University dining a healthy surprise

By Kristin Shaulis

Although the University offers a smorgasbord of dining options, many students often question how healthy their options really are.

“I always kind of assumed it was unhealthy,” said Vince Kenney, sophomore in FAA.

But students don’t have to make any assumptions about their dining hall diet.

The University recently updated all of its nutritional information online through the EatSmart program, which allows students eating at any of the dining halls on campus to select items from the menu and receive the exact nutritional information for their meal. The program provides a “Build-Your-Own” feature allowing students to create their own personalized meal for each day.

“EatSmart debuted last year. It’s very accurate and very user-friendly. We are very pleased with the system,” said Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of housing for marketing and representative of the University’s dining halls.

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“I’ve checked the system a couple of times since my roommate does it too,” said Lauren Standaert, a freshman in AHS. “I try not to eat anything really unhealthy.”

Although many of the menu items are reasonably healthy, it often comes back to the same guidelines the majority of the population uses when trying to eat wisely, such as portion control and staying away from sweets.

For example, a cup of vegetable soup and a small turkey salad would be appropriate for someone counting calories since it only has 403. However, someone watching sodium intake would want to stay away from this combo, which has more than 100 percent of the daily-recommended value.

The University has nutritionists on staff to assist students interested in specific diets.

“We do have people on staff if, for example, a student needs a gluten-free diet, who could help them,” Ruby said. “They can also figure out which dining halls the student dines at most frequently and make sure that those choices are available to them.”

The next student tip is also basic to the rules of dieting.

“Get a variety of food. You could just be eating all carbs. Pick up some fruit or something,” Standaert said.

Students also have the ability to provide feedback regarding the menus at the dining halls.

“We certainly take on the feedback we’re given. Ten years ago, liver and onions used to be on the menu, but that was taken off because of the student feedback,” Ruby said.

But maybe the most important factor is also the simplest: the person eating and his or her preferences.

“You know what’s healthy and what isn’t. It’s more of a personal choice than a surprise,” said Sara Carley, a sophomore in general studies.