5 Tips for Cuisine in College Campus Cafeterias


Eating in the Cafeteria

Eating Utensils

I cannot stress enough how badly you need to take advantage of cafeterias on campus freshman year. There were a few on the Alabama campus and many of them would have fun deals certain nights of the week. My new freshman friends and I would get together on those nights and spend hours there thoroughly enjoying ourselves and getting to know each other. Our favorite was breakfast for dinner. The tricky part is when you have a student account, you do not know how much you are spending and can end up spending all your “dining dollars” within a month (may or may not be speaking from experience here).

  1. Take advantage of the fresh greens. Get a salad and fill your plate up with greens and a variety of nutrient dense salad toppings. Most school cafeterias have great salad bars similar to Ruby Tuesday's endless, create your own salad bar (aka the best type of food bar). Try to add some fresh vegetables like bell peppers or broccoli to your salad to achieve a high fiber dish. If you want to make a salad your whole meal, get some chicken from the home-cooking station, to add some filling protein on top. Get creative and add some colorful fruit like blueberries and strawberries for some potassium and vitamin C. And remember, you need carbohydrates to help fuel your active lifestyle so consider adding high fiber carbohydrates such as black beans, corn, or roasted sweet potatoes!
  2. Since most of you are living in dorms, walk to the cafeteria (not alone if late at night).  Most of my exercise freshman year was from walking around campus, to and from class. In this case the walk will be more enjoyable because it ends in a delicious meal rather than a boring class.
  3. If you have a sweet tooth, use cafeteria nights as a time to treat yourself! Unless times have changed, it does not cost extra to get a soft serve cone with your meal-- save your fro-yo money for a fun time out!
  4. Make it a game. Try out all the college cafeterias and find which ones best fit your palate. Many provide: Asian, pasta, pizza, home-cooking, and special breakfast nights! For the Asian station, fill your plate up with stir fry vegetables over a bed of rice and a side of chicken. This will provide the most bang for your buck with fiber rich grains, high protein in your chicken, and immune boosting vitamins and minerals in your stir fry veggies. If you are craving pizza, make it fun and add some other vegetable toppings to get creative with adding extra nutrients. And for those special breakfast nights, you have many options for whole grains and protein but as a delicious example: whole grain buttered toast and sausage links with a side of scrambled eggs and bowl of fresh fruit topped with a dollop of calcium rich yogurt! (or for my personal favorite breakfast treat, waffles topped with whipped cream... YUM).
  5. Don't waste your money elsewhere, if you already have money on a food account through the school, don't let it go to waste and eat sushi or delivery every night. I have used this word a few times but take advantage of this-- this money on a food account will not be coming back again!

Therese Bridges


Tip 2: Load Up on Fruits & Vegetables

Did you know that only 1 in 4 Americans consumes the recommended 5-9 daily servings of fruit and vegetables?!

Are you in the small percentage?

By increasing your vegetable and fruit intake you drastically cut your risk for heart disease and diabetes and significantly increase your vitamin and mineral intake which offers TONS of health benefits such as better eyesight, improve skin integrity, health bones, strong immune system, and cancer prevention!!!!!

Supplements are great in a pinch, but with summer here there are LOADS of seasonal fruits and vegetables waiting on you to enjoy!!!   What can you do to increase your fruit and vegetable intake today?

I increased my vegetable intake by making a "Farmer's Market Salad" which included fresh summer corn, okra, peas, arugula, and tomatoes!!!!

Bring on the Brussels Sprouts!

As members of the cabbage family, it is easy to see by their cabbage-like appearance.  Typical Brussels sprouts range from 1 – 1 ½ inches in diameter.  Brussels sprouts are readily available year-round, but the peak season is from September to mid-February.

A firm sprout, with small bright-green head is indicative of a sweet taste.  When choosing sprouts, look at the size for taste, but also for cooking purposes.  It is important to choose sprouts of similar size so they will cook evenly.

To store the sprouts properly, remove any loose leaves and place the unwashed Brussels sprouts in a Ziploc bag and store in the refrigerator.  You can expect most sprouts to store for approximately 3-4 days before the flavor begins to turn unpleasant.

To cook sprouts properly, wash each Brussels sprout, pat dry, and trim the stems.  Brussels sprouts should not be cooked for more than about 10 minutes.  Their green color should remain intense.  A drab color is indicative of overcooked sprouts.

Why Eat Brussels Sprouts?

  • Brussels sprouts are full of phytonutrients, which may help protect against cancer.
  • Brussels sprouts may have a detoxing effect on our bodies due to their content of glucosinolates and sulfur.  Enzymes in our cells required for detox, can be activated by compounds made from glucosinolates.
  • Our natural detox system also requires sulfur to run efficiently, which Brussels sprouts have been shown to provide in abundance!
  • Brussels sprouts are powerful dietary source of vitamins and antioxidants, including vitamins A (in the form of beta carotene), C, and E. Vitamins A and C help fight against heart disease, cancer, and cataracts.
  • Anti-inflammatory response can result from the Vitamin K content in Brussels sprouts.  Vitamin K (also known as potassium), helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.  Other important vitamins:
  • Folate- necessary for normal tissue growth and may protect against cancer, heart disease, and birth defects
  • Iron - necessary for maintaining red blood cell count

I tried a new recipe with hesitancy.  My favorite Brussels sprouts are at Ocean’s ( located in the Five Points area of Birmingham, AL.  The recipe I used was titled: Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, which I found in the March 2011 edition of Cooking Light. Thank you to one of my awesome clients that brought me the magazine to session (you know who you are!!)

I started the recipe with cooking 4 pieces of Applegate Bacon (nitrite and nitrate free) in a deep dish skillet.

Once the bacon was cooked, I placed onion slices and dried thyme in the same skillet with the bacon drippings.  I allowed the onions to sauté long enough to turn soft and slightly transparent.

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Next, I chopped the Brussels sprouts in half and added to the onion mixture in the skillet, along with 3 cups of low-sodium chicken broth.

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The mixture did not take long to bring to a boil, but once boiling, I placed the lid on the skillet and allowed to cook for approximately 7 minutes.  The recipe was ready to serve!  I plated the Brussels sprouts and sprinkled the fresh cooked bacon to add flavor.

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Although the Brussels sprouts were not exactly like Ocean’s, they most certainly were close!!!  A super easy recipe helped add flavor and variety to my dinner plate.  I get tired of eating the same ol’ same ol’ green vegetables, so I’m pleased to share this simplistic recipe to help you add variety to your dinner plate as well!!  Hope you enjoy as much as my household did!!! I served the Brussels sprouts with boneless, center-cut pork chop topped with black cherry sauce (you can find recipe in an earlier blog!), baked sweet potato, and a slice of rosemary sourdough bread! The total amount of time spent on cooking was approximately 30 minutes!   

Bon Appetite!

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Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Other Time: 20 minutes Yield:  4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

3 slices center-cut bacon, finely chopped 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme 1 1/2 cups presliced onion 1/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 7 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; drain.

2. Add thyme and onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth and Brussels sprouts; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 6 minutes or until crisp-tender. Sprinkle with bacon.

(You can find the recipe in the March 2011 Edition of Cooking Light or on the web at

To Supplement or Not To Supplement - Part 1

Many clients ask me about supplements and if they are necessary for their health.  Since dietary supplements are such a hot topic and can be controversial, today kick starts a new series titled "The Supplement or Not to Supplement".

Dietary supplements were never intended to be a food substitute or your primary source for vitamins/mineral.  Supplements cannot replicate all the nutrients and nutritional benefits of whole foods, especially produce.  Since supplements can be costly, before reaching for the bottle of supplements, make sure your intake is meeting your needs; this could save your pocketbook a lot of change!  However, if you certain medical conditions or notice that you typically do not meet your daily requirements, you may benefit from taking a daily dietary supplement.

Reach For Whole Foods First!

The human body was created to run off of natural foods.  Our system gets energy from the three macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and receives protective elements from vitamin/minerals found in fresh produce and whole grains.  When whole foods are consumed, you are combining high quality macronutrients for energy AND micronutrients that highly affect your quality of health.  For example, if an orange is consumed, you get approximately 60+ calories to be converted into energy IN ADDITION TO, vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium and other nutrients. A vitamin C supplement lacks the additional micronutrients that work together to promote optimal health. Only whole foods provide substances called phytochemicals and antioxidants.  Phytochemicals may help prevent against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure!  Antioxidants slow down the oxidation process that leads to cell and tissue damage.  Whole Foods also give the human body proper amounts of dietary fiber to prevent disease and manage constipation.

Who Needs Supplements?

If you typically eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats/poultry/fish, it is not pertinent that you take a daily dietary supplement.  However, the majority of Americans do not follow a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables.  In this case, a dietary supplement would be beneficial.  A dietary supplement may be recommended if:

  • Your Daily Intake is Less Than 1,500 Calories a Day.
  • Follow a Diet That Limits the Types of Foods Consumed, Such As Vegan or Vegetarian Diet.
  • A Women of child-bearing age (pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant) or Breast-Feeding.
  • Experience Heavy Bleeding During Menstrual Period or Postmenopausal woman
  • Have a Medical Condition or Surgical Procedure That Affects How Body Absorbs, Uses or Excretes Nutrients (Impaired GI Absorption, Chronic Diarrhea, Food Allergies, Food Intolerance, Disease of the Liver, Gallbladder, Intestines or Pancreas)

Dietary supplements can have side effects or interactions with certain medications so be sure to talk to your doctor or dietitian before taking supplement.

To Supplement or Not to Supplement Part 2 Will Guide You On  How To Choose A Supplement That Best Meets Your Nutritional/Dietary Needs!

Recipe Recommendation: Broccoli & Cheese Soup

When it is snowy outside, and a BCS national championship game is being televised, a quick, hearty, comforting meal is in order!  I normally do not do two recipe reviews in row, but I had more time than usual so I tried out another new recipe that I would like to pass along to my NutriFocus family!

Broccoli and Cheese soup is a favorite at most restaurants.  This recipe by “Cooking Light” keeps the flavor of the soup without the saturated fat and trans fats found in some restaurant soups!

Broccoli is high in vitamin C, A, and K.  Broccoli has a strong, positive impact on our body's detoxification system and can provide cholesterol-lowering benefits.  Broccoli contains a strong combination of vitamin K and vitamin A which interact to keep our vitamin D metabolism in balance which can help solve vitamin D deficiency.  Broccoli is also a rich source of kaempferol, flavonoids that have shown the ability to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on our body.  And finally, broccoli contains an unique combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-detoxification components in which make it a unique food in terms of cancer prevention.

While the potatoes were baking, I chopped one medium onion and 2 garlic cloves and placed in Dutch oven to begin the cooking process.

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Next, I placed 3 cups of chicken broth and 16oz broccoli florets into the Dutch oven and brought the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture was boiling,  I let it simmer for 10 minutes.

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While the broccoli was simmering, I cut up the cheese into cubes. The recipe called for 8oz cheese, but I ended up using around 12oz cheese to give it more of a cheesy flavor.

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And finally, I whisked together 2 1/2 cups 2% milk and 1/3 cup all-purpose flour and added to the broccoli mixture. I allowed that to cook until it thickened. Once thickened, I removed the soup from the heat, stirred in the cheese until melted, and served hot!

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I paired this soup with a hearty baked potato stuffed with cheese and sour cream.  This was the perfect combination for a cold, wintery night!  Mike and I both agreed, this was better than most restaurant soups we’ve tried in the past! This is a keeper!  

Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Cooking Light

Total: 33 minutes Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)

  • Cooking spray
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 3  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  (16-ounce) package broccoli florets
  • 2 1/2  cups  2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1/3  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 8  ounces  light processed cheese, cubed (such as Velveeta Light)

Heat a large nonstick saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes or until tender. Add broth and broccoli. Bring broccoli mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook 10 minutes.

Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add milk mixture to broccoli mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Stir in pepper. Remove from heat; add cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Place one-third of the soup in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return pureed soup mixture to pan.


An essential and much under rated component of a healthy lifestyle is SLEEP. With the fast pace of today’s society, it can be the first component removed from our daily routine.  Not getting enough sleep can lead to daytime drowsiness, but more importantly, it can result in more serious health problems and cause you to become irritable, anxious, difficulty concentrating, and difficult regulating moods.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that chronic sleep deprivation can negatively impact the overall quality of a person’s life. The CDC also reported that insomnia may contribute to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. It is recommended that the average person achieve 6-9 hours of sleep per night.  Without the right amount of sleep, your body can not be efficient at performing daily tasks that keep your healthy. The immune system becomes compromised, which increases your chances of catching a cold or the flu. Insomnia may also increase your heart rate and blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease.

Many Americans have difficulties with sleep. Studies now indicate a connection between sleep problems and depression. Research shows that more than 80% of those suffering from depression experience insomnia or some type of sleep disturbance.  The psychological symptoms of sleep deprivation include: mood swings, irritability, impatience, anxiety, depression, fatigue, decreased alertness, impaired memory, and impaired judgment.  To increase the amount of sleep you get each night, there are several behaviors/patterns you can incorporate into your daily routine to improve your sleep hygiene, including improving your nutrition.

Nutrition, exercise, and sleep can play a vital role in managing and preventing depression. So often people who feel stressed, fatigued, and mentally “down” are under-exercised, malnourished, and under-rested. Time spent investing in your physical health is a wise investment.  When you give your body the proper elements, it can run efficient and accurately, much like a car running on high grade fuel.

An important and vital relationship exists between nutrition and depression. Nutrition can be play a major role in the onset, severity, and duration of depression. Many of the same eating patterns that occur prior to a depressive state are the same eating patterns that occur during depressive state. Patterns may include skipping meals, poor or decreased appetite, and a desire for sweets. Extremely low carbohydrate diets also put individuals at the risk of feeling depressed because tryptophan and serotonin are the brain chemicals that promote a feeling of well-being, and are triggered by consuming carbohydrate rich foods.

Vitamin deficiencies can be more prevalent among depressed individuals.  Vitamin deficiencies linked to depression include vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate deficiency. Folic acid deficiency can cause personality change and depression. As we age Vitamin B12 may not be absorbed as easily and at just marginally low levels, a deficiency can contribute to depression and memory problems.

To improve your quality of sleep, I recommend trying the following behaviors that promote good sleep hygiene!

  • Decrease stimulus in your home at least 1 hour before going to bed
  • Use the bedroom for sleep only.
  • Avoid consuming a heavy meal right before bedtime. Recommend consuming a snack if you are hungry before bed. Avoid going to bed too full or too hungry. Avoid sleeping when you're hungry or right after you've had a big meal
  • Exercising regularly to improve your ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and improve  quality of sleep.  Preferably exercise in the morning or early afternoon. Avoid exercising within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine after lunch, such as cola, coffee or tea
  • Avoid drinking alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime. Although alcohol is a depressant and may induce sleep at first, it can easily be disrupted.
  • Keeping a regular scheduled bedtime and waking time. Plan to allow for 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Avoid smoking a cigarette before bedtime
  • Creating a comfortable environment that is conducive to sleep by eliminating uncomfortable bedding, wearing loose clothing, keeping the bedroom temperature slightly cool, and eliminating any bothersome noise or light
  • Eat at least three meals a day, including breakfast.
  • Try to replace refined sugars with fruit and whole grain carbohydrates.
  • Stay Hydrated! Drink at least eight 8oz glasses per day
  • Incorporate plenty of leafy greens for folic acid
  • Eat bananas, avocado, chicken, greens, and whole grains for Vitamin B6

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for the NutriFocus family that you have personally found helpful in improving your quality and quantity of sleep?! If so please share by leaving a comment below!