How to Navigate the Dining Hall with Type 1 Diabetes


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The dining hall in college/university is the kingdom for unlimited food. You name it, they probably have it: burgers, fries, cookies, donuts, bagels, cakes, pizza. There is no one telling you what to eat or how to eat, and you feel the ultimate sense of freedom to indulge. Test out these tips the next time you step foot in your dining hall to make some healthier choices!

Pick the right meal plan

Unlimited meal plans seem ideal, but they can lead to you taking full advantage of going in to get food whenever you please. The constant opportunity to eat can cause you to take advantage of the “free phenomenon” and eat more than you want. Try and get a plan that limits the amount of times that you can go to the dining hall. There could be some options that limit your meal plan to three or four meals a day.


The mental effect of all-you-can-eat gives you the mindset to eat as much as you can because it’s free and available.  You see the burger … and the pizza … and the pasta, and you want it all. With all the freedom and no restrictions, you can sometimes find yourself going overboard. Do a lap around the dining hall and look at all of the options before you jump into a carb overload!

Go in with a game plan

Look up the menu for the day and have an idea about what you want to eat. You are more likely to stick with your go-to and not feel overwhelmed with all of the options.

Get creative

Instead of going for a burger and fries, ask for the burger protein-style—without the bun or fries. Your blood sugar will thank you for avoiding the heavy carbs from the bun and fries. Try this option with other carb-heavy foods paired with protein, such as separating the spaghetti from the meatballs, or the chicken from a sandwich.

Pick and choose

If you really want to indulge, DO IT! Pair a treat with a healthy option. For example, grab those fries but get a side of carrots or grapes. Get the burger and fries, but skip the dessert. Make it work for you!

Pack on the protein

Protein keeps blood sugar levels steady and won’t leave you headed for the high road. Steak, chicken, fish, eggs, turkey and yogurt are some great options for protein packed food.

Eat your veggies

Stack up on the vegetables! Non-starchy vegetables, such as celery, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli and asparagus have few carbs and can fill you up. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and peas, have more carbs. Add lettuce to any type of protein or sandwich for a hidden veggie serving. You can also add a side salad to your normal meal to pack on the nutrients without the heavy carbs.

Don’t forget the fruit

For a sweet treat that is also healthy, grab some fruit. The natural sugars can be high in some types of fruits, so be aware of which one you grab! Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and cranberries are great low carb fruits.  Bananas, cherries and mangos are some higher-carb options.

Ask the staff

If you have difficulty finding options that are suitable for you, let the dining hall staff know that you have certain dietary needs.  They can sometimes offer you different varieties of dishes that are low-carb or gluten-free!

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WRITTEN BY BT1 Editorial Team, POSTED 08/12/16, UPDATED 12/23/22

This piece was authored collaboratively by the Beyond Type 1 Editorial Team.