Dining Hall Should Include Healthier Options

by Elizabeth Reeves

Here at school we as students are being encouraged to stretch our limits spiritually, academically and physically, only to be fed food nightly that does not foster the healthy lifestyle that we are being asked to live. We need to care about what we are putting in our bodies and the lifestyle we are leading. If we are going to keep up with the fast pace of college life then we need to be equipped with the right nutrition to stay on top of our demanding schedules. Healthy living is not supported by the high-carb and high-fat food choices.

Nightly, I walk through the dinner lines looking at the options: hamburger, pizza, French fries, cookies, apple pie, grilled cheese, and of course pasta and ice cream. Let’s be real: who doesn’t love pizza and French fries? You would be insane to try and convince anyone these are not delicious foods! However, eating it nightly is not healthy in any way, shape or form. This is an age-old issue,  which began for us as children in elementary school, then middle school, then high school. All across the country food is being provided that is not maximizing our ability to nourish our bodies. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, anyone?

Here’s the slight difference: gone are the days of “chef’s surprise” and “mystery meat” filling our cafeteria plates. The food being provided to us is very appealing and caters to our love of carbohydrates. However, the options being presented to us are not highly nutritious. We are required to take physical education courses to keep us active. So why are we contradicting this with carb heavy food options? Does this make any sense? No.

Look, our school is chock full of diversity and Whitworth University prides itself on embracing this concept, so we should include some of the healthy international options such as Greek yogurt or possibly the fresh vegetable and curry dishes from India. Being exposed to other cultures means being introduced to their foods as well.

So let’s talk honestly about what should really be offered. More frequently we need to replace the bacon and meatloaf with healthier lean protein including chicken and fish. In terms of vegetables, there are so many more healthy options than lettuce! Let’s bring in some zucchini, tomatoes, squash, fresh string beans or steamed carrots. Berries are incredibly high in antioxidants, and come in a form other than jam on a bagel. Let’s take advantage of the rich proteins nuts and beans contain! While apples

are a great source of fiber, I personally would love to see some pineapple, cantaloupe and fresh peaches being provided.

You could argue that we do indeed have a salad bar. That is correct. We do have the option to eat a salad, every night, as our only healthy option all week long. Salad is great, but to eat it every single night is far too redundant. Truthfully, one the most beneficial ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to have diversity in a diet and change it up a bit. The best way to promote this nutritional diversity is not to eliminate options but rather to expand them. I’m not claiming that we all need to be practicing yoga and drinking wheatgrass shakes every morning, but our diets should include more whole grain, less cheese, and more high roughage foods.

I am not sitting on my high horse trying to eliminate grilled cheese or pizza permanently from the menu (I also love these foods). I am simply trying to foster conversation and consciousness about what we are preaching as a university. The body is a temple for God to fill and grow our spirits. In taking care of our bodies and actively promoting healthy lifestyles through our choices in food, we are providing a healthier space for our faith to grow.

When walking through the cafeteria line, reach for a piece of fruit instead of pizza, grab a banana to put on top of your oatmeal instead of cinnamon sugar, or possibly walk to the salad, sandwich or breakfast bars. Often when you can craft your own meal, you can control what types of food and how much of it is going onto your plate. There must be thoughtfulness in what we as students are putting inside of our bodies to nourish ourselves, and improve the options being presented to us.

If you are unhappy with the meal options and wish to make an impact on not just your own plate but also the plates of others on campus, consider writing a letter to campus administration or health services about what options you would like to see available. We are intelligent students with an active campus voice; exercise it by accepting only the best options in nutrition. Think about this the next time you walk through the line reaching for pizza and french fries, and think about what you as a student can be doing to actively make changes in the food options on campus.

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