Beating the Crispito Blues

THE air was thick with the aroma of Rachel Sandwiches--no doubt prepared at a time when this University was young--when I walked into my dining hall the other day. Since the Rachel is not my favorite Harvard repast, I knew I would have to look for some other dish to satiate myself.

I looked to my right and found the dried remains of some exotic dish purported to be pu pu platter. I then looked to my left and encountered what appeared to be an endless amount of crusty, spherical projectiles oozing some indistinguishable, jelly-like substance slowly from either end--the Crispito.

At that moment, I knew I was alone in a wilderness of nutritional disasters. The memories of three years of Harvard University Dining Service (HUDS) meals came flooding into my mind. I became faint. Images of my mother's home-cooked lasagna danced before my eyes, taunting me with visions of real food.

Growing desperate, I pleaded with the server for the vegetarian alternative. But, alas, there was no more tuna.

No more tuna, No More Tuna, NO MORE TUNA!!!

The death knell had sounded. I turned to leave in despair when a sign before my eyes proclaimed "March Is Nutrition Month."

I was stunned. "Must be a cruel joke," I thought. Or perhaps some strange dining hall prophecy about a March to come to in a distant future, when even Seafood Seashell Scampi or the nameless big beefy "extravaganzas" in brown gravy will attain nutritional grandeur.

BUT as I continued reading, I understood that the guardians of our dietary existence meant March 1989 to be nutrition month. Moreover, the fliers say that HUDS's self-styled theme for 1989 is "Feed Your Fitness."

HUDS's nutritional message itself is issued with a series of challenges, such as "eat fruit for dessert or snacks."

While this is no piece of grand nutritional wizardry, the dining halls do provide an abundance of fruit at each meal. Considering apples at Christy's go for about $12 or $13, we should all take advantage of the low fat, carbohydrate and potassium-rich bananas, apples and oranges at the dining halls.

HUDS also advises us to "take time to enjoy meals--eat slowly and chew thoroughly." Well, I can't help but chew dining hall food thoroughly. I usually end up swallowing after about five minutes of chomping.

Finally it admonishes us to "eat 3 nutritious meals a day--no skipping..." I really appreciate that advice, but I just can't afford to eat out that often--especially in Cambridge.

FACED with this dietary dilemma, what can one do?

While at times the meals embody a nutritional philosophy akin to that of Skippy's Annette Funicello--who measures foods against the vast nutritional value of a bologna sandwich--it's not all that bad.

You may think you are drowning in the skincredibles with cheese sauce, but here's how to find a nutritional oasis right in your dining hall.

In the morning, don't eat highcholesterol egg yolks, sugar-coated cereals or bagels with cream cheese. Instead, have hard-boiled eggs, separating the white from the yolk. The white has less fat and poses no cholesterol threat.

Include some oatmeal with honey or hot cereal, which are rich in carbohydrates. More importantly, oats can lower your cholesterol. Also, have some wheat toast, fruit, juice and low-fat milk.

For lunch, have tuna or lean meats like chicken and turkey. If you peel off the skin or fried coatings, these alternatives are low in fat. Best of all, make them into a salad with vegetables and a light vinegar and lemon juice dressing, which will enhance the taste better than mayonnaise or ketchup.

At dinner, stick with the pasta rather than red meat. Pasta is high in carbohydrates and low in fats, provided it is not drowned in gravy, cheese or butter. Potatoes and other vegetables are also good and balance out the meal. You should also drink water with every meal.

MORE important than watching your waist or looking ahead to spring break, there is a growing body of research that says a low-cholesterol, low-fat diet combined with daily exercise can help prevent heart disease. HUDS recognizes the importance of nutrition in its message, but many times its products fall far too short of its rhetoric.

The dining service should be applauded for trying to raise our consciousness to the important issue of personal health and well-being, but it is time HUDS met its own challenge and provided more wholesome meals. We should not always be seeking alternatives from the meals themselves in order to eat nutritiously.