Alternatives to Campus Fast Foods

The Uni High Gargoyle asked questions to various students about where they ate out on campus, the general consensus was they tended to choose less healthy options. With the input of Toni Burkhalter, a senior instructor in The Department of Food Science, the Gargoyle sought out better ways for consuming a healthier lunch during the school day.

The food found outside of Uni has become one of the easiest ways for students to purchase their lunch. The accessibility of these places led to many students going to fast-food restaurants and food trucks frequently.

With the frequency students eat out, the “ideal plate” is many times overlooked. The “ideal plate” is most easily defined as the number of different food groups someone should be eating on a regular basis.

Burkhalter defines her “ideal plate” for the day saying, “50 percent of the plate would be comprised of fruits and vegetables, so around 3-5 servings for the whole day. For every meal fruits and vegetables should take around half your plate. The other parts of the plate should have grains as well, typically barley or toast. A source of protein should be included like meat or egg whites. Calcium-rich foods are really important in a balanced diet and milk a really great option for both calcium and protein.”

Uni students typically eat out ranging from 3 times a week to once every 2weeks. The most popular food items listed by the students were: cajun tater tots from Cracked, the BBQ chicken tostini from Einsteins, and super tacos from La Paloma, which are all close to Uni High.

The cajun tater tots are one of the most common snacks found at Uni. Unfortunately, it is one of the unhealthiest options because the cajun tots are frozen and deep fried with the possibility of trans fat. We asked Burkhalter about alternative options to fast food on campus.

She explained, “Dried cherries are a good option. It’s important to look at what each food option offers for you and [to] be aware of the amount you eat.”

Each tater tot order (small), has around 15 to 20 tots; the more tater tots consumed means more oil in the stream of the body, which means the body has to work harder to balance the incoming fats. She added, “Pumpkin seeds are also a great alternative, the salt and the crunch found in pumpkin seeds are a good alternative to the deep-fried foods.”

Another one of the popular food choices was the BBQ chicken tostini from Einsteins. The sandwich had around 500 calories and the ingredients included bread, chicken, cheese, barbeque sauce, and onions.

Burkhalter commented, “This sandwich is not bad in terms of calories and macronutrients, but the only vegetables listed are onions. Adding other vegetables to the sandwich would help achieve the correct ratios for the ideal plate.”

However, some foods were recommended because they included a balance of nutrition that the human body needs. The super tacos found next to Uni were voted one of the most popular items for lunch and was the healthiest of the three.

According to Burkhalter, the tacos are the healthiest, “The taco is relatively low in fat, the shells aren’t too unhealthy… it also provides a vegetarian option and has plenty of protein, salsa, lettuce, cheese. Since it is so customizable you are given a lot of choices whether to make it healthy or not. A person would be able to eat out every meal of every day, it all depends on what they’re choosing for their meal.”

Upon inspection of the most popular foods at Uni, it is clear that many of them are not the healthiest. Although it is difficult to give up fast food altogether, Uni students have a lot of options and ways to customize our food and keep a healthy mindset about what we consume.