Progressive food options on campus
The average day for a Cougar involves classes, possibly work and meeting with professors or a study group. Students, not always having the time or effort to pack their own meals for the day, often turn to campus dining options.
UH recently ranked No. 44 on The Daily Meal’s list of Top Colleges for Food in America. The other two Texas colleges on the list were Southern Methodist University at 63, and Trinity University at 74.
The range of eating options on campus includes unhealthier foods like snacks from the C-Store or McDonald’s fries. Fortunately, Houston has evolved with progressive health initiatives since being voted the fattest city in America from 2001 to 2003. It is not featured alongside the other four Texas cities featured on the 2014 list of unhealthiest cities in the nation, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
UH has done a tremendous job of improving its own health-focused initiatives to cater to students’ needs — but despite these healthy food options, the “Freshman 15” is still an issue. Many students can still be seen waiting in line for a double cheeseburger rather than eating a healthy lunch from home or turning to various healthy food choices offered to UH students.
To fully take advantage of the options on campus, the first step is knowing the menu. Public relations junior Angela Austin said she considers herself health-conscious, and she doesn’t find it difficult to eat healthily on campus; it’s about knowing where to look.
For example, many places on campus like Chick-fil-A can make recommendations for healthy options. If one looks at the Chick-fil-A website, it offers a calorie counter and nutrition chart — there are even suggested meal options online that are less than 400 calories.
Additionally, Einstein Bros. Bagels serves fruit cups and wheat bagels for healthy breakfast or snack items, and McAlister’s Deli seems to be another Cougar favorite when it comes down to choosing the healthier option.
“I would recommend eating some sushi,” said advertising senior Linda Ho. “It’s healthy and light so you wouldn’t feel guilty.”
At Sushic, there are many options for different taste buds, and the packaging ensures that one is eating a limited portion size. Sushi tends to be low in fat and higher in nutrients, but only if the right kind is ordered. Sushi with vegetables, seaweed and more protein, depending on the type of fish, will provide more nutrients.
Even the coffee-giant, Starbucks, has options for the health-conscious. The menu boards let customers know the calorie count for each beverage, and the pastry tags display the calorie count for pastries and sandwiches as well.
Believe it or not, even the food trucks that visit campus have healthier alternatives. If one is a fan of Chinese food, a good choice is The Rice Box food truck — try the Veggie or Healthy Dish and order a side of Tofu Bites.
Then there are some students that prefer not to eat fast food at all. Specific tastes don’t always match up with what is available on campus, so packing a lunch is also recommended
“I guess because I commute and live at home, I just eat the healthy food I have available,” Austin said. “I’d only have to rely on-campus dining options if I really needed to — days when I’m running late and don’t have time to pack lunch or if I’m staying on campus late in the evening.”
Where is your favorite place on campus to eat a healthy meal?
- McAlister's Deli (26%, 34 Votes)
- I bring my own lunch (25%, 33 Votes)
- Food trucks (such as Bare Bowls) (17%, 22 Votes)
- The Fresh Food Company (11%, 15 Votes)
- Other (10%, 13 Votes)
- Smoothie King (7%, 9 Votes)
- Sushic (5%, 6 Votes)
Total Voters: 131
However, despite these healthy options, many students either do not know about them or do not care enough to leave the fries behind. Media production senior Raven Hurst said she believes that the University can do more and suggested an alternative to fast food.
“I don’t think the University promotes healthy dining options enough,” Hurst said. “A lot of the Asian-fusion food trucks serve healthy options. Most, if not all, other dining options on campus are fast food restaurants. Bare Bowls is a great option out of all the trucks.”
While students wait for the Spring 2015 opening of Freshii in the UC, there are a few options to tide one over in the meantime. With a Smoothie King on both sides of campus at the UC Satellite and the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, students have a fulfilling alternative to soda products in the vending machines.
Greater promoting of these current healthy options would go a long way towards a healthier student body. UH has its own health blog, UHealthy, where it advises students to try campus dining options such as Meatless Monday and Cougar Woods’ nut-free status.
My hope for future dining options includes more organic-centric restaurants, vegan options and a greater emphasis on nutritional value — not so much on caloric intake.
Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected]