University Nutrition Series: Two Peas in a Pod

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.

Guiding Stars inspired "burrito bowl"

After our lengthy conversation, the girls were ready to try my Guiding Stars inspired “burrito bowl.” This meal consists of whole grain rice, black beans, tomatoes, red and green peppers, spinach, corn, salsa, sour cream, and hot sauce – it’s basically a burrito without the tortilla. After a quick venture through the dining hall crowds, I arrived at their table with a sample of this Mexican-style masterpiece. They loved every bit of it.

It was interesting to show these two freshmen how you can really utilize all of the stations in the dining hall to create one delicious dish—with a healthy dose of 3 star foods. This experience proved that disguising nutritious foods with creativity and flavor can go a long way in shaping someone’s food choices. I find that the more fun it is to eat healthy, the more likely students are to want to keep up good eating habits.

About our Student Blogger

Sarah Frederickson is a senior Nutrition & Wellness major at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). She has a strong passion for promoting healthy eating and overall wellness. With some help from the UNH dietitian, Sarah recently finished a project called Creative Eating which is an approach to educating students on making interesting, delicious, and smart choices in the dining halls.

Along with a personal blog that she uses to support this project, Sarah has a Facebook group where Creative Eating enthusiasts can stay updated with project events, news, and recipe ideas. She is also an active member of Students Promoting Information on Nutrition (SPIN), a UNH student organization meant to spread nutrition knowledge to students through peer education.