Making Healthy Choices in the Residence Cafeteria

male student on campus

Living in residence and having a meal plan can mean you have a lot of food options – and not all of them healthy. Consider this an opportunity to try new foods that you are not used to eating at home. Follow these guidelines to make the most of your choices.

Focus on vegetables and fruit in the residence cafeteria

This is the food group to focus on. Fill your plate and snack often on vegetables and fruit. Be sure to choose some that are dark green and orange everyday. Foods these colours are the most vitamin and antioxidant rich. Some things to try:

  • Dark green leaves like spinach or Romaine lettuce on your salad instead of iceberg lettuce
  • Baby carrots, dried apricots or orange segments as a study snack
  • Mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash soup for dinner

Go for healthy grain products in the cafeteria

Make at least half your grain products each day whole grain. This means that the three nutrient and fibre rich layers of the grain have been left intact. Whole grain is different than whole wheat so make sure to grab the healthier choice of whole grain! To find whole grain products, look for the words, “100% whole grain” on the package. Some things to try:

  • Whole grain cold cereals or breads for breakfast, or a hot bowl of oatmeal
  • Brown rice instead of white when having a stir-fry
  • New foods like quinoa in a salad at lunch. 

Which milk and alternatives to choose in the cafeteria

Select lower fat milk and milk alternatives. These foods contain nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, which are important when your bones are still growing during your late teens and twenties. Some things to try:

  • Lower fat yogurt mixed with fruit and whole grain cereal for breakfast
  • A skinny latte for your afternoon pick-me-up
  • A chocolate milk, custard or soy beverage for dessert

Make the most of meat and alternatives when in residence

Even if you’re not a vegetarian, try eating beans, lentils and tofu more often. These are all excellent and inexpensive sources of protein.

To get your heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, challenge yourself to eat at least two servings of fish, such as salmon or canned tuna, every week. Nuts and seeds are also good choices. Avoid deep fried foods and high sodium deli meats. Some things to try:

  • One vegetarian dinner every week. Try a tofu stir-fry with Asian greens, a bowl of vegetarian chili or a bean salad.
  • For lunch have a canned salmon sandwich.
  • Bag a handful (about a ¼ cup) of unsalted almonds for a pre-lecture snack.

There are lots of places to eat, on and off-campus. Here’s some more information:

Fun and interactive online tools:

EATracker – Get an assessment of your daily food and activity choices

Food Portions Toolkit

Health Canada: Check out the new interactive Canada’s Food Guide to help you figure out how many servings of each food group you need and what is a “real” serving size. 

Last Update – January 3, 2019

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