The Picky Eater’s Guide to Navigating the Dining Halls in College


By Emily Comos

Whether you’re heading to college this fall for the first time as a freshman or you’re a pro at the whole college thing by now, there’s one place on campus that seems to cause everyone unnecessary stress regardless. The dining hall.

Dining Hall

In a sense, it takes you back to the cafeteria days of middle school where everyone is sitting with their “groups” and the food often leaves something to be desired.

If you’re a picky eater like me, you know the struggle of wandering aimlessly through the stations to find something appealing. No fear this fall, I’ve prepared a guide for you to enter the dining hall with confidence to find meals that will both satisfy and excite you.

The first step is to know your halls. On most campuses, each dining hall has a reputation or a specific type of food it’s known for. This is hard to know right off the bat, so as a freshman you have to make sure to try each and every one within the first few weeks in order to scope things out and take an inventory of what each one provides. This will save you time in the long run so you know which ones to avoid and which ones have the best variety.

The next step is to get creative. Once you’ve determined which halls look the most promising, it’s time to dig a bit deeper and check out the different stations within them. Most halls have certain stations that will be permanent, such as the cereal and pizza stations. Those are the ones you can consistently count on for a late night snack or a quick breakfast before your 8:30am class. But the other stations rotating each day really requires your creativity to come out.

For example: the hamburger station has no cheese or lettuce and eating a plain burger sounds quite boring. It’s now time to turn to the taco station and grab a bit of cheese and shredded lettuce from there. You now have a fully dressed burger. Or maybe you’re not feeling the Greek themed night but they’re serving chicken breast so you grab one of those and head over to the sandwich station. Ask the workers for a sub bun and then work your way to the salad station where there is plenty of sauces and topping options for a nutritious grilled chicken sandwich.

It’s all about moving around to the different stations and working to build your meal versus being discouraged when they’re not automatically serving what looks appetizing to you.

The third step is to be kind to the workers. They don’t have the most exhilarating job and many students often take dining hall workers for granted so when you’re a picky eater, it’s imperative to be extra nice to them so they may help you out when it comes to finding something good to eat.

Often times, you’ll see the same workers there multiple days a week so if you start to build relationships with them and ask them how they’re doing then they will feel like you’re appreciative of their hard work and will hopefully help you navigate your own pickiness.

The last step is to come prepared. This step is crucial. Dining halls supply you with endless amounts of food and most of the time you end of throwing away more food than you actually ate. So since you’re paying for it, you might as well make it last right? A helpful trick is to put a container in your backpack that you can bring your leftovers home in. This will help you when you’re studying late at night and can reach into your fridge from the meal you snagged at the dining hall earlier versus spending more money on a whole new meal.

Going to college is already stressful enough, but it can become extra stressful (and expensive) for picky eaters who aren’t sure how to navigate through the food scene on campus quite yet. But now you’re prepared with these helpful tricks and tips and can take the dining halls by storm this fall.



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