Fight for healthy food

By By Paige Fieldsted

By Paige Fieldsted

College dining halls across the country, including the Heritage Center dining room in the Residence Halls, are set up as buffets with unlimited access to pizza, hamburgers, french fries, ice cream and many other fatty foods which might hinder a student’s chance of maintaining their weight.

“Research shows that if you are given access to a buffet, you will eat more. But feasibly, that is the only way dining halls can operate,” said Katherine Beals, a registered Utah dietician.

A study done at Cornell University in 2000 showed that students who were given access to 50 percent more food consumed almost 300 more calories than their peers who had access to less food.

Despite all the high-calorie options and buffet style dining available to students, Beals says that dining halls may not be to blame for student weight gain.

“Students need to learn portion control and how to make different choices than they normally would,” Beals said.

Besides pizza and hamburgers, students have the choice of an extensive salad bar, fresh fruit, vegetarian options, soup and healthy daily specials. But Rick Kulp, the food director at the Heritage Center, says students may not be choosing those options.

“We grow up eating the same five or six things, so choosing and eating new things is difficult for new students,” Kulp said.

For students who are living on their own for the first time, newfound freedom can factor into the food choices they make.

“For the first time, you don’t have anyone to tell you what to eat. If you want a hamburger for every meal, you can, and most students do,” Nielson said.

For most students, however, the problem isn’t in what they choose to eat, but how much.

“As a freshman, I tried everything that was offered at every meal, and because of it, I put on weight,” said Audrey Lee, a graduate student in the nutrition program.

Often, a lack of education spurs weight gain because students don’t know what a healthy balanced meal is.

“The best thing students can do to help prevent weight gain is know about portion sizes and practice portion control,” Beals said.

To help students learn about healthy eating, the Heritage Center is offering eating guides to help residents choose healthy food.

Dining room employees have also placed signs around the dining room to show students foods that fall into one of five categories: vegetarian, vegan, carb-control, balanced options or fit meals. In addition, sample food choices on plates are set on displays that describe each category.

Although students may pass through the Heritage Center many times, they often miss the pamphlets and displays.

“Our focus right now is really on fit foods and meals,” Kulp said.

A fit meal has fewer than 600 calories, 30 percent or less calories from fat and less sodium and cholesterol than other meals.

In order to create more fit meals, the dining hall chefs are trying to cook with less fat and are reworking menus to include more healthy options.

“The only thing we are deep frying are french fries,” Kulp said.

Kulp also said that the chefs are using less oil to cook with, in order to make foods healthier and less fattening.

The Heritage Center is also helping students learn about portion sizes with a daily display that shows students what a 2,000-calorie-a-day meal plan would look like, based on the menu that day.

“It is nice to be able to see portions,” said Meg Nielson, a graduate student in the nutrition program. “People need visuals.”

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Teresa Getten

U students eating at the Herritage Commons often chose pizza or hamburgers and will over look the healthy options such as salad or fruit.