice cubes, right? Wrong. That being said, the salad bar is typically a consistent side or entree option at every meal, but it's also easy to trip up here. Starting with the leaves: stick with a spring mix or spinach (notice how I didn't say kale?) and stay away from iceberg lettuce—it has a really low nutrition content. 

Sprinkle on vegetables, fruit, legumes—whatever floats your boat. Croutons, nuts, dried fruit, and creamy salad dressings add on extra calories so be mindful when you're building your creation—maybe only choose a sprinkle of two of them. Stick with a more flavorful cheese that only takes a few sprinkles to get the job done, like feta. 


avocado, salad
Chelsea Barbee

Don't skip this—it's important. High fiber cereals, veggie omelets, or even waffles with fruit are all great options. Check out some high-protein breakfast ideas here.

Whatever you do, just don't miss a meal. It's essential if you want to have a high performance day in the classroom, gym, library, or at work. As always, look for those whole-grain options and build up that colorful plate.


chocolate, sweet, cream, cookie, cake
Sarah Joh

Using cereal as a way to satisfy your sweet tooth can leave you feeling fuller longer and give your body more nutrients than other sweets would have.

At the same time, sometimes the best thing to do is to just give in to a craving. This can prevent any unwanted binge-eating at a later date. So sure, grab that red velvet something or other.


lemon, water, lemonade
Caroline Liu

Since most of us understand that soda can be just as damaging as cigarettes, avoid it at all costs. Try to look at it as a luxury instead.

Simple things like adding chocolate soy milk to coffee from the dining hall is a heck of a lot cheaper than Starbucks and definitely has less sugar than a flavored latte.

Word on the street is that you could even amp up your water game and add lemon, and scratch the coffee altogether—to each their own.