Dining hall must diversify options for healthy eating

I have an older brother who just spent four years at college eating at a dining hall, so my expectations were lowered before I arrived at Vassar as a result of his complaining when he was back at home. I like to think he’s much choosier than me when it comes to food and hoped I would find it easier to find appetizing foods at Vassar’s dining hall. What I found at my first meal at the Deece was somehow both satisfying and disappointing. Let’s go by food group and see what Vassar has to offer.

So far, it seems like I get hungry when the rest of Vassar does, and the Deece gets very crowded very quickly. When this happens, I want to just eat whatever comes from the station with the shortest line. At times when the Deece isn’t quite so crowded, though, I like to take a lap and survey what my best options are. The best thing about Vassar’s dining hall, in my opinion, is the abundance of and ease with which you can find vegetables. At home, I would only eat whatever vegetables my mom was cooking and I would be too lazy to chop up and prepare my own. Here, it’s easy to get a scoop of steamed broccoli, make a salad at the salad bar or whip up a vegetable teriyaki at the stir-fry station, provided that the line isn’t too long. Here, I think I’ve been eating double the amount of vegetables that I used to, thanks to the ACDC laying it all out for us.

In terms of whole grains, this is another category where I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the Deece. Every day for each meal they have various types of whole wheat and multigrain bread, some seeming of even better quality than the typical grocery store bread. Almost every day at lunch and dinner, they are serving another type of whole grain such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, bulgur wheat and even quinoa. These things are perfect to throw into a stir fry, pair with veggies or eat on their own to get in some complex carbs.

I need a little more substance than just vegetables, and healthy sources of protein are where the Deece could use a little work. From what I’ve tried and learned, grilled or roast beef, chicken and fish are the best tasting ways to fit healthy protein into your diet, and these things are sometimes hard to find here. A few times a week, there is a chicken dish offered, and that definitely tastes good and is good for you. I’ve yet to do it, but a good idea would be to order a grilled chicken breast from the burger station. However, the line here is usually pretty long. I’ve only seen beef once at the Deece, and it looked more like mystery meat to me, so I decided to stay away. The one time I saw fish on the menu, it was fried, which basically kills all the nutritious properties it could offer. I’ve been longing for a piece of grilled fish so much. I know fish like wild salmon is really expensive and unrealistic for a college dining hall to serve to hundreds of students, but other types of seafood are relatively cheap and easy to prepare.

The Deece is both damaging and benefiting my ability to eat healthy while at Vassar. While I may start off with a healthy, balanced plate for my first serving, it’s hard to tell yourself you’re full when there is a whole room of food a few steps away from your table. However, I find myself eating at least double the amount of vegetables than I would at home, thanks to the salad bar, steamed vegetables and abundant stir fry supplies. In other realms of healthy eating though, it can be hard to satisfy the need if you don’t want to eat the exact same thing every day. I find myself wasting money at My Market to eat some fruit other than apples or oranges, and if you don’t want to wait in the grill line, lean protein can be hard to come by. I know I’ll be stocking up on some of these things while my parents are here for Freshmen Parents Weekend, but after that, I’ll have to make do with what the Deece has to offer.

—Sarah Sandler ’18

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