Now that NSO is just a figment of our memories, it’s time for us to pay a little more attention to nutrition. As Penn students, we may be notorious for locking ourselves in Van Pelt to study for upcoming exams, filling our calendars with extracurricular meetings, and catching up with friends late into the night — but have no fear of the “Freshman Fifteen.” Yes, it doesn’t help that Penn’s tastier dining hall food options often lack nutrition, but we’ve set out to help you make the most out of eating in dining halls. Here are four tips that will keep you eating well, despite Commons’s sub-par provisions.
1) Portions, Portions, Portions!
One swipe at Hill or Commons can satisfy both the petite student and the hungry student athlete; we caution you to exercise self-control. The food pyramid tells us to eat 6-11 servings of anything made out of grains (such as bread, rice, pasta, and cereal), 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruits, 2-3 servings of dairy, and 2-3 servings of meat, eggs, or fish daily. Be sure to be aware of what counts as one serving and stay on track of how many servings you have consumed by getting your food all at once and not going back for seconds or thirds.
Steer clear of eating burgers (and picking up fries on the side, which is oh-so-easy to do since they’re in the same line) by making yourself a healthy sandwich. Hill has an amazing sandwich bar that’s always open during dining hours. The best part of being able to make your own sandwich or panini is that you choose what goes into your sandwich. Make sure to pick whole grain bread, and be cautious of adding too many condiments. Since we are advised to eat only 2-3 servings of meats and proteins in our daily meals, go light on the sandwich meat; one serving is the equivalent of 6 thin slices of ham or turkey. However, if you’ll be eating other protein-packed foods (such as eggs, beans, and nuts) throughout the day, try not to put a whole serving of meat in your sandwich. Some healthy options to try are a turkey and tomato panini (spice it up with some basil or mozzarella) and grilled banana and peanut butter sandwich (for those with a sweet tooth).
Houston Hall salads are the perfect on-the-go meal. At one set price, you can add as many or as few ingredients as your mood strikes. Just be sure to balance the amount of salad greens with whatever else you add; salads can quickly become unhealthy depending on what you add. Use this chance to load up on all the veggies you’re not usually eating. If you’re not feeling chicken or meat, substitute that with crushed eggs or chickpeas, which are great sources of protein that will keep you feeling full longer. Pass on the croutons and load up on assortments of nuts or raisins. Select low-fat dressings in good portions (we recommend balsamic vinegar and olive oil). Don’t be afraid to tell whoever is making your salad to go light on the cheese or the dressing! They’re trying to please people with all different appetites, so they won’t know your preference unless you ask them.
Waffles are a satisfying way to start the day. To add flavor, pile fruits on top; the dining halls have many cut-up fruits already prepared for you to eat. Try to avoid butter or whipped cream at all costs, but feel free to add a dollop of jam or a tablespoon of syrup to sweeten the waffle.
– Cindy Yuan
Images courtesy of goodreads.com, upenn.edu, kidshealth.org, foodnetwork.com, prevention.com, and rozmena.wordpress.com