Dining plans health fest

Instead of Monday’s cheesy potato skins, tonight students will find Brussels sprouts and turtle beans in their dining halls.

At the themed dinner tonight called “A Healthy Start to the New Year,” residential dining halls will feature a more vegetable-heavy salad bar, no fried food and the unveiling of a poster and handouts with tips on proper eating habits and portion sizes. Yale Dining administrators said the dinner does not represent a new initiative to make dining hall fare more healthy; rather, it is intended to suggest ways for students to improve their own habits. The theme will also showcase ways Yale Dining already helps students to eat healthfully, she said, including marking some items on the online menu as “smart choices.”

This is the first time that Yale Dining has created a dinner centered on healthy eating, Yale Dining nutritionist Karen Dougherty said.

“People are making New Year’s resolutions,” she said, explaining the timing of the dinner.

Jeff Kwolek, the manager of the Timothy Dwight dining hall, agreed that there are always healthy dishes in the dining halls but that tonight’s theme just gives Yalies an idea of how to use them.

“There are plenty of options, from the vegan options to the salad bar, soy yogurt and soy milk,” he said. “There’s always something you can eat other than mashed potatoes.”

While residential dining hall salad bars always include greens and fresh vegetables, Tuesday’s’s dinner will drop the standard cheese, croutons and animal protein (such as tuna fish) for a wider variety of vegetables. Two cooked vegetable dishes — acorn squash and Brussels sprouts — will also be available.

Dougherty said residential dining halls will unveil new posters that translate government dietary guidelines into Yale Dining portion sizes. For example, she said, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that Americans eat six ounces of grains per day, and a standard bagel in one of the dining halls weighs four ounces.

She said students may request to use scales and measuring cups from the kitchens to determine appropriate portions sizes, but only a handful of students choose to do so.

Dougherty said a handout available at Tuesday’s meal includes a month’s worth of tips for Yalies on how to eat healthfully at school.

“People try to make radical changes when they’re dieting, and they get easily discouraged,” she said. “These are little things that you can do that day, and all those little things add up.”

Nine students interviewed said it is easy to eat well in the residential college dining halls. Stephen Brandwood ’10 said the fare here is significantly more healthful than that at the universities his siblings attend.

“I think it’s totally doable,” Nina Cabrera ’11 said.

Themed dinners such as “Healthy Start” are developed in the spring of the previous academic year by a committee that includes dining hall managers and Yale Dining administrators. Other themed menus this academic year have included a luau, an Oktoberfest meal and a Thanksgiving dinner.

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