Making the most of OU dining halls

“Over and over and over again, the message is ‘all foods can fit,'” said Deborah Murray, a registered dietitian and professor at Ohio University.

Pretty good news for a college student facing pizza, pasta, burgers and ice cream everyday at the dining hall, huh? Murray stresses moderation and portion control to avoid gaining the notorious “Freshman 15.” However, students know that when offered such fatty, mouth-watering food every time we enter the dining hall, portion control is easier said than done.

Salads are usually a safe bet when trying to be healthy or lose weight, but its time to stop pouring that salad dressing and hold the croutons, mister. It’s really easy to  “ruin” a  bowl of leaves with unnecessary, yet admittedly flavorful, toppings.

“I admit that even though I try to eat healthy, I sometimes find myself putting things on my salad that I know make it unhealthy,” said Taylor Sackett, a freshman who has been struggling with the notorious Freshman 15.

Murray identified the problem.

salad bar“The pitfalls are those delicious little bacon crumbles; they aren’t the best. Cheese is okay, but make sure you don’t slather it over your salad—just a sprinkle,” Murray said.

There are items, however, that enhance a salad to make it even healthier. The typical salad lacks protein, a vital key to a healthy diet, but adding that to a salad can easily change everything.

“Anything vegetable, or anything legume like beans; so peas, garbanzo beans, black beans, edamame are beautiful,” Murray said. “Egg is also a wonderful source of protein… people get all freaked out cause of the cholesterol; it’s really not that big of a deal,” Murray said.

Instead of dumping ladles of fatty and high-calorie salad dressing  on your plate,  Murray suggested a better option. “Olives that are there, the peppers and the hot stuff — that’s great! They aren’t high in sodium but are high in flavor,” she said.

But even after loading a salad up with healthy proteins and fats, students still complain about not feeling satisfied after their meal. What’s lacking is a healthy accompaniment to their salad.

“When you look at a meal, it really should be about half carbohydrate, about a quarter protein and about a third fat,” said Murray. “Using fiber and a low-calorie beverage as your defense is a very, very important tool in staying satisfied.”

How can fiber play a role in balancing a meal? Berries, brown rice, bananas, broccoli and oatmeal are full of the calorie-free substance.

When searching for that healthy carbohydrate, Murray stresses that whole grains are better grains. “The average person’s suggested intake is six servings of grain for the day, so at least three of those should be brown and should really be whole grain,”

A lie that is often bought into is the label of “wheat bread,” which is often just  a white bread that has been colored. The key words to look for are “whole-wheat” and “whole-grain,” making sure that your pita bread, rice and pasta are not simply basic carbs sitting in the body.

“Nutrition is such a balancing act, and the practice of using a deck of cards as the size of one portion needs to be a constant issue in your mind,” said Murray.

As much as nutritionists like Murray stress that moderation is key, the quality and ingredients of the food is also a major component. Students need this information.

“Just as restaurants are catching on across America, full disclosure [of nutritional information at the dining halls] hopefully will help influence a person’s intake. I think this ‘Freshman 15’ is something that is preventable, but I think it’s awareness and education and putting a lot of options out there,” said Murray.

Sackett agreed.

“Having this information available at the salad bar and at the other food stations would help me eat more healthily and I think others would benefit from it too.”

Trying to eat healthier? Check out nutrition facts of Boyd, Shively and Nelson dining halls online or speak to a Culinary Services staff member.

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