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School Cafeteria Do's and Don'ts

Tips on How to Eat Healthy at School

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Cafeteria food isn't exactly known for being nutritious, but if you stick to a couple of simple rules, you can make it through lunchtime without sacrificing your health (or going hungry).

Cafeteria Do's

  • Do eat a healthy breakfast every day. If you starve yourself (or just subsist on energy drinks) all morning, you're more likely to binge on fatty snacks at lunch.

  • Do get a piece of fruit with your meal. It'll satisfy your sweet tooth and keep you from craving soda or dessert.

  • Do balance out your plate with some veggies, too. A fresh salad with a variety of ingredients is best. Skip the croutons and top it off with oil and vinegar instead of a creamy dressing like ranch.

  • Do drink water. You should drink around 8 glasses of water a day, and lunchtime is a perfect chance to get a couple of those in (and a way healthier option than most other cafeteria beverages). Bring a water bottle to school and fill it at the fountain before lunch - it's cheaper and better for the environment than buying bottled water.

  • Do check labels. Fruit juice sometimes has more corn syrup than fruit, and snack chips are often loaded with sodium and creepy-sounding chemicals. Opt for 100% juice and all-natural snacks without a ton of ingredients.

  • Do try to bring a healthy snack from home. Before you leave for school, throw a piece of fruit, a granola bar or a bag of carrot sticks into your backpack. It'll save you money, and it'll force you to be healthy in the face of all those unhealthy options at school.

Cafeteria Don'ts

  • Don't skimp. Eating healthy is not the same as eating less. If you don't have enough at lunch, you'll just be setting yourself up for major food cravings a couple of hours later.

  • Don't pick pepperoni. It's high in fat, sodium and cholesterol. Opt for pizza topped with veggies or plain cheese. Or better yet, skip the pizza altogether and get a sandwich.

  • Don't get nachos. The chips are fried, and that neon orange cheese stuff is packed with fat but no nutritional value. Go with whole wheat pretzels or baked potato chips instead, and get your cheese fix from string cheese, cottage cheese or a couple of slices of cheese on a sandwich.

  • Don't get dessert right away. If you get it, you'll eat it. But if you hold off on buying anything till you're done with your meal, you might decide that you don't want anything anyway.

  • Don't drown yourself in soda. Those little bubbles might fill you up, but all that soda has some ugly side effects. Go with water, club soda, milk or 100% fruit juice instead.

  • Don't try to be perfect. Everyone deserves a chili dog and fries now and then. Just be sure to balance it out with fruits, veggies and a healthy dinner later on.
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