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College of Human Ecology

K-State dining centers offer variety, encourage students to make healthy choices

Thursday, March 3, 2005

MANHATTAN -- They've heard the "Freshman 15" rumors. When students arrive
at college, they often assume they are going to gain weight from eating at the dining centers.

But that is not necessarily true at Kansas State University. While there are food options that may be high in fat and carbohydrates, K-State's dining centers, which serve approximately 4,000 students each day, offer many alternatives for students to eat healthy. Although they do not force students to eat wholesome foods, the dining centers provide the opportunity for students to make nutritionally sound choices through selections and educational components.

"We provide many choices in dining services because we are a business that responds to our customers," said Sheryl Powell, director of Kramer Dining Center. "Although our customers do ask for and expect some of the choices that are higher in fat and calories, we also provide information for those who choose to make more nutritious choices."

"Students have access to foods in the commercial sector more than they ever have," said Mary Molt, assistant director of housing and dining services. "They can go out and get what they want, when they want it. We try to continuously make changes and have available better food than what they can go out and get."

Molt, who is also an assistant professor in hotel, restaurant, institution management and dietetics, recently participated in a panel for Nation's Restaurant News magazine. The panel featured representatives from various facets of the foodservice industry - each discussing what they have been doing to increase customer satisfaction. She also was featured in a February article in Foodservice Director magazine discussing the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the impact they may have on what
dining centers provide students.

"We will always be an industry that responds to what students will purchase and when preferences shift, we shift," Molt said in Foodservice Director magazine. "We are obligated to make changes that provide students healthy options."

K-State dining centers frequently feature table tents with nutrition information for students to read while eating, Molt said. Last summer, housing and dining services launched a Web site that provides the nutrition details of each food item. Students can also use the nutrition calculator to get the total calories, fat, and so forth of what they are going to eat.

"Students can plan what they are going to eat before they even get there," Powell said, "which is probably a good idea because there can be many temptations."

Powell said the dining centers are also beginning to place menu cards in front of each food item with the nutrition information.

"When students are going through the line, they can see that chicken fried steak may have 471 calories with 271 of those calories coming from fat (58 percent of total calories), but the roast beef has 168 calories with 70 of those calories coming from fat (42 percent of total calories)," Powell said. "That way, they can decide which option is best for them."

K-State dining centers also participate in National Nutrition Month to raise students' awareness of the health benefits from eating the proper foods. Throughout the month of March, the dining centers will be focusing on increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

"When eating fruits and vegetables, you get a whole lot of bang for your nutrition buck," Powell said. "They are low in calories and high in nutrients."

The dining centers will feature a different color group of fruits and vegetables each week along with other educational components and prizes to encourage students to consume the recommended five to nine servings each day.

This article was posted on Thursday, March 3, 2005, and is filed under College News, Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health.