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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Student Nutrition: Hopefully You Aren’t What You Eat

By Carrie Andrew

Monday morning rolls around and you wake up in a panic as you realize you’ve hit the snooze button a few too many times. Now you’ve got only 10 minutes before your 7:30 a.m. class starts.

You jump out of bed, dress in yesterday’s blue jeans, run a brush through your hair, another over your teeth and rush out the door to catch the bus.

Without a second thought, you skipped breakfast and denied your body important nutrients necessary to keep it running all day.

You probably won’t even realize it until your stomach starts rumbling sometime in the middle of a History 101 lecture. At that point, you’ll probably grab something with little nutritional value from a vending machine just to satisfy those rumblings within.

That is a typical student scenario. Unfortunately, as students attempt to cultivate their own intellectual appetite, other health factors fall by the wayside.

“Everything has to do with time. I don’t have the time, I don’t have the patience, I don’t have the money to eat healthy, and I hate vegetables,” said Sarah Noyes, a pre-nursing student.

Noyes lives in student housing in an apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. This allows her to eat the recommended three meals a day.

Her breakfast is usually cereal or a Nutrigrain bar. Lunch might be spaghetti or lasagna.

“I eat pasta every day,” Noyes explained.

For dinner, she said, “When I have time, basically it’s Top Ramen or macaroni and cheese. Hamburger Helper is still just as disgusting no matter how much extra seasoning and cheese you add.”

A busy schedule and lack of time aren’t the only things keeping Noyes from a nutritious diet.

“It’s expensive to cook from scratch. When I cooked at home, I would cook healthy because my parents bought the ingredients. I would make vegetables and I would eat them,” she said.

Noyes pointed out yet another reason for common unhealthy student eating habits: “When I lived in the dorms at Dixie, none of us ever ate anything healthy. I don’t think any students eat healthy?even if they have the means?because they are too lazy.”

While this sentiment may be true, Amy Reeder, a registered dietitian who works at the University of Utah’s Nutrition Clinic, put it a different way.

“I don’t think students are of a mind to want to change their diet on their own. It is not a priority,” she said.

“Healthy eating is usually designated by fruit and vegetable consumption, and students aren’t the only group who consume small amounts,” Reeder said.

“Americans are getting better in this area, but the No. 1 vegetable that Americans report eating is a potato, and that is usually in the form of french fries. We need to pay attention to the way food is prepared as well,” she continued.

However, before getting concerned about how food is prepared, it’s necessary to know what kinds of foods provide the most nutrition.

The public school system very thoroughly teaches every child the virtues of the four food groups?or at least they used to. Then some sort of triangle/pyramid came along. Pretty soon, high-protein cook books and miracle diets hit the shelves. Now it seems like everyday a new food has been found to cause cancer or obesity.

How is a busy student expected to keep up with it all?

“Healthy eating doesn’t have to be confusing. The Food Guide Pyramid can be really useful because it shows you the types of choices you have and that you can have all of those foods at every meal,” Reeder said.

“Different foods provide students’ bodies with different essential nutrients. The idea of the Food Guide Pyramid is to make sure that every nutrient is being consumed in proper amounts. According to the Pyramid, plant foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of a meal.

“In addition, low-fat milk products and meat or beans in moderation can balance a meal perfectly,” she explained.

The Food Guide Pyramid also contains details on serving sizes and recommended daily allowances for specific nutrient consumption. It even acknowledges that sweets and fats are occasionally acceptable?even necessary!

“The point is that anything in a diet is good as long as certain things are eaten in moderation,” Reeder said.

The Clinic provides support and counseling for students suffering from eating disorders and high cholesterol, as well as those seeking help in losing or gaining weight.

It is also an excellent resource for students wishing to refute the accusation of laziness when it comes to their own personal health. As well as offering body composition measurement, diabetes screening, computerized diet analysis and personal nutrition counseling, the Clinic has advice on how to eat healthy on the go: at restaurants, from vending machines and on road trips.

The following tips may disrupt the time and laziness excuses for students’ bad eating habits, so read on at your own risk: peanut butter or cheese and crackers are a third lower in fat than chips, you can satisfy a sweet tooth with dried or fresh fruit, pretzels are a snack with only one or two grams of fat per serving and air-popped popcorn is a great low-fat snack.

Almost every one of these items can be found in a vending machine on campus.

If you are looking for chocolate, you’ll be happy to know that there can be redeeming nutritional value to a candy bar. Reeder confirmed that, “a candy bar can give a boost of energy, especially if it has nuts or some sort of protein source in it.”

She also said, “There is a new study that shows that chocolate in certain forms, especially dark chocolate, can benefit heart health.”

For an even healthier choice, the candy bars Three Musketeers and Fifth Avenue contain less than 30 percent of their calories from fat.

The Clinic can help students with their eating habits, offering student rates for diet analysis through the Student Health Service. To have their diet analyzed, students must complete a three-day diet record.

Reeder explained, “There is some research that says that diet records and diet recall are not accurate because people tend to over-report the good and under-report the bad. It is really up to the person and if they really want to know.”

Once the three-day record is completed, a computer analyzes it.

“We can analyze anything,” Reeder said. “We have a huge database.”

In fact, the Clinic analyzed two recipes used by Chartwells at the Heritage Commons dining area. Many students depend on Chartwells to provide healthy and tasty food because they either live in student housing, or are on campus for a considerable portion of the day and can find sustenance only at the Union (or vending machines).

To ensure a healthy and nutritious selection, the Heritage Commons dining area features a market-style setup with five different areas offering well-balanced meals.

Randy Teates, director of Residential Dining, explained that at the Menutainment and Market Carvery areas, the meals always include vegetables, starches and an entree.

And for vegetarian students, “We have our Terra Ve, which provides one vegan entree of tofu, beans, rice, or pastas, and each of these menu items is marked with a star on the menu,” he said.

The vegetarian meal analyzed by the Nutrition Clinic was a lentil entree served at Terra Ve. The results show that a serving size of 644 grams contains 420 calories, 90 of which come from fat.

A good way to do a quick judgment when reading nutrition labels is to calculate the percent of total calories that come from fat. In this case, it is 21 percent. For healthy foods, it should be under 30 percent.

A chicken pot pie meal served at the Market Carvery didn’t do so well. A 406-gram serving contains 850 calories, 420 of which are fat calories. Eat just one serving of this meal, and you’ve eaten 72 percent of your daily fat and 90 percent of your daily cholesterol (based on a 2,000 calorie diet).

Keep in mind, though, that this is an example of only two recipes. Chartwells works on a five-week menu rotation that includes many entree recipes.

The thought of foods high in cholesterol doesn’t deter Wesley Oates from eating at the Union. As a pre?law senior, he eats there often. However, he does warn, “It’s dangerous.”

“Two years ago I would eat at the Union a lot. I lived on campus at the time. Some of their gourmet dishes turned the stomach a bit, but they’ve remodeled and it’s mostly fast food now?not the same old stuff you used to get. I think it’s an improvement,” Oates said.

Of course, Oates admits the change has done nothing for his health.

“I eat too much,” he confessed. “I mean three helpings a meal and it’s the fat greasy stuff you can get at McDonalds. I’ll be keeling over from cholesterol within the year, I’m sure.”

Like Oates, many students consciously choose the unhealthy route although they admit to knowing better ways to eat.

In fact, many students know what healthy, nutritious eating is, but most of them haven’t got the time, money or inclination to make any substantial diet changes.

As Reeder put it, “I don’t see [students] wanting to improve themselves.”

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