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Health is not an option

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By Raylyn Rollins

By Raylyn Rollins

Just because Riverside City College is not a residential school does not mean that the students are immune to the dreaded “freshman 15” or any other related weight gain. The City campus’ cafeteria does not seem to be helping this problem.

Although the cafeteria has some sandwiches, juices and salads, the food offered on the whole tends to be greasy, oversized and fattening.

RCC student Heather Kakuska stays away from the cafeteria due to past experiences with cafeteria food.

“I was classically conditioned in high school,” she said. “I had too much bad food in high school.”

Pictures of cafeteria workers in hairnets, aprons and an ice cream scooper full of mashed potatoes are frequently associated with a cafeteria, so one reason the RCC cafeteria looks so appealing is its departure from the stereotypes. Rather than mashed potatoes and “mystery meat,” options available are French fries, soft drinks, energy drinks, pizza and hamburgers.

As appealing as the food options seem, many of them are larger than a regular portion and can prove to be relatively fattening. On top of high fat contents, some choices having as much as 30 grams of fat, many of the options available are high in sodium, carbohydrates, and calories.

For example, French fries come in two sizes: “cup” or “boat.” According to http://www.nutritiondata.com, French fries are roughly 300 calories for one serving with around 15 grams of fat. The cafeteria fries prove to be more fattening with an option that includes a cheese coating and bacon bits. On top of the 300 plus calories, a cheese sauce and some form of bacon-like products are added on top.

Soft drinks come in only 24, 32, or 44 ounce cups. Even the smallest size has three servings of Pepsi, which comes to roughly 300 calories, 75 milligrams of caffeine and 81 grams of sugar.

Student Haley Fischbeck does not eat in the cafeteria and especially stays away from the pizza, which has around 700 calories and 30 grams of fat.

“I don’t eat it because you can see the oils on the pizza,” she said. “It’s disgusting. I don’t like seeing the oil on my food.”

So with fries, pizza and soda as unhealthy options, left on the menu are hot dogs, nachos and chicken nuggets among others. 

However, as some remember, chickens don’t have nuggets, so this option is questionable in itself.

To cut the cafeteria some slack, there is a bowl of fruit, some cold sandwiches and pudding available. There is even a Healthy Choice sandwich station where fresh deli sandwiches are made. But just one slice of Healthy Choice Oven Roasted Turkey still has 10 percent of the daily recommended sodium intake.   

Moving away from the fresh food, several vending machines are available with snacks and drinks.

In the entrance to the cafeteria, there are seven drink machines and a food machine. Inside the food machine, about 43 different items are available for purchase. Among doughnuts, pastries and chips, the healthiest options appear to be the package of beef jerky or the roll of mints. However, according to nutritiondata.com, beef jerky has an average of 26 percent of the daily recommended sodium intake. 

The refrigerators inside the cafeteria are also disproportioned in a healthy to sugar-filled ratio. While a variety of fruit juices are available, in one machine 15 different brands and flavors of energy drinks are held together. Although oftentimes a college student’s best friend, energy drinks contain a ton of caffeine and sugar. One 16- ounce Monster Energy Drink is two servings and a combined 18 percent of the recommended daily sugar intake.

As for other snacks, along with the many flavors of Pop-Tarts some granola bars are available.

Most options apart from the snack food, however, tend to be large, greasy or fried. Fried foods are fattening and too much can lead to weight gain and health problems.  But if a student is hungry for a full meal, he or she is many times left with one of these items.

Vegetarians are also at a disadvantage with the menu. Because most items contain meat, vegetarians do not have many plausible options beyond the cup or boat of French fries, some nachos or maybe a plain garden salad. Otherwise, they must stick with the snack foods.

Of course, it is the student’s decision whether or not he or she wants to eat in the cafeteria, but no matter the choice, unhealthy and fattening items outweigh healthy items found there.

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