Healthy eating at dining halls, means everything in moderation


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Eating healthy hasn’t been on my mind in my previous 18 years on this planet, but in recent months it has become a central focus while navigating Rutgers’ dining halls.

Despite endless attempts, I have never been able to follow a healthy eating regimen. I share a common love for most things unhealthy. I used to be able to eat to my stomach’s content and the scale wouldn’t move. But the second I stepped foot on campus, I only have to eat a crumb for the scale to reflect a five-course meal.

In the past, I justified a pork roll egg, and cheese with an hour of working out. But that isn’t the case anymore. I need to take everything into consideration if I want to keep my body in the healthiest shape.

So it was my pleasure to sit down and talk with Dining Services Student Ambassador Carly Harris, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, who is majoring in nutrition and writes for Rutgers Dining Health Services.

Harris made it very clear, to my stomach’s satisfaction, that if you want to eat a donut, then eat it! Her approach to nutrition is one of moderation.

“You have to have everything in moderation,” she said. “I emphasize a no-exclusion mindset.”

It’s hard to plan a healthy menu for yourself at the dining hall when you are provided with minimal options.

“Healthy, minimal eating is very boring and unsatisfying, so remember to get creative because it’s not easy,” Harris said.

In each meal, you should be getting vegetables, whole grains and protein. One example of a well-rounded meal is whole grain toast with a teaspoon of peanut butter and banana on top.

Some foods can be deceptively healthy, though, like peanut butter. Although high in protein, peanut butter is misleading because it also has saturated fats that are not easy for your body to break down. But in a diet that considers everything okay in moderation, foods like this are worth it.

You also always have the options of yogurt with granola, or even oatmeal and eggs, if the toast and peanut butter isn’t your taste.

If you really cannot live without an unhealthy option, give yourself a little quick fix then get some vegetables to throw on the side. Along with that, you need a type of whole grain, so a serving of whole wheat pasta or quinoa salad will do.

Grilled chicken or tofu are two great options the dining hall has on a daily basis for your serving of protein.

Harris said you should stay by the salad bar for the healthiest options, but also to remember that in general have a diverse plate and don’t have too much of a single nutritional category — meaning, even the healthiest options can turn unhealthy when you are eating way too much in one serving.

You can apply these tactics for every meal of the day and your snacks in between.

The dining hall is there for you to make it your own smorgasbord. Healthy eating is not only for weight loss, but should be followed by even those in the best physical shape.

Harris easily relates to the difficulty of strict healthy eating. She said knows the struggles that we all face when it comes to staying disciplined about the food we are putting into our bodies and has a passion for making an impact and helping others follow a positive diet.

Healthy eating should not be a trend, it should be a lifestyle. Your motivation should be yourself. We are all healthiest when we’re smiling, so find the right balance and make that smile permanent.

“Eating healthy is 80 percent healthy habits and 20 percent splurging,” Harris said. “So eat ice cream when you need it, because, trust me, you need it.”


Morgan Rue

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