Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Staying Lean vs. the Freshman 15

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     In the last week and half, I have been in contact with the Assistant Director of University Dining Services at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Pamela Edwards.  I asked Pam if she could answer a couple of questions about how meals are handled at the University level, and our 15 minute conversation followed.  

     The first thing I wanted to know from Pam was about any regulation governing what the University can serve to students at meals, if there even were regulations.  "No regulations at all, none like the high school level," she told me.  "We can serve whatever, whenever."  Pamela then explained to me that they have the freedom to determine the style of the menu, what they're serving, and that students control the portion size.   There are a couple of things they have to take into consideration, though.  "Budget really mandates what we serve, as well as our diverse student population," Pam said.  After that, our conversation turned to the actual menu.  "There is a menu committee of five people, one from each residence hall," she began, "students can go to these meetings, where they decide the menu."  The menus for all five dining halls are different everyday, but the same menus overall.  "The menu is a pattern that is rotated around the dining halls, pretty much the same meals, but at different times."  Pam told me that about 11,000 meals are bought each day, which can range from someone going and getting orange juice to an actual meal.  "The food cost of a meal usually depends on the hall,"  Pam pointed out, "usually about $2.50 to $3.00."  
     I also wanted to know how healthy choices and good eating habits were communicated to students.  "Right now we are using the MyPlate campaign, and 'nutrition bytes'," Pam explained.  She went into detail about he 'nutrition bytes' which are similar to nutrition facts, in that they show calories, vitamins and nutrients, and sodium content, among other things.  The information they use for the nutrition bytes comes from the food they prepare, but are broken down into individual portions.  I asked Pam how students make good choices on what they eat without the supervision of his or her mom or dad.  "That's part of our [MyPlate] campaign, we are trying to provide information to students."  When I asked a recent Beatrice grad her thought on lunch at the University of Nebraska, she said, "It's awesome.  There are so many choices, and you can get whatever you want.  There are nutrition facts for everything, too."  There are several other ways that students can find help as well.  Students can talk with many of the people in the dining services at UNL if they have questions or need help with their diet.   
     Before I told Pam thank-you and goodbye, I had one final question.  Is the Freshman 15 a real thing, or is it just a myth?  Expecting a funny answer, Pam informed me that the freshman 15 is actually a real thing,  "I don't know if it's actually 15 pounds, but it definitely is a big issue for some students, if they don't recognize it."  She told me than many of the reasons that students may gain the 'freshman 15' is because they are in a new environment, wanting to try all the various foods.  "Some pay no attention to portion control," Pam said.  "Many students also eat outside of meal times, snacking while doing homework, or late night pizza parties.  Those really add up."  Stressing that diet isn't the only part of a healthy lifestyle, Pam told me that, "Exercise is key."  I thanked Pam for her time, and that was the end of our interview.  
     One thing that really stood out to me was that maybe meals are not the main source of our unhealthy eating habits, but instead the mindless snacking or late night eating that many of us are guilty of.  

-----Don't forget to send in your pictures of lunches across America for the project Lunch from Alabama to Wyoming, and to share The School Lunches Suck! Blog on Facebook with your friends and family!-----

Until next time,  stay full!


  1. As a 2004 graduate of BHS - who is chatting on fb about your blog with another previous graduate.. You mean to tell us there is no mega bar anymore? No hoagies offered every day? We are devastated... And more importantly glad it's you guys not us! (Sorry guys!) Why can't they offer the salad bar daily like they used to and let students load up on additional salad? Enjoy reading the blog! Keep it up!

    1. You are correct, there is no mega bar but hoagies continue to be offerred everyday. Healthy eating options have actually increased as students can now get two portions of fruit daily and the fresh vegetable bar (aka salad bar) is open to all meal options (hoagie bar, main line) Protein and grains are limited to 2 oz. daily (per federal regulations). A hot vegetable bar featuring grilled asparagus, squash, fresh steamed broccoli and green beans is also available to students with all meal options has also been added. It has never been easier to get a healthy meal at school.

    2. I really want you to be aware that the federal regulations are requiring a minimum of 2oz of protein to be available at a meal. They are NOT limiting it to that amount. I honestly believe that BPS students have a right to be upset because the school has skewed the regulations. If they are limiting the amount of protein due to cost that is one thing but it is not the case of regulations. The only limit/cap that they have put on is the amount of calories in a meal. I believe that you should look into this with your blog. I think it would be beneficial.

    3. The Federal Regulations do state that protein is limited to 10 - 12 oz. weekly for high school students. We cannot offer more than 2 oz. in a meal on a daily basis or we would exceed that cap. The additional 2 ounces of protein can be offered with a taco meal or on a slice of cheese on a burger. We have not limited protein to save money-it is the REGULATION. There is a cap limit on grains as well as calories. Perhaps you need to check your facts.

  2. USDA Response: This final rule implements the meat/meat alternate requirements for the NSLP as proposed. Schools must offer at least a minimum amount of meat/meat alternate daily (2oz eq. for students in grades 9–12, and 1 oz eq. for younger students), and provide a weekly required amount for each age/grade group.