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Variety of food choices offered

Katie Perry | Monday, February 21, 2005

The latest Princeton Review rankings placed Notre Dame at No. 17 for best on-campus food, partly because of the variety in the two dining halls’ feedback-based menu.Notre Dame meals tend to be communal and social events. While engrossed in dinnertime conversation, students sometimes forget – or even disregard – the nutritional content of their chosen foods.”We tend to be a market-driven organization, and as our students are asking for more nutritious foods we are ready and willing to provide them,” director of Notre Dame Food Services David Prentkowski said.The wide range of food options at the dining halls provides students with wholesome options, despite the availability of less than healthy foods such as French fries, pizza and Belgian waffles.”We believe that our menus include a wide variety of food choices prepared by various cooking methods to provide variety for all types of eating patterns,” Prentkowski said. “Ultimately the choice is up to the consumer – we can only make it available.”Many students praise the availability of diverse foods, which incorporate both healthy and unhealthy options.”The dining hall is good about making nutritious food available,” senior Amblyn Allen said. “I am a vegan and I find that I am still able to find plenty of healthy things to eat in the dining hall.”At times, however, some foods are deceiving and thus make selecting the more healthful item a difficult choice. For example, a blueberry muffin served at South Dining Hall contains 540 calories and 25 grams of fat, whereas an iced chocolate cake donut has just 215 calories and 10 grams of fat, according to the Notre Dame Food Services Web site.For the past five years, the Food Services Web site has provided a thorough database called the Nutritional Accounting System (NAS) to help students differentiate between healthy and unhealthy foods. The NAS, which contains the nutritional content of almost every item of food served in both North and South Dining Halls, sees “significant” student use, Prentkowski said.According to the Food Services Web site, the NAS is currently being expanded to include all campus restaurants, including the Reckers, Waddick’s and the Bookstore Café. Currently, these places do not supply nutritional information to their customers unless asked.The proposed expansion will be useful to the more than 90 percent of all Notre Dame students on the Flex-14 meal plan, who are given 260 Flex Points to spend at campus eateries outside of the dining halls per semester.According to Prentkowski, chain venues like Burger King, Sbarro, Subway and Starbucks, in addition to the Huddle Mart and other non-retail food outlets, also present students with healthy and unhealthy meal options.”One thing to consider is that the standard menus of Burger King, Sbarro and Subway are not necessarily unhealthy – all food has nutritional qualities,” Prentkowski said. “It is more important to look at food consumption over a period of time, so it’s okay to eat a Whopper now and then but balance it with less fat offerings too.”Notre Dame manager of nutrition and safety Jocie Antonelli said many stigmatized foods could have a place in a healthy diet as long as they are not eaten in excess.”My philosophy has always been that no specific food is unhealthy and that any food as the potential to fit into a balanced diet, it just depends on the choices the person makes on a regular basis,” Antonelli said.Some food choices reflect the health-conscious nature of Notre Dame on the whole. Students frequently opt for a 6-inch turkey sandwich from Subway rather than a Double Whooper cheeseburger – 280 and 1060 calories, respectively, according to the restaurants’ Web sites.”When looking at our Huddle brand restaurants each of them have significant traffic, but Subway continues to serve more people each day than the others,” Prentkowski said.