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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

Look for ‘Better Bites’ to ward off weight gain

August 11, 2007

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Nona Golledge's job as director of dining services at Kansas University involves a lot of balancing - and we're not just talking balanced diets.

Golledge has to walk the fine line between offering - and even suggesting - healthy meals and, at the same time, please the palates of an entire campus.

"We have thousands of people we feed on campus, with thousands of likes and dislikes," she said. "We have to provide options for people."

For most incoming freshmen, the college cafeteria represents a sort of freedom. Mom and Dad aren't nagging them about what to eat, and there's a whole array of choices awaiting them at most hours of the day.

It's no secret that - combined with an often more sedentary lifestyle and the empty calories of booze - it often leads to the dreaded "freshman 15," the pounds gained during the first year of school.

A study conducted by researchers at Rutgers University last year showed the "freshman 15" is part myth. Students do tend to gain weight, but usually more like 7 pounds.

Still, Ann Chapman, dietitian with the Watkins Student Health Center, said it's a real concern.

There are a number of things that cause the weight gain, Chapman said.

"There's more alcohol in a lot of students' lifestyles," she said. "They're less active than when they were in high school. Food is available 24 hours a day, and there's more fast food in their lives - quick, convenience-type food."

Food tools

For students living on campus, KU Dining Services has a simple tool for finding healthy options.

It's called Better Bites, and it's a logo that accompanies foods in the dining areas that meet certain criteria, such as being made with lean meats, low-fat cheese, low sodium and without butter or cream. Better Bites foods contain less than 600 calories and less than 24 grams of fat per entree.

"It helps you navigate your way through the food service area," Chapman said. "It's like a kid in a candy store when you go through a cafeteria-style scenario."

Starting this fall, KU will offer a new Web site that will help navigate the choices even more. The program is called NetNutrition, and it will allow users to click on what they ate during a given day - or what they plan to eat - to determine how many calories and how healthy those options are.

The service will be available off the Dining Services site, www.kudining.com.

Golledge says students - and university food service providers in general - are more aware now of healthy eating than they were in previous generations.

"We try to provide healthy options and point them out to students," she said. "That's always been there, but in the past two or three years, it's really come up to the surface. ... We continue to look for recipes and provide healthy options."

Other tips

Chapman offered these additional tips to keeping weight down during college:

¢ Treat exercise like it's a class with required attendance.

"Set goals immediately," she said. "Start an exercise program from day one."

¢ For those living on campus, print off the cafeteria menu for the week and decide in advance what you'll eat. That way, you won't splurge day after day on desserts.

¢ Choose the baked option over the fried option.

¢ Watch portion control. A food that's low in calories can become a food high in calories if you eat too much of it.

¢ Don't skip meals.

"It really backfires," Chapman said. "When you undereat, you end up overeating."

¢ Watch alcohol intake.

"It becomes a double-whammy," she said. "Somebody drinks six, seven or eight beers, they stay up until 2 in the morning and go get breakfast. They end up with 1,000 calories or more."

Golledge said that, when faced with so many choices, students often try to eat one of everything. Just remembering that the school year is long, and that students will eat many meals, might help decrease the need to sample all the food.

"It's just being aware they don't have to try everything at one time," she said. "They can select one thing at a time and go back."

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