Debunking Campus Dining Health Myths

Walking past Are U Hungry, Jimmy John’s or Canyon Pizza is sure to make any health-conscious student feel sick to his or her stomach. The dollar-per-slice pizza joints, trashed fast food restaurants and greasy wing shops make it seem impossible to find nutritious food, and easy to succumb to cravings.

Little do you know, healthy food is right on campus, being served by our university.

Forget about all the rumors you’ve heard about campus dining. The most typical range from “the workers put laxatives in the food” to “there are never any new options,” to even “there are no vegetarian, vegan or allergy-friendly foods.”

Lisa Wandel, director of residential dining, says that Penn State dining does its best to serve nutritious food. Wait, and here’s the shocker… Wandel says students don’t know they’re eating healthy!

According to Wandel, dining food is not advertised as healthy, because when food is described as wholesome, students are less likely to eat it.

“When we don’t tell the students that the food is healthy, the intake is higher,” Wandel said.

Each dining commons works hard to create healthy meals for students and increase the nutritional value. Wandel said to look for the many new options this semester, such as spelt, brown rice, barley, quinoa, red beans and rice and fresh, hot vegetables which will include roasted root vegetables, roasted cauliflower, sautéed kale, roasted beets and potatoes, roasted roma tomatoes, and fresh roasted brussel sprouts. The dining halls also added recipes this semester, which are considered “healthy options”, meaning they are less than 400 calories and have less than 10 grams of fat.

“Rest assured, we’ve kept the healthy favorites, such as the fresh fruit bars for breakfast and lunch, the hot cereal bar and yogurt bar for breakfast,” Wandel said. “In addition, we’ve added a line of healthier prepackaged salads and snacks in the 4theRoad coolers. These items are labeled ‘Eat Smart’.”

The healthy options available earned Penn State the best dining rating on, where Penn State’s dining earned an A-rating based on price, variety and taste, as well as an A for nutrition.

As for the rumor of laxatives in the food, Wandel said that rumor has been circulating the 29 years she’s worked at Penn State, and is not credible.

“Laxatives cost money; they’re very expensive. Why would we give you something for free? It’s unethical,” she said.

Students who suffer from food allergies are also in luck, as all the Penn State dining chefs are specially trained to use colored tongs and trays to avoid cross-contamination. Wandel said there are now even gluten free self-serve stations installed in each dining commons. These stations offer gluten free muffins, bagels, bread, cereal, pasta, pizza and deserts. Celiac students may now enjoy the convenience of the self-serve stations, complete with toaster ovens and microwaves

Next time you’re hungry and feel as if there’s not a healthy meal to be found, walk past the pizza joints and into the dining halls for a hearty, healthy meal you won’t regret.

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