Dishing it out: Students struggle to make healthy choices
After eating meals served in the dining halls as an undergraduate, Jessika Kennedy said she developed high cholesterol, which she attributes to eating unhealthy food served to students as part of mandatory residential meal plans.
While Kennedy said she could have made healthier meal choices, she thinks campus dining should cut back on how much greasy food they serve.
Students, professors and health experts on campus had differing views on the nutritional value of meal plans at CMU, with most agreeing there should be more healthy options available.
"It's my choice of what to eat. I know I could have had more salads and fruit, but at the end of the day a lot of that stuff is not good. The only good food they had was the burgers and fries and greasy foods," said the Romulus senior.
Kennedy said the options for healthy food at the cafeteria are less appealing from a quality standpoint compared to unhealthy foods.
“(Campus Dining) offers a lot of healthy options, it’s just making the right choices. You can have the pizza, (and be healthy), just not every single day," said fitness and wellness coordinator for residence life , Leslie Stockford.
The campus dining website is a great tool for students who want to eat healthy, Stockford said, because it breaks down the nutritional value of every meal served at all of the different residential restaurants.
"If you look at the net nutrition and want to look deeper and find out sodium levels and more information, they surpass a lot of things in just one of their meals for the daily intake," said Gavin Aikens, a campus health advocate mentoring peer.
Stockford said it's important to keep portion sizes in mind.
Nutrition professor Michelle Estrade said she has only eaten at the dining halls twice, but was pleasantly surprised by the portion sizes and healthy options available.
"It exceeded my expectations in terms of variety of things offered," she said. "If you want to eat french fries and pizza every single day that's there and available. But if you want to eat healthy, and know how to make those good choices, those are there too."
Estrade started teaching at CMU in fall 2015. The professor has been living in Scotland and Germany for six years, and said the food quality in the U.S. is poor compared to Europe. She cited limited vegetarian and vegan options, large portion sizes and unhealthy additives in food as factors that contribute to an unhealthy food environment.
"(I was) impressed by the portion sizes (at CMU). Whether or not people decide to take three portion sizes — that’s something you have to learn," Estrade said. "There's only so much you can do with the food environment. Then it's up to the (students) to make the (healthy) choices."
Aikens said there are diverse options in the restaurants, but the healthy options are often the same each day.
"Instead of having to choose which of the unhealthy meals is the healthiest, there should be an area in every cafeteria that provides a low calorie, low fat selection," Aikens said.
Novi senior Carolyn Nagle has eaten in all of the residential restaurants when she had a meal plan, and still does this year to visit her younger friends.
"(Finding healthy options) is hit or miss depending on the (food) stations, usually there is at least one option that's vegetarian, but it depends on the day," she said.
President of CMU's chapter of the Student Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Taylor Alfano said the late opening times of the dining halls are unhealthy by limiting students that might not be able to eat breakfast because of the hours.