Expert Weighs in on Dining Hall Nutrition


Tonight, Harvard freshmen had the opportunity to ask University health experts any question they had in mind within the confines of Annenberg dining hall. We thought we’d bring you the information for those of you who missed out. So with a plate of glorious dining hall food, we sat at the experts’ table to ask Barbara Boothby, chief clinical dietician for University Health Services, some tough questions about what HUHDS is feeding us.

Is a chickwich really chicken?

I would say it’s derived from chicken. It’s processed, but it’s a source of protein.

How many calories would it add if I put ketchup on my chickwich?

A negligible amount.

Are these carrots healthy even though they’re covered in a glaze?

I don’t know what’s in the glaze, but it doesn’t negate the benefit of nutrition in your carrots. Vitamin A is actually more available in cooked form.

Is a wheat roll better for me than a white one?

Wheat just designates what plant it comes from. It doesn’t negate wholeness. Wheat suggests healthier, but that’s not a guarantee that it’s all wheat.

Does apple pie count as a serving of fruit?

Not an entire serving, but a portion of a serving.

Is my meal balanced?

I don’t see any calcium, and you’re low in veggies. From observing eating patterns in students, lunch is a Flyby meal, so students should try to get their servings of vegetables in at dinner. You could use another vegetable, but it’s reasonable.

Fact or fiction: freshman 15?

The number 15 is made up. Most freshmen gain some weight. There are lots of factors that come into play. They are exposed to very different foods, and the environment here is different, with lots of social eating.

What are your opinions on brain break? Is it healthy for students to grab a snack that late?

Yes. “No eating after eight” is definitely a myth.

What are some of the healthiest food options in the dining halls? Are there options students overlook?

There’s lots of nutrition in the salad bar, and greens are a good source of protein for vegetarians. Lots of students walk in and go to hot food, and others go to the salad bar. You shouldn’t get stuck in a rut.

What is the worst food item available for students in the dining halls?

There are some meals that are catered to grab and go. You shouldn’t have three things for lunch that are fried. A couple of meals, you have to look beyond your first instinct for taste.

Photo by Kerry M. Flynn/The Harvard Crimson.


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