Media Credit: Rachel Harris

One day, I was in line in Whispers ordering a banana nut muffin, talking to a friend about how much I loved the muffins there. It was then that he said, “Do you know how bad those are for you?” I did not know. I had never considered the fact that muffins, a food purported to be somewhat healthy, could be terrible for you. I soon took it upon myself to find out just how unhealthy my beloved muffins were, and what began as a simple exploration turned into somewhat of a research project – with surprising results.

As it turns out, one innocent-looking banana nut muffin has 507 calories, 78 grams of carbohydrates, and 18 grams of fat. Could I really be getting 20-25% of my recommended caloric intake from just one muffin? After discovering this, I began to delve into more nutritional facts, considering many questions, namely 1) What foods offered on campus are unhealthy for a college student? and 2) Just how unhealthy are all the foods students eat routinely at places like Bear’s Den and Whispers?

Media Credit: Rachel Harris

I began looking into the first obvious case of nutritional deception: the Caesar salad. Before, I had the mindset of many people that any salad is automatically healthy for you. In reality, Caesar salads are one of the worst things you can eat. A large Caesar has 900 calories, 76 grams of fat, and 40 grams of carbs. Though I thought I was being healthier than the people ordering hamburgers for every meal, a Caesar salad has twice the fat and three times the sodium of a hamburger – not to mention 250 more calories.

Chicken fingers have never been thought to be healthy, but it’s relatively unknown just how bad they are. One order at Bear’s Den has 88 g of fat (136% of the recommended daily value), 1335 calories, 2262 mg of sodium (95% RDV), 255 mg of cholesterol, and 65 g of carbs. Add fries to that and for just one meal you have 123 g of fat, 3200 mg of sodium, 106 g of carbs, and 1900 calories. Putting chicken fingers on sandwiches, pasta, quesadillas or salads (which is very popular) turns a potentially healthy choice into a nutritional disaster.

The snacks offered at Whispers and Hilltop Bakery (croissants, cinnamon buns, cookies, Rice Krispies treats, brownies and doughnuts) are just as bad or worse for you than the muffins which have already been shown to be very unhealthy. The only remotely healthy thing offered as a snack is fruit – and if you know anything about fruit, you know that the fruit on our campus is of extremely low quality and lacks selection.

You should not wait until you’re obese to think about what you eat. You can be thin and still have high levels of sodium, fat, blood sugar and cholesterol, which increase your chances of heart and health problems later in life. Just because we are young and have high metabolism doesn’t mean we can eat food that is terrible for us all the time. I once thought I was eating healthy when I wasn’t even close to it, and I am sure others are making the same mistake.

This university claims to value the wellbeing of its students – as it should. Health services and counseling run some very good programs, and you see the occasional sign in Bear’s Den with nutritional information on it (though these go largely unnoticed and/or unconsidered). I greatly respect those attempting to stress the importance of nutrition to our students.

The truth remains, however, that a large percentage of the Wash U population routinely eat foods that are terrible for them – often without knowing it or realizing the extent to which they are unhealthy. It is the responsibility of the University and its dining services to make a wide selection of healthy food easily accessible to its students. As someone who is now more conscious of his health, I can say that it is extremely difficult to eat well on our campus. Numerous studies have shown the importance of a healthy diet in a learning environment, and our school just isn’t doing enough to provide the essential nutrients that we as students need to learn at our full potential. I urge you to consider the contents of your diet more, and to press the administration to make drastic changes in our dining options in every facility on campus.