Pre-pear to eat healthy at Mount Holyoke

 Graphic by Carrie Clowers '18

Graphic by Carrie Clowers '18

BY SABRINA EDWARDS '20

As the new school year begins to take shape on campus, fundamental concerns about existing and future dining options at Mount Holyoke College are taking form as well. The question for Mount Holyoke students and community members remains how to stay healthy while managing rigorous study and extracurricular schedules.

For the typical adult consuming 2,000 calories a day, the United States Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) in their dietary guidelines recommends two and a half cups of vegetables per day, two cups of fruit, six ounces of grain, half of which should be whole grains, three cups of dairy, five and a half ounces of protein, and around five teaspoons of oils per day. 

However, three-fourths of the U.S population is consuming diets that are low in fruits and vegetables according to the ODPHP Dietary Guidelines. A study published in 2011 in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior by Oregon State University stated that American college students are eating fewer than one serving of fruits and vegetables per day and consuming most of their calories from fat. 

The issues surrounding healthy eating are exacerbated for those with specific dietary restrictions like Isabell Linde ’19. “I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). It’s been getting more severe so I’ve decided that it’s my diet that’s been causing more of the problems. It’s really difficult to find different foods in the dining hall that apply to this specific diet that I’m on because I have to be gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free. If it’s dairy free, then it has soy, and if it’s gluten free, then it has dairy.” 

When it comes to dining at Mount Holyoke, there aresome tools at students’ disposal that can make healthy choices easier to make. 

On the MHC Dining Services website there are “Nutritive Analysis Modules” which are small, colored circles next to items on menus. These “Modules” allow students to search the dining hall options by allergen and ingredient and Linde uses these modules to help her make informed dining decisions: “[The Nutritive Analysis Modules] are very helpful, they show what I can and can’t eat. It limits my options, but it allows me to see which dining halls have more options for me.”

Eating at regular intervals and not skipping meals is another way that students can make better eating decisions. Research from a study published in Public Health Nutrition by researchers at the University of Minnesota in 2014 indicates that people who adhere to regular meal intervals are more likely to eat healthier and follow U.S healthy eating guidelines. At Mount Holyoke, students can commit to eating during dining hall meal hours and following a regular eating schedule whenever possible in order to establish these regular intervals. 

Mount Holyoke students who have additional concerns can set up an appointment with the on-campus nutritionist who can be reached at the Pattie J. Groves Health Center.  “Meeting with the nutritionist was pretty simple,” Linde said. “All I had to do was have an appointment with the clinician and say why I wanted to see the nutritionist. That was more for if you need blood work before you see the nutritionist. I saw the clinician and then three days later I saw the nutritionist.” 

For current students, “Super Blanch” provides a unique opportunity to expand dining options and services. According to the News and Events page on the Mount Holyoke website, “Different stations will serve up a multitude of choices to meet the needs and preferences of the College’s diverse community. The unprecedented variety of options will include international dishes, American comfort food, vegetarian and vegan specialties, allergen-free stations and kosher and halal food.” For Linde, there’s still hope for the expansion: “I really hope Super Blanch will be better and more open to people who have these special diets and can’t eat certain things.” 

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