Visiting colleges and universities should be exciting. But in all that excitement, don’t forget to check out the Housing and Food Services for consistent food quality.

Dorm food has a pretty bad reputation – both for making people gain weight and for bad tasting, low-nutrient stuff. True, the rumors are a bit exaggerated, but for those who’ve experienced dorm food, you do get used to the bad stuff. If you’re concerned, you ought to get answers to these questions when choosing a college:

1) What kind of meal choices do I get?

Exam stress and illness should be accomodated. Heavy and oily lasagnas are out during exam time, as we’ve said in our previous articles, and you should have mostly fluids when you’re down with a cold, flu, fever or worse. Does HFS allow for short notice changes to the requested menu due to illness? Does HFS make digesting food easier during exam time? There should be more white meats, more soups, steamed vegetables and nutrient-packed foods for exam stress. Is herbal tea such as mint available as an alternative to coffee to make you alert after an all-nighter? What about religion, celiac disease or diabetes?

Remember, you should be able to obtain widely-available foods such as fruit-flavored yogurt with Lactobacillus (for better digestion and immunity), honey, echinacea tea and Ziplock bags free from HFS.

2) Does HFS take into account dietary restrictions such as calorie and protein intake, as well as extra nutrient-rich foods if I request it?

Many students are combining exercise or amateur sport competitions with their studies. A great way to keep your brain alert, but you also have to watch that your body is able to make the repairs and 3) What kind of meat is used for dishes like meatloaf?

Get around to asking if the meat is leftover meat, meat left on students’ plates or freshly bought meat. The most you can really expect is leftover meat, but meat and other stuff left on plates is unacceptable.

4) Does HFS provide the option of “to-go” breakfasts such as smoothies?

You’re paying tons already for your meal card and tuition. Why should you have to pay extra for pricey smoothies off campus? HFS is sure to have overripe bananas, apples and individual cans of pineapple chunks lying around. Ask for smoothies or canned fruit if you’re in a rush.

5)Ask students living in dorms what they’ve been getting, and how satisfied they are with the food. Don’t be surprised if you hear lots about “Ramen”, “puffed wheat squares”, “triscuit with peanut butter and sugar” and “Rice-a-Roni”. That’s considered gourmet food in dorms when you alternate between these three. Consider a grocery pool; students on one floor of a dorm wing each chips in $0.20 for a bag of 16 grapefruit from the grocery store. Or pears, sweet potatoes or Fuji apples – stuff that’ll keep for awhile without refrigeration. For the grocery pool everyone should take turns going to the supermarket for stuff so that it doesn’t burden one person. It’s helping everyone to eat healthy for more effective studying, cramming and exam-writing, after all.

6) Speaking of refrigeration, do the dorm wings have one mini-fridge at least? Can you get a fridge for your dorm room at all?

Yes, dorm food is unpleasant, as bad as plane food sometimes. But it doesn’t have to be the death knell to your health. Keep fruit and whole grain breads in plain sight, and the money you waste on extra stuff (with service taxes) will be kept to a minimum.