Chewing the fat: dining hall nutrition facts
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 00:10
UConn Dining Services places cards with nutritional content in front of the each food item served in each dining hall, but how accurate are these numbers?
According to Dennis Pierce, director of Dining Services, the calorie content of food is accurate, based on the proportions that are served. Therefore, it is up to the personal responsibility of the students to ensure they are having a healthy meal.
One way that dining halls help students choose the right portion of food they serve themselves is by marking each ladle with number of ounces it serves.
“Ladles vary, what can help a student is on the arm of the metal label is a plastic handle that is engraved with how big the ladle is,” Pierce said. “Also the standard rule of thumb is if you cup your hands it equals four ounces.”
Since students serve themselves at the dining hall, they can monitor and control what they intake on a daily basis. Elliot Olivas, a 7th-semester natural resources major noticed that students often put more on their plate than the body needs.
“I think the ladles they give you are pretty close to the full ounce servings, however I’ve seen kids take four or five scoops of some things,” Olivas said.
All of the food served at UConn must meet quality standards that are outlined by the United States Drug Administration. Because the USDA has strict guidelines for their food, some students feel that the calorie content is accurate. Ethan Ives, a 5th-semester history major and employee of South Dining Hall said he believes that the calorie content presented to students is correct.
“[Dining Services] get their food straight from the distributors or from their bakery, etc. so the calorie content is from the outside source, so I would assume its USDA regulated, so it should be correct,” he said.
One of the challenges that dining services faces is when you order food from an outside source, your calorie guidelines are based on what that company tells you about the nutritional content of their food. Sometimes major food corporations such as the Purdue Farms Company change their nutritional facts and the company does not alert dinning services of these changes.
“There are over 5,000 recipes in our database and we buy from a diverse group of large companies,” Pierce said. “The dilemma is they don’t always alert us when things change.”
Dining services at UConn is working hard to make sure that students are educated about nutrition to make well informed choices when eating at the various dining halls on campus. In addition to posting nutritional information online, dining services will soon be unveiling a new app for smart phones that displays nutritional facts on the go.
Another tool students can utilize is the website choosemyplate.gov, a website that is run by the USDA which teaches students about healthy food options, as well as weight management and physical activity.
McMahon Dining Hall will also soon have a LED plasma screen near the entrance of the building that will identify the various meals being served that day, according to Pierce. McMahon has also been leading the charge for portion control in dining halls by using smaller plates.
“In McMahon, we’re able to control portion sizes and we are putting the service back in food service,” Pierce said.