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Tech Food, How Healthy Is It?

By Jacki Cullen
May 17, 2010

America is fat. There is no denying that, as a nation, we are getting increasingly larger.

Game shows such as “The Biggest Loser,” documentaries like “Super Size Me” and commercials advertising the easiest new way to lose weight all bombard the public with one single message: Eat healthier to lose weight.

Obviously this is easier said than done. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are multiple causes for weight gain including an inactive lifestyle, genes and family history, health conditions, medicines, smoking, emotional factors, age, pregnancy and lack of sleep.

However, a factor that can be adjusted and regulated is oversized food portions. People are ingesting too many calories into their body and not using all of the calories through physical activity. This creates an imbalance of energy and leads to weight gain.

Americans surround themselves with huge portions in restaurants, movie theaters, supermarkets, and even at home. Many of these meals can feed two or more people.

So why do they serve us so much food? With the voice of Mom scolding you to clear your plate before you can leave the table, how can you only eat half a plate of delicious food? Why would you think about your weight when your food is just begging to be eaten?

Everyone struggles with these questions, including the students on Virginia Tech’s campus. While The Princeton Review has ranked Virginia Tech number one in Best Campus Food in 2007 and 2009, looking at the nutritional information reveals some staggering results about how healthy the food actually is.

Many of the menu items listed on the campus dining Web site have calorie levels far beyond the number recommended for a single meal.

A few examples of meals with high calorie levels from restaurants in the West End Market dining hall include the Italian Grinder from The Cutting Edge at 1030 calories, the calzone served at the Bistro Firenze listed as 1077 calories and the apple smoked half chicken from JP’s Chop Shop with a whopping 1214 calories.

Those do not compare, however, to the quesadillas from The Fighting Gobbler. The cheese, chicken, vegetable and steak quesadillas are listed as 1022, 1216, 1398 and 1539 calories, respectively.

These numbers do not correspond to healthy meals. With these high calorie meals, it is no wonder so many college students gain the dreaded “freshmen 15” in their first semester at Virginia Tech.

Sure the food tastes fantastic, but what goes into the food during the preparation that makes it so caloric?

Bryan Gibson, a sophomore hospitality and tourism management major, has been working at JP’s Chop Shop for the past two semesters. Gibson was amazed at how much butter was used to grease the pan and flavor the food. “The amount of butter that we are required to put on the roasted potatoes was a huge shock,” Gibson said. “We have to coat the entire pan with it three or four times.”

Regardless of the calorie count, a large problem remains with the large portions served at Virginia Tech’s dining halls.

For instance, take the half basket of steak fries. While it is meant to be a side to the rest of the meal, the takeout box can barely close due to the mounds of fries stuffed inside.

Many a steak fry I have purchased has been doomed to end up in the garbage can because my stomach simply cannot hold so many fries at once.

Another example is the salads from Leaf and Ladle, another restaurant in West End Market. Deciding on a salad, you might think you are making the healthy choice. However, some of these salads have relatively high calorie counts as well.

The Hot Chicken Tender salad, for instance, has 406 calories. That is a large amount of calories for lettuce, chicken tenders, cucumbers, red peppers, mushrooms, almonds, red onions, bleu cheese, and craisins.

It is the huge portions of each ingredient that makes the calorie count add up so quickly, hence the need for smaller portions.Some might say that they are simply getting their money’s worth and to make the portions smaller would be a rip-off. My suggestion is to make the portions smaller as well as the price lower to correspond.

Also, you must ask yourself how much is your health worth? Is it too much to give up the daily dose of quesadillas and calzones for healthier choices?

Comments (1)

You just need to be smart about what you eat. I guess you can say I'm lucky. I am personally a bottom-less furnace that burns everything I eat. A 3000 calorie day is average if not more. People like me and other athletes need a lot of food--so, if you can handle, eat a Calzone, if you can't don't.

Also, this dude talking about butter and potatoes probably doesn't have a clue how to make good taters.

Bryant | May 18, 2010 2:58 AM