Healthy Choices

healthy foodsIt may be akin to academic sacrilege to suppose anything is more important for college students than good grades and high performance. But those are only two of many important factors it takes for a successful university career.

Food is one of the most vital.

A healthy, nutritious diet may not top student concerns when fall semester begins, but it should be near the top. A nutritious diet is a must for a stellar college career. It fuels, quite literally, the well being necessary to manage a hectic, stressful schedule and muster the 100 percent effort required for superior academic performance.

No nutrition, no honor roll.

Some studies reported in the article, “Exploring the Links Between Depression and Weight Gain,” (The New York Times, 2010) and in other news media outlets, show that poor diet affects the ability to learn and can diminish grades. Experts say students tend to gain weight their first year of college and add more before graduation. A poor diet can lead to weaker immunity, greater fatigue and even depression.

It’s not always easy to be sensible about food in a busy and stressful campus environment, says Sarah Brunnig, who teaches nutrition science at Stetson University.

“Many students here are still growing and that requires extra nutrient needs, and they’re away from home where often food was prepared for them,” said Brunnig. “Picking and choosing from a wide range of foods can be confusing and many students are likely to pick pretty randomly, without much thought or knowledge of what works best for them.”

Chartwells, or more commonly referred to as Stetson Dining Services, the university’s dining service since 2013, offers a wide variety of healthy food options for a broad range of dietary requirements and lifestyles – vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, sustainably sourced, locally sourced and foods certified as socially and ecologically responsible products.

Take coffee for instance, says Emily Ray, a dietitian and nutritionist with Stetson Dining Services.

“Campus dining offers sustainably-grown coffee from responsible coffee production methods certified in a variety of ways,” said Ray, “including Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Shade Grown, Bird Friendly, Coffee and Farmer Equity Practices.”

Eggs are certified as cage-free and from humanely treated chickens; seafood is from sustainable sources; milk is free of artificial growth hormones, Ray said. Much of the produce used by Stetson Dining Services is purchased from Florida farms within 150 miles of our campus, said Lindsey Bishop, director of marketing for Stetson Dining Services.

Ray helps students who need nutrition advice for any reason, ranging from allergen-based needs and restrictions, specific dietary lifestyles, diet preferences and even insight into trending foods and the latest federal dietary guidelines.

“Students appreciate meal and food choice variety,” said Ray. They are tech savvy and expect instant information, so most every item on Stetson Dining Services’ menus is detailed on websites, a campus app, LCD monitors, and other ways. Students can check calories and fats in a turkey burger while crossing campus to the Commons dining area.

“Our more challenging requests come from our guests who are extremely limited in what they can eat,” said Bishop. “For these rare cases we purchase foods specifically for them and cook them separately.”

A more common issue is making time for healthy food, she said.

“Some of the main challenges I come across with college students, are simply finding the time to eat healthy, nutritious meals,” said Ray. “Many students are on the go and need healthy options that can stick with them to their next class or organizational meeting.”

“Our community wants fresh, local food that is healthy for them,” said Bishop, “and that’s our number one focus when planning menus.” Menus evolve constantly she said, partly because of campus surveys, suggestions from diners online and off, from a Chartwells team of food and nutrition specialists who, she said, constantly monitor federal food nutrition laws, guidelines and the trends associated with it.

Bishop encourages anyone to reach her via email at [email protected] for more information.

To submit a comment about Stetson Dining Services, visit their website or email any manager at any time for information.

Stetson Dining Services can also be reached on any of their social media:, and

By Ronald Williamson