Healthy Foods

Too much dependency on canteen food: 5 tips to select healthy foods and keep unhealthy ones at bay

Tips To Select Healthy Foods


General food serving systems in canteens:

Owing to the stressful lifestyle in metro cities, many of us are dependent on outside food especially canteen food if our campus has one. Mostly if the lunch is available at the canteen; people like healthcare workers, civil services workers, teaching faculty members, students, etc prefer the same as it is convenient. In many instances, there are traveling issues, lack of time or inability to cook food or no family member to prepare the food, etc. However, when it comes to canteen food, it is important to understand how to choose healthy food options else, it can lead to gradual increase in weight leading to obesity and / or aggravate blood sugar leading to diabetes or high cholesterol problems.

When it comes to canteen food, there are usually 2 options — ala carte or buffet system. Ala carte is a system where one can select the meal of choice from a menu. On the other hand, in buffet system one has to adhere to the food items prepared as per the menu decided. While it may be cumbersome to carry tiffin if one has to travel to long distance; the quality of food served in canteens may also be a matter of concern. Hence, a judicious selection of food items is advisable while having meals in canteens.

5 tips to select healthy foods from canteen and keep unhealthy ones at bay:

Reusable Water Bottle

1. Prefer carrying water from home:

Even if you may need to eat from outside, it is always advisable to carry your water from home. If you are going to stay for a longer duration i.e. 8–10 hours away from home, it is ideal to carry at least 1-liter water bottle. It is worth the effort of carrying to keep water-borne infections like typhoid, cholera at bay.

Fried Vegetable With Sauce Man

2. Prefer hygienic and well cooked and covered food: 

Prefer boiled/ steamed/ grilled/ roasted/ toasted food — i.e. food which is subjected to heat before eating. Heat is a very effective medium to kill any microorganisms. Avoid any food items that are at room temperature before serving like chutneys, pickles, salads, fruits, etc. Also, avoid any food items that are kept open/ uncovered before serving-like salads especially lemon. 

Real Food

3. Prefer proteinaceous food items:

Prefer well-cooked dals/ sambar/ rasam/ eggs, etc. A good cereal-pulse combination easily available in canteens is idli-sambar/ dosa-sambar/ uttapam-sambar. It is beneficial as it has good proteins and is also well steamed and hence it is a very good healthy food option. An egg frankie is a better option than an egg bhurji with bread or pav as frankie is roasted.

4. Avoid items that may have direct contact with tap water:

Avoid items like buttermilk, fruit juices, as they may have direct contact with water that may be contaminated. People who prefer roadside sugarcane juices need to be alarmed (not because it may contain water) about the contaminants that may be present in the unwashed sugarcanes and the machines and their parts that may harbor bacteria when not washed regularly.

Crispy French Fries

5. Avoid food items fried in the same oil over and over again:

If you are a banker and you love to have wada/samosa pav with your meals; you should consider rethinking. During peak hours as there is a huge crowd and also in order to save money, vendors do not change the oil often. When the oil is treated to too much heating beyond its smoke point, it starts turning harmful to heart health. Hence, instead one can prefer other healthy food options like poha or rawa upma or idli or dosa.

In addition to the above tips, it is advisable for canteen workers also to follow hand hygienic at regular intervals. Washing hands with soap and water for 30 secs is extremely essential for workers handling food. At the same time, any flu-like symptoms should not be left ignored in order to avoid transmission of the infection to co-workers.


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