BJU’s residence hall students rely on the Dixon-Mackenzie Dining Common for almost every meal—breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every day, members of the university community pile into the dining common and cue up for familiar favorites, new flavors and the trusty sandwich line.
The dining common has evolved dramatically over the last decade. Back in the day, the DC offered one or two entrees per meal with few sides. BJU has since partnered with Aramark, a professional food service, and remodeled the main dining room to accommodate better seating and queues. Now students can choose from options such as the pizza bar, the sandwich bar, the salad bar, the potato bar, the American grill, the international grill and the comfort food line.
With so many options, it can be difficult to avoid stress-eating whatever’s most readily available. We are what we eat, so it’s important to eat well for work and study.
BJUtoday talked to Christine Williams, the DC’s student nutritionist, about some of the ways the dining common staff works to keep the student body healthy and study-ready. Most of her work revolves around answering emails from students about dietary needs or fielding questions from visiting parents and other guests. Her work isn’t limited to the dining common, though. She fields nutrition questions about the offerings at the Den, the POD and Cuppa Jones as well. Williams is still a student, so she has the advantage of knowing what it’s like to juggle school alongside her work like the rest of the student body.
Making the DC a Food Sensitivity-Friendly Space
The DC’s nutrition evolutions started with gluten-free options. As awareness grew about food sensitivities among our students, the dining common adapted its menus and its floorspace to include a place for students to get gluten-free food that didn’t include the risk of cross-contamination. Gluten allergies aren’t the only food sensitivity out there, of course—diners may have negative reactions to dairy, soy, other plants and even some kinds of meat.
See Also: Gluten-Free at BJU
Williams got her start working with the gluten-free section, though she’s hoping to take her knowledge and expand healthy (often plant-based) options to the rest of the offerings.
Finding the Healthy Options
The dining common has made changes to meal presentation to make healthy options more visible. The nutrition team added labels to menu items to make identifying good choices easier.
If you eat in the dining common often, you probably recognize these icons on the clear visors over food stations:
Photo credit: bju.campusdish.com
These labels call out beneficial elements of featured meals. For diners with dietary preferences, the labels signal which menu options work with their needs.
The new and improved DC foodscape also includes detailed ingredients lists and nutrition information for each menu item available at the food stations. These labels help folks with food sensitivities avoid certain menu options while introducing diners to new flavors and experiences so everyone can eat well at the dining common.
“Many people aren’t aware of what they eat and how it affects them,” Williams explains. “I’d like to see a change in how everyone views food.” In the future, she’d like to conduct a survey of student eating habits that Aramark can use to produce better offerings in the future—and find out how to make wholesome choices more appealing.
Williams has a plan to introduce new flavors and healthy choices to students. “We have a healthy cart that we’ll do every so often—a nutritional booth that promotes one item in the featured recipe.” For example, the cart featured chocolate zucchini bread.
Using Variety to Your Advantage
The DC has a lot of options to choose from, which means you have lots of tasty options available if you’re trying to eat well.
Williams explains that she keeps her diet balanced by picking meal items based on their macronutrients: protein, fat and carbs. “I really like the grilled chicken whenever they have that available. I typically try to go to comfort food (line) or the salad bar, if only for a side salad. I don’t stick to one station but spread out to all the different stations. At lunch, the exhibition grill usually has healthier options as well.”
It’s possible to eat well at the dining common with a little forethought and an adventurous appetite. Next time you visit the DC, see what’s available and be willing to try something new.
Got questions about menu items at campus dining spots? Contact student nutritionist Christine Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.