In 1998, the canteen at Dubai Women's College banned fizzy drinks, chocolate and trans-fats from its menus. Last year it also scrapped chips.
Students now have a wide range of cheap and healthy options, from saj to fresh fruit salad bars.
For only Dh8 they can eat a hot meal of rice and meat with a side salad. Those caught on campus with banned items have them confiscated and receive a written warning.
Muna Al Bagh, 19, is a second-year business student. She has taken part in sport and changed her diet.
"I feel so much better," Ms Al Bagh said. "I used to be very tired and found it hard to concentrate.
"I don't drink fizzy drinks or eat junk food and now I tell my family about the benefits. So in time, maybe they will also start to change their habits."
The American University of Sharjah is taking similar steps, with three restaurants providing healthy food.
All food is made fresh daily and there is a salad and juice bar.
* Melanie Swan