Students dine on healthier on-campus option

Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer
Waynesboro, Miss. sophomore Jared Strickland and Waco junior David Moon enjoy salads and other healthy foods from the salad bar at Penland Dining Hall on Thursday.

Aramark offers healthy options for students desiring wholesome lifestyle

By Molly Dunn

Baylor dining halls provide a wide variety of choices for faculty and students each day, and with the food service provider, Aramark, Baylor has been able to increase the amount of healthy options and quality meals in the dining halls.

“Menus at the locations offer a wide selection of fresh fruits, vegetables and greens during every meal period,” Reid Johnson, unit marketing manager for Baylor Dining Services, said. “We also provide students with options to customize meals at stations by building their own entree or selecting to not include some items like cheese, gravy or heavy sauces.”

While unlimited buffet style dining makes it difficult to maintain a healthy diet, Baylor’s dining services make healthy foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, available to students.

Regina Mastin, registered dietician at Baylor’s Counseling Center, offered tips to eating healthy at the dining halls.

“Normally what I suggest is that people go to a dining hall and look at all the choices first, and then make a decision,” Mastin said. “Because if you don’t, you see something that looks good then find something else that looks good, and it doesn’t really make a meal.”

Being conscious of their choices, students can sustain a healthier diet every time they dine in one of the four on-campus dining halls.

“It’s obviously still student choice,” Mastin said. “You can make really poor choices if you choose to, but I think Aramark is doing a really good job presenting better options. If you really do want to eat healthier, there are options that are out there now.”

Through surveys and feedback, students have impacted the quality of the dining services over the years. Johnson said that students complete surveys each semester to voice their opinions of the dining services on a scale of one to seven, seven being excellent.

“In the past four years of surveys we have received between 1,200 and 2,000 responses and increased our overall score to 5.58,” Johnson said. “Improving quality, freshness and healthy options are driving forces in our increased scores. We have improved our availability of nutritional information score 27 percent. Healthy options went up 11 percent and freshness of food increased by five percent.”

With the improvement over the years, Mastin believes students should take advantage of the fresh food available throughout the day.

“People complain that fruits and vegetable are too expensive, and that they are perishable,” Mastin said. “With the meal plan, you don’t have to worry about either one of those because it’s already paid for. Plus it moves so quickly in there that it’s not really your problem to know whether it’s not going to go bad because it is being used so quickly.”

Not only do students have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, but the dining halls offer special diet accommodations as well.

“Specific dietary needs are taken very seriously by our managers and staff,” Johnson said. “We suggest students with special dietary needs let us know the details and meet with the managers of the location they will frequent.”

Baylor Dining Services offers many options for students, not only healthier, lower calorie foods, but also gluten-free, sugar-free, vegetarian and vegan products. Aramark’s website features the impacts they have had on several universities with their dining services, and this partnership has allowed Baylor to get closer to accomplishing the Baylor 2012 Vision. According to Aramark’s measurable outcome initiative listed on its website, the “initiative included a vigorous expansion of the campus along with improvements and upgrades to the residential dining facilities.

As a result, the university has met its goal of being up to 90 percent in its voluntary meal plan program.

Johnson said the dining services are not done with improving the overall quality, amount of healthy options and accommodations available in the dining halls.

“We are constantly searching for new healthy recipes students will enjoy,” Johnson said. “Food preferences of students at Baylor continue to change each year and we strive to meet those demands each day.”