New nutrition services offered by housing department

By Colleen Vest

While a buffet-style service may contribute to gaining “the freshman 15,” University housing is offering new services to aid in healthy eating choices.

The dining and catering section of their Web site currently offers links to new services: EatSmart, a nutritional value chart specifically for dining hall foods, and Ask a Dietician, a feature that allows students to ask specific questions to a registered dietician.

“We’ve had EatSmart available since last spring, but only some food choices were available,” said Kirsten Ruby, marketing director for University Housing.

A goal was to make EatSmart more accurate, Ruby said. It is based on a standard serving size to increase awareness on portion sizes, she continued.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“All of the EatSmart information is based on our recipes,” said Robin Allen, administrative dietician with the department. “We enter the recipe into a computer system that uses a USDA database to measure calories, fat content and other nutritional values.”

Sam Imburgia, freshman in general studies, said she has used a similar Web site in the past.

“I haven’t used EatSmart and probably won’t for dining hall food,” Imburgia said. “I think the food is too unhealthy, and I don’t want to know how bad it is.”

With Ask a Dietician, residents can send e-mails to Allen to ask about nutritional information regarding dining hall foods, Ruby said. It can help with eating choices and specific diets like gluten-free and vegetarian, she continued.

“I get about 10 e-mails a week from the Ask a Dietician feature about sports nutrition, allergies and other things,” Allen said. “I also get general questions, primarily from freshmen, about weight control.”

Demat Fazil, junior in LAS, said the new feature could be helpful.

“I haven’t used it, but if you’re counting calories or on a specialized diet, it would be good to have access to someone who knows specific information about the food served in the dining halls,” she said.

Even though dining halls are offering new services, Imburgia said the food is too unhealthy.

“I feel like all I am eating here are carbs and other unhealthy foods,” Imburgia said.

Dining services try to present choices to balance unhealthy and healthy options, Allen said.

“We always try to offer a vegetarian option,” Allen said. “We always have the salad bar, sandwich bar and, in some dining halls, we have the build your own pasta and panini stations.”

The build your own pasta, panini and pizza stations let students make their meals as healthy or unhealthy as they want, Allen continued.

“For instance, (Pennsylvania Avenue Residence) has a stir fry, Mexican food and pizza station open for all meals,” she said.

Fazil said dining halls do offer options, but even the healthy option is questionable.

“It seems like a lot of what they offer is fried, like fries, chicken tenders and patties,” she said. “But you never know what kind of oils they use for the grilled meats, which are supposed to be healthier.”

Some of the specialty restaurants offer foods high in fat, but it’s only offered once a week, which restricts residents from eating foods high in fat every day, Ruby said.

“As long as people are eating unhealthy foods in moderation and balancing it with healthy options, dining hall food offers a variety of options that are high in nutrition,” Allen said. “It’s all about choices.”