Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Options in Context!

Hello again from West TX!

I have been really excited to read the comments and feedback from everyone so far! I had never thought about my Food-o-meter ratings compared to VEG and some of the other writers from around the world. Most of those meals have included a bit of all the “food groups.” I tend to eat very “light” lunches consisting of fruits and veggies and perhaps a grain. I rarely eat a protein with lunch, because I incorporate them into breakfasts and/or dinners.

In an American cafeteria setting, most of the proteins are highly processed, or sometimes greasy or high in sodium. I try to pick the freshest thing available to me. On Monday, outside of the salad station at that particular dining hall, there was pizza, a grill (mostly fatty things like cheese steaks or burgers), stir-fried options prepared in a wok (but nothing looked very fresh), and a Tex-Mex station that had tacos, burritos, and huge “fiesta” bowls filled with high fat options.
Given my choices, I decided on fresh cut fruit. I was nice and cool with our hot weather and the freshest option available at the time. I do have a bad habit of sipping on sodas sometimes, and I don’t think in our public school system that children can choose them as an option anymore. But, it was so hot that day that nice, cool water was swapped out after the picture. (I also thought it was neat to find out that it isn't available worldwide!) The multi-grain chips/crisps are something brand new, and I looked at how low in fat and calories they were. They were really lightly dusted with the flavor, but I didn't check the carbs. I had a protein (beef) that night with dinner, because I can better control its freshness and preparation at home. Also, I couldn't eat a brownie that big in one sitting, but quartering it after diner made a little three-bite treat, and I haven’t had a bite of what was left over yet. As for Tuesday’s smoothie, I had made a vegetable scramble (eggs and veggies) that morning with some bread on the side, so having a bit of fruit and yogurt to carry me through until I went home to make a healthy dinner seemed OK at the time.

Our First Lady has been working to improve school lunches and encouraging kids to get active. Healthy choices are often sacrificed for the sake of convenience here. We also suffer from what Americans call “portion distortion.” I’m not sure other areas in the world have as much trouble with that one. Some mayors and governors in the US are even trying to get food laws passed regarding portions, warning labels for fast food, etc. I try to do the best I can on-campus, and really focus on health in what I make for myself, but kids don’t get to make those kinds of decisions, so I’m glad that many adults are campaigning for healthier options to be available to them.

I hope adding a bit of context helps. I really admire VEG for not only raising awareness about areas where children don’t have food at all, but also raising awareness of where the quality of and choices for food need to be improved.
Our prices are really high, but people that purchase a campus dining plan save a lot (20%-50%). I’m not sure that it’s worth the investment for me, because usually I only eat on campus 1 to 2 times per week, which leads me to an introduction!

Now, after maybe adding some context to American options, without me rambling anymore, let me introduce Joy, a fellow master’s degree student who is helping me to team blog this week. There aren't many grad students who eat on campus every day, so a group of us is contributing to the posts! Enjoy, y’all!

23 comments:

  1. I am a TTU graduate (class of 2002) who reads the blog in Nairobi. I never would have guessed I would enjoy a blog about food in a Scottish school to then read posts from a TTU student. Crazy.

    How's the Bledsoe cafeteria these days? (I could misremember the name - the dining hall between Holden Hall and University Ave.)

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    1. I think they call it "The Fresh Plate" now, but I'm not sure if that hall is open in the summers. Guess it's a "small world" as they say.

      CJ

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  2. Excellent context, CJ. Thank you! I think we were a bit worried that you seemed to only be eating fruit. Very glad you get some healthy protein and vegetables :-)

    In the UK, our summer has been non-existent, so we might have trouble coming to terms with eating fruit to keep cool.

    We have trouble with portion control in this country too.

    Look forward to hearing from Joy and you again tomorrow (or today where you are?)

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  3. Hi VEG,
    I've just given Mary's Meals £100 and asked my employer to match this, so add another £200 to your offline donations. Keep up the good work - you're a star!

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    1. Dave,

      thanks so much. I've referred to your kindness at the end of today's blog.

      Thanks,

      VEG's Dad

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  4. What do you guys consider healthy? I've been looking at the 2008 triangle by Harvard School of Public Health. See http://www.mediterraneandiet.com/Images/HealthyEatingPyramid-HighRes.jpg Does this match your picture of healthy?

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  5. Thank you so much for adding the context, CJ, I thought your text was really great and it helped me (at least, me) to understand better your choices. You see, here in Brazil our main meal is lunch; it means that's the meal we eat more and better. I'm aware that in USA and some other countries, lunch is not the main meal of the day, but dinner or breakfast. But I didn't remember that fact when I was reading your texts, so of course it was kinda strange for me, a brazilian girl, to understand how could someone survive with a smoothie for lunch! lol! But now I get it. :) And it's good that you try to have balanced meals with the options you have.

    I'm also very glad to know about the First Lady's work to improve children's food at school! That's awesome! The kids need nutrients even more than us adults, because they are growing up, "forming" new structures in their bodies. They need to be healthy, that's for sure.

    I'm enjoying very much these guest posts! Hope to see more brazilians in them too. :)

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  6. Howdy y'all!!,

    Sitting here on the back of a horse in the sweltering midday heat of the Texas sun sipping cool water from flask.

    And then back to reality, raining in the UK, sitting at my desk at work - 13.05pm.

    CJ, thanks for that post, really good and explained a lot to me. I really enjoyed the read. I have heard of the large portions but have never experienced them myself.

    Keep it up and looking forard to the next one!!

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    1. Thank you! I'm terribly jealous of the rain!

      CJ

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  7. That was a very good post CJ! You explained your choices very well. After reading the comments I was wondering how you would handle this and I think you made the perfect choice by explaining the context.
    I do understand what you mean by having to choose the best out of the worst. I experience that a lot when I am out on vacation, especially if you are at a theme park or other such vacation destination. You just have to choose the one that looks most appetizing, yet healthy and compensate for it later.
    I look forward to hearing from Joy!

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  8. Being an American myself, your meal made total sense to me. I often will have just a smoothie, bowl of fruit, or maybe a small veggie plate for lunch. I don't think most Americans do a full meal/hot lunch. We tend to eat on the run, and smoothies and sandwiches make a lot of sense in that context.

    Dinner tends to be my main meal. After all, who has time for a big lunch?

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  9. One thing to note is these posts are from a college in the US where students are 18+ years old and are assumed to be adults. Therefore, they're making meal choices which are relevant for them. For other schools in the US where students are younger, especially ages 5-11, there are stricter guidelines that must be followed regarding healthy choices, portions from each food group, and even types of ingredients allowed.

    I usually pack myself a salad for lunch (most of the time without protein) but make my daughter (age 10) a more well-rounded lunch since she burns a lot more calories at summer camp than I do (sitting at my desk at work), plus she's still growing!

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  10. As an adult student, a smoothie for lunch is handy when I don't have time between classes to eat, or room in an overloaded bag to bring something and don't want to eat 'fast food'. Also, since I'm not growing anymore, I don't need to eat the same way during the day as a growing child does! :)

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  11. With as hot as it's been down here in Louisiana, I have to say that smoothie looked like an amazing lunch. In one cooking/recipe swap group I belong to everyone has been asking for smoothie suggestions just because in the mid-day heat it is the only thing that looks appetizing (and for some parents, it's the only thing they can get their kids to eat at that time of day, having them eat more filling, healthy meals after the sun goes down). I really think one of the coolest things about this blog is not only seeing the language differences from around the world, but the ideals when it comes to what is appropriate for lunches.

    Thank you CJ, you've done an excellent job!

    ~Lindsay

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  12. Nice clarification CJ. I was getting a little off put about why people were responding the way they were...It didn't occur to me to explain that in the US lunch is more of a 'tide you over' kind of thing rather than true balanced sustenance. I'm not a smoothie fan but I do have a plain old boring salad for lunch at work every day. However, I do tend to have a wicked big breakfast or lunch. Nicely done and looking forward to the next post :)

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    1. Ummm..wicked breakfast or DINNER :)

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  13. CJ
    The problem is that American eating habits are spreading and it just isn't healthy. How can we resist a multi billion dollar industry? Apart from the processed food just look at the packaging required. It's insane. Don't take this personally CJ I am just having a moan.

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  14. CJ, I found this to be an excellent blog-post!

    The whole point of this blog, basically, was to point out the...shall we say "shortcomings"... in school lunches. (Not to "fire the dinner ladies" but to raise awareness of what was being offered.)

    And today's blog has done a great job of doing just that!!

    In fact, I'm thinking that it might not be a bad idea to print out your week of guest-blogging as well as the comments, and pass those on to the Texas Tech meal service.

    If what you say about your options is true (and I have no reason to doubt you), then the meal service at your university is being quite remiss.

    Iowa State University has a meal service essentially just like that at Texas Tech. Various "stations" in cafes in the residence halls, a large "food court" in the Memorial Union, etc. Diners can either choose a meal plan for the term, or buy their food individually for each meal. And yet, from what you've written, the food choices at ISU are much better than they are at Texas Tech. For example, salads are made fresh daily with lots of good, healthy ingredients like sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, green pepper rings, etc. Many of the cafes even have salad bars so you can customize your salads with the things you like most. "Sub sandwiches" with a large variety of veggie toppings are available daily and made to order.

    At any rate, given the (outrageous) prices you're paying, the Texas Tech dining service should be able to offer up many more healthy choices other than a fruit plate. If Iowa State can do it, I don't see any reason why Texas Tech shouldn't be able to as well.

    I'm thinking that I know a "#2 Extra Value Meal" (consisting of two cheeseburgers, a large order of French fries, and a rather large soda) is available at McDonalds for just a bit over five dollars (£3.20). I think one might be excused for thinking that, for almost twice that, one should be able to get something a bit healtier than a fruit plate, sweet chips, a soda, and a big enough brownie to feed four people. Particularly in a center of higher learning where, one would think, good nutrition would be a priority.

    Perhaps the Texas Tech dining service needs a bit of a shake-up! :)

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    1. Thanks for the idea of printing out the posts and comments. Our choices tend to be better during the school year, but in the summers, some places are closed and others offer fewer quality items. Out of curiosity, how does ISU approach the summer terms?

      Thanks for the feedback!

      CJ

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  15. Hi CJ, i personally read your smoothie blog and thought 'yum'. I'll often just have an instant soup for lunch (short lunch breaks and I normally work through them anyway!) and a smoothie sounded lovely.

    It wasn't until I read this that I realised some people had found it controversial.

    Thank you for the context as it has really shown that you are happy to receive criticism but you are able to explain calmly and rationally why you make certain decisions.

    Congratulations for your confidence and ability to verbalise your thoughts.

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    1. Thank you! I felt really bad about not having better explained, and I like to avoid conflict. Words were all I had, and I only wish I had better utilized them in the earlier posts. Thanks for your kind words!

      CJ

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  16. Hi CJ! I work for a Community College in New Hampshire, and our cafeteria is staffed by a catering service. We are in the process of having healthier choices offered besides a salad bar. We do have daily 'specials' during the week that are healthier options than the fried foods that are put out, but they cost almost $6-$7.

    In the summer, the salad bar isn't available. Our choices end up being a sandwhich (most of which are high in fats and carbs) or having something fried like chicken fingers and fries. Sometimes there are premade salads available but that is not often.

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  17. Hi! I attended a Jr. College in the beginning of my undergraduate studies, and the cafeteria was quite similar. Actually, it sounds as though you have some healthier options. I wish so much didn't get cut in the summers. Some of our dining halls close down during the summer months.

    CJ

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