The belief that campus dining harms our healthy lifestyles is a far-too-common quip in the UT community. It’s been an effective selling point of numerous student government campaigns, and it has even been the topic of some Daily Texan articles.
It’s not true.
While it may take a little extra searching behind the foggy glass of the JCL food line, the University of Texas offers plenty of healthy eating options and nutritional resources. The responsibility to use them falls on us.
University Housing and Dining dietitian Sotear Kuy says her department provides an extensive list of resources to promote healthy eating. These include monthly cooking classes that teach students healthy recipes, monthly vegetarian focus groups in Kinsolving and J2, and informational tables at dining halls every month to educate students about different aspects of nutrition. All of these services are completely free to students.
To craft the best on-campus diets, Kuy says students should opt for the “fresh and simple tastes” line at J2 Dining for options that use whole grain and fresh produce and also avoid the eight most popular allergens. Students can also keep an eye out for the green “healthy suggestion” icon next to the most sensible menu choices, and can substitute french fries for fruit in a standard meal for the same price.
Students can also visit a dietitian in UHS for specific dietary tailoring.
Patrick Lyons, a mechanical engineering senior from Dallas, has created a name for himself through his life of fitness — even boasting an appearance on “American Ninja Warrior” and building a custom workout and meal program that some UT students use. He is proof that students can maintain very healthy lifestyles on campus dining alone.
“I ate on campus every day for my first two years. … I’m a firm believer (that) it is entirely possible to eat healthy on campus,” he said in a text message. “It’s really not difficult to find healthy options. People often don’t eat healthy because they see the unhealthy options everywhere and opt to choose those instead.”
It’s all about choices. I’m no less of a fan of post-Sixth Street Jendy’s than anyone else, but these restaurants tend to expand our waistline while shrinking our wallets. It’s on students to plan and choose their meals wisely.
Students can find healthy options off campus, too. Even in our food desert, we can make do.
“I eat off campus all the time,” Lyons said. “Chipotle, Qdoba, Chick-fil-A and Don are the best options, as long as you order the right things.”
He suggests opting for leaner meats such as chicken, turkey or fish at restaurants, and is especially a fan of Chipotle’s chicken bowls and Don’s chicken teriyaki. By choosing these options, students can make any restaurant — yes, even Whataburger — much healthier.
Our food options are certainly not perfect. We must have important conversations about UHD’s communication and advertising of their programs, the lack of fresh meat and produce in this food desert and the transparency of our food’s nutritional content. For now, however, eating healthy is entirely possible. Students should stop blaming their environment for their unhealthy lifestyle and should instead take advantage of the University’s many healthy resources. If we let these opportunities go to waste, it will only go to our waist.
Chandler is a journalism and government sophomore from Houston. You can follow him on Twitter at @RyanChandler98.