So what attracts almost any college student? Free food!

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I learned this, and my role as a nutrition educator, the hard way – working with peers and the dining dietitian, I began educating a year ago providing interesting facts, visuals, and fun food games for students frequenting the dining halls. It seemed that people were doing everything they could to sneak past our tables: acting like they were on the phone, texting, or maybe just staring over at us like we were from outer space. But even the troupers who did muster up the strength to stop by for some food facts commonly responded with, “So do we what do we get for stopping by?”

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University Nutrition Series: Two Peas in a Pod

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And so begins my third adventure into the chaotic world that is the dining hall.

Chaos exists in all shapes, sizes, and scents: the smell of warm cinnamon monkey bread competes with the aroma of zesty brick oven pizza. Some students are speeding through the crowds; others are moseying around carefully combing through their options. Time commitments find students on the edge of their seats, shoveling in their day’s energy while others relax with friends.

UNH freshmen Julia and Liz found their own place in this dining hall pandemonium. They were there at 11 o’clock – the dining hall was still serving both breakfast and lunch; so of course their meals consisted of both. Combined, they had waffles, home fries, cheesy eggs, a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter, spicy shrimp & rice, and pudding – a smorgasbord to say the least.

My status as a nutrition major seemed to scare the girls a bit, making them embarrassed about some of their food choices – but we established together that everything in moderation is okay. They each revealed the good news that Guiding Stars ratings in the dining hall and in the grocery store give them a big helping hand in knowing what choices to make. Liz explained, “We don’t necessarily base our meals off of the ratings but when there is an obvious better choice we’ll choose that one.” Julia added, “It’s a helpful way to compare foods.” The starred ratings also assist the girls in meeting what they define as nutrition: “Having a healthy balance of everything, lots of veggies and fruits, and limited sweets.”

Julia and Liz agreed on their favorite foods: omelets, Chinese food, fried dough, strawberries, seltzer water, and coffee. They also see eye to eye on pretty much everything else. Their best-loved activities are listening to music, shopping, going to the beach, and just hanging out with each other. The girls do, however, differ in academics as Julia studies nursing and plans to be a nurse while Liz studies Psychology and is interested in the industrial organization field.

After our lengthy conversation, the girls were ready to try my Guiding Stars inspired “burrito bowl.” This meal consists of whole grain…

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The Wildcat

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He says he has “an appetite for destruction.” UNH senior Lance Mailloux lends his protein-rich diet loads of credit for his success on the football field.

This year, Lance’s football coach has given him “weight goals” that guide him to gain a certain amount of weight to become a better defender. Being a former weight-conscious wrestler, Lance decided to gain his weight “in the healthiest way possible.” And so begins his hulk-a-licious diet description:

“I get in extra calories through drinking lots of fruit juice…

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The Busy Bee

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Like a beehive, a college campus is a small city of residents with wildly different roles and needs. You’ve got your workers, your studying drones, your drama queens – some need just enough energy to hold a book up, others to run a marathon.

Each month, my blog will track down one type of student trying to find his or her way through a maze of dietary options. I will get to know them, discuss their food choices, and make an interesting “Guiding Stars inspired” meal suggestion for them to try. I begin here with my first summer voyage to Holloway Commons, the main dining hall at UNH:

For the first time since freshman year, I felt lost in the dining hall. I scanned through a sea of prospective students and UNH Wildcat campers. Although I seemed not to fit in, I felt entitled to be there, a dining hall “veteran” – like a worn crayon thrown into a box of crayons fresh off the press. Just when I was about to give up on my search for a college student, a gray UNH t-shirt caught my eye. I approached her carefully as if she was a mirage but quickly recognized her authenticity. After getting her permission to feature her in my first blog, we sat down to talk food.

Erin is a senior at UNH studying Athletic Training. When she graduates, she plans to get her certification, go to grad school, and eventually become a physician’s assistant. She is spending her summer working at the UNH sports camps. Erin explained that if she had free time she would spend it at the mall, hanging out downtown with friends, or enjoying Portsmouth, NH.

This busy-bee is highly active and needs to feed on some serious (yet quick) grub. She meant business this day with a green plate filled with several delicious 2 and 3 star choices. She chose stir-fry—one of her dining hall favorites—with snow peas, carrots, broccoli, and chicken. We both agreed that stir-fry is an easy way to get a well-balanced meal: whole grains, lots of fiber, various vitamins and nutrients, and lean protein. This meal is healthy, filling, and will sustain a girl like Erin throughout a hectic afternoon…

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Dinner with the “Stars”

You toss your backpack on the shelf, swipe your ID at the entrance, and grab a plate. Knocking into other students as you weave your way through the dinner rush, you send out a mass-text message to see where your friends are sitting. You pile a couple of slices of pizza on your plate because they’re a quick choice and you’re trying to get to that 6:40 review session for your nail-biting exam tomorrow.

You’re a college student trying to stay nourished in a fast-paced, multitasking society, and you don’t have time to plan the perfect meal.

At the University of New Hampshire (UNH), this is where Guiding Stars comes to the rescue, giving “fast” food a new meaning…

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