Nutrition on the go

Students use UB Mobile's Dining Services application to track nutritional levels

The Spectrum

Nine thousand seven hundred and seven calories, 951 grams of fat and 32,713 milligrams of sodium - that's the nutritional value Kathryn Bridgwood, a freshman occupational therapy major, thought a Caesar salad from Sizzles had.

Bridgwood, an admitted health freak since her senior year of high school, downloaded UB Mobile - a smartphone application that helps count calories and plan a diet on campus. Though some students have experienced systematic glitches, such as the incorrect information listed for Sizzles' Caesar salad, many have found the dining feature helpful.

Caryn Hufford, a registered dietician at UB, said the app's intentions were not only to aid students with specific dietary needs, but also to guide them toward a healthier college experience. Athletes can use it while following specific sport-related diet plans, while other students use it to shed excess weight, Hufford said.

The app can also help students with food allergies.

Lexis Pallman, a freshman occupational therapy major, can't eat dairy or red meat. Consuming either could result in severe stomach pains and nights spent curled over in "agonizing discomfort," she said.

Pallman is excited she can check allergy information in the "palm of her hand." She checks the app before every meal so she doesn't have to ask an employee whether her meals have dairy.

The app has helped Pallman become more aware of what's in her food. Oatmeal is one food she discovered she must avoid on campus because CDS' recipe uses milk rather than water.

Though Bridgwood found some of the app's nutritional values are not fully accurate, UB Mobile has helped her to create a solid diet plan. UB did not respond to The Spectrum's inquiries about the app by the time of press.

Bridgwood exercises every day, but exercise is not enough to ensure a healthy body, she said, and nutrient intake is just as important. She found it helpful that upon sending a screen-shot of the inaccurate Caesar salad calorie-count to the head of Campus Dining & Shops (CDS), the correction was made.

"I didn't realize how much salt was in everything," Bridgwood said. "I'm really into my health - not only calories, but what's really inside my food."

The fruit and granola Panini from Pistachio's sounds like a healthy option in times of craving a delicious sandwich, Bridgewood said. After using UB Mobile, however, she discovered what she thought was "healthy" actually contained 1,198 calories and 45 grams of fat, which is almost an entire day's worth of calories and fat in one sandwich.

Now, Bridgwood uses the app to create healthier salads at Putnam's. She gets her dressing on the side. She also builds her own oatmeal at the C3 dining hall, so she knows exactly what is going into her meal.

With the UB Mobile app, students have the opportunity to think before they eat, according to Stephany Belmont, a freshman nursing major. She said it is easy to ignore the fat or sodium content when "aching for an escape from the stress of classes or the ever so popular late-night cravings," and some college students don't pay attention to the nutritional value of their meals, which can make a big impact on one's weight and health.

"College makes it too easy to eat," Belmont said. "There is definitely more late-night eating. UB makes it easy because we have 'late-night' meal swipes."

Belmont said the app can help students if they use it frequently.

"The app has helped me track my eating habits and open my eyes to the realities of many popular college foods," Bridgwood said. "I noticed I'm up later now that I'm in college, so it's important to me that I know what's in my late-night snacks."

Bridgwood eats Perry's low-fat frozen yogurt from Perks Caf?(c) or a fruit cup as a late-night snack. She said her snack options depend on her mood and level of stress that day, but the app always keeps her from indulging in the most fattening and unhealthy foods.

Students seeking further nutritional advisement can meet with Hufford to create a diet plan specific to their needs; she is available by appointment. Hufford finds it easier to give students health information with the access of the app.

Hufford said the app will be updated and improved in the near future.