Column: MU may have everything but healthier options at its dining halls

The “Mizzou 22” is not a joke, but rather a reality that students gain weight due to the type of food and availability it on campus.
Plaza 900’s salad bar is one of the few healthy options at an MU dining hall. Courtesy of Campus Dining Services

Olivia Apostolovski is a freshman pre-Journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about social issues for The Maneater.

The “Mizzou 22” is joke that all incoming freshmen have in common, which basically entails that by the end of freshman year they would have all gained 22 pounds. The joke seems funny at first, but as the school year started, it became evident that keeping those extra pounds off was going to be harder than everyone thought.

Most dining halls are set up in a one swipe, all-you-can-eat type of forum, which makes it easy to binge on french fries, pizza or cookies. At Plaza 900, there is a station for pizza, stir-fry, burgers and other grilled foods, salads, sandwiches, breakfast and dessert—which has cookies, cake and ice cream. For any little kid, this would seem like paradise. For college students however, sometimes healthier options would be a better alternative.

Don’t get me wrong, grilled and fried foods hit the spot at times, but having those options every day is not ideal, as sometimes you may want to substitute the grease for a bowl of soup and a panini, which are available as well.

However, the issue with dining halls is that there are more options for unhealthy food than healthy food. A salad bar is not everyone’s cup of tea, and a sandwich is not filling enough for dinner, so students that are hungry tend to opt for something that has more protein in it. Odds are, that item is fried or grilled to an extent.

There are healthy options, such as Emporium, which is located next to Plaza 900, where you can use your swipes to buy fresh fruit, vegetables and some gluten-free options. The only catch is that those items are expensive—especially if you have a block meal plan and only have a limited amount of money for each semester.

Odds are, most people would rather swipe into a dining hall where it is all-you-can-eat for one price than to individually pay for food that would last longer. It seems contradictory to offer healthy options to students just to make them more expensive than the all-you-can-eat option.

Dining hall block plans are not the most effective way to feed yourself, which is something that some individuals are noticing. There are many other places on campus to eat that will not take swipes, so if you do not have the Tiger Plan or real money, you won’t be able to eat at places like Sunshine Sushi, Infusion or Starbucks, which reside in the Student Center or at Memorial Union.

The logic of being offered food on campus is flawed, but this experience also mirrors real life.

In a study posted by Harvard, a day’s worth of the most healthy diet patterns cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy ones. Looking at this number on a daily basis does not seem to be such an issue, but if you were to multiply that number by the days in a year, it would cost about $550 more for just one person in a family to eat healthier.

The hours for dining halls are not ideal as well, with most of them being open with odd hours during the day, breakfast hours usually start at 7 and end around 11, lunch hours are around 10:30 am to 2:30 pm and dinner hours are around 4 pm to 8 pm.

Not every dining hall or independent restaurant has hours like these but they are similar. To top it all off, a good majority of the halls close by eight. This isn’t the ideal setup for most college kids, who have obligations, other jobs and activities that could keep them occupied until then.

As a result of this, there are not many dining options after eight, besides going downtown or off campus. Rollins @ Night is a choice, but the menu is comprised of wings, pizza, dessert and of course, some great salad and fruit. In all reality, college students are not going to choose salad over wings.

To combat all of this, any student’s best bet would be to stock up on food purchased at a grocery store and to be aware of what they’re consuming at dining halls.

Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day, and it will set the tone for the rest of your meals. Starting off your day with oatmeal, fresh fruit or a well-rounded breakfast has the possibility of improving your diet. Healthy snacks such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars can also become your best friend and could cut down on the amount of food you’re consuming in dining halls.

Changing the way you eat will not happen in one day, but taking little steps like this can be very beneficial. Don’t get me wrong, the dining halls are effective and efficient at what they do, but they are not all that inclusive to individuals who many not want to indulge in fried foods every day.

For all my fellow vegetarians and vegans out there, I guess we at least have a salad bar.

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