Whether it’s a lack of faith in the safety of removing a whole food group from their diets or the tempting abundance of pastries and cakes at Commons, few Yalies said they are sticking with low-carbohydrate eating regimens such as the Atkins diet to lose weight.
More and more Americans are decreasing their carbohydrate consumption and increasing their consumption of high-fat, high-protein fare as prescribed by the late Dr. Robert Atkins, creator of the eponymous diet. But the trend seems not to have drastically altered the eating habits of most Yale students, even though dining hall managers said they have noticed students paying more attention to nutrition.
While many students dabble with the diet, few adhere strictly to it or continue with it for extended periods of time.
Michelle Reid ’07 said she tried to decrease her carbohydrate intake but was unable to resist the temptation of high-carbohydrate foods.
“I love pasta and breakfast pastries,” she said. “So it was hard to cut down.”
Though Reid has since returned to her pre-Atkins eating habits, she said she now tries to balance her intake of higher-calorie foods with exercise.
David Reiman ’05 also said he was unsatisfied with the restrictiveness of the diet. He said that although the diet was effective, he “just got bored with it.” Reiman said his only choice for low-carbohydrate entrees was often “a tofu-y sort of thing at the dining hall.” Reiman’s new solution is to eat a larger variety of foods in moderation, he said.
Like Reiman, squash player Michelle Quibell ’06 said there simply were not enough choices for low-carbohydrate foods allowed by the diet.
“It was actually pretty tough because it’s hard to find a good source of protein at the dining hall,” Quibell said. “I’m not really a sandwich person and you don’t really eat plain deli meat.”
But despite these students who have tried and renounced the diet, Edd Ley, manager of the Trumbull dining hall, said he has noticed an overall decrease in carbohydrate consumption at Trumbull.
“They don’t eat the bread and the pastas the way they used to,” Ley said. “We’ll see it more when they get ready for spring break and have to fit into their clothes and go to the islands.”
Ley said that he thinks athletes tend to consume more carbohydrates than their non-athlete counterparts.
But Ley added that his estimate of the number of students who prescribe to the Atkins diet or decrease their carbohydrate consumption may not be accurate because of characteristics particular to the Trumbull dining hall.
“In Trumbull, we’re famous for our salad bar, and that draws a lot of people,” Ley said. “I’ve seen an increase with our transfers. People are looking for that type of thing.”
Ley said he is often surprised to see that a loaf of bread on the bread bar is not gone halfway through a meal. But Brian Crowley, assistant manager of the Calhoun dining hall, said he has not noticed a lowered consumption of bread in the dining hall. Crowley said the dietary changes he has seen have been more widespread than just cutting down on carbohydrates.
“People are more conscious,” Crowley said. “People are more just paying attention to individual food items. They’re looking for more chicken or staying away from beef or looking to see if it’s baked rather than fried.”
Barry Carloni, assistant manager of the Davenport dining hall, said he hasn’t noticed a sharp decrease in bread or carbohydrate consumption either. He also said he did not notice a spike in consumption of the high-fat foods promoted by the Atkins diet.
“[The students] usually go for low-fat fare,” Carloni said. “It’s a very balanced diet; there’s no spike in any one item. We haven’t noticed anything here.”
Carloni said maybe managers in dining halls with higher proportions of athletes than Davenport would notice different trends.
But Reid said she thinks students’ eating habits may be different than usual late in the fall.
“I think everybody, especially freshmen, is trying to watch [his or her] weight — especially toward the holiday season,” Reid said. “We’ve definitely heard about the ‘freshman fifteen.'”
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