If your everyday meals come from the Marshall Student Center food court or fast food drive-thrus, new guidelines and recent headlines suggest it might be time to rethink your dietary drop-ins.
On Monday, the U.S. government released the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), which call for the country to reduce its sugar and sodium intake, consume more vegetables and fruits and eat less overall.
This is bad news for those Americans who get most of their food and beverages from fast food chains. Starbucks will soon offer a “Trenta” drink size that outweighs the average human stomach’s capacity, and no matter how much actual beef is in Taco Bell’s meat, its meals usually pack more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium each.
Luckily, there are still nutritious choices that fit students’ budgets and cramped schedules. The Oracle routes out five reasonably healthy restaurants near campus.
1. Kaleisia Tea Lounge
Rather than start a new day with another sugary, oversized iced coffee drink at the USF Library’s Starbucks, try Kaleisia Tea Lounge at 1441 E. Fletcher Ave. as a caffeine substitute.
The shop boasts a wall with more than 100 tea blends – ranging from blue mango to white chocolate mousse – that can be ordered either hot or iced. Tea can hold the caffeine content of coffee, while still offering chemicals like L-theanine, which studies say reduces stress and fights infections.
Even if you’re not a fan of the leaf-based beverage, Kaleisia Tea Lounge also serves Vietnamese coffee and fruit smoothies.
If you’re visiting after your morning routine rather than before, the lounge features free Wi-Fi and a small menu of nutritious snacks, including avocado wraps and pumpkin coconut soup.
2. Tarek’s Caf
Tarek’s Caf offers on-campus breakfast and lunch fare beyond familiar chain restaurants, but it’s likely many students haven’t discovered its location near the College of Public Health building.
Breakfast options include blueberry pancakes for $3.25 or two eggs with toast and hash browns for $3.50. The DGA recommends Americans eat more eggs and whole grains, so the latter might be a good choice.
The lunch menu hosts a few healthy deals – a $5.50 Greek chicken wrap in a garlic-herb tortilla or a tasty $4.95 veggie burger – and the mere knowledge that the restaurant exists on campus might be enough to warrant a stop.
Any visits to Tarek’s Caf should be planned early, however, as the restaurant only stays open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If you’re most comfortable with lunch items like burgers and chicken sandwiches, Tampa-based chain EVOS caters to making these meals cheap and healthy.
The Veggie Garden Grill burger has no cholesterol, and the Original Steakburger contains 70 milligrams, which comes up far short of the DGA’s recommended daily cholesterol count of 300 milligrams.
Mango guava and strawberry shakes are made with organic fruit, while the restaurant’s regular-sized french fries are baked rather than fried, so they only hold 8 grams of unsaturated fat.
The restaurant’s University Mall location at 2774 E. Fowler Ave. is only a short ride on the Bull Runner’s C route from campus.
4. The Loving Hut
The Loving Hut at 1905 E. Fletcher Ave. offers an easy way to get more vegetables into your diet – the restaurant offers familiar food staples, but is entirely vegan.
Though the restaurant offers tasty meals like Savory Eggplant and Pad Thai, the sandwich and sub menu’s inexpensive prices will probably attract college students the most.
A $5.95 Noble Philly Sub tops soy protein with bell peppers, onions and cabbage, while one wrap packs cucumber, apple and avocado into seaweed.
The Loving Hut has discontinued its popular lunch buffet, but with the DGA’s recommendation to cut down on food intake and the restaurant’s dozens of options, it might be a good thing.
5. Taqueria Monterrey
Taqueria Monterrey, located just off campus at 2320 E. Fletcher Ave., offers students appetizing, authentic Mexican meals from $3 to $9 to replace Taco Bell and Moe’s Southwestern Grill.
Though all filling options can be stuffed into a burrito, with the DGA urging Americans to eat less, tacos might be the wiser, cheaper option. The new guidelines encourage eating more seafood, so try the $2.69 fish taco.
The restaurant also offers numerous vegan and vegetarian choices, including marinated tofu, roasted poblano peppers or even freshly ground guacamole – avocados contain plenty of antioxidants and vitamins.
Taqueria Monterrey has the same owners as 24-hour Tampa favorite Taco Bus, and currently holds a 94 percent out of 77 votes on urbanspoon.com.