Health Column: Eating healthy at the caf

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As many William Jewell College students have discovered, our treasured caf offers many selections of delicious food. However they are not always the healthiest. When one walks into the caf, sometimes all that awaits are rows of comforting casseroles and delicious desserts.

But don’t worry, the cafeteria at Jewell provides many ways to make your meal a little tastier and healthier.

The caf offers many regular food options such as the salad bar, deli sandwich station, plain noodles and accompanying sauces, cereal and the hummus and chip station.

In order to eat healthy and create a delicious meal between classes, these stations are vital to utilize. Many days, when the regular offerings do not seem the healthiest, I travel over to the deli sandwich station and am able to create lettuce wraps by using the large lettuce leaves and rolling them with turkey, ham, cheese and tomatoes. Any dressings can be added to these and they can turn into a fun and fresh new staple to have daily.

Another way to utilize the caf to your advantage is to be selective and efficiently travel from station to station. For example, get the meat at one station, but the mashed potatoes at another. It is okay to ask for only one component of the meal and then to take your plate to another station to add your preferred starches or vegetables.

Tired of making the same salad at the salad bar every time? Try adding some lettuce or spinach into your bowl with a few different veggies and then head over to the hummus and chip station to see what types of mixed salads the caf is offering that day. A great option is to add the mixed salads on top of a bed of lettuce and be able to enjoy a tasty and healthy new creation.

The caf also has a microwave. This was news to me, but it offers so many ways to add variety to your regular staples. Consider taking plain noodles from the noodle station, adding a slight amount of butter from the toast area and some shredded cheese from the salad bar, and then zapping your plate in the microwave for a minute or two in order to make mac n’ cheese. It is possible to be a chef in the caf everyday.

Many diets have become very popular lately, including the Keto diet, Paleo diet and Whole 30 diet, as well as vegan and vegetarian choices. Although the caf does not always offer dishes specific to these diets, it is possible to eat in the caf with respect to the guidelines of each of these diets. Here are some tips to follow.

If you are on the Keto diet

It is possible to ask for only meat and vegetables from the regular stations. Simply ask for “everything except for the carbohydrate [noodles, potatoes, rice]” and the staff will be more than happy to respond to your request. The salad bar is also a world of opportunities – and plain olive oil and vinegar are available to use as dressing.

If you are trying the Paleo or Whole 30 diet

These diets encourage eating like humans would in nature. So, dishes with meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds are staples. The caf offers meat, typically at two or more stations, as well as the deli and salad bar areas, that can be used to create Paleo/Whole 30 meals. Try varying combinations of meat and veggies from the different stations of the caf to create fresh and diverse meals. The sunflower seeds and olive oil from the salad bar can be great additions to many of these dishes.

If you are vegan or vegetarian

The caf makes a strong effort to always have vegan and vegetarian options provided in the caf. Plain noodles and sauces are always available, as are the pizza and sandwich areas.

The Culinary Expo can also be a great area to utilize when eating as a vegan or vegetarian. The Expo often serves stir-fry meals with rice and vegetables that can be tasty and fun – it always is possible to leave the meat or dairy products out of a meal created at the expo. The staff will try their best to respond to your requests, so please do not feel bad when asking for accommodations.

Sometimes creating a tasty and healthy meal may mean having to walk from station to station, but it is possible to escape having to eat only cereal for every meal! Consider mixing food items from different stations and utilizing standard ingredients found in the caf to create fresh and delicious meals personalized to your taste buds.

Cover photo courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine.

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