Tips and Tricks to Cutting Cals in the Commons

It is easy to get coaxed into the pizza line or grab a basket of fried chicken when you are on the go, but in the name of Health, I challenge you to slow down and consider some alternatives that may not be as yummy, but your body will thank you for. Starting at the Plaza, we will work our way around the University of Redlands dining hall, highlighting staples that can be your new “go to” when quickly cruising the options in a search to satisfy your hunger.


The sandwich line is a tricky place where you can easily rack up the calories, but there are ways to lessen the punch of your sub. Substituting a spinach tortilla (72 cals) for the other bread choices will detract from your total calorie count significantly by the end of the line and minimize some ab blundering carbohydrates as well. When choosing spreads, skip the mayo and ask for Dijon mustard (5 cals per tsp), a pungent condiment that will make you forget the rest. Say no to cheese and yes to avocado (60 cals)! Choosing healthy fats instead of dairy fats will be easier on your digestive system and your complexion will be glad for the change. Your protein choice is all fair game except for salami– those tasty little slices are heavy in both fat and sodium. Iceberg lettuce (10 cals per cup) is mostly made of water so do not be afraid to ask for more! It fills up that wrap and gives you the sensation of having a huge meal. (wrap total with turkey: 213 calories).


Next up: let’s find something to drink. The plaza has shelves upon shelves of refreshments, but I implore you to pick water. Your body needs water to function; it does not need diet coke. Water is responsible for all life, and if that is not reason enough, it also has 0 calories. What’s more, liquid calories are the hardest to burn, so shelf your soft drink and fill up your reusable water bottle for the sake of the environment, your wallet, and your waistline.


The best way to conquer the meal lines in the Commons, is to not get a whole meal from any one station, but instead to break it up. For a simple protein, grab a chicken breast (156 cals) from the grill and then do a lap to locate the best sides. Often the surf line has amazing fresh veggies and fruits that people overlook. If those do not look enticing, you can make your own salad at the salad bar. The salad is a monster in itself and when constructed properly can be nutritious. However, there are a few fatal flaws that undo your good intentions and you might as well have gotten an order of fries (491 cals). For the base, load up with dark greens, primarily spinach (7 cals per cup) which is packed full of iron and will make the most out of your side dish. Feel free to add garnishes, making your plate a colorful masterpiece. But it’s important to avoid cheese, croutons (58 cals per 0.5 oz), and dressings (ranch dressing: 63 cals per tbsp.). You’ve already made it to the salad line so don’t undo your good deed with these weighty toppings. If you need something crunchy sprinkle some sunflower seeds and instead of dressing drizzle a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top, but otherwise let the fresh vegetable flavors speak for themselves. Pro tip: you can ask for a whole avocado when paying to distribute on your food as you eat.


Considering food as fuel before you decide what to eat will help strengthen your willpower. The body can only perform so well when given unsubstantial meals. The best way to energize yourself for those laborious library nights is to start early in the day by eating right. When the body is overloaded with heavy foods it becomes lethargic making it harder to survive the week without hibernating through your classes!


photo courtesy of Brian R. Bloom architecture