College meal plans are convenient for many students. They provide an easier alternative to cooking, quick and easy payment methods and options for every meal of the day — all with the swipe of a card. However, a limited dining hall menu can lessen the appeal of getting a meal plan, especially for students who need options that accommodate their special dietary needs and preferences.
If you feel compelled to expand your higher education institution’s menu options, know there are many reasons to consider doing so. This article will explore the importance of custom meals. The benefits far outweigh the costs and will surely reward your institution in the long run.
Customization Is on the Rise
Customizable dining is a popular food industry trend right now, and it will only continue to rise. “Why?” you may ask. People appreciate the opportunity to pick and choose exactly what goes on their plates.
Whether they have special dietary restrictions, food allergies or tough-to-please palates, students will appreciate the ability to tailor a meal to their needs and preferences. Even students who don’t experience these restrictions will enjoy more extensive menu options. For these reasons, meal customization is a possible method if you’re looking to attract more students to the college dining hall.
In the next section, we’ll further explore the benefits of adding custom meals to higher education institutions.
Why Are Custom Meals Important?
From accommodating multiple food preferences to providing healthier meals overall, custom meal options offer a variety of important benefits to consider. Students with special food requirements and students without dietary restrictions alike will enjoy the freedom and convenience of building their plates to their liking. Read on to explore the four main benefits of adding custom foods to your college campus’s menu.
1. Pleasing Picky Palates
It’s tough to please an entire college campus — even more so when your meal options are limited. Every group has its picky eaters, and it’s virtually impossible to find a singular meal that everyone will enjoy.
Thankfully, custom meals allow picky eaters to choose what they’d like on their plates. This decreases the chances of them avoiding the food altogether simply because it’s something they didn’t want to eat. Consider introducing custom meals to your facility to cater to multiple tastes and palates — including those that are the toughest to please.
2. Catering to Dietary Restrictions
It’s important to accommodate those with special dietary needs on college campuses and in any environment that serves food. This is another reason why custom food options are beneficial and necessary. Food allergies, intolerances and other conditions often limit what people can safely eat, so implementing a more diverse menu with customizable options caters to those with certain dietary restrictions.
When including these diet-friendly options on your menu, clearly label and distinguish them from regular items. This way, students can see which options apply to their dietary needs, and there’s no confusion as to which foods they can safely consume.
In the next section, we’ll look at specific examples of common dietary restrictions and how your menu can be more inclusive of students with these needs.
3. Inclusive Dining Options
Custom meals can cater to various dietary restrictions, allergies and food preferences, making your college dining options more inclusive overall. For example, vegetarian students will likely appreciate meatless options like veggie sausage and black bean burgers. Additionally, those following a ketogenic diet will typically seek out low-carb vegetables and fruits, fatty meats, eggs, saturated fats and nuts.
Below are some common dietary restrictions to look out for if you want to broaden your dining hall menu with more diet-inclusive options:
- Raw food
Also, consider these common food allergies:
Additionally, there are some dietary restrictions associated with different religious practices such as Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventist, Hinduism, etc.
4. Providing Healthier Meals
Colleges are notorious for having highly processed meals and easy access to junk food, and it’s important to work toward combatting this issue. Promoting healthier dieting practices for students sets an excellent example for them. Customizable meals are a step in this direction — they provide more diverse options for multiple diets and preferences and allow for a wider variety of healthy food options.
Healthy meal options will appeal to current students looking to improve their diets and may also help attract new students to campus. Below are some ways students can benefit from healthy meal plans:
- Good physical health: Healthier meals can boost the memory, focus and energy of college students.
- Improved academic performance: Achieving nourishment they need through healthy foods improves students’ information processing and memory retention when needed to succeed in classes.
- Weight management: For students looking to lose weight, healthy dieting paired with exercise is an excellent place to begin.
- Better sleeping habits: Students tend to sleep better at night when they consume healthy, unprocessed foods such as whole grains, lima beans and soybeans.
- Improved mental health: Choosing fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and protein-rich foods over refined carbs and processed foods can improve depression symptoms and boost overall mental health.
If healthy eating is a goal to help improve your campus, American Dining Creations’ menus provide various food options to meet students’ nutritional needs. Our health and wellness programs encourage students to make choices that positively impact their health.
Create a Customized Meal Plan With American Dining Creations
When it comes to your institution’s dining program, you’ll want to implement the most effective system for everyone. At American Dining Creations, our innovative dining solutions provide convenient meal planning for students. Our top-notch culinary team has the skill, passion and drive necessary to create the best dining experiences for college campuses across the country.
With our higher education food services, students can enjoy the following features:
- Campus Hospitality Advisory Teams (CHAT): Comprised of key campus stakeholders, CHAT allows for a direct communication and feedback line to the dining team. Students have a voice in designing the school’s dining program and can provide input based on their needs and wants. This is an excellent opportunity to help implement any changes they see necessary.
- Dining website: Our advanced campus dining website highlights fun activities and events being held on campus, including the available dining options at these events. Students can meet the dining team and provide direct feedback to them.
- Recipe database: Students can enjoy direct access to ADC’s recipe database. They can rate menu items and provide feedback to the chef.
Our flexible membership meal plans aim to meet the financial and academic goals clients have for their students. To learn more about what American Dining Creations can do for your higher education institution, contact us today!