Dining hall staff strives to offer healthier options for students
By Maria Pericozzi
SUNY Oswego has five dining centers for on-campus students to eat at, as well as cafes around campus to pick up a coffee or quick sandwich.
Four of the dining halls, Lakeside, Cooper, Littlepage and Pathfinder, offer the same healthy options for students. The dining halls have salad bars, a deli, fresh fruit and vegetables.
For many students, eating healthy while taking classes full-time and working at a job or internship can be a challenge. Although the dining halls on campus offer a variety of healthy foods, SUNY Oswego’s registered dietitian Kathryn Szklany said it is up to the students to make healthy choices.
“When you’re a student, you get the choice to eat healthy or not,” Szklany said. “We can’t make anybody eat healthy.”
The dining halls are the best place for students to be if they want to eat healthy, Szklany said.
In addition to fresh fruit and vegetables at the salad stations, there are always two prepared salads, one of them being vegan and gluten-free. The deli also has hummus and half avocados, which Szklany said most people do not know about.
“If you had to go to the grocery store, buy all those fruits and vegetables, wash and cut them, it would be so time consuming,” Szklany said. “Always visit the salad station.”
Through the SUNY Oswego app, students can view the dining hall menu and nutrition information and ingredients.
“Part of eating healthy is having a plan in place,” Szklany said. “This app is a great tool. It can be used through the website too.”
Dining halls also offer many drink choices, including soda, milk, juice, water and sparkling water. Szklany recommends the Fairlife milk, which is lactose-free, high in protein and calcium, and low in sugar.
“Lots of people go with almond milk or soy milk thinking it is healthier for you,” Szklany said. “That Fairlife® milk gives you more nutrients and less calories.”
Feedback from students essential
Auxiliary Services has been partnering with the SUNY Oswego Instagram account to educate students on the healthy options on campus. Szklany also does presentations around campus.
“Our philosophy isn’t to take things away,” Szklany said. “I’m never going to take away chicken patty day; the students would revolt. It’s about finding a way to promote healthy options.”
If students have a strong opinion about dining centers on campus, or ideas for the dining centers, Szklany said to utilize the comment cards. She reads each comment card because it is her goal to continue offering healthy options for students.
Szklany said there is lots of research that shows when you eat healthy that you are less likely to get certain illnesses later in life, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and others.
Angela Brown, the director of the Mary Walker Health Center, said there is a connection between eating healthy and students getting sick.
“Good nutrition and eating healthy sets your body up for everything it needs,” Brown said. “It gives your body the fuel it needs, to get you through class and the day. It helps your body fight off the flu and other illnesses. Proper nutrition is the key to staying healthy and having a good immune system.”
Brown said to keep healthy eating simple.
“It’s my job to make sure there are healthy options, but only you can decide what to put on your plate”
— Kathryn Szklany
“When you look at your plate, you want to have mostly fruits and vegetables on it and a small portion of dairy and healthy protein,” Brown said. “You need portion control and to make sure what you’re eating has some color to it.”
Brown recommended students should take a nutrition class, or healthy cooking class while at Oswego, so when students move off campus, they can make meals that aren’t quick and processed.
Each semester, the campus offers a “Deliciously Nutritious Cooking Class” which focuses on teaching students how to cook something healthy that tastes great.
The spring 2018 class had a theme of pizza. Students made cauliflower crust pizza, a vegan pizza, veggies and apple pizza and fruit pizza for dessert. Cauliflower was also used to make wings.
Szklany said there is a common misconception that eating at dining halls is unhealthy.
“I am a registered dietitian,” Szklany said. “It’s my job to make sure there are healthy options, but only you can decide what to put on your plate.”