Dining Hall Eating
It can be difficult to eat right while you’re at college, especially if you’re eating in the dining hall every day. Unlike when you or your parents cook, you have much less choice and control over what’s going into your body.
To make it easier on you, check out some of CDN’s tips and tricks for navigating the dining hall.
Please note that these tips are based solely on the experience of college students and are not medical advice. Use the tips you like, and tweak the ones you don’t. As always, feel free to email us your ideas! If you are having a lot of trouble eating on campus, we suggest speaking to your CDE or Endocrinologist about how to handle the situation.
Tips for Navigating the Dining Hall
- When possible, try and stay away from extremely carb-heavy items like pasta and desserts. Instead, opt for protein like chicken and burgers, vegetables, fruits, and other foods that you know/look up the carb count for (like a couple pieces of wheat bread, a cup of brown rice, or a baked potato.)
- While it’s tempting, try not to go up for seconds when you’re eating in the dining hall.
- Try sticking to a routine when possible – college makes it hard to create a routine, and sometimes it can be impossible. But if you can eat at the same time and relatively similar foods each day, you’ll get a better handle on how your body responds to those foods.
- Check out your continuous glucose monitor (CGM). It can be really hard to tell what ingredients go into the food you’re eating at the dining hall, and therefore hard to understand exactly how it’s affecting your blood sugar and how to bolus for it. Having a CGM can take some of the guesswork out of it. Keep an eye on your CGM after eating at the dining hall, and make note of what the food you ate did to your blood sugar for several hours afterward. It can help you make more informed decisions on what you consume, or how you bolus for it, later. Don’t have a CGM? Check out our technology page to learn more about them.
Schedule a meeting to talk to the staff in charge of the dining halls.
If you are unsatisfied with the options in the dining hall, we suggest contacting the director of dining services or a similar staff member. Believe it or not, many schools are happy to accomodate your requests - it's just that no one has ever asked before. You can usually find out who this person is and their contact information by searching, “Dining Services at (Your School) Staff” and you can use the below template within the email. Here are a few topics to bring up in the meeting:
- Ask if it’s possible to access nutritional information, including carbohydrates, fat, sugar, fiber and protein for the food served in the dining hall. If it’s not, find out if there’s a way they can make it available.
- Find out if it’s possible to weigh/measure portions. Perhaps the dining hall staff give out about a cup of mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese at a time, or maybe there is a place where you can measure your food – these things are very helpful to know. Try to fill your plate with as many fruits and veggies as possible when you’re at the dining hall. Keep prepackaged snacks in your dorm room for later, such as granola bars, nuts, yogurt, fruit strips, and oatmeal. It’s much easier to estimate the carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables than other entrees at the dining hall – like macaroni and cheese. When you need something more substantial, the prepackaged food in your dorm has nutrition information on the label.
- If there aren’t many diabetes-friendly options in your dining hall(s), ask if more can be implemented (whole wheat and whole grains vs. white-flour based foods, fresh vegetables and fruit, other low-carb and sugar-free options).