The healthy decisions you make in college could positively impact the rest of your life. (Max Pixel)

When you came to college, you probably found yourself with more control over what you eat then you’ve ever had before. While the idea of the “freshman fifteen” may be a myth (studies have shown that freshman often gain weight, but less than 15 pounds), it is true that you could, theoretically, walk into a cafeteria and eat pizza and ice cream with every meal and no one would stop you. You probably know better than that.

Nonetheless, here are some tips on making healthier eating choices at college. Regardless of your goals or lack thereof regarding your weight, it’s important to be healthy, and these tips can help you be more intentional with your dining habits on campus.

The Knorr Family Dining Room is filled with a lot of healthy options, as well as unhealthy options. Now that calorie counts are listed, it’s easier than ever to be more careful about what you eat.

I find that it helps to come prepared. You can look up the daily menu online or on the Ellucian Go app, and get a sense of what looks good and healthy before you even swipe in. And remember, don’t take the all-you-can-eat buffet style as a challenge. If you find yourself wanting to go back for seconds, get fruit or vegetables.

Bon Appétit Management Company allows visitors to bring out a piece of fruit to-go, so take advantage of that. I like to make sure I always have a banana or two in my room to eat for breakfast or a snack. It’s a healthy choice that tides me over until lunch.

If you’re deciding between pasta from Passport or chicken, turkey, fish, or pork from Comfort, it’s probably safer to go with Comfort. That’s also a good spot to look for healthy vegetable sides, which are better for you than the macaroni salad or mashed potatoes that are often available at various stations.

Don’t forget that Bon Appétit usually has soups, which probably have fewer calories than a lot of other choices, if that’s what you’re looking for. You can also try a black bean patty in place of a beef burger patty.

There are always better options than pizza, but when you can’t resist a slice, especially when they have something delicious like barbecue chicken, stick to only one slice. You can supplement it with a salad. Go heavy on the vegetables, but lighter on everything else, like cheese and croutons. Skip the ranch or honey mustard dressing, and try a vinaigrette or Italian dressing instead.

Instead of something with a lot of sugar like soda (or “pop,” if you’re from around here),  try one of the flavored waters. I like to mix mine with carbonated water, so it’s still more fun than regular water and tastes like a more flavorful La Croix. At AJ’s Café, try a Vitaminwater Zero from the refrigerator.

When it comes to desserts, there’s no need to completely deprive yourself, but it’s good to be careful to avoid too much of it. When I want something sweet, I grab a cookie at lunch instead of cake at dinner, since the cookies will have fewer calories and less sugar. It’s best to save ice cream for special occasions. I keep a carton of a low-sugar, low-calorie ice cream in my dorm freezer that, while it’s not really healthy, is better for me than the options from Bon Appétit or AJ’s.

Speaking of AJ’s, the biggest way I’ve been able to cut back on calories and sugar is by changing my order at AJ’s and Jitters. I keep my favorite drink– an iced caramel mocha– as a rare and special treat, and instead go for a latte with skim milk and sometimes a sugar-free syrup. Both coffee shops offer sugar-free vanilla and hazelnut. If I’m getting coffee off-campus, I ask for almond milk where I can.   

I may not have gained 15 pounds my freshman year, but I didn’t start being really intentional about what I ate until this semester, and I’m so glad I did. It was a lot easier and more rewarding than I anticipated. Figure out what works for you and keeps you healthy. It’s worth it.