Navigating the university food system

by Danielle Del Vicario

We’re well into the school year and you’re getting used to university life: the campus, the lectures, and the people. You’ve even figured out that you don’t have to raise your hand to go pee. Sadly though, you’re may still completely confused by the food system. When are meal times? Where and what do you eat? The smorgasbord of cakes is calling, but a fear of the “freshman fifteen” pushes you to the salad bar.

Want to eat well while rocking your new food environment? Follow this six-step guide.

  1. Eat as you would at home. Plan to have three normal meals a day and use them to let your brain relax. As days get busier, meals become a great opportunity for socializing so make plans to have lunch and dinner with friends.
  2. Be polite and ask questions. Before you even think about ordering something to eat, greet your cafeteria staff with a smile and ask them about their day. It’s a nice thing to do and it will make them more receptive to questions and requests. Then feel free to inquire away. It’s completely acceptable to ask what goes into a certain dish or if you can get a burger without mayo—you don’t have to eat food that you don’t understand.
  3. Add—don’t take away. Instead of thinking in terms of what you can’t have, take advantage of the system by focusing on what you can have. It’s never been easier to get extra protein or vegetables, so search out the good stuff and pile your plate high. At breakfast, look for protein boosts like eggs, seed mixes and yogurt—more protein will keep you energized throughout the morning. At dinner, pair your meal with plenty of roasted vegetables or a good-sized salad.
Protein-Boosted Breakfast
Give your breakfast a protein boost
  1. Stock up on healthy snacks. We’re all guilty of some late night gorging when cramming for an exam. (Give me a big bag of Skittles and I’m a happy girl.) That said try to keep a stash of munchies which won’t bring you crashing down from a sugar high at 2 am. Stuck for ideas? Grab extra fruit at breakfast to eat between classes. Replace candy with a big bag of nuts and dried fruits—if mom and dad visit, make a Costco run to get the best deals. Lastly, buy a kettle. Trust me, it’s worth it. And if you’re drinking your favourite tea or coffee, you’re much less likely to turn to energy drinks.
  2. Indulge sometimes. It’s okay to eat waffles and whipped cream on Sunday or a piece of pie after your big exam. I promise it’s not going to kill you.
  3. Try new things! If you keep experimenting, you can ward off those cafeteria blues. When you reach your late teens, your taste buds undergo major changes. Try something that you used to hate or altogether foreign. You might just find a new favourite food.