Eating Happy, Eating Healthy

The first day I walked into Paresky Commons after the menu change, I could immediately see the difference in dining options. Pizza appeared less frequently for lunch and healthy smoothies were available every morning. As a lover of junk food, I was taken aback by the removal of the bulk candy and “den cookies” in Susie’s.

The new menu emphasizes vegetables and healthy proteins. At first, I was against this initiative, because a large portion of my diet was carbs such as pizza, pasta and rice. Without many of these foods available, I was left struggling to decide what to eat for meals. Many of my own peers feel the same way, since we have often relied on foods that are not the most nutritionally balanced.

I, however, quickly started to appreciate the menu change with the grilled veggies at the salad bar and more variation at the Hearth. Even though I was upset at first, I have started to value this change because I noticed how I felt better after meals. The goal of the menu design was to have healthier food options to encourage students to eat better. While many students miss their favorite foods, it is a short-term sacrifice with a long-term advantage that will leave students feeling healthier and happier.

While Commons’ revamped meal options are commendable, the changes should go beyond just food available. This year, my schedule allows me to have sufficient mealtime to eat and enjoy time with my friends. Unfortunately, last year I would run from squash practice to grab a quick 15-minute dinner, only to arrive late to band practice. In these couple of minutes, choosing what to eat was crucial because it would determine how I felt for the rest of the night. There are many other students who simply have to rush through their meals. Redesigning our menu should be more than making students eat healthier. It is important to know how to choose a well-balanced meal, even with limited time, because students need to have energy for classes and evening activities.

Something to further accommodate busy students would be to offer talks and presentations teaching us how to choose the best, most filling meal when we are in a rush. Changing Commons’ hours would be very hard, but it would be great if Aggie Kip, Andover’s resident nutritionist, could teach us how to maximize the benefits of even our shortest meals. Right now, the only required nutrition courses are done through physical education classes. Many people will forget much of the information they have learned. If possible, Commons could have pamphlets, flyers or posters with reminders on what makes a balanced meal. Commons could also go further with their new menu by bringing some healthier options to the grill in Susie’s. Even though there are healthier snacks, many of the hot meals prepared in Susie’s are full of grease and fat, and since Susie’s is open later than Commons, these foods end up being very accessible to students late at night. If Susie’s offered healthier foods – grilled chicken instead of fried, for example – it would be beneficial to student health. Students would still have the option to eat a healthy meal even after Commons is closed, which would definitely leave students feeling better than when they eat junk food or skip a meal. While I now prefer to eat unprocessed as opposed to processed foods, I am not advocating for the removal of all junk food. Sometimes I have cravings for candy. I think having some healthy foods and some unhealthy ones in Susie’s and in Commons will be important to keeping students happy. This menu change goes beyond just having healthier food and removing unhealthy food; it extends to our lives outside of just meal times. I believe this change will leave students feeling better throughout the majority of the day and feeling happier overall.