At many universities, the combination of dining halls filled with unhealthy options and the ease of a simple swipe into a cafeteria of endless food options sets up a recipe for a health disaster. But at Penn, a.k.a.the college with the healthiest students, there are many options beyond buffalo chicken pizza and Belgian waffles. 

Daniel Connolly, Penn’s very own registered nutritionist, has collaborated with Bon Appétit and Penn chefs to provide a healthier dining experience. “We try to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” he explained in reference to the placement of foods in the dining halls. When you walk into 1920 Commons, you immediately see the salad bar rather than the dessert section, and the comfort food is placed in the order of vegetables, starches, and then meats so that students are more inclined to build a healthy plate. Penn Dining has also implemented a “one third Initiative,” which guarantees that at least one third of the food in the dining halls are healthy options. Additionally, students have access to free nutrition counseling for information on healthy eating and for addressing problems ranging from eating disorders to allergies.

Having trouble finding healthy meals at the dining halls? I designed a healthy meal at every residential and retail dining location on campus, so that you didn’t have to.

1920 Commons

This platter combines the lemon herb roasted chicken (200 calories) from the grill with vegetables from the salad bar—coming in with a total of 365 calories.

Hill House

The new dining hall at Hill College House has so many options that I couldn’t help but create multiple meals. The all–day breakfast station offers made–to–order omelets with egg whites available at your request. The Very Veggie station offers Indian–inspired vegetables stewed in coconut milk instead of oils and locally produced grilled curry tofu. The fruit salad station offers seasonal berries and freshly–made smoothies. The nutritional information is not yet available for the Hill House menu items, but who needs caloric verification when the food is grilled freshly in front of you?

Falk Kosher Dining

Come for the food, stay for the conversation with the friendly chefs! Hillel is the only dining hall that offers made–to–order panini sandwiches. The panini pictured contains turkey breast, lettuce, tomato, cranberry spread, and a garden spinach whole wheat tortilla—all for a total of 435 calories.

English House

This salad contains spinach, tuna, hard boiled eggs, carrots, beets, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, and light balsamic vinaigrette dressing, giving you a source of energy for only about 335 calories. 

McClelland Express

McClelland Express’s fruit and yogurt bar provides a great on–the–go option. The plain low–fat yogurt is just 40 calories a ladle, making this fruit parfait about 250 calories. 

Gourmet Grocer

The Gourmet Grocer allows you to use dining dollars towards a to–go meal bar, prepared foods, and premium brands. It offers a wide selection of protein bars, including Quest Bars, Clif Bars, Luna Bars, thinkThin bars, Health Warrior Chia Bars, LÄRABARs, KIND Bars, RXBARs, and Awake Energy Bars. G2 even offers everyone’s favorite healthy ice cream brand, Halo Top! If you get there before the fanatics raid the freezer, you can get Chocolate Almond Crunch, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Mocha Chip, Sea Salt Caramel, Cookies and Cream, and Oatmeal Cookie flavors.


Beef·steak (noun): a tomato of an exceptionally large and firm variety. 

Sorry, meat lovers, this place offers neither beef nor steak. Instead, it offers a wide array of vegetables, grains, sauces, and toppings. The bowl that I designed in this picture contains carrots, edamame, spinach, squash, bulgar wheat, seaweed salad, tomatoes, sprouts, and soy ginger dressing, coming up to a total of 330 calories.

Houston Hall

The Pure Fare section of Houston Hall is home many healthy options. Pure Fare is a fast, casual, and healthy food place in Rittenhouse Square, but as a Penn student you can get it right in your backyard!

Pret a Manger

Argue about how the pronunciation of the name all you want, but we can all agree that Pret a Manger provides a great selection of healthy breakfast foods, salads, soups, power pots, and balance boxes.


I don’t always SABS at Frontera, but when I do, I get a great meal out of it! While Mexican food may not sound healthy at face value, you can ask for meals with sauces on the side or with substitutions. For example, I ordered the Chipotle Chicken Caesar salad without Cotija cheese and croutons and with the dressing on the side—not to worry, it was still a delicious and fulfilling meal.

Accenture Cafe, Joe’s Cafe, and Mark’s Cafe

Located in Towne Building, Steiny D, and Van Pelt, respectively, these cafes have a similar selection of healthy options. Enjoy a study break with sushi, a sandwich, a salad, soup, or La Colombe coffee.

The Farmer’s Market

You may know about the Farmer’s Market that nests the intersection of 36th and Walnut Streets every Wednesday. But you may not know that this market accepts dining dollars and PennCash! This outdoor market offers fresh fruit and honey from Beechwood Orchards. But hurry—the Farmer’s Market only stays open through November!

*The nutritional information used for this article can be found on the Penn Dining website.


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