Right now, if one walks into Commons at Salisbury University, he or she will first see bright colorful posters advertising the benefits that different colors of fruits and vegetables provide. It has become clear that healthy eating for college students is quite beneficial — not only does it cause students to have more energy and feel better, but it also serves as disease prevention.
However, despite the advertisements for healthy eating in Commons, many students feel as though the actual food offered is not quite up to par in terms of nutritional value.
Sure, there is a salad bar with fresh fruits and vegetables available every day. Even so, nutrition is much more than eating fruits and veggies. It includes a variety of foods, like lean proteins, healthy fats and more. Between the butter that many of the vegetables and meats are soaked in, the lack of food labels and nutrition facts, and the lack of vegetarian and vegan options, eating healthy in college can be a test of its own.
Even the healthiest foods can be made unhealthy by the way in which they are cooked. Frying food, sautéing it with a large amount of oil or butter, or soaking food such as vegetables in oil or butter not only decreases the nutritional value, but also increases the amount of fat and sodium in the food overall.
Overcooking vegetables can also cause nutrients and vitamins within them to be lost and appear unappealing in both look and taste.
The presence of butter in vegetables not only causes issues in terms of health, but it can also cause issues for those with dietary restrictions such as lactose intolerance or those who follow a certain diet, such as veganism.
Freshman Marrissa Izykowicz, who chooses to follow a vegan lifestyle, has experienced this issue firsthand at Commons.
“Most of them [the dishes] are cooked in butter, and then I can’t have them, so even when they do have a lot of vegetable options, it’s impossible for me to eat them … I think if they would just not cook them in butter, it would solve a huge issue,” Izykowicz said.
The adding of butter to the vegetables causes there to be even fewer options for those who have dietary restrictions or who follow a special diet, yet even if the vegetables were vegan, proper nutrition includes all of the food groups, including protein, fats and carbohydrates. Students at SU who follow a no-meat lifestyle have found it to be particularly hard to get adequate protein intake as well.
Vegetarians, pescatarians and vegans have a variety of options when it comes to protein sources, including tofu, tempeh, beans and more. However, many of these sources are rarely available at Commons.
Izykowicz has struggled with eating enough protein herself, even when meat alternative protein sources are offered.
“They never really have tofu … sometimes they will have tofu dishes, but it won’t be vegan. The sauce they put on it or something is not vegan, so protein is a big struggle,” Izykowicz said.
Even when vegan or otherwise dietary restriction friendly options are offered, it can be hard for students to identify which options truly fit their needs.
To fix the problem, Commons should display labels with the ingredients in each dish, whether these labels be physically present at Commons or only present online.
“Making it obvious that certain things are vegan, because even when you check on the website, a lot of it will say not rated next to it or something instead of having it properly labeled, so it’s really hard to go in and know if what I’m eating is vegan,” Izykowicz said.
Nutrition labels for each item of food at Commons that provided calories, sugar, fat and protein content would also be helpful to students, particularly for students who are looking to eat healthy.
Such labels would cause mindfulness for students so that they do not overeat and could help prevent the infamous “freshman fifteen” weight gain, says freshman Stephanie Hof.
“I know a big issue with a lot of college kids is the 'freshman fifteen,'” Hof said. “They don’t have clear labels about what is in it [the food], like the calories associated with it, so you’re really eating blindly when you are in the dining hall.”
Despite the obstacles that students have when eating at Commons, the staff is working to meet the needs of students and to improve the quality of the food with the help of the Student Government Association.
SGA is proposing certain changes at the dining hall that will meet the desires of students. Izykowicz, who is a member of the SGA, has been able to see the effort being put in to make changes first hand.
“There are two people that I know [in student government] that met with Commons this morning and are taking it upon themselves to broaden the dietary options” Izykowicz said.
SU needs to make food with less butter, more tofu, nutrition labels and a few more healthy options in order to provide food for its students, no matter the dietary restriction or lifestyle choice.
By LAURA AMRHEIN
Featured image: Salisbury University images.