Photo by KSQ Design
By Sophia Ricco
As students graze at the dining halls of Stony Brook campus, they are confronted with choices that will have an impact on the rest of their lives– what foods they are choosing to put into their bodies.
With the stress of classes, jobs and other extracurriculars, students at Stony Brook University may struggle to attain proper nutrition– a key component of student’s functionality.
“Just like an athlete fuels for a sport, a student fuels for the classroom time,” Amanda Reichardt, Stony Brook University’s Campus Dining Dietician, said.
Without the fuel of healthy foods, students may find themselves feeling sluggish, having a poor immune system and even gain unwanted fat. But many students are unaware that their eating schedule, preferences and portions may not be ideal.
“Something I noticed on this campus is that students don’t eat breakfast,” Reichardt said. “They have their first meal between 12 and 2, and it’s a light lunch. Then they get home and they have a large meal which is not conducive to putting on a large amount of lean body mass.”
But many students feel there is not enough healthy options being offered in the dining halls, leading to their lack of appetite and utilization of the dining halls.
“I feel like Campus Dining is trying but they need to try harder,” Kisa Abidi, a junior Psychology major, said. “There’s mostly carbs everywhere. I feel like whenever you swipe in it’s pastas and pizzas, and that’s all you see.”
Campus Dining has worked to improve student’s ability to choose healthier foods by using icons that represent whether a food is a part of the Eat Well program, vegetarian or vegan. Students can then look for these icons to make healthier choices when selecting foods.
“Students have a really busy schedule so the Eat Well system is a heart healthy diet,” Reichardt said. “It’s monitoring for no trans fats, low in saturated fats, low in a certain kind of calories, and low in sodium. So it’s heart healthy which is reflective of what people should be eating in the US.”
Even with the help of the Eat Well program, some students still find that dining halls on campus lack the healthy options they crave.
“I mainly eat at the cafeteria at Stony Brook University Hospital,” Riley Lestingi, a Senior Health Science major said. “I like to eat their vegetable sides and fish entrees but these are things that I tend to have trouble finding on main campus.”
This is only worsened when a student has special dietary needs that restrict them from consuming certain foods.
“We can meet everyone’s dietary needs but some people have different food preferences,” Reichardt said.
One of the most prevalent dietary needs among students is for vegetarian and vegan foods that are not simply a salad bar.
“At the salad bars I feel like the ingredients aren’t swapped out enough and they’re just sitting there,” Katy Rebollo, a Sophomore Political Science major who eats vegetarian, said. “I feel that happens because most people don’t go in that direction with what they want to eat, but maybe they would if it looked a little more appetizing.”
Campus Dining has worked to increase options by curating vegan stations in the dine-in locations. These stations also provides all students more opportunities to dine healthier, as vegan foods tend to be less processed.
“You don’t have to be vegan to eat at the vegan station,” Reichardt said. “So if you mix and match with the Chef’s Table and International Market, you’re gonna have a much healthier plate.”
Still, students have struggled to find diversity in their meals with the healthy options they are being provided.
“Your only option of eating healthy on campus is salad and grilled chicken,” Noyan Darici, a Senior said. “You don’t have the option of a brown rice platter or steamed vegetables, just salad and chicken, that’s it.”
Reichardt is working with chefs on campus to increase the variety of healthy options. This is checked by nutritional audits that are conducted twice every semester to assess if half the grains offered are whole, if a variety of vegetables are being offered, how much of the protein is lean and so on.
“I believe in the three main pillars of nutrition– balance, variety, and moderation,” Reichardt said. “If you have those three pillars, you’re gonna lead a healthy lifestyle.”