How to Survive UMD’s New Buffet Style Dining Plan

By: Emma  Slattery, ’18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

First day on campus, you walk into the dining hall and are overwhelmed. Not by the weird new hand scanner that replaced swipe cards, but by the trays and trays of enticing food that are now serve yourself, and all-you-care-to-eat style.

Naturally you head to the nearest station, grab a plate, and pile it high with food. Before you know it you’re sitting with your friends, mindlessly eating everything on your plate and feeling stuffed. Despite feeling stuffed you go back for second or third servings because you can and it tastes so good!

It is incredibly common to overeat in a buffet style setting and the new Anytime Dining is essentially a buffet. However, there are strategies students can use to navigate and survive the new dining hall program without gaining unwanted weight or feeling like you need a nap after every meal!

  1. Think of what you want to eat and stick to your plan. Before you even step into the diner get an idea of what you want to eat. The food choices are overwhelming, especially if you are hungry, so if you decide on a burger beforehand, then it is easier to just take your burger and not whatever looks good in the moment.
  2. If you don’t know what you want, take a lap. By walking around the diner once, or even twice, before making a food choice you get to really see everything offered that day. You can make a more satisfying food choice that you’ll enjoy more than if you take the first thing you see.
  3. Begin with a starter.  Eating a small portion of salad, soup, or bowl of fruit before going back for your main meal will keep your hunger in control and allow you to make more nutritious choices.
  4. Follow the MyPlate guidelines. The MyPlate is a graphic model created by the my-plateUSDA on what a balanced meal looks like. Strive to build a plate that contains half fruits and veggies, a quarter grains, and a quarter protein. Balancing your food groups will make meals that keep you full longer and provide adequate nutrition.
  5. Take a smaller portion. The diner is all you can eat, so take a small portion of food, eat it slowly and mindfully, and if you still want more you can always go back for more.
  6. When choosing sweets, eat them at the end of the meal. Eating dessert at the end of a meal helps with portion control. Since you already have a meal’s worth of food in your stomach to satiate you, you are able to be satisfied with less.

Using these tips will help you to make nutritious choices in the dining hall as well as keep you from being overwhelmed by the abundance of delicious food! To learn more strategies to eat well on campus, take advantage of the free Nutrition Coaching Service at the University Health Center. To reserve your session, call 301-314-5664 or email

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5 Responses to How to Survive UMD’s New Buffet Style Dining Plan

  1. Thea Boatswain says:

    I really like tip two as well because if you can take a look at all of the food options at a buffet you might find something delicious to eat that you might not have otherwise. I sometimes have to remind myself to take a look at everything before picking up a plate too. Thanks for all of the tips, I will make sure to remember these the next time I go to the dining hall or even a buffet!

  2. Michelle Obiajulu says:

    I love the suggestion of eating a healthy starter appetizer before the main meal! Whenever I’m hungry I always grab whatever satisfying food there is in front of me, healthy or not-healthy. I’ll take this advice to heart for the rest of my life.

  3. Rebecca Heming says:

    I love your suggestion of taking a lap to view all the food choices that are available! It definitely helps you choose what foods you really want to eat instead of aimlessly piling on more and more as you walk around.

  4. Ashley Statter says:

    LOVE THIS!! Great tips!!

  5. Jane Jakubczak, UHC Dietitian-Nutritionist says:

    Great tips Emma! I particularly like the tip to start your meal by enjoying a soup or salad. I love the fact the dining hall has several different soups, including a daily vegetarian soup, on the salad bar everyday. A great way to get an extra vegetable serving in! Thanks!

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