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Some question nutritional value of Ohio State dining hall food


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Though some Ohio State officials tout the nutritional value and the variety of options available at on-campus dining halls, some students said they aren’t impressed with what they see on the nutrition facts labels.

“Ohio State tries to make it seem like they have healthy options, especially at the RPAC, but everything’s actually really bad for you if you look at the nutrition,” said Emily Harris, a second-year in biology.

Harris also said it is even harder to eat right on the weekends since limited dining halls are open.

On Saturdays and Sundays, 10 of the 29 dining locations on campus are closed, according to the Dining Services website.

Kaitlyn Cappel, a second-year in strategic communication, also said nutritious options on campus could improve.

“I definitely think (campus food) could be more healthy. I think there are healthy options, but I also think that they portray some things as being healthy, but when you look at the labels, it’s really not,” Cappel said.

Recently OSU’s Dining Services released a few statistics that “show students are making healthier choices when it comes time to eat on campus,” according to OSU news briefs posted on the onCampus website, a university faculty and staff news source.

“In the last three years, fresh fruit and vegetable sales have increased 40 percent,” the list reads. “For every burger sold in the Ohio Union Market, two salads are purchased. More fruits and vegetables are sold than chips and French fries combined.”

Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said in an email that information came from “register sales at all (Dining Services) locations, but the system is really set up to track inventory, not trends,” so there was not “broader” information available.

Gina Forster, a registered dietitian and assistant director of nutrition and health for OSU Dining Services, said the increased availability of fruits and vegetables on campus and the fact that people have generally become more health conscious in recent years contributed to an increase in healthy eating.

“There’s just more information out there about the benefits of eating healthy,” she said. “This generation is growing up getting those messages sent to us via email, via social media — all the time. It’s in our faces how important it is.”

But French fries and other “unhealthy” foods likely won’t disappear from dining halls anytime soon.

“There are certain options that are never going to go away,” Forster said. “We are here to cater to the desires of the students. That’s just like any restaurant.”

One option, the Margherita pizza at Marketplace on South Campus, has 1,412 calories and 134 percent of the recommended daily value for sodium, according to Dining Services nutrition information online.

Others pack in the calories as well — a cookie sundae at Mirror Lake Creamery has 899 calories and 115 percent of the recommended daily value for saturated fat, and a buffalo chicken wrap at Sloopy’s Diner has 1,350 calories, 183 percent of the recommended daily value for sodium and 107 percent of the recommended daily value for total fat, according to the nutrition information.

Although healthier options are always available, the unhealthy choices are meant to mimic the real world, where people have to choose for themselves, Forster said.

“If we took all (the unhealthy options) away, what are you going to learn?” she said.

Students’ access to nutrition information regarding the foods on campus is a work in progress, as not all nutrition information for all locations is available online yet, Forster said.

“We are probably about 60 percent finished with that, and the majority of that 40 percent (left) is the Traditions (dining),” Forster said.

Forster said that information should be fully posted by next year.

In the meantime, a social media campaign is slated to take place soon to encourage OSU students to eat right, Forster said, and informational packets are being given out to help increase students’ knowledge about healthy eating.

One of the pamphlets is set to feature recipes students can make in their residence halls using items found at the convenience stores on campus, Forster said.

Cappel said that idea is “really cool” and she would be interested to see the recipes.

“It’s hard to cook in the dorm because most recipes involve an oven,” she said.


  1. It is a fact of life that the majority of prepared foods are going to be unhealthy for you. It is not fiscally responsible for Campus Dining to offer 1-2 healthy options per establishment, when the majority of their customers will not eat it. The time and effort it takes to make something healthy actually taste good (at least relative to what most people like) costs substantially more in ingredients and man-power. If you are that worried about your options, don’t opt in for a meal plan. There are many restaurants around campus that serve healthy options and you’ll probably spend just as much as you do through CDS.

  2. I can’t imagine what Ohio State would charge for actual healthy food when a cut up apple & dollop of peanutbutter is $2.50

  3. Yes Jenn you nailed it.

  4. You know what I would love to see? Stores run by Campus Dining selling fresh produce, reasonably priced, right here on our campus. Organic offerings as much as possible and like any of the CD operations, open to everyone. The amazing Ohio Union would be a nice location, and maybe another location at the gorgeous RPAC. Not pre-packaged, not in a “salad”-bar type setting, not limited to less-than-fresh apples or over-ripe bananas…just a grocery store type thing, or maybe like the produce stand at the North Market. As a staff member, I would LOVE this (I can keep my parking spot!) and I know my children who are Buckeyes would love it, too. And community kitchens in or near each of our dorms, that can be used by any OSU sstudent, so our students can maintain healthier eating habits and patterns.

  5. To Anonymous regarding a community kitchen. Why don’t you just do it? It is my understanding that OSU has business development programs to help “start-ups” like yours. Just do not get discouraged by the first person who tells you “no.”

  6. There is always a healthy choice in any dining facility on campus. Students should learn to be responsible for their own health. What’s next, creating a committee to study the possible changes and offering suggestions to dining service while costing another one million dollars?

  7. It’s sad that even their “healthy” options are not even good for you. It’s so hard to eat right on this campus when even the fruit has added sugar and many things are processed so they last longer. Even the unhealthy food doesn’t need take be as unhealthy as it is. There should be quality food. I know the campus food is horrid for us when a skinless chicken breasthas 800 calories and is loaded with fat. There really aren’t smart decisions that can be made. No one can simply opt out of a dining plan if you live on campus unless your room has a kitchen which only there dorms have, 2 of which are given to athletes. So tell me how I can eat healthy?

  8. I think this was the most disturbing part of the article:
    -Although healthier options are always available, the unhealthy choices are meant to mimic the real world, where people have to choose for themselves, Forster said.

    “If we took all (the unhealthy options) away, what are you going to learn?” she said.

    First off… if the school is so concerned with mimicking the real world why don’t we have more racial diversity on campus and students that don’t perform well academically but are geniuses in their own creative innovative way. Why don’t we just stop being concerned about test grades and start learning life skills. Fyi even the unhealthy choices don’t taste as good as the unhealthy choices that you can get from a fast food restaurant. So maybe try having the food taste good since you want to “mimick” the real world.
    Secondly, by taking away the unhealthy options, maybe this is a crazy idea….but students may learn to appreciate the healthy options since they won’t have another choice with on campus dining… and maybe that’s good because a university is supposed to promote “healthy” choices…but that’s just a wild idea. Absolutely wild.

  9. It is possible to find healthy alternatives on campus. But the time it takes to work around the “normal” choices is just not possible when you’re crunched for time and hungry right now. So what do I do? I pay for a mandatory food plan that I rarely use. I buy healthy choices at the supermarket and I use my dorm microwave oven a lot. I figure my room and board bill is really just for “room”. I prefer living on campus, it’s just easier. Even if I don’t like the crazy long lines it takes to get good food.

    Why can’t the dining philosophy be flip-flopped. Make healthy choices quicker to get, or ready-to-go so that I’m not waiting in line for 30 minutes to get something to eat. And make the bad-for-you food harder to get. You can still get them, you’ll just have to wait longer.

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