For many students, NYU’s various dining halls are the main source of food throughout the school year. However, while cafeterias offer a range of healthy options, it’s not as simple as a calorie count to tell if you’re making the right choice with
your meal swipe.
We looked at two typical meals from the Hayden and Third North dining halls — including a main entree, two sides and dessert — and compiled their total nutritional information to determine whether this food was in line with the USDA’s recommended nutritional intake. Looking at balanced meal from two different dining halls, WSN purchased a meal at Hayden with a hamburger, Moroccan chickpea soup, garden salad, cucumbers and a chocolate chip cookie. From Third North, the meal consisted of brown rice with spinach as well as chicken and vegetable stir-fry.
According to the USDA’s dietary guidelines for 2015-2020, on a 2,000 calorie diet for women and a 2,400 calorie diet for men, people should be consuming about 46-56 grams of protein, 130 grams of carbohydrates and 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. The meals from Hayden and Third North both contained about 86 grams of carbohydrates, over half of the recommended daily intake. However, their total calories — 590 for Hayden and 900 for Third North — and amount of sodium — 770 for Hayden and 880 for Third North — stayed in line with the amount recommended by the USDA.
Dr. Marta Fiorotto, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine, said that analyzing a single meal for its nutritional value is dependent on what else the person eats throughout the day. When looking at the two meals from Hayden and Third North, Fiorotto noted that they were a bit high in fat and calories, and don’t provide much calcium. The fat content for the Hayden meal was high despite the fact that it didn’t include fries.
“This is too high in calories, especially fat,” Fiorotto said in an e-mail about the Third North meal. “Both brown rice and spinach are very good, but the preparation seems to have a lot of fat that makes them more calorie-dense than they could be.”
Dining hall meals can be healthy as long as students watch their portions and balance their diets. Ultimately, Fiorotto said students should be conscious about the food choices they make when eating at a dining hall and regulating what they eat throughout the day. For example, Fiorotto suggests putting mustard rather than mayonnaise on a burger, or choosing an oatmeal raisin cookie over chocolate chip.
“Nutrition education of the students is important,” Fiorotto said. “Depending on what else one eats, these meals could be just fine, or not so fine.”
Additional reporting by Ankita Bhanot and Kendall Levison.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 1 print edition. Email Angela Liao at [email protected]