Most people complain about how lousy the food is at their college cafeteria (at least I did at Merrimack College). That means you’re going to have to make the most out of it. From my perspective, if you’re going to eat mediocre food, you might as well eat the more nutritious mediocre food and at least get some benefit from it. You don’t want to get sick of eating the same food every day, but here are some suggestions that can make your café meals build up your muscles and trim your waistline instead of just simply filling you up.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so you want to make the best of it. There are plenty of options available that will give you the energy and nutrients to begin your day right. Eggs in any form are excellent sources of protein, vitamins, and healthy fat so don’t pass them over. Omelettes are excellent especially if you fill them with vegetables as well. If you are really trying to stay lean or keep cholesterol down then go for egg white omelettes but then you will be missing out on the healthy fat and vitamins from the egg yoke portion. If you are going to have toast with your eggs then opt for the more nutrient dense wheat toast. There aren’t many healthy cereals offered at the café except for raisin bran or granola so these are your best choices. Like wheat toast, these two cereals provide a higher ratio of complex carbohydrates that will provide a more consistent and longer lasting source of energy throughout the day. Any cereal can become healthier though by adding slices of fruit or some skim milk to it. You can never go wrong with a piece of fruit in the morning either. Waffles aren’t a bad choice as long as you aren’t heaping too many unhealthy toppings onto them. Avoid or eat in moderation any of the sausage or bacon because of the massive amounts of saturated fats that they contain.
The café has more to offer than the same old burgers, fries, and pizza for lunch and dinner. The sandwich line will give you the materials you need to make a good wrap, healthy turkey breast sandwich, or a high protein tuna melt. Pile on the leans meats, add cheese and veggies, and again try not to eat it on white bread. Don’t slather anything with mayonnaise, you’re better off using spicy mustard and shave off a couple hundred calories. Making a salad is always a safe bet as well as long as you don’t drench it with high calorie dressings. When you are in the main food line try to stock up on vegetables, rice, pasta, potatoes, and meat that isn’t deep fried. The new Stir Fry line is very promising with plenty of veggies, rice, noodles, and meats that aren’t enveloped in a crispy coating of grease. There’s also nothing wrong with a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread for a mix of simple and complex carbs and heart healthy fat and fiber from the peanut butter. Again, grabbing an apple or a banana is always a good addition to a meal for extra fiber and nutrients. If you are going to get any dessert, it might as well be ice cream because at least this way you will get some protein, calcium, and Vitamin D from the milk used in it. Just keep the toppings light and it isn’t that bad of a way to end your meal.
There are plenty of drink choices at the café to choose from and picking the right ones can go a long way towards a trim body. Stick to the diet sodas over their regular versions to save hundreds of calories and avoid a sugar high that will cause you to crash an hour later. Fruit juices are a little better than regular sodas but they still contain plenty of simple sugars and very little if any actual fruit. Stick to the skim milk if you can, especially if you drink a lot of it. Chocolate milk works pretty well as a poor man’s protein shake after a workout but other than that you mostly want to avoid the large amounts of fat and sugar it contains. Hot chocolate is pretty much chocolate milk without the protein so I wouldn’t recommend drinking much of that either. Coffee is relatively healthy when taken black or sweetened with Splenda and skim milk, as long as you don’t drink it too often. Tea (Green Tea especially) is an even healthier option with powerful antioxidants that can help you from getting sick during this cold and stressful time of the year.