Step One: Comment Cards

Change is not easy. Especially when you’re trying to change something that is completely out of your control. For me, approaching the food service department at my school has been a scary step that I know I must take if I ever want to be healthy at school.

And it all starts with a comment card.

I know this isn’t much, but it’s my way of approaching the problem mildly before I jump into the craziness I have planned. (I’ve been composing an email of complaints for a few weeks now. I won’t send it until it’s perfect; I need them to take it seriously.)

So here’s my comment card, front and back:

ImagePLEASE offer more healthy options! I don’t want to eat the disgusting fried food everyday and the salads are redundant. I would love to see a wider variety of… (con’t on back)

ImageVegetables and fruits. Especially SPINACH, strawberries, blueberries, etc in their natural form. Fruits (not the “fruit salad” full of nutrient-lacking melon) would be amazing for on salads.

ImageIt would also be great to have more vegetarian sandwich options. The “wheat bread” isn’t 100% whole wheat, so it is tasteless. And it would be fabulous to have spinach, avocado, bell peppers etc for on sandwiches. I will not eat the meats because they contain nitrates and sodium in excessive amounts.

ImageAlso, it would be great to have almond milk available as an alternate option to soy milk. Soy milk is full of hormones and it has more calories.

So I don’t know how seriously they will take me. I did provide my name and email address on the front so if they do reply, I’ll provide details. If not, I’ll write more comments until they do.

I tried to back up my requests with nutrient information, so hopefully that will give more incentive to make some changes. I know there are other vegetarians/vegans/gluten-free people at my school who would like to see some more options for those of us who choose to eat healthy. (I’ve seen their comment cards.)

How to Eat Clean in a College: Surviving the Cafeteria

ImageEating in a college cafeteria can be intimidating, especially if you wish to eat organic or if you are a vegetarian, a vegan, gluten-free, lactose intolerant, or have any other food allergy. In reality, the majority of the food is geared towards the typical meat-eating, starch-loving young adults of today’s American culture.

However, you’re not going to starve. You can and will find things that are both healthy and delicious without eating something you’re morally against or allergic to. It will just take a little planning.

Surviving the Cafeteria:
As I enter the cafeteria, what do I see? French fries, hamburgers, mystery meat, caviar. (Yeah, my school is crazy.) The salad bar is full of wilted lettuce and floppy cucumber slices. The sandwich line is full of full-fat mayo and lunch meat. What will I eat?!

1. The Sandwich Line is Your Friend.

Nothing else to eat? Make yourself a sandwich! Whole grain bread will provide you with complex carbs and fiber to keep you full longer. If you’re looking for some protein in your meal add some chicken or turkey to your sandwich. Don’t forget to include your vegetables! Dark leafy greens and tomatoes are my personal favorites. Some other great veggies for on sandwiches include peppers, mushrooms or avocado (if your cafeteria has them).

Don’t forget to add some fresh or steamed vegetables and fresh fruit to your meal!

2. DIY Veggie Pasta

A great way to get a delicious meal out of your cafeteria is to get a little crafty, and combine dishes to create your own unique meal. Take whole wheat pasta from one part of the cafeteria, add steamed vegetables to the mix then put your favorite, healthy sauce on top. My favorite combos include roasted zucchini and tomato sauce or steamed broccoli and olive oil. (You may be able to find olive oil by the salad bar!) Add chicken, ham, or turkey if you’re interested in incorporating some protein into your meal.

3. Grilled Instead of Fried

Fried chicken not your style? Ask the cafeteria employees if they’ll make you a grilled version instead. They can usually meet these requests; you just have to be willing to ask!

4. Spice Up Your Salad

Tired of the typical lettuce/cucumber/carrot/dressing combination? I am too! Look for dark leafy greens instead of the iceberg lettuce to get the most nutrition out of your salad. Add your favorite toppings from the salad bar, but don’t be afraid to mix in some ingredients from other parts of the cafeteria! Add some grilled chicken for protein or look for mushrooms or peppers from other sections of the cafeteria. Look for fruits like fresh grapes or cubed pineapple to add a sweet side to your salad. And avoid the creamy dressings! The vinaigrettes are just as delicious but healthier.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!

Don’t see something you want? Speak up! Fill out a comment card; get other students to fill them out as well. Send an email to the food service department. Make sure your email is well worded and you effectively ask for what you want and explain why it will be beneficial to have it in the cafeteria. Do your research, don’t just sit there paying for food you don’t enjoy. The worst they can do is turn you down. The best situation is you end up with a cafeteria full of food you can actually enjoy that is good for you as well!