As I eat the brownie crumbs off of my fingers, I am the last person who should be preaching about eating healthily. However, with the arrival of the fall semester, living a healthy, eco friendly lifestyle on a campus with a Starbucks on every corner and never ending dessert buffets in the dining halls has never seemed more difficult. So instead of offering up a recipe for cheese fries (available upon request…) I asked my friend Michelle Wong who’s an eco-gastronomy major at UNH what her dining hall tips are for living healthy and green.
Most of us know to choose the salad bar over the hamburger line but what about choosing between different fruits and vegetables? Which are better for our bodies and the environment? “When it comes to dining halls,” Michelle says, “try to choose local produce.” All the miles that fruits and veggies have to travel just to get to your school creates a carbon footprint. At the dining hall, look for labels that signify that your food is locally grown. Many colleges and universities around the country are going green and creating sustainability programs to ensure that they are doing their job to help the environment. To see how your school adds up, click here.
Another factor to keep in mind when stacking up your plates with fruit salad is the chemicals that may remain on the surface and within the flesh of the produce. “Pesticides are causing a growing health problem. Apples, celery, and strawberries are several seemingly healthy choices that have the highest levels of residual pesticides,” Michelle says. So what’s so bad about a little bug-killer on your fruit? According to the EPA, some pesticides may be carcinogens (cancer causing), may disrupt your hormones and may affect your nervous system. Some healthy, low-pesticide options (because we can’t always afford organic as college students) that Michelle suggests are onions, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet potatoes and watermelon.
With fruits and vegetables being the obvious nutritional choices, what should we eat when it comes to protein? Certain colleges (like mine, Boston University) are now offering cage-free eggs upon request. Cage-free eggs have lower cholesterol, less hormones and yolks that are richer in nutrients (and result in happier chickens). “Tofu, beans, and quinoa are other healthy sources of non-animal protein,” Michelle says. With red meat now on the very top of the food pyramid, “eating less meat is better for the environment and can be better for our bodies.”
We can’t always be expected to pass up the chicken nuggets and cheesecake, but making small changes, like choosing tofu over steak tips or sweet potatoes over French fries, is a step closer to living a healthier, greener lifestyle (and avoiding the freshman 15).
Laura Nelson is a junior majoring in Psychology and English at Boston University and she’s been a member of NSCS for two years. When she’s not trying to read classic Greek and Roman literature, you may find her frequenting art museums, drawing and reproducing famous masterpieces in cake form.