After returning back to school from summer break, I quickly heard the rumors spreading about even more changes to campus dining services this year (after the disheartening, if temporary, loss of mozzarella sticks last year to the dismay of practically the entire student body).
Recently, many have been voicing their anger about the loss of tater tots, mozzarella sticks, crepes and (my personal grievance) the granola bar at Café Bergsen. I was eager to get to the bottom of what is going on and reached out to the woman with the power to determine everything that is (and isn't) included in menus across campus: Connie Diekman, Wash U's official nutritionist.
I went in ready to defend a student's rights to fried cheesy gooeyness and came out with a new appreciation for Connie and for all the conscious efforts she and her team make toward the betterment of campus dining everyday.
Here's the deal:
1. Changes are made every summer
That's right—the menu will never be the same coming back from break, so embrace the change! Particularly, there have been more changes these past two years due to Wash U's involvement with Michelle Obama's Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) campaign.
PHA set 10 goals in the food and nutrition area that Connie and Wash U are working to accomplish. One goal is to limit fried food options to the amount of stations in each location. For example, there are eight stations in BD, so we can only have eight fried food options. Even though you may not be able to have french fries AND tater tots AND mozzarella sticks, you can rest assured that there are still eight different fried options for all your cheat day indulgences.
2. Now, we have "Bear Balance"
Another change due to PHA is the new "Bear Balance" label. Any item marked by the "Bear Balance" logo was chosen as a healthier option based on its total calories, sodium and calories from saturated fat. In addition, all the Bear Balance desserts are under 150 calories, so "splurge" away.
3. Connie's Thoughts
I asked Connie how she would like to respond to students' outrage over the loss of certain food options in campus dining. I'll let her response speak for itself:
"Someone is getting information from a not-so-accurate source. Tater tots were never gone. Mozzarella sticks were available all last year, just not on the menu or served everyday. The decision about crepes didn't come from me. It was totally a sales issue. The sales of crepes were about twenty per night, so financially, they didn't support themselves."
4. What Connie Eats
Now that you've gotten the inside scoop on campus dining changes this year, get to know Connie herself:
Go-to BD station: "Salad bar at Paws n' Go and then pasta."
Best late-night snack: "Do I dare say... it's not mozzarella sticks. I go for the 'late-night, better-for-you bar,' which has yogurt, fruit and some sort of healthier hot food, even if it's just a leftover from the food served at the grill that day."
Best study snack: "Popcorn, especially if you eat it in small handfuls! Also, anything with a bit of protein like hummus and veggies or cheese and fruit. But I suggest that you always put the food on a plate. Don't eat out of a bag or a box, or you'll eat too much."
Most overlooked healthy food item: "A burrito with rice, beans and veggies is actually very healthy. Choose that over a quesadilla loaded with cheese."
Best advice to avoid the freshman 15: "Don't feel the need to try all the new stuff right away. Pace yourself: the menus are on a 3-week cycle. Recognize that we have options for a balanced meal. Don't let go of the physical activity that you were used to doing in high school, especially for women whose teenage metabolisms begin to slow down at ages 18-19. If you can't find something or you're not sure what something is, just ask. Don't avoid eating something that may be a healthy option just because you don't know what it is."
Over the course of our half-hour conversation, it became more than clear to me that Connie and her team are working hard to bring us healthy and college-tastebud-approved options.
Still have questions for Connie? Concerns? Want to have your opinion heard? Use the link on the campus dining website. Connie verified that her team does review these comments and take into account the perspectives included in them.