Green: Students lack healthy, cheap food options
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 01:10
Many students ask in their first few weeks at Sam Houston State University, “Are there healthy food options on campus?”
There are an incredibly few number of places for a healthy anything. This is problematic for healthy student living.
Only four franchises on campus offer truly healthy options: Subway, Quizno's, Old Main Market and Sushic.
Subway and Quizno's seem like cheap and healthy options but in reality they aren’t unless one is diligent in ordering. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research analyzed people ordering meals from Subway (the healthy option) and McDonalds (the unhealthy option) with the same amount of calories. Those who ordered a 1,000-calorie meal at the “healthy option” felt their meal was 35 percent smaller in calories than those at the “unhealthy option” even though the meal was comparatively the same.
The study also found because people felt their meal was healthy, they ordered extra sides and drinks, or added copious amounts of sauce and cheese. This actually made customers eat 131 percent more in calories than those at the “unhealthy option.”
Although the SHSU Subway doesn’t have all the extra options as far as dessert, located adjacent it is the F’real milkshake machine, chips, cookies, and assorted candies. Quizno's even offers cookies and brownies along with baked chips and sodas for drinks.
Old Main Market, the campus restaurant style buffet, does offer numerous healthy options. Aramark should be commended for the diverse selection.
However, the problem with all-you-can-eat places is that people accept that as a challenge. Anecdotal evidence from students said they eat more because they want to get their money’s worth. If one student eats a 400-calorie meal, a 300-calorie plate, a brownie and a salad with ranch; the entire meal can total into the thousands of calories. This isn’t healthy.
The recommended caloric intake is 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 for women, varying on body size.
The other food choices on campus are Tortilla Fresca, Chick-Fil-A, Pizza Hut, Einstein Bros Bagels and Burger King. Not even counting the convenience stores. On face their most popular items aren’t healthy food choices.
According to the American College Health Association, 36 percent of college students are overweight. At SHSU, most students come from the Houston area, which consistently ranks in the top five fattest cities in America. Although there is no research about SHSU obesity rates, it could be assumed that campus obesity rates are higher than 36 percent.
This isn’t to say students aren’t trying. Also in the ACHA study, 77 percent of students say they exercise at least one time a week, 36 percent say they actively diet and 51 percent say they are trying to lose weight. More anecdotal evidence suggests that students want healthy options.
Nationally, the Center for Disease Control shows that those who have Bachelor’s degrees have a lower obesity rate than high school graduates and those with less than high school educations. It’s obvious college students take health more seriously than the rest of the nation, yet it isn’t capitalized upon.
However, most can’t afford the healthy options that exist. College students are broke.
The biggest problem associated here is that healthy options are costly and unhealthy are cheap.
For example, Chick-Fil-A is the most popular non-meal plan location, in part because it’s inexpensive. A chicken sandwich and fries costs less than $4.95.
While Old Main Market, the healthiest campus option, costs $7.95 for lunch, $8.95 for dinner, and $10.95 for brunch. Not the easiest to afford for a college student twice-a-day, five days a week.
Aramark and the university need to take better steps in providing SHSU students well-promoted, cheaper and healthier options.