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Make College Cafeteria Food Taste like Your Mom Made It

6035726705_03203bbd33_bBy Marissa Connell

Freshman year at your dream college is starting. You’ve picked your school, your roommate and, most importantly, your meal plan. College dining options seem great at first, but most students start to miss the wholesome meals they’re used to from home. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks to get a taste of home-cooked food away at school.

Spice up food

College cafeteria meals have the reputation of being a bit bland. With the only spices readily available to students being salt and pepper, what’s a diner to do?

It’s easy to find portable assorted spice shakers on Amazon starting at around $8. Most have the basics of seasoning, but there are different combinations you can buy depending on your preferences.

Another way to bring out the flavors in your food is with citrus fruit juices.

“I like using lemon and citrus fruit,” says Chef Ron Taylor of Chicago personal chef service Windy City Chefs. “I often add freshly squeezed lemon juice, or lemon zest. But also lime, oranges and grapefruits. They add so much flavor, and it gives your food another dimension.”

Bring your own juices with you. Portable lemon juice starts at about $7 on Amazon. Or cut up whatever citrus fruit the cafeteria is offering that day and squeeze it onto your dish.

Keep meals in proportion

2000px-MyPyramidFood.svgIt’s easy to fall into the pattern of eating only junk food in a cafeteria. According to an Oregon State University study, most college students get 30 percent of their calories from fat and skip veggies entirely. Your mom’s cooking doesn’t consist only of burgers and fries, so don’t do that to yourself while eating at college.

If you need help remembering what a proportional meal looks like, check out the food pyramid as a guide and go into the dining hall determined. If it’s still challenging to stay on track, pick up a portion plate on Amazon for $12. Having a nice mix of meat, grains, fruits and veggies will make you feel more at home, and less like you’re roughing it at school.

If your school’s produce selection, is lacking, chop up your own fruits and veggies and bring them to the cafeteria to top, or eat with your meal.

Make simple meals special

5095259698_7e52f84e69_o (1)Sometimes you may feel like an amazing tasting meal is beyond your reach in a college dining hall with limited option. But you can take a simple dish and make it unique, according to local head Chef of Uno Mas, Jose Zapata.

“You can make a…grilled ham and cheese. A grilled ham and cheese, there’s nothing special about it,” says Zapata, “You have to go that extra step and say, ‘Alright I’ll get that serrano ham, and instead of making it on white bread, I’ll use brioche, and then instead of regular American cheese I would probably use Brie, or Gouda.’”

While your school’s dining hall may not have all the ingredients listed above, it’s still possible to take an old favorite and mix it up a bit.

Bring the kind of care and creativity your mom would show in her meals to your own food, and you’ll have a taste of home in a college dining hall.


– Photo By: Sodexo USA/ Creative Commons

-Photo By: Jeffrey W./ Creative Commons

-Photo by: USDA/ Creative Commons

Chef Ronald Taylor – Chef Ron has his culinary arts degree from Le Cordon Bleu. He owns two private/personal chef services, Taylored Foods and Windy City Chefs. Visit his website at www.windycitychef.com, like Windy City Chefs on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Chef Jose Zapata – Chef Jose Zapata received his culinary degree at Kendall College. He is Executive Chef at two Glenview restaurants: Uno Mas and the North Branch Pizza Pizza & Burger Co.


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