Colleges Trying to Do More to Help Students Eat Healthy College-Level Lessons in Eating Well
For Brandeis junior Brandon Frank, it was the lack of exercise that got him. He’d played tennis in high school, but couldn’t find time in college. That, combined with the soft serve ice cream and dining hall pizza he treated himself to each weekend, tacked on seven pounds by the end of his freshman year.
“I was finding it easy to get off track,” he said, “with all the food options they have at school.”
Many universities have instituted healthy eating programs in recent years, but just telling students to make healthy choices often isn’t enough. So some schools are going further.
This year, the University of Massachusetts is testing a new salad bar intended to show students which ingredients make the healthiest meal. Suffolk University dining halls will offer plastic MyPlates — based on the USDA’s MyPlate nutrition guide — proportionately divided so students can see how much of each food group they should be eating. Boston College is launching a student health-coach program, to train students about nutrition so they can educate and collaborate with dorms and campus groups.
“Our mission as educators isn’t just in the classroom,” said nutritionist Sheila Tucker of BC’s Office of Health Promotion, which launched last year. “It’s important we educators empower our students to go out and make great lifelong healthy decisions.”
Those decisions are paramount when 78 million adults nationwide are classified as obese and have a Body Mass Index greater than 30. The extra pounds not only make people unhappy with how they look and feel, but they increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea.
“There’s a great emphasis on the obesity epidemic that we’re being faced with as a nation,” said Tufts University dietitian Julie Lampie, “and I think the public service messages surrounding eating fruits and vegetables has made a mark.”