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Author: Monika T.

Monika is a Communications major at UCSB. She is a diver on the Division 1 UCSB Swimming & Diving team. She is from San Jose, CA and is the oldest of three siblings. She has a passion for exercise and healthy eating.

Healthy Eating in the Trop Café

Upon entering college, I have to admit that the thought of gaining the “Freshman 15” was consistently entering my mind. Discussions of the typical college student diet were abundant, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only student out there that was convinced eating healthy in a dorm was nearly impossible. Every student faces the transition from enjoying home cooked, wholesome meals to the stereotypical “dorm food diet.” As a student athlete, I figured I had no reason to focus much attention on my diet; exercise is enough, right? Wrong. After hours of research and goal setting, I made a commitment to myself to maintain a nourishing lifestyle, which included eating as natural and “clean” as possible (whole, unprocessed foods). Small changes and a gradual incorporation of this eating style allow for the process to be exciting and extremely self-rewarding. So where did I start? Here are a few introductory tips I always kept in mind.

  1. Make vegetables your focus. The salad bar is at the start of the food line, so I always fill my plate with the most nutritiously dense vegetables, and make the heavier entrees my sides. Skip the premade potato salad and pasta salads to keep things raw. To make your salad even healthier, skip the fat- and calorie-dense dressings and opt for some lemon juice and olive oil, or perhaps olive oil and balsamic. Yum! Top with some sunflower seeds instead of croutons.

  2. Say no to the soda and juice. It’s hard when it’s all right in front of you…I’m aware. Instead, get a glass of water with some fresh lemon slices. If that’s too bland for you, try a glass of unsweetened ice tea that is located next to the soda machines. No sugar-filled sweet teas for me! To meet your calcium needs, have a glass of low fat milk, skim milk, or even some soy milk.

  3. Order from the grill. My favorite is the grilled chicken sandwich but be sure to write “without bun” on your grill order slip. The bun is purely bleached wheat and is just an empty carb without a lot of nutritious value. With this you get a grilled chicken breast which I occasionally top with some salsa or cut it up and throw it in my salad! The fries and quesadillas are tempting, but again they lack in nutritious value.

  4. The most important meal of the day is breakfast. The omelet station is great, but there are tricks to create a more nutritious omelet.

    – First, even before they start your order, nicely request for the cook to use olive oil. Olive oil is a heart healthy substitute which includes monounsaturated fats (good fats!) along with vitamin E & K.

    – Politely ask for them to make your omelet with whole eggs. If you want a big omelet, maybe try asking for 2 whole eggs and some egg whites as well to keep down your intake of yolks.

    – Skip the cheese. If you can’t eat eggs without cheese, ask for no cheese and then sprinkle some on your eggs yourself afterwards. The cooks are usually overly generous with the amount of cheese they put on.

    – Fill up your omelet with vegetables to make it a meal that fulfills a part of your daily recommended vegetable servings.

  5. Don’t fall into the myth that cereals are healthy. They aren’t. Can Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Puffs really be as nutritional as the commercials say they are? No, they’re loaded with sugar and lack nutritious content. Try PLAIN yogurt with some fruit, honey, nuts, and some cinnamon. Top it off with some granola, but remember moderation is key. Although granola is a whole grain, it tends to be high in sugar and fat. An average cup of granola has approximately 600 calories! So be sure to use it only as a topping.

  6. Utilize the spice rack! I cannot stress this enough. Do you often find your food lacking in flavor? Do you find yourself reaching for the salt, or adding on blobs of dressing, sour cream, butter, cream cheese or whatever else we college students find to enhance the taste? That’s the problem. Spice up your steamed vegetables, salad, grilled chicken, or soup with the numerous bottles of spices Trop Café offers. My personal favorites are oregano, basil and, in the mornings, cinnamon. These are natural flavor enhancements that you’ll never have to feel guilty about.

    Eating healthy may be difficult in a cafeteria when there are unhealthy options in front of you that are hard to resist, but it is not impossible. Make some goals, commit to slight changes, do some of your own research and stay focused. It’s truly not that bad once you get going. Trust me, I had to start from the bottom and build up. And remember, that Tropicana Del Norte’s fitness center is open til midnight every day for you to further your goals. A 10 minute workout is better than 10 minutes of sitting on your couch watching TV, eating Cup Noodles and chips!