Dining Hall Nutrition 101: How to avoid rocking the first year muffin-top

The Vanier dining hall: a place so magical, it causes your clothes to shrink.

In case I haven’t made it quite clear by now, I’m crazy excited to go back to school. I’m excited to see my Vancouver friends again, to shop for school supplies and textbooks, to start my super interesting classes, and meet all my Kwak residents! One thing I’m not excited about, though, is going back to eating in the dining hall. It’s not that the food in residence is bad (although by the end of the year in Vanier, you’ll pray to never see a rice pilaf ever again). It’s really good, actually – maybe a little too good.

Nutrition was definitely not a top priority during my first year (I can recall one particularly bad day during finals where I ate nothing but lemon poppyseed muffins – it’s no wonder I ended up looking like a muffin myself). I went on too many runs to Hubbard’s and too few runs on the treadmill, and packed on a ton of pounds by the time April finals rolled around. Thankfully, I’ve been able to change my habits over the summer by eating healthy and becoming a regular at the gym. But now, I’m worried about going back to the dining hall and undoing all my hard work!

Determined not to let that happen, I’ve been brainstorming ways to avoid the Freshman Fifteen (or the even more horrifying Sophmore Seventeen), and, as always, I’m going to share my ideas with the people of the Internet. So, without further ado, here are some tips to keep you healthy, happy, and muffin-top-free throughout your Totem or Vanier dining experience:

1) Plan ahead. Did you know you’re able to access the Vanier and Totem dining hall menu online three days in advance? Check out what the dining hall is serving and plan out your meals. This will keep you from going to dinner hungry and buying the first thing you see when you walk in – which could very well be a hamburger and fries.

2) Snack healthy. If you’re a stress eater like I am, late nights of studying can wreak havoc on your waistline. Pick up a bunch of fruits, veggies, granola bars, etc. from Safeway or Save On Foods and keep them in your room for when you need a snack. Bring a handful of trail mix when you head off to study at Irving so you don’t buy yourself cookies instead. It’ll also be useful to learn the difference between eating because you’re hungry and eating because you’re bored/stressed/upset/etc. Mind over matter, y’all.

3) Bring your own condiments. Dressings and sauces can add a ton of hidden calories to your meals. Bring along your own fat-free salad dressings, all-natural peanut butter, etc. when you head to the dining hall. You might not be able to control every aspect of your meal, but at least you’ll know that your salad really is as healthy as you think.

4) Pack a lunch. The portions in the Vanier dining hall were absolutely huge. It’s great that they want you to get value for your money, but you really don’t need an entire plateful of macaroni and cheese. I’ve tried asking the dining hall staff to give me less food, but they would usually respond with, “You’re paying for it anyway!” and proceed to pile my plate higher than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A quick fix: grab an Eco-to-go container before your meal and save half of your food for tomorrow’s lunch. Not only does it keep your dinner portions under control, but it can also save you some money on lunch the next day.

5) Scope out healthy lunch spots. They do exist! For a healthy lunch, head to Sprouts or the Delly in the SUB basement. Free hot meals from Sprouts and half-price Delly on Fridays! (See, eating healthy can even be easy on your wallet, too.) Another favourite lunch stop of mine was The Loop in the CIRS building, where they have really tasty and 100% sustainable salads, soups, and sandwiches. Bonus: it’s only a short walk away from Totem!

6) Everything in moderation. While you might not be able to make nightly Hubbard’s/Magda’s runs, I give you permission to indulge in a post-Physics 101 final Marbelous cookie. Go ahead, you’ve earned it.

2 responses to “Dining Hall Nutrition 101: How to avoid rocking the first year muffin-top

  1. Great tips! [:

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