How To Survive College Meal Plans

Freshman year is full of many ups and downs. Having a meal plan is no exception to that rule.

Sometimes you’ll love having food prepared for you whenever you’re ready to gorge, and other times you’ll hate every single thing that they offer.

Here’s a guide to navigating your meal plan.

Understand your college meal plan

Every college is different and formulates their meal plans differently. The top 2 most common meal plan structures are either “pay per meal” or “pay per point”.

Pay per meal

In a “pay per meal” plan, dining facilities are typically only open for specific hours during the day; a few hours at breakfast, a few at lunch, and a few at dinner. You choose a plan with a designated amount of meals per week. When you go to eat they will swipe your card and take away a meal for that week, but then during the time that you are at the dining hall you are welcome to eat as much as you’d like.

This option is nice in the respect that essentially all food is the same price since you are paying for meals not individual items. But it can be dangerous when it comes to Freshman 15 because you are much more likely to overeat without a limit to how much food you can get.

Pay per point

In a “pay per point” plan every food item is worth a certain amount of points (just like if you were shopping at a grocery store). These dining halls are typically open all day, with certain hours of more hot meal options (breakfast, lunch and dinner). You pay the amount of points for the exact items you choose. At the beginning of the semester you choose a plan with the amount of points you think you will need for the whole semester.

This option is much more similar to “real world” eating. You get what you pay for and that’s that. This option inhibits overeating and gives you some more freedom on what food you eat.

Don’t get stuck eating the same meal

As easy as it is to turn to campus mac and cheese every night, fight the urge. Your health and sanity will thank you.

Don’t get in a rut of eating the same things over and over again. You will get burnt out and not want to have anything to do with your dining hall.

Try something new each day. Even if it doesn’t seem like there are many options be creative. Try new toppings on your salad; find the ingredients in the dining hall to make your own sandwiches.

If you run out of things on your own, ask the cooks if they’d be willing to whip you up something a little different. Maybe they have the ingredients for a mean stir-fry, they just need you to ask!

And when all else fails, buy some ingredients and keep them in your room. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, jut enough to make it through those nights when you either are too tired to walk to the dining hall or just can’t bear the thought of another campus meal.

Think before you eat

The biggest reason for freshman 15 is not thinking about what you’re putting into your body. Eating mac and cheese and cheeseburgers and dessert every lunch and dinner on your college meal plans is definitely not going to do your body any good!

Try to get some greens in there for at least one meal a day. Even if you’re not a big salad eater you can still get your greens! Ask for a veggie instead of fries with your burger, or try a vegetable soup.

Cut back on those sugary drinks too. A soda every once in a while as a treat is fine, but don’t run to the fountain machine at every meal.

And just because you have an 8am class and there’s a coffee stand on campus does not give you permission to get a whole milk extra sweet latte every morning. If you can’t cut the caffeine crutch, at least cut the sugary add-ins. Opt instead for an Americano or black coffee with a little bit of milk.

Enjoy it while you can!

It might sound silly since I just spent this post telling you ways to cope with a meal plan to say enjoy it. But remember, this is probably the last time that you will have someone else cooking all of your meals for you, forever.

Next step is being a grown up and cooking all for yourself! Enjoy the free-of-labor meals while you can!

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Chelsea Halstead

Chelsea Halstead

University of Portland junior, Chelsea Halstead, is a Communications and French double major. Chelsea hails from Alaska originally, but calls Portland, OR home now. When Chelsea isn't at school or whipping up a mean latte as a Barista, she enjoys spending time outdoors and attempting to make Pinterest crafts!
Chelsea Halstead

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