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Eat Your Greens

Ahh, March. Spring break is on the horizon, and hopes are high for escaping one of the cloudiest cities in America. Dorm room windows are cracked for the first time since early November, and most importantly, the spring semester is half over. The end could not come sooner.
Naturally, the last thing most students are thinking about is nutrition. For instance, who knew March was Nutrition Month? It is all-too easy to forget health concerns during this chaotic month, but if nutrition is important enough to earn a spot on the overwhelming calendar of “American-isms,” maybe it deserves another look.
On campus, it can be tough to pay attention to nutrition. It is also far from easy to avoid overeating, since every cafeteria on campus is screaming for patrons. From those friendly, rectangular tabletop tents, to fliers in mailboxes across campus, an advertising war is being waged, and Spartans are right in the middle. Faced with questions such as “Which ‘cook-to-order’ station is better, Landon or Holden?” or “Should I journey over to Holmes for Tasty Treats Tuesday?,” dilemmas over where to eat on campus are common. They are complicated further by the obvious convenience of fast food restaurants at the Union, the International Center and near West Circle along Grand River Avenue, although many on-campus fast food joints will be pulling out of these locations by the end of the semester.
[taco] “I look at [eatatstate.com], and if they have something I like, then I’ll eat there instead of Brody,” criminal justice freshman and Brody resident Hailey Paris said. “I honestly eat fast food about once a month, and this is a conscious choice.”
When choosing where to eat on campus, convenience and hours of operation are usually crucial factors, but are the campus cafeterias wise in the ways of nutrition? Brody Complex Manager Diane Barker said the cafeteria at the Brody Complex operates via a centralized menu filtered throughout campus by MSU’s food service coordinators.
“Our weekly menus are set through parameters set by a nutritionist,” Barker said. “Once the menus come to Brody, we have leverage to react to individual comments or do something special just for Brody [within the original nutritional guidelines].”
The Brody Complex has a wide variety of food options for students, but this convenience may do more harm than good. Professor Dale Romsos, MSU’s nutritional sciences coordinator, thinks a major cause of the “freshman 15” is the “ready availability of food in the dorms.”
The all-you-can-eat cafeterias aren’t the only problem. “In addition, students may have reduced physical activity as they stop participating in as many sports as they had in high school,” Romsos said. Other dietary issues include “low consumption of whole grains and of fruits and vegetables,” which he said is “typical of many college students and non-students alike.”
For many, the “freshman 15” is a top concern during the first few months of college. Once December has safely passed without an excessive bulge at the hips, many first-years sigh with relief and go all out, forgetting the healthy regimens of the previous semester.
However, for some, the extra pounds aren’t ever a concern. “If anything, I have lost weight since I have come here. It is very hard for me to gain weight,” marketing sophomore David Koch said. Not everyone is so lucky. Researchers at Tufts University looked at the famous frosh 15 in a multi-year study and discovered, on average, men gain six pounds and women gain four and a half. And, remember, that’s just in the first year.
A key to improving one’s diet lies in the simplicity of the food pyramid. Romsos said use of the pyramid is an easy way to enhance health, because it promotes variety among food choices, as well as “balance and moderation in food selection within the pyramid guidelines.”
Olin Health Center nutritionist Ronda Bokram agrees. “The easiest way is to look for color and texture variety,” Bokram said. “This would mean that you are incorporating a variety of different foods, especially of the fruit and vegetable variety, which are high in nutrients.”
Physical activity, which works in tandem with a good diet, is imperative for a healthy body. Exercise involves the breakdown of energy through proteins, fats and carbohydrates, which many college students lack “due to the influence of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets,” Bokram said.
“Improved fitness is excellent for your cardiovascular system, is a great stress reliever and [one] usually will sleep better,” Bokram said. She said exercise leads to “improved body image and self-esteem.”
Let March be the official green month. In addition to the green in your beer, and hopefully some sprouting up through the snow – remember the color on your dinner plate. Bring both nutrition and St. Patty together: glass of green beer in one hand, celery stalks in the other. Go Green (veggies, that is).

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