HEALTHY HUSKY:Dining Hall Diet Obstacles
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013 00:09
Let’s face it – the dining hall is a cornerstone of the college experience. When you first stepped into one as a freshman, the plethora and expanse of food before you seemed to be a never-ending utopia. As time has passed you find yourself jaded by the food choices and may place the blame for your “Freshman 15” squarely on their shoulders. However, the fact is the dining hall is not fully culpable for unhealthy eating habits or an inhospitable place for those trying to maintain healthy lifestyles. Eating healthily in the dining halls can easily be achieved when you develop a plan and understand the common pitfalls.
The fact that dining hall staples are pizza and French fries is not due to their nutritional value but rather supply and demand. That being said, if you want to eat healthier at dining halls there certainly are traps. Not to say that you can’t have pizza, but, is better to have a side salad and avoid the extra slices. The fried foods, yes the things that taste good, make a better treat every once in a while rather than a go-to item on your plate. In addition, while it may seem easy to grab the piece of cake or cup of ice cream on your way out, these items quickly add up over the weeks and months.
While the previous items may seem to be handcuffing you in terms of your food options, it only takes a little closer look to examine the excellent opportunities the dining hall can provide you. Items like fresh fruit and fish are not only readily available but are fully cooked, and ready to eat. This very well may be the last time in your life that items like fresh apples and salmon are available to you at no additional cost.
Your goals with every meal should be to capture the key food groups as best as possible. These include fruits/vegetables, grains and protein. Well what a coincidence, the salad bar offers you to pick the vegetable you like the most and even lightly cover them with dressing. (I know it seems obvious but go for low-fat dressings or oil and vinegar.) In terms of grains, pasta may seem like the obvious choice but other grains like brown rice can change things up and provide additional nutrients that are often absent in bleached pasta.
Protein can be tricky. Obviously, I can sit here and tell you to go for the lean meats and fish, but the fact is lean steak can be better than fried chicken. Also don’t be afraid to broaden your protein horizons, go vegetarian and combine rice and beans or try the fish one night. The overall key is variety, balance and portion control (to be covered in future articles).
Dining halls are not like restaurants, nor are they expected to be; their purpose is singularly: feed a large amount of people in a short period of time. Often to achieve this end they choose widely popular foods that are easy to serve. While many directly point to this goal as the reason why dining hall food is “unhealthy,” those same individuals exclude a key part of the situation; the fact that the food an individual eats is a choice. All of UConn’s dining halls contain the food needed for someone to eat healthily, whether you choose to use them is up to you.