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College of Human Ecology

K-State One of Many Schools Posting Nutritional Food Values on Web Site to Aid Students

Monday, February 27, 2006

MANHATTAN -- With so many food choices available at college dining halls, it can be easy for students to get sidetracked and consume more calories than they realize.

Kansas State University's housing and dining services is helping K-State students become more aware of the nutritional facts behind the food they consume by allowing them to plan their meals online before heading to chow down.

According to a K-State dietician, offering nutritional information to students is a trend that many colleges and universities are now providing.

"With the self-service option at our dining centers, there's unlimited amounts of food," said Melissa Schrader, staff assistant and dietician for K-State's housing and dining services. "Having nutritional values available means students are less likely to overeat. Having the values available helps them make smarter food choices."

Many schools, including Iowa State University and the University of California-Berkeley, post online nutritional values of food offered.

Schools including Harvard University and the University of Northern Iowa -- in addition to K-State -- allow students to plan their meals down to each addition at the salad bar, for example, adding the calories and other nutritional content for them on the Web.

K-State's housing and dining services Web site includes individual Web pages for each of the university's three dining centers. Students can determine the nutritional value of that day's menu items in three ways.

The first way is by clicking on a menu item and getting its nutritional value. The second way to determine nutritional values is through "build-your-meal." Students choose from the individual food items being served for breakfast, lunch and dinner; select a serving size; then calculate the nutritional value for the entire meal. The third option is to search the entire database for a particular food item. To see the system, go to http://housing.k-state.edu/dining/menus.html.

"It's convenient for students, so anything we can do for them, we'll try to do," Schrader said. "We're here to serve the students. Students came to us before we had the Web site, asking for help regarding nutritional values in foods.

"There is more movement to putting nutritional values on the Web," she said. "It's user-friendly to have each day's menu up."

Schrader said posting the dining center's nutritional values on the Web does require gathering the information. At K-State, a student works for five to 10 hours each week entering the menu items and linking it to a file with the nutritional value.

The Web site has a feedback option where students are encouraged to submit suggestions for improvement or things that they like.

This article was posted on Monday, February 27, 2006, and is filed under College News, Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health.