How to Eat Healthy in a College Cafeteria

This week I didn’t have a chance to go grocery shopping until today (Thursday), so I was running pretty low on food all week. I normally like to go grocery shopping before my week starts so that I have all of the food I need for the week. I love to cook and make my own healthy meals, but this week I went to my university’s cafeteria Monday through Wednesday night for dinner.

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Monday I had chicken, this huge salad, and an apple.

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Wednesday I had some kind of chicken with marinara sauce, baked vegetables, and a salad that isn’t pictured.

I did my best to eat as healthy as I could all of these nights, despite all of the greasy, unhealthy food that was available. This made me start thinking about all of the students at my schools and other colleges who eat at the cafeteria every day, but they choose the unhealthy options day after day.

college caf food

Let’s face it, most of the time college students aren’t getting enough sleep, they are drinking way more than anyone should, and on top of all of this, they aren’t giving their body the proper nutrition it needs. In college, unhealthy foods seem  to be the easiest option, and college kids always want the easiest, cheapest option. As a college student in my senior year of school, I am here to tell everyone that eating healthy in college is feasible, but you have to make a conscious effort to do so. In the last few years at college I have come up with some tips for eating healthy at college.

Healthy College Tips

1. Don’t go to the parts of the cafeteria that will tempt you. By this I mean, if pizza is your weakness, don’t even walk by the part of the cafeteria that serves pizza. Every day there is a pizza section, a hamburger/grilled cheese section, a sandwich section, an oriental section that has something different every day, a home favorites section that has something different every day as well, a salad bar, and a dessert section. I never go to the two parts of the cafeteria that have pizza and burgers because I know those are not healthy options. I also don’t walk by the dessert tables because I do not want to tempt me with something I don’t need.

2. The salad and fruit bar is your friend! I think every university has a big salad bar with all different types of vegetables you can add to your salad or as a side with a sandwich. Everybody needs vegetables so take advantage of the salad bar and you will feel better! If you are having a sugar craving, go for some fruit instead of the dessert table and you will feel much better afterwards! I have noticed after you start incorporating healthier foods in your diet, such as fruits and vegetables, you start to crave unhealthier foods less often. (But you still will crave them every once in a while, and that’s okay. I still need my ice cream and sugar cookies every once in a while 🙂 )

3. Eat with friends who also want to eat healthy. Eating with people who also want to eat healthy and maintain a good diet makes such a difference! I mean think about it, if you are eating with someone who gets a cheeseburger and fries, you are much more likely to get something like that too. It’s no fun to enjoy baked chicken and vegetables when you see the person next to you eating a plate full of pizza. But, in reality, it is not always possible to eat with people who have the same healthy eating goals as you, so instead tell your friends you are trying to eat more healthy and ask them to encourage you to go for healthier options. I know sometimes friends can be like, “oh you should just get pizza, you know you want it.” If you tell your friends you really want some accountability with your diet, they will most likely be willing to help you.

4. Pick and choose different options from different sections. Just because you want the vegetables from the home cooking section of the cafeteria doesn’t mean you have to get the chicken fried steak with gravy too. Instead, get the vegetables from one section, and then go to another station, such as the sandwich section, and get some lean meat as a protein. And then you can go to the salad bar for the rest of your meal. Don’t be embarrassed to be carrying multiple plates as you walk to your table to sit down and eat. There have been plenty of times where I have had four plates with different types of food on it. Sometimes I will go to the sandwich station to get meat, another station to get vegetables, the salad bar for a salad or fruit, and then I get a bowl of soup. Sure, people might look at me and make fun of me for having so many dishes. But I have learned that one station in the cafeteria hardly ever has all of the nutritious choices I need. But it is not unusual for several stations to have at least one healthy choice.

5. Drink Water!! So this goes for anyone anywhere, not just college students on campus. There are so many drink options, and most of them are filled with sugar and caffeine. Not only does this give you a sugar rush, but you are filling yourself up with empty calories that give you no nutrition. Most people don’t drink enough water as it is, so drink some water when you go to the cafeteria and reap numerous health benefits.

6. Don’t be embarrassed to eat healthy. This might sound stupid, but people can actually get made fun of for wanting to eat healthy. Especially if you are already thin, I have noticed that people will say, “You are already skinny, you don’t have to watch what you eat.” Well, it’s not just about staying thin, it’s about taking care of your body, being healthy, and feeling good! Greasy, fatty foods don’t do these things.  But lean meats, healthy carbs, fruits, and vegetables will make you feel better, be healthy, and most importantly these foods take care of your body how God intended.  If people give you a bad time for eating healthy, just shake it off and know that it’s worth the few jokes you might have to bare.

7. Remember, it’s not about trying to get a perfect body!!! Eating healthy isn’t about getting the “perfect body”. It’s about being healthy, feeling great, and taking care of the body God gave you. Besides, there is no “perfect body”, so there is no need to compare yourself to anyone else. In college there are a lot of people, and I feel it is just natural for people, especially girls, to compare themselves to others. This doesn’t do anyone any good; it just makes you feel worse. Remember that God made you just the way you are, and that makes you beautiful. Ryan just showed me this video below, and I absolutely love it! It is so true and proves how we are all too hard on ourselves. Please take three minutes of your time to watch this. It impacted me and I think it will impact you as well.


1. Do you have any healthy eating tips for a college cafeteria?

2. Did you eat healthy in college or try to?

3. Do you struggle with finding things you feel like you need to change in your physical appearance or make better instead of focusing on your good qualities?



  1. Loved this!! I just graduated last year, but I remember everything about those cafeterias! I bought a lot of my own food and cooked some meals at home, but some dinners I would go up. The dessert got me good. I hated that all the “bad” food was always right in front, so it was hard to avoid. You have excellent strategies to help, though!

  2. great tips!
    I know when i was at school eating healthy was SO HARD to do. We were a huge athletic school and most of the food provided was based off of that…lots and lots of carbs!

  3. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after
    I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Regardless, just wanted to say great blog!

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