Students cater diets to more fruits, vegetables
The word vegetarian often conjures up images of salads, fruit and veggie burgers, but for Kai Niezgoda it means being more aware of what she eats.
She is a vegetarian for animal rights reasons, but still takes away the benefits of making better food choices.
“I’m a vegetarian. So I think I tend to think about what I eat a little more than the average person,” Niezgoda said.
One doesn’t have to be a vegetarian to pay closer attention to food intake. With restaurants increasing the availability of nutrition information and more healthy options on campus, students have many resources to choose better meals.
Many people, vegetarians and meat lovers alike, tend to focus on what not to eat when striving to be healthier. This can be useful when eliminating products or ingredients from your daily sustenance, however Niezgoda says it’s important to get enough of the great foods as well.
“Try to make sure to get at least one serving of fruit and vegetables a day,” the Royal Oak native said. “(And) don’t choose the most fried options in the cafeteria, because I have actually looked up the calorie and nutrition content on them and it’s terrible.”
Niezgoda said she makes sure to eat natural sources of plant-based protein found in legumes like chickpeas, and she tries to eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
Many American’s often talk about ‘going on a diet’ to lose weight, or become healthier, but environmental studies faculty member Najat Yehia says being healthy means more than just counting calories. Yehia said one step we should be taking is to increase our fiber, and whole grains.
“We are eating too much processed foods,” Yehia said.
Yehia said if you cannot find or afford fresh fruits and vegetables which are the highest in needed nutrients, frozen are the next best thing, while canned has even fewer nutrients.
“So basically when you look at the nutrition facts, it’s very important because it gives us the information,” Yehia said. “By law, they have to list, for example, let’s say the fat, the cholesterol, the sodium. These are the bad things that (we should reduce).”
Yehia said growing evidence shows the linkage between large intake of processed foods consumption and illness, such as obesity. She also said it would be better for our health to move from a “nation of packages” toward eating less processed foods.
Niezgoda said fresh is better, but says she eats processed foods minimally.
“Yeah I do, sometimes, if I’m in a hurry,” Niezgoda said. “I try to eat balanced outside of that, so that even if I am eating food that isn’t the healthiest I am balancing it out by (eating good food).”
Human Environmental Studies professor Robert Lee recommends following the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans and focusing on increasing beneficial foods as well as decreasing others. One example would be increasing consumption of deep colored fruits and vegetables, while decreasing the amount of added sugars.
“Eat more vegetables. Eat more whole grains,” Lee said. “Vegetables are very nice in the respect that they are very low in calories and a person can eat a liberal quantity of vegetables. (They) have a very high nutrient density. They pack a big punch in terms of nutrients that we need, but they have very little in the way, relatively, of calories.”
Lee also said the shift in advertisements for sandwiches has changed to ones filled with meat and cheese. He says that the dietary guidelines recommend reducing items high in solid fats such as cheeses, marbled meats and bacon.
This isn’t as much of a problem for students like Niezgoda, who avoids meat in general, but many vegetarians often turn to overuse of cheeses, which fit in the solid fats category.
“I think one of the keys to healthful eating: keep it simple,” Lee said. “Keep it natural. Do it yourself. The less you rely on food that is prepared outside the home, the more control you have over it. Cooking is not rocket science.”
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