Oberlin Blogs

Navigating College Dining

November 30, 2023

Kate Magnacca ’26

One of the scariest things for me about the transition to college was the uncertainty of how to handle the dining hall situation as someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder. I’ve also heard an unexpected amount of Obies talk about this in the past year. For many, college is the first time since beginning recovery where you’re completely responsible for your own nutrition intake, and that can be overwhelming. Whether you’ve had similar struggles with food or not, I think that the dining hall situation can be pretty daunting for a lot of people, so I hope this Oberlin-specific guide will help you feel more prepared to navigate campus dining. 

For this post, I’ve interviewed a couple of friends and compiled what we’ve learned during our time on campus. This “guide” is meant as more of a jumping-off point, as everyone has different preferences, and you’ll likely come up with your own tips and tricks in time. 

Find safe foods early on:

As soon as possible, seek out and designate your campus safe foods-- things that are easy for you to eat, you know you like, and are consistently available. Decafe is the best place for this, in my opinion- they usually have grab-and-go type meals (peanut butter and jelly, veggie wraps, mac and cheese cups, salads, etc.). Keep a list in your notes so that if you’re too overwhelmed, you can refer back to it. Maybe even make it in order, with your most comfortable options at the top. Use your extra meal swipes to stock up on snacks in this list, too, and keep them in your room. Additionally, Stevenson always has a salad bar option, as well as a sandwich station and pizza/pasta station. The Rathskeller’s pesto grilled cheese is my personal favorite go-to.

Use the online menus:

Something really helpful on campus is that most dining halls have their menus online and update them weekly! Too many choices can get overwhelming fast, so this resource is a perfect way to avoid that.

Always have backups:

Keep nonperishable meals and snacks in your room. There are bound to be busy days when you won’t have time for a dining hall, so being prepared for this ahead of time is absolutely essential. You can use flex points at Decafe to stock up, or there’s an Aldi nearby with affordable options and shuttles that go to Walmart if you don’t drive. 


It’s super hard to get up in time to go to breakfast when you have a 9am class (unless you’re a morning person, which I, for one, am not). Instead, Decafe sells pastries, cereal, fruit, and overnight oats. These are all good options to get with a meal swipe or flex the day before and eat on the way to class.

Branch out:

The dining halls here have a lot of foods you may never have tried before. Try to get out of your comfort zone and use this opportunity to explore and find new things! I waited until my second semester to go to Heritage, Clarity, and Saunders. Now these are my favorite dining halls!

I hope these tips help you adjust to college dining. Remember that healing isn’t necessarily linear, and it’s okay to have hard days, especially amid such a big transition. There are resources on campus to support you, and I would suggest checking out the counseling center if you need it.

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