by CHRISTINA PHAM
Health should always be our number one priority. But in college, when the busyness and craziness get in the way of life, our health and eating habits can take a backseat. So, how can we continue to eat healthy, even at a stereotypically unhealthy dining hall like Covel?
When it comes to Covel, the large selection of fries can be so enticing. It can be tempting to load up a heaping serving of fries on your plate without even realizing how many fries you actually got. This extravagance is not recommended, nor are restrictive diets. If you are a french fry lover, restricting yourself completely from this deep-fried goodness may not be beneficial and seldom produces long-lasting effects. In fact, it may cause you to crave french fries even more, resulting in a binging session at Late Night. However, portion control can do wonders. As long as you go for one serving of fries, you are already taking a step towards being more healthy. This applies to non-nutritious foods in particular, such as the chocolate cakes, bacon grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. A 2017 study showed that when adults were given larger portions of rice porridge for breakfast, they consumed 13% more.  Moral of the study? Just have one serving!
Calcium is an important component of health. It can build stronger bones and lower the risk of osteoporosis, a disease characterized by weak and brittle bones. In severe cases, even just a sneeze can cause bones to break. [2, 3] Hence, aim to drink one glass of milk during your meal, and if you’re watching calories, fat-free milk is your friend. Try to avoid sugary drinks like soda as best as you can. In a 2016 study, middle aged adults who regularly consumed sugar-sweetened beverages, aka soda, were more likely to develop pre-diabetes.  And remember, you can never go wrong with good ol’ water.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit
From the soft serve ice cream, to the warm baked desserts (deep dish brownie, bread pudding, s'mores), Covel’s dessert selection does not disappoint. However, to be healthy, why not try something just as sweet and satisfying, but without the extra calories, guilt, and innutritious content? Take advantage of Covel’s pre-sliced fruit bar that includes juicy ripe watermelon, grapes, and honeydew, just to name a few. Fruit has many health benefits; for example, watermelon is full of antioxidants and essential amino acids. 
Get creative with Covel’s salad bar! Every time you eat at Covel, your salad can be completely different. The more colors present in your salad, the more nutritional benefits there probably are. Colors indicate that phytochemicals are present, which is essentially a fancy word for a healthy substance found in plants.  If you are not feeling creative, try the caesar salad located near the pizza bar. I personally like a simple salad with lettuce, Italian dressing, croutons, carrots, corn, and Ritz crackers. Some things to be mindful of when creating your own salad are the type and amount of dressing you add. It makes sense that the more dressing you add, the more calories your salad will contain. Dressings such as Ranch, Caesar, and Italian can be packed full of calories and saturated fat. So if you’re watching calories, opt for a lighter dressing like balsamic vinaigrette.
Try the Mediterranean Bar
Covel has a wonderful Mediterranean bar with foods such as hummus, chickpeas, and various oils. In a 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of stroke was reduced in those who had diets rich in Mediterranean foods, meaning a high consumption of olive oil and nuts.  As a further incentive to stop by the Mediterranean bar, another review study shows strict adherence to the Mediterranean diet can significantly reduce overall risk of mortality and neurodegenerative diseases.  Just by eating hummus each time you visit Covel, paired with other healthy eating habits, you could reduce your risk of some diseases!
These are five simple steps for you to eat healthy at any dining hall, specifically tailored to Covel. Enjoy your meals!
- “Texture-Based Differences in Eating Rate Reduce the Impact of Increased Energy Density and Large Portions on Meal Size in Adults.” J Nutr. (2017).
- “Ten Incredible Benefits of Milk.” organicfacts.net.
- “What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It?” nof.org
- “Sugar-Sweetened Beverage but Not Diet Soda Consumption Is Positively Associated with Progression of Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes.” J Nutr. (2017).
- “Watermelon: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts.” livescience.net. (2017).
- “Color Me Healthy --- Eating for a Rainbow of Benefits.” todaysdietitian.com. (2008).
- “Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet.” N Engl J Med. (2013).
- “Accruing Evidence on Benefits of Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet on Health: an Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. ” Am J Clin Nutr. (2010).