Meal Plans and the College Student

Meal Plans and the College Student
  • Opening Intro -

    Eating right or even eating at all should never be taken for granted.

    For college students, the cost of tuition, fees, books, room and board, and related expenses can put a crimp on their finances, causing "food insecurity" for some.


Food insecurity is the lack of assurance that there will be enough food to take in three meals each day, a problem facing some college students today.

One important way for students to eat three solid meals per day is to join a college’s meal plan. Every school establishes its own meal plan structure, typically providing students with a variety of choices and fees to cover meals.

Choose Your Meal Plan

The plan that may best meet your needs is one that covers all meals, 21, for all seven days in a week. Some plans cover just two meals per day from Monday through Friday, 10 in all. With the more limited plan, students must meet their needs for 11 other meals or do without.

When viewing meal plans, students should assess their needs including their daily habits. For some, breakfast is routinely skipped or is so late that lunch is already being served. For late risers, a two-meal per day plan across all seven days may work out best, providing 14 meals each week.

Plans are usually purchased at the beginning of the semester and run through the end of the semester. Meals that are not consumed are usually not refundable. Some colleges and universities allow students to change their meal plans once the semester has started, allowing them to upgrade or downgrade as needed.

The best option for students is also the most expensive one: unlimited meals. With these meal plans, students can visit the dining room without limit, but the cost is high too. Moreover, unlimited access can mean rapid weight gain for students that don’t show discipline while on campus.

Menu Options

Regardless of the meal plan chosen, college students should carefully examine menus to determine what choices are available to them.

For breakfast, a selection of fruit, low-fat milk, and cereal can provide a good start to the day. Add in toast to round out your meal. The occasional pancakes or waffles with eggs and bacon is fine too, but not every day — you’ll put on weight fast! Coffee and juice should be available too.

For lunch, students will have a variety of foods to choose from including soups, salads, grain breads, with tuna, luncheon meats, and even peanut butter available. Consider adding yogurt to your diet along with fresh fruit. Limit your soda intake and choose just one dessert.

Dinner is your main meal and it can fill you fast. Balance your meal, by filling half your plate with fruit and vegetables, and the other half with whole grains and protein such as meat. Drink water, coffee or tea with your meal. Consider your low calorie dessert options.

Discounted Food Plans

Enjoying a balanced diet while at college can challenge students especially as food costs continue to rise. If food insecurity is a problem, ask your college adviser for help. Many schools offer discounted food plans for students or other ways for you to meet your dietary requirements.

See AlsoHow to Manage College Living Expenses


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Categories: College Living