Super-sized student center leaves nutrition a mystery

It’s getting harder to avoid the freshman 15 these days. Staying up late prompts midnight snacks, while monitoring Facebook tends to have a bit more allure than heading to the gym to work out. There are plenty of dining options on campus though, and the opening of the Marshall Student Center brought even more to the table.

Unfortunately for body-conscious students, nearly all of the vendors serve fast food. But it is part of college life to simply make do with what is available — hence our propensity for cold pizza, ramen noodles and other cheap, easy-to-make foods. So, I set out to do what Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock could not: find a way to fit greasy, golden-brown foods into a healthy diet.

Eating well was only half the battle — finding out how healthy these foods are turned out to be just as much of a challenge.

I began my greasily delicious diet at Moe’s Southwest Grill. I ordered my “usual” — The Funk Meister with tofu and added guacamole and sour cream — which I was surprised to find out isn’t all that bad. With the fixings I selected, it only comes to 316 calories (a number I’d expect from a Lean Cuisine, but never from Moe’s). My reassurance was short-lived, however, when I researched the chips and the queso dip I love so very much.

A side of tortilla chips raises the calorie count to 1061. The addition of heaping globs of cheese shoots that number up to 1191. Something Moe’s lovers might want to consider if they are exceptionally hungry is substituting an additional taco for the chips and dip. This increases your dietary fiber intake and decreases the calorie count by almost 600.

The next day I made my way over to Miso noodle, rice and sushi bar. I figured that after the caloric catastrophe of the previous day, it would be wise to check the nutrition facts beforehand. Surprisingly, this endeavor was a lost cause.

Among the food sources in the student center, only Einstein Bros. Bagels and Chick-fil-A had nutritional- information pamphlets on hand. The staff at every other venue either assured me that they had just run out of those pamphlets, or that nutritional information could be found online through USF Dining.

It’s true that has nutritional information for a few of the campus-run dining services. As for the other restaurants, I had to make a call to the Dining Sales Office to find out how to get the facts. The representative I spoke with said the rest of the nutritional details could be found using links to those restaurants’ corporate Web sites found on the dining services’ main site.

If you don’t want to waste your time online, I would suggest just doing a Google search for the nutrition facts on these franchises. Only five of the 14 dining services that do not have their nutrition facts posted directly on have corporate links on that page. However, you’ll find that a quick web search uncovers most of the nutritional information.

In the cases of Miso and Bleecker St., the search for truth proved to be a daunting task. Information for Miso was found only through a third party ( and Bleecker St.’s was not found at all.

Why does the USF Dining Web site neglect to include the links for Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Moe’s, Sbarro and Ben and Jerry’s? All four of those restaurants have their nutritional information on the Internet, and adding a link to a Web page is simple. This appears to be a case of sheer laziness.

Despite the challenges, some college students attempt to balance academia with a healthy lifestyle.

Sarah Cox, a junior majoring in psychology, said her workload can get hectic, but she tries to practice healthy eating habits at the student center.

“I’ll usually go to Chick-fil-A and get the grilled chicken sandwich rather than the fried,” she said. “When I have that kind of food, I at least strive to get the healthiest thing I can.”

Cox said she did not know that the Chargrilled Chicken Club Sandwich alone is 380 calories, nor that choosing to make it a meal with waffle fries and a drink brings that number up to 910.

“I’m really upset to find that out. I thought I was being healthy,” she said. “It would be appreciated to have some nutrition facts more easily available. They don’t have to put it up on the menu, but it would be nice to have the nutritional guides in plain sight.”

As it stands, finding all the information one needs to eat healthy is a homework assignment in itself.

The Marshall Student Center is a great facility and the most active hangout of an even greater University’s student population. USF is known for its innovations in public and environmental health, from its biodiesel-fueled transit system to its tray-less cafeterias. USF should expect better from its dining services.

After making strides to help the environment’s health, it is about time the University thought about the health of its students. I’m not suggesting a complete overhaul on the menus, but I don’t think it’s asking too much to at least let the students know what’s in the junk they eat.