Pizza for breakfast. Cheap pitchers of beer. Hours of playing video games. All-you-can-eat cafeteria buffets.
No wonder generations of students have feared “the Freshman Fifteen.”
The Post’s Local Living staff published a guide to “Healthy U” in Thursday’s newspaper. Their coverage explored five questions families should ask about dining services, challenges facing students with eating disorders, schools beefing up their rec centers and a dorm dedicated to healthy living.
Reporters Jennifer LaRue Huget and Vicky Hallett were online Thursday afternoon to answer questions during Campus Overload Live. They were joined by Julaine Kiehn, the director of dining services at the University of Missouri – Columbia. Here are just a few of the things we talked about ...
Do many colleges offer all-u-can-eat plans anymore? dangerous stuff ...
Julaine Kiehn: While students enjoy having the wide variety of an all-you-care-to-eat (rather than all-you-CAN-eat) dining location, it does provide a great deal of temptation. For those watching their weight, it is wise to have a plan before entering, avoid using a tray (to control how much one can carry), and select nutrient dense foods — to spend the calories wisely.
Jenna Johnson: Are dining halls becoming mini restaurants?
Julaine Kiehn: Dining locations on college/university campuses are indeed becoming more and more like restaurants. The culinary talent has greatly increased; there are chefs preparing menu items to order, based on the selections of the customer. Students want to see their menu items made fresh, right in front of them.
Jennifer LaRue Huget: Several of the dining-services people I spoke with referred to the students they serve as “customers,” and they did indeed sound as though they were trying to offer real dining experiences, not just food to fill ‘em up. Lucky students!
What are colleges doing to promote healthy body images among women on campus?
Vicky Hallett: This was one issue I was wondering about when checking out the Healthy Living dorm at Hopkins — would having that much of an emphasis on fitness and food make this the eating disorder dorm? But I was happily surprised that it’s not like that at all. I think that’s because the school does promote health, not thinness. At the rec center, for instance, they make a point of not having a scale.
And at University of Maryland, there’s an office for the Center for Health and Wellbeing inside the Eppley Recreation Center. They deal with a range of issues — including body image, stress, sleep and sexual health.
Jennifer LaRue Huget: Here’s a quick video on a program called End Fat Talk, which is just what it sounds like: It encourages people on campus to stop focusing on and talking about their weight all the time.
Jenna Johnson: Most campus tours include the rec center and lots of info about campus dining. Do prospective students really care?
Julaine Kiehn: The campus tour is extremely important to the selection ... Yes, prospective students (and their parents) really care! We have had parents and students tell us that everything was equal until they visited the campus, saw the residence halls and rec center, and dined on campus. That experience “cinched the deal!”
Jennifer LaRue Huget: My daughter was only mildly curious about the food offerings when she toured colleges last fall, and the dining services/fitness offerings had hardly anything to do with her decision. As with most everything, I suppose, different people have different needs and interests.
Yale supplies all locally grown food to their cafeterias. And they have an organic farm?!?! Is this the future? Should other colleges get in on this — producing their own food for their own students and using a farm as part of education?
Julaine Kiehn: Many campuses are incorporating more and more “local foods” (defined by the campus) on their menus. Some even grow it, although this number is more limited. Some universities have research farms that grow produce for use in the dining locations. And, these programs often relate to the degree programs on campus. Others may not have access to the needed land. Or, the students may organize and develop community gardens; they may take the pulp (from food waste) that they compost and use on the garden. There may also be farmers markets on campus. Others have coops of farmers who can provide local produce, meats and cheeses, eggs, nuts, honey, and other items. It is really very exciting to have these fresh flavors on campus menus!
Jennifer LaRue Huget: One thing I’d like to point out is that, for all the emphasis on providing healthful options, many colleges report that students still go for the pizza and fries. Check the list of most popular items in the chart accompanying today’s column; the favorite foods include pizza, chicken fingers and General Tso’s chicken!
What should students with food allergies do to deal with campus dining halls? How do schools currently deal with allergies?
Jennifer LaRue Huget: The bottom line is that college students have to take responsibility for managing their own food allergies. But college dining services do their best to accommodate students’ allergies; as I noted in today’s column, students with food allergies should meet with the staff dietitian and, if possible, with the head chef, the former to help devise an overall strategy, the latter to focus on the day-to-day specifics.
What is it about college life that makes students gain the “15” (or 20 or 30) anyway?
Jenna Johnson: I wonder how society landed on the number 15? (I have a friend who says he actually gained the “College 50.”)
An interesting study at Dartmouth a few years ago found that it’s more like “the Freshman Five.” And most of that weight gain happened during the first semester before Thanksgiving break.
There are a lot of reasons students gain weight, even with all of that walking between classes. Likely the No.1 Reason: Beer. Other possible reasons: Late-night eating when the majority of options are unhealthy. Buffet-style meals for every meal. And choosing studying (or video game playing) over jogging.
That’s just a few of the questions (which have been lightly edited for length)! You can read more in the chat transcript .