Everyone knows that college students often live on unhealthy foods. We’ve heard of the freshman 15, and we’ve seen our dining halls full of fried foods, desserts and things that are unhealthy. As college students, we are preparing for the rest of our lives by living on our own for the first time. We’re learning valuable life skills, like laundry, cleaning and scheduling. But healthy eating, at least for those of us that utilize the dining halls, is not a skill that we can learn.
I think it’s important to note that there are some healthy options in dining halls. Several of the dining halls, such as North and South, offer plain grilled chicken for lunch or dinner. All of the dining halls that I have been to also offer salad and fresh fruits, which is also good for people’s efforts to eat healthily. But when we get past that, we see that there are very, very few options to eat healthy food in a dining hall that aren’t just a salad. While chicken is offered, it is usually tough and flavorless, which doesn’t exactly inspire people to make it a bigger part of their diet.
Even switching up the kinds of chicken that are offered would make healthy eating easier here at UConn. Marinated chicken or herby chicken or really any chicken that has a taste would make me much more enthusiastic about going to the dining hall and trying to eat healthy food. The same is true of the fruits and vegetables in the dining halls; having more than just the same apples and oranges every day would make it so that people could have a more diverse diet.
Additionally, there is another large problem that I have had with eating at the dining halls: portions. Many foods in the dining hall, such as rice or veggies, have their portions listed as four ounces or six ounces of food. While I appreciate the fact that they list portions and nutrition details at all, hearing that I should be eating four ounces of broccoli doesn’t help me because I have absolutely no idea how much broccoli is four ounces. Is it five pieces? Ten? Two?
Those issues make it difficult for me to know if I am eating healthy portions of food. If I want a serving of french fries, I have to try and determine what four ounces of french fries are. That’s not something that I can reasonably determine just by looking at the fries, which makes it a lot harder for me to judge if I am eating a proper portion of food, which is an important part of trying to eat healthier.
In the end, I would love to see a more accessible, wider selection of healthy options for students. While many college students enjoy eating unhealthy meals all or a lot of the time, there are those who are looking to improve their diets or continue to eat healthily, and options are often incredibly minimal. By offering a wider variety of healthy food items, such as offering more than one Smart Check food per meal, students who did want to eat healthily would be able to have more diverse diets.
While I think that a wider selection of food would be ideal, it is still not the most important change Dining Services could make. I think either changing descriptions from things like four ounces into “X amount of food,” or having both ounces and physical amounts, would be ideal for most foods at the dining hall. While I understand that this is not possible for every food, as finding a new measurement for things like soup would be impossible, for most foods this would be a positive step forward for UConn students who are doing their best to attain a healthy diet in a system of food that is full of very unhealthy choices.
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Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.