Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}

How to Eat Healthy in the Dining Hall

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College students often have some sort of complaint about the nearest dining hall. Either there isn’t “enough” food, there aren’t the specific foods they want, the food is “gross” or the classic “I promise they put laxatives in the food.” Well, coming from someone who ate at a college dining hall for 3 years during my undergrad, and now cooks for myself, here’s some advice for college students, “Take advantage of it!!!” Seriously. Particularly after working with the foodservice staff here at WVU for the past few weeks, they truly care about your dining experience. They want you to have healthy and delicious options!

Yesterday, Emily and I were able to give a presentation, by the same name as this blog post, to a group of students as part of a wellness program. We started off by distributing plates and cups from the dining hall, and a dry erase market to each student. Their assignment was to draw what proportion of their plates and cups should come from the five food groups: grain, vegetables, fruit, protein foods, and dairy. Here is one of the responses we got: So the student was pretty close, although she overestimated fruit and vegetables slightly. However- I’m not going to complain about that. You can hardly ever go wrong by adding more vegetables to your plate. Here’s what a plate ought to look like, according to the United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate initiative.

 

If you want to see the artwork of some of my younger students in a previous rotation, check out this post.

After this activity, we talked through each section of the cafeteria with the students. We listed healthier options at each station, and gave suggestions on spicing up cafeteria meals. Students also had the opportunity to draw on their plate what they typically get as a meal, and then we talked through some small changes they could make to improve the nutrient profile of what they are putting into their bodies. So, for example, on this plate, we suggested replacing the hash browns (which are high in fat) with another starch, preferably a whole grain. A slice of toast, a scoop of oatmeal, or a half a bagel would be a better choice than the high fat hash browns.

We also brought some food models and test tubes of fat and sugar content of foods to share with the group. The fact that the amount of fat in a cheeseburger fills up three test tubes is pretty startling. That doesn’t mean you can never eat a cheeseburger, it simply means that you shouldn’t have them every day.

One of my favorite models is the five pounds of fat and five pounds of muscle models. Both of them are the same weight, but the muscle is much more dense and compact. Think about what this means in your body. Plus, muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that if your body muscle composition is higher, you will burn more calories at your basal metabolic rate. The exact number of calories that muscle burns versus fat is hard to pinpoint, and there are differing numbers thrown around. In addition, there are many other factors affecting calorie burn, so working with exact numbers is not necessarily helpful.

Bottom line: healthy choices can be made anywhere- it just takes a bit of critical thinking and creativity!

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Author: roannamartinwvudietetics12

A dietetic intern with a love of learning, an enjoyment of food, and a passion for people.

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