Mission Nutrition: Holiday edition

UB's nutrition club discusses importance of staying healthy during holiday season

The Spectrum

High blood pressure, high cholesterol and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases are associated with old age and physical inactivity. Studies are finding that college students are facing these diseases just as often, though.

Sixty percent of freshmen eat too much artery-clogging saturated fat and 66 percent don't consume the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to USA Today.

Mission Nutrition, a temporary Student Association club, wants to change those statistics. The club hopes to make eating on campus more nutritious.

With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza falling within two months of one another, club members are promoting the importance of portion control and healthy eating habits. Members hope to create an open community at UB, where students and teachers can talk about nutrition and food.

President Camille Farkas, a senior psychology major and co-founder of Mission Nutrition, said the club is working on numerous projects to ensure the UB community is as healthy as possible.

Growing up, Farkas' parents were health conscious and they home-cooked most meals. Now that Farkas lives on her own, she is able to understand the importance of what her parents did for her and her brothers.

"We grew up healthy and valued to the importance of a healthy, well-rounded diet and the love of good food," Farkas said.

Farkas said students typically eat poorly. The food provided in dorms and on campus is not nutritious, she said, and she hopes to help guide students to choose the best items available to them.

The club recommends its members to choose the egg and tuna cups from campus dining, breakfast oatmeal from Starbucks and a salad from Edgy Veggies with a "drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette." One of the club's upcoming meetings will focus on how to eat healthy on campus and in off-campus apartments.

Vice president and co-founder of the club Caitlin McCullough, a sophomore exercise science major, said she knows a lot of students who want to live healthy lives on campus but find it extremely difficult.

UB has acknowledged that more students are asking for and eating healthier meal options, according to an article published by UB Reporter in September. UB has added more vegetarian options across campus; dining halls serve fresh fruit daily; and Bravo Pasta in the Student Union offers wheat pasta. Campus Dining & Shops also posts nutritional information about all of its meals on its website.

Jeff Brady, director of Campus Dining and Shops, told UB Reporter he's seen many students switch from regular milk to soymilk and that menu items like egg-white omelets have become more popular on campus.

Mission Nutrition hopes to ensure all students maintain a healthy diet on campus.

McCullough struggled with weight in high school. She would gain 20 pounds, lose 10 and then gain it back again.

"The problem was that I didn't understand food," McCullough said. "I thought that eating a 100-calorie snack pack was healthy. I wasn't focused on the nutrients. My senior year is when I started doing my own research and discovering how different foods can impact my body."

That year, McCullough became a vegetarian.

Her perspective changed from, "I want it, but can't have it," to "I can have it, but I don't want it." She hopes to help people see how eating right will make them look and feel amazing, she said.

McCullough gives members of the club tips about how to feel good and lose weight, good places to eat locally and what exactly it means to be a vegan or vegetarian. She said the club wants to form a supportive group of people that can freely discuss food and its impact on "our bodies and the world we live in."

Next semester, the group wants to push to make the contents inside of vending machines more nutrient dense.

"Having items like trail mix, protein shakes, fruits and vegetables more accessible to students will have a huge positive impact," Farkas said.

With the upcoming holidays come delicious-smelling foods and tempting meals.

"Go ahead and have a slice of pie, but keep your wits about you and remember serving sizes still exist," McCullough said. "If you feel you might give in to temptation, use healthy ingredients in your holiday recipes. Don't forget to keep going to the gym - the pounds can slowly creep up on you and sweater weather is not an excuse."

McCullough suggests using whole-wheat flour as a healthy alternative to white flour. She said to keep eating lean protein, fruits, veggies and whole grains because it's better to add healthy foods to a diet rather than just eating the junk and skipping the healthy stuff, especially during the holiday season.

Her favorite holiday treat is pumpkin pie. When she wants to have a healthy alternative to the ice cream on top, she mixes one frozen banana, one carrot, 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of almond butter and a pinch of almond milk. She calls this her "Thanksgiving ice cream."

Mission Nutrition hopes to bring in guest speakers to talk about gaining and losing weight, fad diets and more. They want to ensure students know that eating healthy does not mean eating less and that food should be valued and enjoyed.

Farkas said more nutritious foods would make students more satiated and give them energy levels to feel better about themselves. The club also hopes to include food tastings and demos for UB students.

For now, the club is focusing on encouraging students to remain healthy during this holiday season while still enjoying the treats on their holiday dinner tables.

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