Edit desk: Healthy choices can be easy choices

Rebecca Wilkin

Rebecca Wilkin

As I stood in Ahart’s, staring at the 65-cent ramen noodles and contemplating my meal choices for the week, I realized the absurdity of the situation. Why should I sacrifice my own health for these sodium-laden, mediocre noodles devoid of nutritional value? There was only one solution to this question – the price.

I have discovered that Lehigh students often struggle with eating healthy, especially when they are on their own for meals. Meal options throughout campus are limited, especially on the weekends, and many upperclassmen have limited meal plans or no meal plans at all. Furthermore, the cost of buying and cooking one’s own food can be astronomical. This left me with one simple question: how could I manage to stay healthy throughout the course of my hectic day without draining my bank account?

This semester I opted for the 150 Block Plan, which includes 150 meals per semester and $150 Dining Dollars. I reasoned that selecting this meal plan would be beneficial, for it averages about ten meals per week and it is less expensive than the full meal plan. I also share a small kitchenette with my roommates, and this allows me to cook at least a few meals each week. However, I now realize that this may be more challenging than I had previously thought, simply due to the cost of food and the time required to make the meals.

During the first week of school, my friends and I took a trip to a local supermarket and bought food staples like milk, orange juice, bread, granola bars, fruits and vegetables. When our bill exceeded $100, we were somewhat stunned. It was not long before we had consumed most of the food, and we arrived at the conclusion that we simply could not afford to be doing this every week. Our only option was to cut back on the amount of food we were purchasing, or to just buy cheaper food. However, it’s a fact, the cheapest food is often the least nutritious food.

I was mortified at both the cost of the food and terrified at the fact that my health might suffer because of it. On-campus dietician Carrie Gerencher gave me several tips for a variety of economic, quick meals that one can cook on his or her own time. Options included grilled chicken breast, brown rice and frozen vegetables. Gerencher also recommended buying items in bulk, such as yogurt and granola.

Although some students may be cooking meals at home, many still struggle with the act of eating healthy at dining halls. It is often tempting to go for a slice of pizza or bowl of chili fries instead of a salad or yogurt parfait.

“First, scope out everything that we have at the dining hall and check out all of the stations,” Gerencher said. “I think students should know that Simple Servings is the best bet. It’s an allergy free station and has items like local squash and green beans.”

She stressed the significance of eating fruits and vegetables, because these wholesome foods will keep an individual fuller longer than the typical “junk” we often choose to consume.

A study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University found that college students are only eating five servings of fruits or vegetables a week, while the recommended amount is five servings per day. It is a constant struggle to remind myself to eat fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Oftentimes, I find that the dining hall does not offer a very large variety of fresh fruits. Gerencher said that this might be due to the fact that certain fruits go out of season at different times of the year. Right now, she suggests eating peaches and apples.

According to the American Health Association, 46 percent of students living on college campuses are trying to lose weight. Although several other factors, such as exercise, contribute to weight loss, choosing the right foods is just as crucial. Not only do foods with little nutritional value affect one’s physical health, but they can be detrimental to one’s mental health, and subsequently his or her academic performance.

Instead of loading up on fresh fruits and vegetables during the day, many students often grab late night snacks from the vending machines in their dorms. The machines are stocked with candies, chips and sodas. Perhaps Lehigh can add healthier choices to the machines, such as mixed nuts, granola bars, 100-calorie packs and dried fruits.

The Bethlehem Farmers’ Market, located in Campus Square, offers fresh produce and goods every Thursday through October. Many students do not take advantage of this market, and some are not aware of its existence. Perhaps more students would utilize the market if GoldPLUS, Dining Dollars or meal swipes were accepted as valid forms of payment. Lehigh might even be able to work out a deal with the local vendors to secure students discounts on their produce. This could be beneficial to both the students and the community.

There are various ways to look creatively and think out of the box in terms of healthy choices for food. Schools like Bowdoin College have organic gardens on campus, as well as dozens of vegan and vegetarian options. All of the food is prepared at the school, and almost all students are on some type of meal plan.

Between classes, clubs, sports and meetings, it is difficult for students to remind themselves to eat healthy. If Lehigh implemented some of these minor changes, students might become more conscious of their eating habits. With healthier on-campus options, perhaps students would not venture off campus for food nearly as much. This would be more economically and nutritionally beneficial for both the students and the school. Eating healthy may seem like a daunting task, but with the proper knowledge and motivation, it is certainly possible.

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