OSU Foods: Best Advice – Eat Off Campus

As a student, especially a freshman, who spends a lot of time on Oregon State University’s campus, you will eat a lot of meals at the campus food locations. The OSU campus offers a wide variety of options, but who has the time to test out every eatery in a short amount of time to decide how to stay on a healthy diet?  Here are some suggestions that take into consideration the nutritional value of the food served at some of the locations on campus—but also recognize that outside of some cafés, most of the campus food is still processed, and if you have the means, eating off-campus is generally healthier

At many campus eateries and cafés, such as Dixon Rec Center, there are signs outside the building that suggest “healthy options” are served at the restaurant inside. Dixon Café is among these so-called healthy restaurants; however, after looking at their nutritional information, it became clear that the term “healthy” is used loosely. The Cesar salad and the Cesar wrap are over 600 calories a-piece, they’re extremely high in sodium, and they’re not without their fair share of saturated fat. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, spending 600 salty, fatty calories on a tiny wrap or a salad is out of the question. But unless you asked for the big binder of nutritional information, you would have no idea that you were eating such unhealthy foods.

The best place as far as a wide variety of food choices on campus goes would be West Dining Center. Calabaloo’s will satisfy your cravings for burgers, fish and chips, and chicken strips. But an average meal at Calabaloo’s will have you looking at 1100 in calories, or 1300 if you get a sugary soda to go with it. Eating there several times a week will surely explain where that “Freshman 15” or your clogged arteries came from. At the Asian restaurant, Ring of Fire, food options do run high in calories, but not quite as high as Calabaloo’s or the Panda Express counterpart. Ring of Fire also creates lunch menus where only one combination of food is sold in addition to the many side items you can choose from. Still, a meal of orange chicken, broccoli with sesame ginger sauce, and fried rice will fall right around 720 calories and will have 50 percent of your daily sodium—surprisingly a better alternative than Panda Express at the Memorial Union, which can run well over 1000 calories and can easily max out your daily sodium requirements. Ring of Fire’s small vegetarian pho meals run around 600 calories, and are lower in saturated fats. Tomassito’s Italian Café at West provides pasta at decent calorie marks. A basic spaghetti plate would run about 500 calories for a large and 320 calories for a small, and they’re relatively low in sodium and fats—a small could easily be your lunch and the large could be your dinner.

McNary Central would be the next best place to check out, consisting of Zephyros Mediterranean Cuisine and Boardwalk Café and a few others that are also at West Dining Center. Zephyros provides a large selection of sandwiches and soups and would be perfect for a lunch or dinner—and you can build your own. This allows you to always know what you’re putting into your sandwich and keep track of your own nutrition. They also have a delicious selection of pasta that is comparable to West Dining Center’s Tomassito’s Italian Café.

As far as the Memorial Union eateries go, here you can find the worst and the best. Everyone can admit that Panda Express is delicious, but we can also all agree that between the processed food, the soy sauce, and the sweet and sour sauce, your sodium and saturated fat intake is going through the roof. On the other hand, Togo’s is right next door and serves up an assortment of sandwiches and salads. These items can run high in calories—just like any other sandwich shop—but they post their calorie levels right next to the food item on the menu. The Farmer’s Market salad is one of the best salads there, because a full salad only runs 450 calories and is filled with vegetables that make you feel perfectly full by the end of the giant container—about three inches deep and almost a foot long—talk about a large meal! Next door to that is Carl’s Jr. which I would never suggest to anyone staying on a healthy diet. I don’t think I need to go into the processed food issue and the hidden empty calories here.

The point is to be aware of the calorie, saturated fat, and sodium contents of food on OSU’s campus. Eating at these locations everyday can easily make major weight gain and cholesterol problems a reality for someone who isn’t paying attention to the 1300 calorie Calabaloo’s meals they eat every day—and we’re talking to you, too, faculty and staff! And we should absolutely all be asking why OSU would provide mainly processed fast food meal options—this is Oregon, after all! On campus, either ask for food nutritional information on-site, or go to http://oregonstate.edu/uhds/eat to find out the nutritional information for at least some campus food locations yourself.

By Cristina Himka