Dining on a Diet: tips for healthy eating at UMD

By Teresa Lo

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As college students, we often face many changes as we adjust to living on our own.   Some of our biggest fears include managing a heavy workload, meeting new people, and being in a new environment, but another issue on many of our minds is gaining the “freshman fifteen.” Even for upperclassmen, gaining weight can still be a concern, especially with the University of Maryland’s dining halls offering cheap, convenient foods like pizza, fries, fried chicken, and hamburgers.

“Most of the food is very greasy and fattening, so I don’t like to eat on campus,” freshman psychology major Anyela Jacome said. However, with a closer look, University of Maryland students can find that it is possible to eat healthily on campus.

The most obvious choice for eating healthy at either The Diner on North Campus or South Campus Dining Hall would be the salad bar, with options like fresh vegetables and cheeses, but not everyone is into eating salad.

“Salad isn’t really my thing, so for a healthier option I usually go with a wrap,” sophomore communications major Angela Kang said.

For wraps or sandwiches, going with whole grain bread or a tortilla along with lean meats such as turkey or grilled chicken and a side of vegetables would make for a healthy meal.

Specifically at the South Campus Dining Hall, a healthy option would be to make your own pasta. Pasta may not seem like an extremely healthy choice, but it can be if you make smart decisions. Among the choices are tofu, chicken, bell peppers, beans, broccoli, and red onions, which can be paired with whole-wheat pasta and marinara sauce. And to accompany your meal, avoid the variety of soda and sugary juices.

Another healthy choice is to get vegetable and lean meats and option to stir-fry them. While this used to just be an option at South Campus, the North Campus recently added stir-fry to their Sprouts station. Even if you can’t commit to eating healthy every single day, make an effort to add a few vegetables to each meal.

And if you want to treat yourself to a dessert, a better option than cake or ice cream would be a low-fat frozen yogurt or sherbet available at both diners.

Dining Services at UMD has been trying to help students eat healthy by arranging the displays so more unhealthy foods are less prominently displayed, said Bart Hipple, Communication Assistant Director of Dining Services. They have also chosen to make healthier modifications such as removing fries from certain side dish options and adding a gourmet salad station. However, it’s ultimately your choice to eat healthy.

“Food can be healthier if you choose to make it healthier,” Hipple said, and Dining Services needs to sell what people want to buy.

If you are specifically looking to better your own diet and would like some consultation, the University Health Center offers a free Diet Analysis Service. Students can call to reserve a session, and meet with a diet analyzer who will evaluate what you’re currently eating and tell you how to make your diet healthier.

A key to making healthy choices in general, though, is to not skip meals, said campus dietitian Jane Jakubczak. If you wait a long time between meals, by the time you make it to the diner you’ll most likely be starving and willing to grab whatever is most convenient, which usually isn’t the healthiest choice. Jakubczak said the main reason students don’t eat healthy is because they don’t give themselves enough time.

“It’s important to take time to plan what you want to eat and to give yourself enough time at the dining hall to make good choices,” Jakubczak said. “Most of the time the healthy choices are there, the students just need to take the time to look for them.”


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