I’m that girl that everyone knows as being obsessed with the dining hall. I’ll be honest — freshman year I used to even pick the dining hall over nice off-campus locations for meals. How could I complain about the dining hall? It has so many options and makes eating healthy super easy. There's an abundance of steamed veggies and grilled chicken, sometimes even fish. If my meal plan allowed me to, I would probably go there at all hours of the day.

Known as a healthy eater, there have been countless times that a friend I was eating with revealed that they were trying to eat healthy, too. More often than not, when I looked at the food on their plate, I could see that they were on there right path, but not quite there. Some of the things on their plate would have been healthy, had they been homemade, but had so many hidden dining-hall additives that they were actually unhealthy.

Here are the foods — most of which you wouldn't expect — that you should avoid if you’re actually trying to be healthy


ice, strawberry, yogurt, cream
Maggie Harriman

The first morning I went to the dining hall for breakfast, I recreated my staple at home breakfast: some yogurt with fruit. But when I tasted the yogurt it tasted so sweet that I felt like I was eating a dessert rather than a healthy breakfast.

Then I saw the strawberry and vanilla yogurt get refilled from a low fat yogurt tub which had 200 calories and more than 30g of sugar per serving (holy crap). To put it in perspective, a serving of vanilla ice cream has 270 calories and 21g of sugar. My tip? Ditch the sugary yogurt all together, unless you're making a dessert-style parfait. 

Salad dressings

vegetable, soup
Katie Walsh

I actually had a friend freshman year who used to make her own salad dressing at the dining hall with oil, vinegar, and mustard. I didn't really see any harm in the regular dining hall dressings, as I figured they were close to what I had at home.

The problem? Prepackaged dressings actually have nasty ingredients in there for preservation, including sugar, xantham gum, and a massive amount of salt. To avoid those, I would usually just put the daily soup or salsa on my salad instead.


cereal, sweet, corn, wheat, cornflakes, rice, granola, milk, honey, wheat flake, muesli, oatmeal
Hailey Maher

This one should be a no brainer. Granola was praised as a health food, and then criticized for actually hiding an enormous amount of sugar. Recently, many new granola brands new granola brands have come out to redeem this breakfast favorite. You can find them basically everywhere, but probably not in your dining hall — the old-fashioned, sugary ones are much cheaper. 

If you look at the actual calorie count and sugar content of Aramark’s granola, it’s absurd. A quarter of a cup (which is a pretty tiny serving) has 110 calories and 9 grams of sugar. Chances are you’re eating 3 times that serving, and once you pair it with yogurt you’re at upwards of 50g of sugar for one small dish. If you really want that crunch in your parfait, I would opt for a whole grain cereal and some nuts instead.

Deli Meats

cheese, bacon, sandwich, bread, tomato, ham, meat
Sara Tane

Ever seen a circular pig? Probably not, so it doesn't make much since that your deli meat would be that shape. Processed deli meats are ground and later emulsified into shapes that are easy to work with. When picking out deli meats, always go for to whole cut and salt free to avoid unnecessary ingredients.

I can guarantee you that the meat you’re getting on your sandwich in the dining hall is not whole cut or salt free. Preservatives like sulfites are added to the meats, which has been known to cause issues for certain individuals. When you’re craving a deli-style sandwich at your dining hall, swap out traditional sliced meat for a fresh piece of meat from the grill. 

Tortilla Wraps

bread, cheese, sandwich, bun
Ella Storey

Ah, millennials. We've all chosen a wrap instead of a sandwich thinking it was healthier at least once. I’ve done it. Plot twist: it’s not (you saw that coming). 

A "healthy" spinach tortilla wrap has around 290 calories, while that piece of ciabatta has 280. Experts even say that tortilla wraps have other ingredients like hydrogenated oils and added salts that breads don’t have. So if you’re at the deli counter, you might as well get the bread, it has basically the same (if not better) nutritional value as that wrap.

Canned fruit

sweet, berry, vegetable
Jocelyn Hsu

My dining hall does this thing where it will make half the options of fruit available fresh and the other half canned. Canned fruit, to me, is almost inedible because it’s so sweet. It's bathed in syrup, and although it may have just as many vitamins and nutrients, you can count on the sugar content being more than 30g.

There also have been studies that show cans in general may cause health issues. Try to always go for the fresh cut fruit or just grab an apple or banana when you walk out instead of going for that syrupy option. 

So there you have it. It seems like whatever college kids eat these days, they can't seem to get it right. But such is not the case — steer clear of these foods in your dining hall and you'll definitely be heading in the right direction.