How to Eat Well in the NCU Cafeteria
Finding a healthy variety of food to eat at the NCU cafeteria seems like an overwhelming task, but rest assured it does not have to be. An ongoing conversation with students is the food options in the dining hall on campus. Often there is a lack of healthy choices and little variety which becomes frustrating the longer students eat in the cafeteria. Due to these reasons, Sodexo is not favored by many students. In order to make the most of the food situation, those who eat in the cafeteria have to get creative
The unhealthy options are quite disappointing especially because many students live in the dorms and are not able to make their own healthy meals. Some examples of unhealthy menu choices are the s’more melts, apple pie melts, the excessive quantity of fried foods, and not to mention the amount of starch offered. There is some form of potato served with every single meal at NCU. For reference, this includes tater tots, hash brown patties, home fried potatoes, french fries, curly fries, waffle fries, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, and even more. I had no idea so many dishes could be made from potatoes. While in general the cafeteria lacks variety, one thing that can be said is Sodexo gets creative with potatoes. I used to think that the freshman 15 was a joke until I saw the entrees and sides the school offers. There is a salad bar along with a make-your-own deli. However, it is not realistic to assume the students desiring a healthy diet wish to eat salads for every meal.
People would benefit from extending beyond one line of food each meal time and getting creative. There are several different food stations in the cafeteria. Instead of exclusively selecting food from one area students can get the most out of the cafeteria by mixing and matching options from different areas. For example, if one station serves nachos, take lettuce and other ingredients from the salad bar to make a taco salad. Sandwiches using bagels is a way to mix things up.
As a student, I have come to discover my own favorite combinations or cafeteria hacks. For breakfast I suggest making a breakfast bagel with eggs, cheese, and sausage patties. Make a waffle, add in some fruit or strawberry cream cheese, and there you have a better than average breakfast. At the very least it is a healthier alternative to syrup. As a pro tip, watch out for the different waffle batter flavors that change weekly. There is always plain, but I have seen cinnamon roll, strawberry, pumpkin spice, and banana nut just to name a few. Yogurt parfaits are a great option as yogurt, granola, fruit, and other desired toppings are almost always offered in the mornings. A fruit salad is also an option. Recently I have been making cinnamon and sugar bagels. I do this by toasting a bagel, adding cream cheese, then sprinkling the cinnamon sugar mix on top. By the dessert station, the cafeteria serves different pastries in the morning as well. The weekday breakfast choices are more limited compared to Saturday and Sunday’s brunches, but there are still plenty of ways to get creative using the tips listed earlier.
For lunches and dinners I find there to be more flexibility due to more stations being opened in the cafeteria. On a typical day, the entrée offers the healthiest option out of the main three stations. It always contains some variety of cooked vegetables, a protein and a carbohydrate. The chef’s table can be unpredictable, as it is not open for every meal and does not follow as much of a pattern. When it is available, it is typically healthier than the grill area. The grill usually contains something grilled or fried and is nearly always served with french fries or tater tots. The main meal in this section ranges from foods such as a burger, chicken nuggets, or some type of sandwich melt. Of course there is the old reliable pizza shelf that has a variety of different types. Depending on who is working, students can request a certain pizza to be made.
While striving to eat healthy, it is important to get daily servings of fruit and vegetables. These are available at the make-your-own salad or deli stations. Fruits are always out during breakfast/brunch but there is less selection during other meal times. A good goal is to include protein in your breakfast to start your day off right, which typically comes from either the scrambled eggs, meat variety, or hard boiled eggs. As mentioned previously, choosing food from a variety of areas is the best way to eat healthy and make mealtimes more enjoyable. Anyone eating in the cafeteria also has the option to make a sandwich or wrap and ask that it be run through the pizza oven in order to toast it or even to make a personal quesadilla.
Now for my favorite part of any meal, dessert. I have a major sweet tooth, and I have definitely tried my best to make the most out of Sodexo’s dessert options. During lunch and dinner there is some sort of baked good such as cake, cookies, or pie in the dessert section. One thing to watch out for is eating towards the end of meal times as the desserts are typically picked over. Pro tip; stick a cookie in the waffle maker for 30 seconds to get a warm cookie. There is almost always soft serve ice cream available right next to the baked goods. A new and very favored addition to the cafeteria has been the frozen yogurt. My personal favorite so far has been cake batter and would love for it to make a return again soon. The ice cream or frozen yogurt is easily mixed with other treats to create delicious combinations. Many desirable desert blends are possible aside from the basic mix-ins by the soft serve machine. Some include adding cereal to vanilla ice cream, serving it with root beer to make a root beer float (or any type of pop), and mixing in the main dessert option such as cookies or cake. One thing that I personally really enjoy when given the opportunity, is to take vanilla ice cream and combine it with peanut butter and bananas. You can’t go wrong with ice cream, so think outside the box and try a new mixture to make something even better.
It can be easy to get frustrated with the lack of options it may seem Sodexo has to offer. All it takes is a little creativity and learning from each other to get more out of the cafeteria. In doing so, we can see NCU actually has a wide variety of choices despite what’s seen at first glance. It’s never a bad idea to stop and think about new ways to bring meals together.