Aim for balance 

Pie chart showing proteins, grains, and fruits and vegetables

Aim for three meals a day, each including:
(1) protein and dairy foods; (2) grains, breads, and starchy vegetables; and (3) fruits and vegetables. Print our Nutrition fact sheet (PDF).

Stay fueled with good nutrition!

Planning consistent, healthy meals throughout the day is important to maintaining optimal health and supporting your performance in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities.  

These ideas can help you build a healthy nutrition pattern, whether you create your own food, eat on campus, visit restaurants, or order take-out.

Aim for 3 meals per day, each with these 3 components:

(1) Protein & dairy 

Necessary to maintain the body, including muscle and bone

  • Meat – pork, beef, lamb, goat
  • Poultry – chicken, turkey
  • Fish and seafood – tuna, salmon, shrimp, tilapia, and more
  • Eggs
  • Dairy – yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, cheese labneh
  • Vegan options
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Beans and legumes (dry, canned or frozen) – black beans, chickpeas, refried beans, lentils, split peas, dal, green peas, edamame
  • Bean products – tofu, tempeh, hummus, refried beans, chili
  • Meat substitutes – veggie burgers, seitan, and others
  • Non-dairy fortified beverages – soy or pea
  • Protein powders, bars and shakes

(2) Grains, breads & starchy vegetables

Needed for good energy

  • Rice, pasta, quinoa, millet, wheat berries, bulgur, sorghum, teff, rye
  • Cereal (cold or hot, such as oatmeal)
  • Bread, tortillas, English muffins, bagels, pancakes, naan, pita
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, corn, peas, beans, cassava, plantains

(3) Fruits & vegetables

Important for micronutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and long-term health

  • Fruits (fresh, frozen, or canned):
    Apples, apricots, bananas, berries, dates, figs, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, melon, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple
  • Vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned):
    Artichokes, asparagus, bamboo shoots, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, greens (chard, collards, spinach), kimchi, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, peppers, radishes, snow or snap peas, summer squash (yellow, spaghetti, zucchini), tomatoes, turnips, water chestnuts

Making it work

Fuel your day with meals and snacks, timed about every 3-4 hours, starting soon after you wake up.

Suggestions below are listed with protein and dairy first, grains, breads, and starchy vegetables next, and fruit and vegetables last.


  • Yogurt, granola bar, banana
  • Peanut butter, toast, apple
  • Milk, cereal, peach
  • Eggs or tofu scramble, toast, avocado or orange
  • Cottage or ricotta cheese, English muffin, melon
  • Feta cheese or labne, flatbread, cucumbers
  • Yogurt, frozen waffle, berries
  • Lox, bagel, tomatoes
  • Tofu, congee, vegetables
  • Nuts, bread, fruit 
  • Beans, rice, assorted vegetables

Lunch or dinner 

  • Sandwich, turkey, tuna, peanut butter, hummus, fruit
  • Tuna or turkey or beans, bread, on a chef salad
  • Grilled chicken, corn, carrots
  • Chili, corn bread, salad
  • Tofu, noodles, broccoli
  • Lentils, dal, rice or teff, spinach
  • Black beans, sweet potato, pepper and onions
  • Cottage cheese, baked potato, mushrooms 
  • Hummus, pita bread, cucumbers
  • Baked fish, quinoa or millet, mixed vegetables
  • Bean or meat tacos, salad
  • Chicken or tofu stir fry, rice, veggies
  • Pizza, salad
  • Poke bowl


Healthy food between meals helps fuel your body!

  • Protein – Low-fat cheese sticks, yogurt, tuna, trail mix or nuts, hard-boiled egg 
  • Grains – Popcorn, rice cakes, whole grain crackers, graham crackers, granola bars
  • Fruits & vegetables – Fresh fruit, applesauce, raisins, raw veggies
  • Combination – Fruit smoothie, apple or celery with peanut butter, cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit, protein bar

Be real!

Our meals may not always be perfectly balanced, and that’s okay.

Remember, all foods can fit into a health diet. Sweets and treats are a fun part of life, enjoy them as part of your pattern of healthy eating.

Nutrition counseling

For more individualized information about nutrition, students may meet with a Cornell Health nutritionist for nutrition counseling. To schedule an appointment, call 607-255-5155 during business hours, or log in to myCornellHealth.

Body image concerns & disordered eating

If you have questions or concerns about your feelings and behaviors related to body image and eating, the resources and information on our Body Image & Disordered Eating page might be helpful to you. 

If you're struggling, help is available. You can schedule an appointment with either your Primary Care Provider or with a member of our Collaborative Health and Eating Program (CHEP) team. Our staff members can help evaluate your current health and habits, and – when appropriate – provide medical care, counseling, and ongoing support to help you optimize your health and well-being. We can also connect you with support groups, and provide specialized referrals for treatment outside the scope of Cornell Health’s services.