Choosing a meal in the dining hall can be a daunting experience. Between the tendency for crowds and lines and the fact that you’re frequently rushed at meals (from homework, to getting to class on time, to extra-curricular groups, some days it’s hard to even remember to eat) finding a meal that’s balanced and healthy amongst the abundance of pizza and chocolate chip cookies can be a chore. The American Food and Drug Administration recommends adults take in approximately 2,000 calories per day, give or take depending on their level of physical activity and other individual aspects of their health. Below is a meal suggestion for each meal of the day (with an approximation of the number of calories), averaging out to a day’s worth of 2,000 calories.
For breakfast consider eating a bowl of plain oatmeal (150 calories) with some blueberries tossed in as a way to naturally add flavor and sweeten an otherwise bland food (20 calories in a 1/4 cup). Oatmeal is high in fiber and will keep you full throughout the day, and blueberries are high in vitamins and antioxidants. Add a cup of fat free/ lowfat yogurt (depends on brand and type of yogurt, but calorie count ranges between 70 and 170, typically) as a source of protein and calcium. Grab a banana on your way out for a dose of potassium, fiber, and vitamins B and C, (90 Calories), and of course, a cup of coffee (5 calories when black).
Calorie total: 335 – 435 Calories
Lunch is one of the trickier meals to eat healthfully due to the time stress that usually accompanies it. To avoid slipping into an unhealthy routine, try to grab foods that you can munch while on your way to class in case you run out of time. A good choice is a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, and mustard (about 262 calories,) an apple, (95 calories), a rice crispy square for dessert (about 150 calories) and some water (0 calories).
Calorie total: 507 Calories
Pizza is not an unhealthy food if eaten in moderation and with consideration to toppings. A slice of veggie pizza is actually a reasonably healthy (and very tasty!) snack, providing fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants (depending on vegetables used), as well as a source of protein and calcium through the cheese. The average slice of vegetable pizza has about 220 calories. For a healthy boost, look for pizza with whole wheat crust. Accompany your snack with a glass of water (0 calories).
Calorie total: 220 Calories
For dinner you could choose a bowl of pasta with chicken and broccoli for an entree (550 Calories), a small side salad with oil and vinegar dressing (120 Calories), and a glass of skim milk or soy milk (80 Calories or 100 Calories, respectively).
Calorie Total: 750-770 Calories
The total calorie consumption for the day’s worth of meals above is 1,812 – 1,932 calories, placing it within the FDA’s recommended daily caloric intake. Important things to remember when dining at the dining hall are to make sure you are eating fruits and vegetables, as well as including protein sources in your meals. Also make sure to drink plenty of water every day, as staying hydrated is key to staying healthy at school. Even if it is not posted with the meal, most schools have information regarding ingredients and content of the food they serve, so if you have any questions, be sure to ask your dining hall’s staff.