plate of salad

Tips & Tricks for Eating Healthy on a Meal Plan

With access to all-you-care-to-eat dining halls, endless ice cream and cheap ramen, it's no surprise that so many students gain weight when they go to college.

A steady diet of pizza and cheeseburgers can lead to more than just a few extra pounds. Poor eating is also associated with lower grades, according to a University of Kentucky study. Poor eating may also increase susceptibility to illness and fatigue. Other side effects include a higher risk of depression, anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, menstrual problems, and sleep disturbances.

The good news is that Dining Services is here to help students master dining hall eating at St. Thomas.

Top 10 tips and tricks for healthy eating in The View:

  1. Plan ahead. Check the menu before you go. This should prevent you from giving in to hunger and eating the first thing you see. If you don't have time to read the menu ahead of time, scope out all the stations before deciding what to eat.
  2. Consider the food groups and aim for a balanced meal. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, aiming for as much color as you can find. Make it a point to put a protein source and something fresh on your plate at every meal. Whole grains are also good additions to your meals.
  3. Experiment. We strive to offer interesting food choices, including foods from a variety of cultures. Take advantage of the opportunity to try something a little different than your normal fare. This might include an occasional meatless meal, even if you aren't a vegetarian or vegan.
  4. Expand your definition of salad. Salad doesn't have to be a side dish. Consider building a salad as your main entree, but remember that if you're running on just lettuce, you're going to be hungry. Make sure to include a protein like fish, grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs or a plant-based protein like beans or tofu. From there, add veggies and fruits for color and flavor, then top with nuts or seeds for extra protein and texture.
  5. Redefine dessert. Dessert doesn't always have to mean ice cream with candy sprinkled on top. With its natural sugars, fruit boosts your energy and satisfies a sweet tooth. Consider greek yogurt with fruit for dessert every now and then.
  6. What you drink is just as important. Stick with water, coffee, tea, or a glass of milk, and limit your intake of sugary beverages. Carry a water bottle in your backpack for refills between classes. Staying hydrated leads to better skin, more energy, and better overall health.
  7. Be prepared with snacks. College students eat a lot and get hungry at a moment's notice. With that in mind, you'll want to make sure your snacks are nutritious. Generally, we ask students to eat all their food in The View, however you are allowed to bring a piece of fruit with you. So, grab an apple or banana and keep it in your backpack for a snack later. Stock up on healthy snacks like seeds, nuts, granola bars and multigrain crackers by using Dining Dollars at Summit Marketplace. If you have something healthy that's easily accessible, you'll be less tempted to impulsively buy a candy bar.
  8. Get to know Dining Services employees. Strike up a conversation with the person who is making your food, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions. If you have specific requests, voice them! We want to hear your feedback and will do our best to accommodate any special dietary needs you may have.
  9. What about seconds? Before you convince yourself that you need another round of food, wait 10 or 15 minutes and drink a glass of water. If you're on the Unlimited Dining Plan — head out when you've eaten a sensible portion, knowing that you can come back for more food if you're still hungry later. Sticking to healthy portions is one of the most important goals you can set for yourself. If you’re leaving a meal feeling stuffed, it might be time to scale back on the portion size.
  10. Enjoy the moment. Meals on campus with friends may be some of your fondest, most nostalgic memories of your time at St. Thomas. Eating in college shouldn’t be stressful. Go with a friend or a group and take a break from studying. Don’t obsess over about how many calories your meal has and whether taking that piece of bacon will ruin your diet. In 10 years, you won’t remember exactly what you ate, but you will remember the memories made with Tommie friends.

If you have specific questions about nutrition or healthy eating, we have a registered dietician on staff in Dining Services. Feel free to reach out — we're here to help!