It can be a little scary to eat in the dining hall on a meatless diet.
Campus nutritionists and dietitians make it their job to help guide college students through a new world of eating on their own. Brittney Sly is the Nutrition and Wellness Programs Manager at Colorado State University. Her job is to promote healthy eating and awareness.
A handful of programs and events that Sly is involved in promote eating healthy on campus, including a smoothie class organized by one of the resident assistants and a whole grain trivia night in a dining halls.
“I do occasionally get students who are trying to be a vegetarian or are looking to be vegan and just need advice for how to do that in a healthy way or what’s kind of offered in the dining halls in terms of what’s vegan and vegetarian,” Sly said.
There are chefs at every dining hall who are in charge of planning, preparing and cooking all the meals for everyone who lives on campus. With this wide scope of people, Sly said it is important to keep variety and nutrition in mind.
“I’ll go through (the menus) as another set of eyes, and look for nutritionally balanced things,” Sly said. “Do we have whole grains? Do we have a broth-based soup? …little specific things, and at the beginning of the menu writing process, I usually give them a charge like, ‘Hey, if we can try to incorporate more of this.’”
With the amount of meatless food options, Sly said it is important to remember to keep to a nutritionally balanced diet. Being a vegetarian is not just putting down the burger and scarfing down fries.
“I feel like a lot of times I’ll meet with students, and they’ll go for the fried, carb-heavy diet instead of the veggies,” Sly said. “So, like with anyone, fill half your plate with fruit and veggies first.”
When students eat vegan or vegetarian, Sly said they must consider how to supplment their diet, not just cut out animal products.
“I know a lot of people who will switch over and they’ll just eat salad and stuff and be like ‘oh I’m hungry’ and, well, you’re not getting your proper nutrients,” said Sloan Moore, a sophomore majoring in human dimensions of natural resources at CSU who is vegan.
The challenge is not much with the dining halls. It is other events that happen on campus. For example, Moore cannot go to the CSU tradition of Grill the Buffs; being a vegan, you are kind of excluded from the party.
According to Sly, CSU cares about their customers and how they feel about their dining options. There are multiple options in place for students to receive information, including online menus, professionals to talk to, posters and residence assistants.
“That’s one of the challenges: Figuring out what the students want and value when they’re here,” said one of CSU Dining Center’s Executive Chef Jeremy Morgan. “So, I think with online menus and the avenues for feedback, I think that really helps us keep on track.”
Students can get on an email list on nutrition with the Sly’s permission, according to Scott Parmelee, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering who was vegetarian while living on campus. Students can look online and see the ingredients of the foods served at the dining halls.
“We really have seen a shift across all campuses to really focusing on the sustainability piece,” Morgan said. “And that includes the vegetarian diet. I think there’s been an increase in popularity for an interest in making sure there is vegetarian options, and a lot of that is really driven by our customers.”
For more information about the ingredients in CSU’s dining hall meals, go to housing.colostate.edu/dining/nutrition/.
Collegian reporter Maddie Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maddierwright.