The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Mission Impossible: Dieting in the DC


By Ariana Chiarenza

Picture this: It’s spring semester at Westfield State University. Spring Break is right around the corner and you, like many other college students have plans of heading south for break. After several months filled with holidays, celebrations, and winter weather, your body isn’t exactly what one would call “beach ready.” So, you decide to start a diet before Spring Break. But there’s one problem: your limited food choices.

Here at Westfield State University, we pride ourselves on our high-quality Fitness Center, and our proximity to Stanley Park. Our dining hall makes it known that they want us to eat healthier by advertising locally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as chefs to teach us healthier eating habits. But what about the food itself?

There are a number of reasons eating in the Dining Commons while dieting can pose a problem. One: the limited healthy options. Two: the limited variety in general. And three: the lack of accommodation. These three factors make it incredibly difficult to successfully diet in the dining hall without outside intervention.

Let’s break down some of the meal options the dining hall has to offer. There are bagels, toast, cereal or waffles. Then there’s soup or salad. Next there is pasta and pizza, along with an ever-changing Entree section. There are Clean Eats which also changes from meal to meal, next to the grill. There are sandwiches and wraps, stir fry, sushi, and sometimes a specialty dinner, which can range from a dish traditional to a country, to mac and cheese or mashed potato bowls.

Say you’re going on a low carb diet. What does that leave you with? Bagels and cereal are all out–so is pasta and pizza. The Entrees change from meal to meal, and stir fry is cooked with lots of oil. You’re now left with salad, wraps, sushi, and Clean Eats. That’s the same four options almost every day, for however long your diet is. Which can get real dull real fast.

While these four options can get repetitive, it’s one thing to be dieting and reducing intake or making healthier choices. It’s another to do so with dietary restrictions. Both the Cleans Eats section and (sometimes) Entrees offer healthier alternatives–such as pork dishes or dishes cooked with dairy. Where does that leave Muslim and Jewish students who don’t eat pork? Where does that leave students with dairy allergies? The problem isn’t solely just for students dieting. It’s a cultural and lifestyle issue as well. What do vegetarians and vegans eat? Pasta and salad everyday? On days where only beef is available, what do Hindu students eat that’s healthy? Why is it that the only constant healthy option accessible to all is salad?

The main issue here isn’t the overall lack of healthy options on campus, as there are other locations if you’re willing to look, like Ely Harvest. The problem is that healthy options are not the default in the Dining Commons. For new students starting at Westfield State, you’ve probably heard the term “freshman fifteen” more times than they can count. But what is Westfield doing to combat those dreaded fifteen pounds? Seminars? Why is it that the healthiest food options available to students aren’t even located in the main dining hall? In order for a student to have more healthy eating options available, they must use their Dining Dollars, not meal swipes like in the Dining Commons. This makes it even harder for those students going the extra mile to eat healthier meals.

For most of us, dieting on campus requires healthy snacking and exercise in order to successfully lose weight. This means paying more money out of pocket to expand our options at a grocery store. But no number of healthy snacks or hours in the Fitness Center will truly produce results without a healthy, balanced diet. Until the Dining Commons make that an option, the most we can do is count our calories and hope for the best.

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