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Dieticians To Offer Advice in Dining Halls

By Jaquelyn M. Scharnick, Crimson Staff Writer

Two registered dieticians will be on hand to dish out nutritional advice to go along with first-years’ buffalo wings as Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) kicks off its month-long observance of National Nutrition Month in Annenberg tonight.

Dieticians Barbara E. Boothby and Charles Smigelski Jr. will visit each dining hall on campus as part of a multi-pronged campaign to highlight the importance of making informed food choices. The pair will give interested students feedback about the nutritional value of the food they have chosen along with advice for improving their meal’s balance.

“Students will be invited to come up and have [the dieticians] rate their plates,” HUDS spokesperson Alix McNitt said.

In partnership with University Health Services (UHS), HUDS has also planned a number of other initiatives to promote healthy eating, McNitt said.

“We have selected some healthy recipes from various cookbooks which we’ll serve at lunch throughout the month,” McNitt said.

According to McNitt, the recipes have been adapted from the books of a number of notable nutritional experts, including Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition Walter C. Willett’s Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating.

These new additions to the lunch menu will include honeyed chicken, vegetarian quesadillas and chipotle chicken chili.

McNitt said that in addition, nutritional information tables with pamphlets and books on healthy eating will be set up in each of Harvard’s 13 dining halls later this week.

McNitt said HUDS also hopes to host a series of roundtable discussions which would explore a variety of nutritional issues, but plans for such events are incomplete.

HUDS has never participated in National Nutrition Month, which has been sponsored by the American Dietetic Association since 1980, but McNitt said she believes it is important to do so because of the growing public interest in nutrition.

“We get a good amount of feedback from students who want to know more about nutrition,” McNitt said.

McNitt said that fact was made particularly clear by the feedback HUDS received when a computing problem led to the mislabeling of nutritional information in a number of dining halls this fall.

“It was very clear that students really care about this type of information,” McNitt said.

Representatives from Eating Concerns Hotline and Outreach (ECHO) said they agree that there is widespread interest in nutritional issues and believe that HUDS’ campaign is a worthwhile one.

“We are always in favor of having people learn about healthy eating and nutrition,” ECHO Co-chair Caroline E. Gaudiani ’03 said.

But Gaudiani and fellow ECHO Co-Chair Vanessa Fajans-Turner ’04 said that the initiative may not be helpful to those who are already overly conscious of their eating habits.

“We recognize that this is a sensitive issue and some things such as ‘rate your plate’ may be harder for some people to accommodate than others,” Gaudiani said.

“Nutrition is a complicated issue to address, and for some people, it is a topic which reflects more than what you put in your mouth and what you don’t,” Fajar-Turner said.

McNitt said HUDS is cognizant of some students’ sensitivity about food issues and stressed that participation in this campaign is entirely optional.

—Staff writer Jaquelyn M. Scharnick can be reached at scharnic@fas.harvard.edu.

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