Take Charge at the Cafeteria

There are ways to control what you eat when you're not in control of the kitchen.
Dining Hall

Despite the cultural cliche, gaining the Freshman 15 (or 20, or 30…) is not an actual prerequisite for a diploma. The overall strategy to maintaining or losing weight while away at school is a simple one: Stick to regular meals, stash healthy snacks and don't order late-night food while wearing beer goggles.

We went straight to members, via the Weight Watchers Community Message Boards, for the best advice. Their smart tips will help you ace any tricky food situation, whether you're at the school cafeteria or in the workplace.

Know before you go. "The school I went to had the nutrition info for all the dining hall foods and the daily menu posted on its website." —STUDER.74.

Learn the pattern.“Cafeteria menus repeat themselves. So I knew what was when, and what I liked and what to eat." —ELCGABRIEL

Be choosy. “Look around at all the food stations first, to see what's available before you decide what to eat." —CHIPPERLUVA10.

Think green. “Fill your plate with veggies or salad before you go for an entree." —CCBORMANN83

Go vegetarian. “Most dining halls have vegetarian options. It really helps to have a veggie burger instead of a ‘real’ burger, especially if you skip the special sauce, etc. One of my go-to lunches is a veggie burger on an English muffin with salsa." —FOOZY1

Be your own chef. “My favorite thing is to get plain chicken from the salad bar or hot entree, rice or a baked potato cut into pieces and lots of veggies from the salad bar. I cook the veggies in the microwave, add the chicken and rice, and then top with salsa, soy sauce or even steak sauce. And dry cereal is great to munch on while others eat dessert, as long as you're careful about serving size." —BLACKJACK912

Stock up on snacks.“I have the worst habit of snacking at night while I'm trying to study. So I always leave myself PointsPlus values for the evening and stock up on healthy snacks for my dorm, like fruits and veggies, baked chips, nuts, Weight Watchers string cheese and 94% fat-free popcorn." —CHIPPERLUVA10

Invest in a mini-fridge. “Buy a mini-fridge and a microwave and make your own sandwiches! I like tuna melts made with low-fat mayo and reduced-fat cheese singles. Llots of celery in the salad gives you crunch and gets those veggie servings in. After my first semester at college, I opted out of the meal plan and instead used that money for grocery shopping." —BECSUSS

Ask for what you want. “Don't be afraid to make requests. A lot of schools have initiatives to offer healthier foods, so talk to the staff. They may have suggestions on offerings that are designed to be healthier. Sure, it's more work to spearhead changes, but chances are that you're not the only person who would like to see healthier options. If enough people speak up, somebody is bound to listen." —ECSUSS

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