Students avoid vegetables in dorm buffets

teve Miller, sophomore in Engineering, gets a lunch in the Bromley dining hall on Thursday. Beck Diefenbach

By Erika Strebel

When Lauren Waller, freshman in LAS, selected food from the buffet in the dining room at Lincoln Avenue and Allen Residence Halls, she went straight to the salad bar after placing salmon on her plate. Whether cooked or raw, Waller said she tries to incorproate some kind of vegetable in her meal.

“I like vegetables,” she said. “They’re good for you.”

However, Waller is a rare find among today’s college students, according to the results of the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System released by the Center for Disease Control. The survey of over 347 thousand people in the United States found that adults ages 18 to 24 eat the fewest vegetables compared to other age groups. Also, four-fifths of them admitted to not eating vegetables at all. In Illinois and 13 other states, less than 20 percent of young adults ate at least three servings of vegetables a day.

Currently, the government recommends two to three servings of vegetables a day, depending on a person’s health status, age, height, weight and daily activity level. The government’s goal is to get 50 percent of Americans to eat at least three servings of vegetables a day by 2010, according to the Center for Disease Control.

James Finkle, freshman in Engineering, said he avoids vegetables because they just don’t taste as good. He said the freedom of choice in buffet-style dining rooms allows students to choose only what they like.

“When it comes down to pizza and cake versus vegetables, what would you choose?” he said.

Anthony Brown, production chef at the Allen Hall and LAR dining room said he walks around the cafeteria during mealtime to make sure students squeeze in vegetables, encouraging students to take advantage of available salad bars.

“I’m always getting on students about eating vegetables,” he said.

Sue Dawson, Hendrick House food service director, said Certified Private Housing dining services try to make vegetables look and taste pleasing by not overcooking them or adding too much seasoning or oil.

Hendrick House contracts with fraternities and sororities and places a cook in each house who collaborates with students to create menus.

“We do not have any clients that say ‘We don’t want veggies,'” Dawson said.

But unlike students who live in residence halls or in fraternities and sororities, those who rent apartments or condos like Ben Slater, sophomore in Engineering, have to go grocery shopping for their vegetables and prepare them.

“It’s hard to keep a good diet for someone who’s away from home,” Slater said. “Lots of students don’t know how to cook or have time.”

Usually, Slater said he purchases canned corn or beans that he microwaves. Sometimes, if he plans to cook, he purchases fresh vegetables.

Lisa Burgoon, food science instructor and former dietician, said one common misconception that may lead students to shun vegetables is the belief that fresh vegetables are better. She said canned, frozen, or dried vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables. These would be better buys for students since they have a longer shelf life and are less expensive.

Rebecca Roach, a visiting food science instructor, said there are plenty of things students can do to incorporate vegetables into their diet. She said that when students eat out at Jimmy John’s or Subway, they can order extra vegetables.

Roach encouraged students to give vegetables a chance.

“Your tastes change as you get older,” she said. “I really want college students to explore and experiment with vegetables.”