Choosing cuisine near campus

As students return to USF for the summer semester and hurriedly shuttle to each day’s classes, eating healthy can turn into a secondary concern.

About 86 percent of USF’s students commuted to school in 2009, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

That means when those students aren’t bringing food from home, they’re either eating lunch at the Marshall Student Center (MSC) food court or at restaurants near campus. Often in the haste caused by college or summer job schedules, convenience takes precedence over nutrition.

Fortunately, this doesn’t always have to be the case. The Oracle offers a few healthy, quick food choices and dining tips:

Speedy restaurants

USF dietician Kimberly May said via e-mail that she suggests creating proportions for a balanced meal: one-fourth protein, one-fourth whole grain or starch, one-half fruits or vegetables, and up to two tablespoons of dressing or sauce.

She gave the example of a six-inch turkey or veggie patty sub, with approximately half a cup of vegetables on the sandwich, and apple slices.

Pita’s, Pita Pit and Byblos Pitas are all located within a five-mile radius of USF and can often provide a healthy meal because of pita bread’s low-fat, high-fiber qualities – along with the restaurants’ vegetable toppings.

Tampa-based chain Evos takes customary fast food staples such as chicken sandwiches and french fries, and prepares them in a healthier way. The shakes are made with organic fruit, milk and sugar, and all beef is antibiotic-free. Evos’ American Championburger offers the greasy all-American favorite, but with 12 grams of fat and no cholesterol.

The store also sells nutritious turkey avocado wraps and field greens salads.

May recommended both Chipotle Mexican Grill and Moe’s Southwestern Grill for a few balanced burrito meals, but suggested removing the beans and rice – as well as saving the starchy tortilla chips for a later snack.

Using time wisely

Moe’s website also offers a nutrition calculator that lets customers pick a menu item, add or subtract ingredients, and find out their creation’s nutritional information.

The “Triple Lindy” chicken burrito with a flour tortilla, black beans, rice, and the default toppings has 830 calories. The count decreases to 655 calories without beans and rice.

Other chains like Pita Pit and Panera Bread have similar online nutrition calculators. Rather than choosing as they wait in line, health-conscious students can plan lunches the night before while checking salt and fat percentages.

It helps to slow down while consuming your meal, as well as when ordering it.

“Eat slowly for at least 20 minutes to allow the signal of fullness to set in,” May said. “Save leftovers for another meal or snack, or share them with a friend.”

Beyond fast food

Even if commuters don’t have time to eat at a sit-down restaurant with their course schedules, many local places offer takeout. Students can try calling an hour in advance to pick up a nutritious meal after class.

For instance, Trang Viet Cuisine includes both lunch specials and takeout options for its vegetarian-friendly Vietnamese fare, and is located near USF on Fowler Avenue.

May said that cooking methods – baked, broiled, steamed or grilled – can serve as a general guide to indicating healthier meals out and about.

Students can even stop by the Tampa Wholesale Product Market on East Hillsborough Avenue in the morning and buy produce for the following school days. May said that fresh fruit like apples make for great snacks with nutritional benefits.

“When possible, eat items that are locally grown (or) raised to optimize nutrient intake and support local food producers,” May said.

The bottom line

Ultimately, eating well comes down to good habits and moderation.

A fatty mushroom Swiss burger or a whipped-cream coffee confection can be a perfectly reasonable and occasional treat – as long as neither becomes a standard meal.

“Remember that no one serving of a food or beverage will lead to weight gain or health problems,” May said. “It’s a pattern of eating too much food . . . or too many items high in calories, fat, sugar or salt that can promote weight gain and health problems.”