Roanna Martin

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

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How to Eat Healthy in the Dining Hall

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!



Pre-Workout Snack and Post-Workout Breakfast: Swimmers Version

A few weeks ago, I talked about food as fuel for performance. This afternoon I was able to share some of those tips with a group of male and female swimmers, poolside.

They jumped out of the water, filed onto the bleachers, and gave me their attention as I spoke about the importance of early morning nutrition. My fellow intern Emily spoke about the importance of hydration. We managed not to fall into the pool as we spoke to the team, despite the slippery pool deck 🙂

Since their AM practice begins at 5:30, this group of athletes is up early. I was pleasantly surprised to see by a show of hands that most of them do eat something before they go to practice. There were a handful who didn’t- and most of them just couldn’t stomach the thought of eating something solid that early in the morning. I suggested that they try something like a fruit smoothie, or even a meal replacement drink to get some early AM nutrition.

After a meal, there are typically only 40 calories’ worth of glucose circulating in the bloodstream, and about 1900 calories’ worth of glycogen stored in your liver and muscles. Add to that a night of “fasting” (prior to breakfast), and there’s not much fuel for athletes to pull from for a morning workout. Eating a small snack will place some glucose in the bloodstream, and give the body something to pull from without dipping into muscle glycogen stores, which would be counter-productive (pulling energy from muscles to build muscle). Granted, metabolic pathways are MUCH more complex than that, but that’s a simple explanation that gets the main point across.

The point is that you need to EAT.

It is recommended that athletes consume a pre-workout snack 30 minutes-1 hour before a workout. It doesn’t have to be much- a half a granola bar, a handful of trail mix, a piece of toast with a bit of honey. Anything that is high in carb, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber (to avoid gastrointestinal discomfort) will suffice.

After the early morning workout, swimmers should try to eat as soon as possible- some sources suggest 15 minutes post-workout. Thirty minutes post-workout will do. Approximately 75 g of carb for a 150 lb athlete is a pretty good goal, and then they should eat another 75 g carb again 2 hours later.

For the athletes who eat in the dining hall, I suggested that they have a piece of fruit or granola bar (or half of either if their calorie needs are smaller) right after their workout, and then head to the dining hall as soon as they can, where they should fuel up on nutrient dense foods. 

The post-workout meal should be high in low to moderate glycemic carbohydrate and lean protein, and low in fiber and fat. 

Some recommended breakfast include:

1 1/2 c raisin bran cereal with 1 cup skim milk and 1 cup of berries

2 pancakes, 3 Tbsp syrup, 1/2 c fresh fruit, 1 c skim milk

6 oz yogurt, 1 medium banana, 1/2 c granola

Athletes should continue to eat and hydrate frequently throughout the day- every 2 hours is recommended. That doesn’t mean that they should consume a huge meal every 2 hours- small snacks are excellent and effective in keeping energy levels stable and preventing fatigue.

Keep hydrating. Keep eating. Keep swimming.




Eating Out? Watch Out!

Because of my internship, a request was recently passed on to me to come up with nutrition information for a “Fighting the Freshman 15 and the Grad School 20” article in a local magazine.

So, I checked out some local food venues- places that students here in Morgantown are likely to visit, and came up with the following information. These are foods mostly chosen for the shock factor- and while they might be ok to choose (and perhaps share with a friend!) on occasion, these are obviously not foods that should be chosen every day.

Take a look:

Coldstone Creamery

“Gotta Have it” size of the PB&C (Peanut Butter and Chocolate) milkshake has 1750 calories and 118 grams of fat- and that’s not even counting any mix-ins!!!

That is nearly twice the number of daily grams of fat recommended (65 g) for an adult consuming a 2000 calorie diet! And as a reference, an entire gallon of skim milk contains 1440 calories (310 less than 1 milkshake).


The Grilled Quesadilla with a whole wheat flour tortilla, shredded cheese, grilled chicken, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and fajita vegetables contains 1070 calories, and 64 g fat.
It would require about 3 hours and 45 minutes of leisure bike riding (<10 mph) for a 160 pound individual to burn the 1070 calories found in the Q-Doba’s Grilled Quesadilla described above.

Little Caesar’s

Ultimate Supreme Pizza- 1/8 of a 14″ pizza contains 310 calories, and 13 g fat.
A 120 lb individual would need to walk approximately 1 hour and 44 minutes at a 3 mile per hour pace on a level surface to use up the 310 calories contained in just one slice (1/8th of a 14″ pizza) of Little Caesar’s Ultimate Supreme Pizza (and can I see a show of hands: who eats just one slice of pizza?)

Buffalo Wild Wings 

The Ranch Chicken Wrap contains 1020 calories, and 59 g fat.
A 5′ 10″, 154-pound man would need to run/jog about 1 hour and 55 minutes (5 miles per hour) to use the number of calories found in the ranch chicken wrap. 

Jimmy Johns 


Gourmet Smoked Ham Club- 775 calories, 32 g fat
A 140 lb individual would need to freestyle swim at a vigorous pace for about 1 hour and 12 minutes to burn the number of calories in a Jimmy John’s Gourmet Smoked Ham Club sandwich
I hope you find this post interesting- and now you know a few things that you just might want to avoid if you go out to eat at any of these locations!