Photo by Jordan Unger

Balanced Meals for College Residents

Featured image courtesy of Jordan Unger.

By Alyssa Weston

College students are stereotyped to not get the most nutritious meals while attending the university. These accusations stem from the idea that most college aged students don’t make a lot of money, many of them don’t have access to a full kitchen and they are just adjusting to living on their own and figuring out which diets work best for them.

Youngstown State University has worked hard to make sure there are many resources for students who are looking to get a nutritious meal to reduce these stereotypes.

Students have many resources that they may not be aware of, including a ‘free’ dietitian whose services are included in the cost of tuition.

Chrystyna Zellers, registered dietitian for the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center, answers students’ questions regarding fitness and nutrition goals, caloric intakes and meal plans through appointments.

According to the Youngstown State University Nutritional Services webpage, Zellers is a professional member of the American Dietetic Association and the Ohio Dietetic Association. She believes the full circle of wellness must include physical activity.

“It’s nice to be able to refer to a fitness assessment or exercise [in the rec center] or a tour to get them interested in exercise or even personal training,” she says. “It’s good to have that at my fingertips.”

Zellers says many students are unaware of the services she provides unless they already walk through the Rec Center on a regular basis.

The services are free and unlimited to students as long as they are bettering themselves through it.

Zellers will conduct an assessment of the students’ current nutrition, which consists of three different appointments. The students will be asked to complete a food log that gets run through a diet analysis program and a fitness assessment.

After three appointments, students can get a healthy eating plan that corresponds with their goal. The plan may include weight loss, weight maintenances, more energy and gaining muscle.

If campus residents do not have access to a full kitchen, but still want a full balanced meal, Zellers says they can start by seeking it out themselves. 

Photo by Jordan Unger

“If you have a pretty good background as to what healthy eating is then you can find those things here. If you don’t, then you should come see me,” she says. “A lot of kids come here and they don’t know how to shop for themselves or cook for themselves so we can help with that a little bit and suggest things.”

Zellers says once students understand what a healthy diet is, it’s easier for them to go to the dining hall and pick out a balanced meal.

“It wouldn’t be easy if you were going right from high school to a job and living on your own. If you haven’t had that background, this is your chance to investigate it for free,” she says.

Although fast food is cheap, Zellers says you get what you pay for as far as nutrition.

“You have to think economically. If the food is cheap, they are giving you things that they don’t have to pay a lot of money for and there is an overabundance of [it],” she says.

Marta Hergenrother is a sophomore psychology major who lives in the Cafaro House dorms. Hergenrother has the meal plan, which she says has its perks.

“It is easy to buy food on campus and I always have enough money to get through the semester,” she says. “However, there aren’t too many options to eat, especially healthy ones, so it makes finding healthy food a little challenging.”

In order to overcome this challenge, Hergenrother looks for places with the most green options or builds her own meals.
“I would love to see healthier options and a broader variety of vegetables and fruits,” she said.

Abbaas Braswell, freshman psychology major, lives in Lyden dorms.

Braswell says he thinks the food options on campus are really good and there are many different places to choose from.

Braswell, who has a meal plan, says, “I think that if you use your meal plan right you could definitely get a balanced meal throughout the day. If I would change anything, it would be to add a few places that maybe focus on good nutrition that the students will enjoy.”

Braswell says as a student living on campus, the meal plan helps.

“With the meal plan, I can get a meal almost whenever I want at the cafeteria and I also get a nice amount of flex and Pete’s points to spend at other places around campus,” he says.

Angela Drohn, YSU marketing manager for Chartwells, says when Chartwells builds menus, they look for ways to incorporate items that will satisfy a wide range of students’ needs.

“We meet with students, conduct student surveys and receive feedback through comment boards and electronic feedback forms regularly to determine those needs and plan our menus accordingly,” she says. “When building our menus, we source seasonally and locally first to offer cleaner, more natural foods on campus. Our salad bars offer seasonal, nutrition-rich items and we offer cage free eggs and milk and yogurt free of rBGH.”  

Drohn says Chartwells strives to make vegan and vegetarian items available at the dining hall.

“We offer veggie burgers, portobello mushroom burgers, hummus and seasoned tofu everyday. There is always a meat free pizza option and a meat free soup option available everyday as well,” she says.

Chartwells regularly meets with students to discuss their preferences and concerns regarding allergies. He said they will be using that information to help build menus and programs for next year.

Drohn says Chartwells navigates food allergy options for students by using a system of icons to identify which menu items are vegan and vegetarian.

“Those icons are displayed on PIDs, on our website and app menus as well as signage throughout the cafeteria. We also identify items that are made with gluten and have dairy,” she says.

Chartwells is expanding their food options on campus and searching for new ways to give students variety by hosting ‘SONO Celebrate Latin,’ a pop-up cuisine in the Kilcawley Center Annex on March 29 and April 5.

SONO’s menu included build-your-own rice bowls, enchiladas and tacos. Tom Totterdale, director of dining services, says the pop-up dining offers a different variety of food options and helps test to see what students like.

Totterdale says it allows Chartwells to try different things and potentially change the program.