In what may be a surprise to many students, some nutritional information for some dining hall foods are available online, but actual nutritional information is not found in the dining halls themselves — a decision driven in some measure by the risk of triggering eating disorders. Stanford’s Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE), which is responsible for the dining halls on campus, has taken a course of action that both compares and contrasts with that taken by other universities such as the University of California, Berkeley (Cal) and the University of Southern California (USC).
R&DE’s online nutrition portal includes information on “protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, total fat and total calories based on the recommended serving size of individual menu items,” according to a statement from Eric Montell, the Executive Director of Stanford Dining.
“We believe and research studies have indicated – calorie counting and strict nutrient tracking is not a healthy or wise approach to creating and sustaining a dynamic well-balanced diet,” Montell said.
This approach to nutritional information was closely mirrored by Lindsey Pine, a nutritionist with USC Hospitality, which oversees USC’s dining halls. “We don’t want to create a ‘diet mentality’ in our dining halls,” Pine said in a email to the Daily. “There is a lot of disordered eating on college campuses. When posting numbers at the point of sale, it can create a huge amount of anxiety for these people.”
Pine also pointed out that it can be difficult to provide accurate nutritional information in dining halls. “First of all, in order to have accurate calories counts, you must have standardized recipes and the person making the food must follow the recipe to a ‘T’. Unless you have those two things, it’s pointless to post calorie counts because they will always be incorrect,” Pine said.
Pine said that USC does not currently post nutritional information in dining halls themselves, though USC will start providing online nutritional information for one of its dining halls, Cafe 84, in the fall.
Although Stanford may provide more information about nutrition than USC, Cal differs from both USC and Stanford by making nutrition information available upon request in its dining halls. Christina Voyles, a spokesperson for Cal Dining, said that students there can request a flipbook with this information. Cal also provides nutritional information online and has an app students can use. Voyles said Cal used the online portal and the app “because that’s how students are communicating these days.”
Although Stanford does not post nutritional information in the dining halls themselves, it has adopted a “Performance Dining” program since 2011 to encourage students to eat healthfully. According to Montell, the “Performance Dining” foods are intended to enhance student’s immunity to disease, fight inflammation, boost brain and muscle performance, and work in tandem.
Monell said that ten categories of food are especially featured in the “Performance Dining” program: cruciferous vegetables, whole grains, fish, red and purple fruits and vegetables, dark green vegetables, beans and legumes, reduced-fat milk products, nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil and canola oil, and fresh herbs and spices.
Foods that are part of the “Performance Dining” program are labeled in the dining halls.
Contact Caleb Smith at caleb17 ‘at’ stanford.edu.