Deciphering Dining at Ohio State

Now that you’ve had a few weeks under your belt as a first-year student at Ohio State, hopefully, you’ve used your meal plan at least once or twice.

Have you finally cracked the code to the seemingly overwhelming mess of dining dollars, BuckID cash, swipes, and visit exchanges? Have you discovered the perfect way to use your swipes and dollars each week?

No? Still confused? Don’t worry, I like to consider myself pretty savvy when it comes to budgeting and dietary needs, but even I had trouble understanding at first. Luckily for you, I’m here to show you what I wish I had known dining at Ohio State throughout my first year.

First, the Basics: Dining Dollars, BuckID Cash, and Swipes

  • Dining Dollars can be used at any student dining services locations. They are intended to give you added flexibility in what you eat and where. By using dining dollars you get a 35% discount on your purchase. Even better, they roll over every semester you are enrolled.
  • BuckID Cash can be used at any merchant that accepts BuckID both on and off-campus. This is not just restricted to food purchases. Use your ‘Ohio State’ app to look at all the available merchants.
  • Swipes (all-you-care-to-eat visits) give you access to any of the three Traditions Dining locations (Scott, Morrill, and Kennedy).
  • Visit exchanges involve exchanging a swipe for a monetary amount. At most dining locations, it is $8 to one swipe, but at C-Stores it is $5 to one swipe. For example, if I were to spend $7.50 at Union Market, instead of using Dining Dollars or BuckID cash, I could use one swipe to pay.

Now that you know what each component of a plan is, how do you choose which plan is best for you? Gray 10, Scarlet 14, or Unlimited? 

  • Gray 10, at $2,025, will give you 10 swipes each week, $200 Dining Dollars, and $150 BuckID cash.
  • Scarlet 14, at $2,412, will give you 14 swipes each week, $200 Dining Dollars, and $150 BuckID cash.
  • Unlimited, at $1,976, will give you unlimited swipes to any Traditions locations, and $100 Dining Dollars.

When I was first deciding my meal plan, I scoffed at Gray 10, thinking that it could never feed me, so I chose Scarlet 14. A few weeks into the semester, I found myself routinely having at least seven swipes left at the end of each week. So, in my second semester, I decided to switch to Gray 10, which was much more suitable for my daily intake. The meal plan that will work best for you is just that – the meal plan that will work best for you. If you choose a meal plan you’re unsatisfied with, there is a grace period each semester where you can change it – you can’t drop down to a less expensive meal plan after the second Friday of the term, but you can always bump up to a bigger plan at any time.

Alright, you’ve learned about and chosen your meal plan, and now you’re absolutely dying to know what my top 3 dining locations are, right? 

  1. The MarketPlace on Neil. In my opinion, it has the best and most versatile menu. Anything from breakfast sandwiches and coffee to sushi to oven-fired pizza.
  2. Sloopy’s Diner. If you’re craving some late-night classic diner food, Sloopy’s has got you covered.
  3. Courtside Cafe. Located in the RPAC, if you’re looking for some versatile, healthier options after a workout (or anytime), this is your best bet!

Okay, but what about dietary restrictions?

Many students at Ohio State must navigate the dining services with dietary restrictions! Although common allergies and dietary preferences are posted on menus and in Traditions, in my opinion, the best way to view ingredients is to use NetNutrition. This web tool allows you to view updated menus, nutritional facts, and filter by allergies and dietary preferences.

Struggling to find balance or what works best for you nutritionally? 

As important as it is to simply understand dining plans, it’s also important to take care of yourself. If you feel like you need some additional guidance as far as meals and eating on-campus, the best advice I could possibly give is to check out the Student Wellness Center in the RPAC. They offer free, personalized nutritional education and coaching.

Hopefully, you’ve now mastered dining at Ohio State, and if not, trust that you will soon! It’s confusing, it takes time, and it takes practice. Luckily, you get to practice multiple times a day.

Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and as always, Go Bucks!

Six Snacking Tips for the Hungry College Student

It is certainly that time of the semester where my planner is chock-full of assignments, exams, and student organization meetings. In the midst of a busy semester, it is easy to take short cuts when it comes to your health and nutritional needs. If you are anything like me, I am constantly hungry. Three o’clock rolls around and I am ready for a boost of energy to get me through the day. Here are some tips and tools to arm you with the knowledge you need when hunger strikes.

Morgan blog

Be Proactive

My best piece of advice would be to be proactive. It is easy to grab unhealthy snacks such as chips, cookies, and other processed foods because they are convenient and prepackaged. However, there are alternatives that are more health conscious and will keep you fuller.

When I lived on campus, I would go to one of the campus market locations (Union Market, Curl Market, and Marketplace) and stock my Microfridge with containers of fresh cut berries, yogurt parfaits, and small salads. When a craving would strike, I would already be prepared with healthy options in my own room.

Watch Your Portion Size

Always remember, a snack is NOT a meal. A snack should be something to keep you focused throughout the day–not a meal replacement.

Keep portions small and pay attention to serving sizes. Check out the nutrition label on the back and estimate what a serving would be. It is so easy to mindlessly eat and all of the sudden the whole bag is gone. Oops!

Pack with Care

You might be on-the-go like me or a commuter student who brings your lunch and snacks to school. It is important to pack your snacks safely to avoid food spoilage.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, perishable items such as cheese, meats, and yogurts should not be left out for more than two hours. Make sure you pack snacks with a cold pack and in an insulated container to ensure safe snacking on the go.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is so important, especially since we’re hiking around campus all day. It is a great idea to carry a water bottle in your backpack–there are many convenient water bottle filling stations all around campus and in residence halls.

Stick to water instead of surgery sweetened beverages. If you crave fizz, try flavored sparkling water.

Look Out for Sugar Bombs

You might be surprised to learn that your favorite granola and protein bars might have as much sugar as a candy bar. The food industry is really sneaky at adding extra sugar to foods and advertising them as “healthy.”

A great alternative would be to snack on fresh fruit with natural sugar and nut butters to give you the boost you need. For example, apples and peanut butter is a delicious snack.

When in Doubt, Consult an Expert

If you are unsure of your specific caloric needs or need help navigating campus dining, it is always best to consult an expert. A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a nutrition expert that can help you with your specific dietary needs.

Fortunately at Ohio State, there are many resources here to help you. Check out the Student Wellness Center located inside the RPAC for nutrition coaching.

From one food lover to another, happy snacking!

Food For Thought

Campus dining plans at Ohio State seemingly change every year, and this year is no exception. Though the new plan may be confusing to novice users, I am going to go through each component of our current plan and share with you what I think are the best possible ways to use it!

Weekly Traditional Visits

Ohio State has three “traditions” dining facilities on campus. On South Campus you have Kennedy Commons, on North Campus you have the brand new Scott Commons, and one on West Campus is Morrill Commons. These are buffet-style facilities where you can eat as much as you want for as long as you want!

You cannot take food out of these places. You must eat inside the building. This is where you can use your Traditional Visits that you are allotted each week! Your Traditions Visits reset every Sunday night at midnight.

Your Traditional Visits can also be used at the market places on campus! We have three market places: MarketPlace (South), Union Market (South), and Curl Market (North). At these market places you can trade a traditional visit for a “market meal exchange”, which gives you your choice of select sandwiches, salads, sides, and a fountain drink…a great option if you are looking for a quick grab-and-go meal. This will save you from having to do a “$5 Exchange”, which is not cost effective at any dining location with the word “Market” in its name.

$5 Exchange

Different meal plans are comprised of different amounts of Weekly Traditional Visits (5 to unlimited). If you find that you are not using them all in a particular week (before they reset), you have the ability to exchange one for a $5 purchase at any non-traditional dining location (like Mirror Lake Creamery).

Dining Dollars

Personally, I think Dining Dollars are super cool and I wish we had them when I still had a meal plan. Dining Dollars can be used at basically all of the dining facilities on campus. Places like Sloopy’s, Oxley’s, 12th Ave. Bread Company, accept Dining Dollars as a cost efficient way to pay for your food (you’ll receive a 10 percent discount for all food purchases made with Dining Dollars). The coolest part of Dining Dollars is that they stay on your BuckID card FOREVER…well, at least until you graduate. They keep rolling over! Unlike BuckID cash, however, Dining Dollars cannot be added. If you use all of them during the semester, you cannot get more until the next semester you have a meal plan.

BuckID Cash

BuckID cash is cash that is on your BuckID that you can use at off campus locations. You can use it like a gift card, but you can always add more money on to it. Most off campus locations accept BuckID cash like Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings, and even the Kroger on High Street! Some clothing stores accept it also like Pitaya! (Ladies, go to Pitaya. It is great!)

Suggestions for maximizing your dining plan

Find the deals

In my first year on campus, Kennedy Commons would have chicken finger Fridays, and my friends and I–without fail–went to every chicken finger Friday. The Traditions facilities have great food! Take advantage of it!

Try every Campus Dining location

I lived on South campus and never ate anywhere on North. The first time I ever went to Oxley’s was my sophomore year and found out how amazing it was! I no longer had a meal plan so I was never able to eat there again unless I paid for it myself.

Appreciate your meal plan!

Speaking as a senior who has had to buy her own groceries and make her own food, I can personally tell you that meal plans are the best. There is such a wide variety of food on campus and you can truly find healthy options–take advantage of all of it!

23 Things to do on the Weekend!

Whether your personal definition of the weekend is a traditional Saturday-Sunday affair, or a liberal Friday (even Thursday) to Monday morning, everyone needs something to work toward during the week; Ohio State and Columbus hardly lack in activities, festivities and general fun for the weekend. My name is Alex and here are my favorite things to do:


1) Study: Let’s be honest, that midterm isn’t going to study for itself. I like to set aside a little time from my weekend to get down to business and get ahead in my classes.

(suggested background music)

2) Hang out: Going to class with friends is great, but make sure to get to know each other outside of the classroom.

3) Athletic events: The feeling around campus on game day is pure SCARLET AND GREY ENERGY. Breakout your Buckeye attire and face paint because the Bucks are about to win!

4) Concerts: Whether it’s a free OUAB concert or a performance at the LC Pavilion or the Newport Music Hall, Columbus is a favorite stop on some of the best tours.


5) Thurman Café: This famous burger café has delicious monster burgers (including the Thurmanator) and is located German Village.

6) Melt: Just a short bus ride or walk into the Short North, this restaurant has an amazing assortment of delectable sandwiches.

7) Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: World-famous Jeni’s Ice Cream is available on campus!  However, I think visiting the shop in the Short North is well worth the trip.

8) Piada: For all you Chipotle fanatics, just imagine Chipotle but for pasta!

9) Northstar Café: With several locations, Northstar is my personal favorite for great food and organic options.

10) North Market: Right by the Convention Center, the North Market hosts many independent vendors and food from around the world.

11) Tai’s Asian Bistro: Talk about more bang for your buck, when I order their Pad Tai, it lasts me for days!

12) Union Café (not the one on campus): If you are looking for a great brunch, pop on in for some tasty breakfast food!

13) Surly Girl: Located close to campus in the Short North, Surly Girl offers great comfort food.

14) Katalina’s: Three words. Nutella Pancake Balls.

15) Figlio: If you are looking for pizza and pasta, Figlio in Grandview is a great place to eat!


16) Scioto Audubon Metro Park: This Columbus park has an outdoor rock climbing wall!

17) CoGo BikesNo bike, no problem. CoGo is a bike share program so you can bike the Columbus trails.

18) Columbus Crew: So maybe you’re not playing on the field, but come cheer on Columbus’s very own professional soccer team. Check out student discount tickets at D-Tix.

19)  Run the Trails: The Olentangy Trail stretches alongside the river. This is a perfect place for long runs and bike rides.

20) Relax on the Oval: It’s nice to actually stop and smell the roses (or grass) once in a while.

21) CoSi: You might nerd out a bit, but CoSi isn’t just for kids. This interactive science museum is a blast for all ages.

IV. THINGS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER (but are easy to forget)

22) Call home: Let’s face it, there are times where you may miss home during your first year. Make a point of calling those good friends or family members when you’re thinking of them, they’ll appreciate it.

23) Sleep: You’ve earned it. Although you may not want to spend your whole weekend catching up on sleep, it’s healthy to take time to rest. Work on creating a healthy sleep schedule, so you can use your weekends to build relationships and have adventures!

Check in on July 7 (orientation day 25) when Nikki will write about The 25 Tweets You Might Post During Your First Year. 

The Freshman 15: Fifteen Things To Eat Around Campus

The Freshman 15. With such wonderful food and drinks around campus, it’s kind of hard to avoid. Don’t think so? Well, join me as I talk about fifteen things you should eat and drink around campus to celebrate day 15 of orientation!

1. Adriatico’s Pizza

The thought of missing pizza will never cross your mind as long as we have Adriatico’s Pizza. This is some of the best pizza around, so be sure to check it out on Neil and 11th Avenue!

2. Noodles and Co.

What could be better than having a bowl of penne rosa for dinner with your friends to end a long week? Having that same bowl of penne rosa at Noodles & Co! They have a wide variety of noodles available AND they even let you know how many calories are in each dish; the hike to Lane Avenue and High Street will definitely be worth it!

3. Curritos

A recently new addition to High Street, Curritos makes burritos and burrito bowls to mimic the different tastes around the world such as Bangkok, Buffalo, and (my personal favorite) Tikka. It’s like making a trip around the world in your mouth without leaving your seat!

4. Chipotle Mexican Grill

Want to stick with that classic burrito you love and cherish so much? Well, no worries! Chipotle is located on High Street right across from the Ohio Union. If you aren’t a big fan of their tortilla chips but still want something crunchy, ask for taco shells instead and they’ll give it to you – free of charge!

5. Panera Bread

If you’re in the mood for a gourmet breakfast or something other than cereal every morning, try Panera! They have wonderful bagels, muffins and scones that will satisfy the morning appetite! Top it off with a cup of their hot chocolate and that’s what I call a great start to the day! We have double the goodness here at Ohio State with two Panera locations: one on High Street and one on Lane Avenue.

6. Brenen’s Café

Brenen’s is a great place to go to grab a snack between classes, especially for those of you who will be spending a great amount of time on South Campus. Don’t forget to order their fruit smoothie with frozen yogurt and whipped cream (you won’t regret it)!


Let’s be real for a minute – off-campus food can be expensive! But we have just as much good food on campus (which you can purchase using Campus Dining meal blocks):

7. Union Market

Go to the Union Market located inside the Ohio Union to get a quick lunch ranging from burgers to paninis to sushi as you head over to your next class!

8. Sloopy’s Diner

Also in the Ohio Union, Sloopy’s is a great place to sit down with friends for any meal of the day! Catering to vegetarian and gluten-free needs, Sloopy’s is bound to be a first choice for many students.


Can’t get yourself to work out? That’s okay, you can still go to the Courtside Café inside the RPAC every day to try their mouth watering smoothies! They also have great lunch items including cheese tortellini (my personal favorite) and fruit and vegetable cups for those health-conscious students.

10. Berry Café

Berry Café, located on the ground floor of the Thompson Library, is the best place to get a snack while you study (or that morning coffee that’s a necessity for some of us!).


Now let’s review some drink choices you should explore:

11. The Ohio Union Mocha (hot or cold)

Served at the Espress-OH in the Ohio Union, the Ohio Union Mocha is one of those drinks that can keep you up and running for those long days as well as help you relax on a Friday night!

12. Starbucks

Those of you who need our coffee in the morning but can’t do with anything but Starbucks, you’re in luck! Starbucks in located right across the Union on High Street and caters to many Ohio State students on a daily basis. There are also branches around campus in the RPAC and in the basement of the McPherson Lab.

13. Fruit Smoothies

In my opinion, all the fruit smoothies on campus are delicious with the most street credibility going to those served at the RPAC, Brenen’s and the Berry Café. Check them all out to find your favorite!

14. Frozen Hot Chocolate

This chocolatey goodness is a must-have for every student at some point during their Ohio State career. For me, that would be every week! Make sure to request whipped cream and chocolate topping to get the most of this experience.

15. Apple/Orange Juice

We all love those espressos, frappuccinos and mochas, but at the end of the day, fruit juice is a healthy alternative! Find your favorite flavor: apple, orange, mixed berry or something else at any of our cafés on campus.

Check in with us again on Monday (orientation day 16) as Cameron Rankin shares sixteen birthday gifts you can find around campus!