THUNDER BAY, ON – This year, I found out that March was Nutrition Month and I thought, what better way to celebrate than to go behind the kitchen counter in the Ryan Hall cafeteria at Confederation College to learn more about nutrition on campus.
If you think adapting a healthier way of eating involves sacrificing flavour, reducing satisfying portions or eliminating your favorite foods, you’ll be happy to know there’s an easier way. Healthy eating is something that can be a major struggle for students in post-secondary environments. Fast and fried foods are often the only things found in school cafeterias, which doesn’t give the students many options when trying to make healthy choices.
At Confederation College, a company called Sodexo is in charge of the cafeteria. Earlier this year, the Sodexo team launched a Mindful initiative, which provides students with healthy food options, meal ideas, and cool tips on how to eat healthy. The Mindful campaign has been very helpful to me, especially since Thunder Bay is not my hometown; I no longer have my mom to rely on for healthy meals waiting ready for me at home. They’ve also brought other new initiatives to our College community this year, such as introducing a Local Food Week highlighting the incredible homegrown foods at our fingertips.
As part of my pursuit of finding out what the College has to offer, I worked behind the scenes making pitas for my hungry fellow students. At first I was a little nervous since I’ve never made a pita before, and to have someone watch as you make their food was a little intimidating as well. But I soon got the hang of it, and it turns out making pitas is a fun, fast and easy meal; something that I will definitely be making at home and incorporating into my weekly routine.
One of my kitchen mentors was Patricia Bordignon. She told me that she’s been working in the College cafeteria for almost seven years. “I like the atmosphere and the students,” she explained, as she was telling me about her experiences here at Confederation. Patricia is just one of the many great staff who always greet you with a smile and do whatever they can to help you make the most of your dining experience at the College.
I’m really glad I was able to get this inside look at the food services on campus. Not only did I learn more about my food options while at school, I also learned what it takes to make healthy choices, and got some great tips to take home with me and to share with you:
1. Buy fresh, plain frozen or canned “with no salt added” vegetables.
2. Use fresh poultry, fish and lean meat, rather than canned or processed meats.
3. Substitute mayonnaise with Greek yogurt.
4. Increase your vegetable consumption by using zucchini instead of pasta.
5. Cut the sugar in recipes by half and add some vanilla to greatly reduce the calorie count.
6. Substitute butter with mashed bananas in recipes.
7. Use fresh vegetables and spices in stir-fries to add flavour, rather than adding salt.
8. Cook pasta and rice with less salt or none at all.
EATING ON CAMPUS? Here are some ideas to help you make healthier choices:
1. Skip the salty snacks like chips and grab a piece of fresh fruit instead.
2. Next time you’re grabbing your daily coffee before class, try milk instead of cream, reduce your sugar.
3. Try limiting the amount of ‘diner’ style food you get to once or twice a week. There are a lot more options in the cafeteria other than fries and gravy.
4. Ask questions about what your healthy choices are and what goes into the food being served.
5. Have ideas for new meals to feature? Why not share them with your cafeteria staff.
These are just a few of the many things you can do to become happier and healthier with food. For me, I know smaller portions have helped, and rather than ordering a poutine or a burger and fries at every turn, I head for the stir-fry station or grab a pita loaded with veggies. It’s all about being Mindful about what you’re putting into your body.
My experience brought one more thing with it that I’m excited to share with you; a simple and delicious recipe from Sodexo’s Mindful initiative. I made it just the other night for my roommates and not only did it taste great, but we felt good about what we were eating. Now it’s your turn!
Water 3 Cups
Chicken Base 3 Teaspoons
Vegetable Base 1 Teaspoon
Chicken (Pulled) 3 Cups
Bay Leaves 1/3 Leaves
Parsley-Fresh 1/2 Sprig
Celery (Diced) 4 Stocks
Potatoes (Peeled & Diced) 2 Cups
Onion (Cut in Quarters) 2
Corn Kernels (Frozen) 1-1/2 Cups
Lima Beans (Frozen) 1-1/2 Cups
Black Pepper 1 Teaspoon
Oregano (Dried) 1 Teaspoon
Tomatoes (Cut in Quarters) 6
1. In a large soup kettle, combine water, bases, chicken, bay leaves, parsley and celery. Stir until the base is completely dissolved. Simmer for 1 hour or until chicken is soft.
2. Add potato, onion, corn, lima beans, pepper and oregano. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
3. Stir in tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes.