While it’s tempting to grab a fried chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A between classes, both campus dwellers and commuters start looking for healthier food choices on campus as summer looms ahead. But what is healthy on Troy’s campus?
Student athletes say that a healthy diet does not have to entail eradicating certain foods altogether.
“It’s not like we just try to cut something completely out of our diet,” said Grace Murly, a softball player and freshman undecided major from Jackson, Mississippi.
“We sometimes splurge—get ice cream once in a while. You just don’t want to have it on a regular basis.”
Murly said she tries to stay away from fried foods.
A joint study by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health showed a correlation between fried food and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The conclusion of the study states: “Frequent fried-food consumption was significantly associated with risk of incident T2D and moderately with incident CAD, and these associations were largely mediated by body weight and comorbid hypertension and hypercholesterolemia,” which means that eating large quantities of fried foods raises one’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels, putting health at risk.
Michael Wonderly, director of operations at Sodexo, Troy’s food provider, said that students can get healthy alternatives to fried chicken sandwiches.
“We know that there’s things that people like, like pizza and burgers, but we also try to have a variety of options to offset that for the healthy-minded as well,” Wonderly said. “Even in our retail units, you can get things like Chick-fil-A, you can get a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a breaded chicken sandwich.”
A grilled chicken filet contains less fat since it is not deep-fried in oil. In an interview for Harvard, T.H. Chan, Walter Willett of HSPH and Amy Myrdal Miller of The Culinary Institute of America urged consumers to limit foods rich in saturated fat such as butter, cheese and red meat.
“Whatever you do, don’t replace foods that are high in saturated fat with ‘fast carbs’—foods like white bread, white rice, potatoes, sugary drinks and refined snacks—since eating too many of these fast carbs is just as bad for your heart as eating too much saturated fat,” Willett said.
Fast carbs also get processed faster, leaving students hungry and grumpy.
Murly suggested the 75-block meal plan to students crunched for time. As for the $650 flex points that come with that plan, she suggested eating at Boar’s Head and Einstein’s. Both have complex carbs and lean meats that the body processes slower, keeping it full and energized longer.
“I can feel the difference if I’ve been eating a lot of fried food or not healthy,” Murly said. “Like, at practice you don’t feel as energized, so I think if you try to eat healthier, then you perform better.”
Fast carbs and high-sugar drinks on the other hand give quick bouts of energy.
Thomas Lomox, a junior computer science major from Birmingham, said he had been drinking only water and lemonade for the past three years, and it has changed his metabolism.
“I have more energy,” Lomox said. “Even though I’ll stop working out for a certain amount of weeks, but when I get back to it, I’ll still have the same energy I had.”
A balanced meal does not include processed sugars, but it does require macronutrients like proteins, fats and healthy carbs.
However, the dining hall, which has the biggest variety of these options, sits far away from many academic buildings, making it less accessible than the Trojan Center or Quick Zone in MSCX.
Nakaia Mays, a junior criminal justice major from Birmingham, said that she chose the 75-block meal plan for that reason.
“The food is great, and I just don’t have enough time to eat there (in the dining hall) because I just have an hour for lunch,” she said.
The choice many students face seems to be between healthy and convenient food. But how does one know what’s good for them anyway?
“We have on our website, and by our menu, you can look at different recipes, calorie count things along that nature,” said Wonderly.
“We also have what’s called MyFitnessPal, which has—you know, you can read barcodes (with the MyFitnessPal app), which has nutrition labels and everything in them to help students make the healthier choices.”
Wonderly also suggested that students look for alternatives at their preferred locations, such as egg-white and turkey sandwiches or salmon sushi for protein choices, which are available at TC and Quick Zone.
“It’s about choices people make,” he said. “We can’t make people eat healthy, but we want to encourage that everybody eat as healthy as possible, and we give them those options.”