Monday, April 28, 2008

Lose Talk

Here's a few comments I've heard from students regarding TDR's ban on trans fats:

"It's funny.  I actually remember the day TDR stopped having trans fat in the french fries.  All my friends said the fries sucked."
-Brad Rizza

"I didn't eat the fries before, and I doubt the salad bar and vegan food section had a bunch of trans fat anyways."
-Randi Fuchs

"I hate TDR, I always eat at subway or McDonalds, and I don't care if they have trans fats, at least he food tastes good."
-Alex Anderson

"I think it's amazing that TDR has no trans fats, no one told them they had to do it.  I bet it costs them money actually.  That's great, I didn't even know, everything tastes the same."
-Sharon Cooper

What do YOU have to say about TDR's trans fat free-ness?

Eagle Reporter Bashes AU's Food:

Life In The District: Healthy Food Too Scarce On Campus

This is an ugly month for college students. Late March marks roughly six months since we've seen a full sunny week. It's been roughly half a year since we haven't had to intern all day, go to class all night and then write papers to the pale flicker of late-night infomercials. We can't remember our last square meal, let alone the last time we've had a chance to cook something nutritious.

Pounded by several months of endless food and drinking holidays, our beer guts are testing the limits of our stretchy "fat" jeans. And unless your break found you in some exotic locale and/or tanning bed, your skin has most likely gotten progressively paler, your complexion duller and your general visage a little more sallow since September.

The ravages of college do a number on one's body, health and physical appearance. Cheap beer and pizza can only sustain you for so long until you begin to contract diseases you had previously only heard of while playing Oregon Trail. I've heard of at least three cases of college kids getting scurvy from subsisting on diets of peanut butter, toast and whatever is lying in the lounge at 4 a.m.

A friend mentioned to me recently that she craved carrots more than anything. When fresh food - the stuff your mom and the Naked Chef say is supposed to be the base of any diet - becomes a rare luxury, you know that heart surgery at 30 is well within the realm of possibility. 

It's no way to live, but we have little choice, primarily because of the extreme inaccessibility of fresh, good food for the typical AU student. For grocery stores within reach, there is Whole Foods, where you can get something healthy, support organic farming and save a humpback whale by buying a box of cereal and paying $9 for a banana. Not so much.

Safeway would be a good option, as long as it weren't located in the black hole between Friendship Heights and Tenleytown, a complete pain to get to if you're not shuttle-accessible. For those of us who live closer to Macomb Street, there is the Giant, which ironically is the size of a studio-apartment bathroom. What's worse, its selection resembles that of a Soviet grocery store, making it a crapshoot as to whether there will be milk if you go on Tuesday, and it quizzically attracts the most unattractive mix of shoppers I have ever seen. So, that's out.

If you're on campus, don't have a meal plan and need to grab a quick bite between classes, the options are similarly limited. McDonald's and the Tavern will turn your insides into a grease-slicked colon-cancer party, and there are only so many Subway sandwiches you can eat before you begin to wince anytime someone says the name Jared. The panini place in MGC is better than the faux Chipotle it replaced, but it doesn't really offer anything besides more mayonnaise, fried chips and poor-quality meat. And the salad place has the same salads you got sick of eating back when you were on a meal plan, as lettuce is TDR's only recognizable vegetable.

Something should be done so that our entire student body can stop looking like fat, malnourished zombies every winter and spring. Perhaps we could get a student-accessible fridge system so that off-campus people could bring food from home. Maybe the Eagle's Nest could diversify its options to include a few vegetables and more fruit - and charge less than our firstborn for them. Until then, some of us can look forward to a summer spent at home detoxing, while seniors look forward to an impending life of poverty marked by a diet of rice and canned beans. Even then, it's still an improvement over that mysterious curry concoction from Megabytes.

Olga Khazan is a senior in the School of Public Affairs and a social commentary columnist for The Eagle.

What's So Bad About Trans Fat?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bon Appetite's official policy

Our official policy states that we eliminate trans-fats from cooking oil, French fries and baked goods but most chefs have taken it upon themselves to make sure the policy reaches all areas of the kitchen.  The only place we are still struggling is areas that we purchase baked goods like dough nuts but our policy and insistence has started to reap benefits in that our vendors are changing as well.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Follow-up with Student Government President

My 2nd interview of Student Government President Joe Vidulich got a bit more interesting...:

It's pretty clear that American University's student government does not take an active role in trying to influence what foods are served on campus. Why not?
-I would disagree with your assertion that the SG does not take an active roll in food on the campus. Just about the one issue you asked we were not involved. We have been involved in EagleBuks expansion, diversity in dining options, extended hours at the marketplace, and a future redesign of the Eagle Nest.

Do you think AU's student council would consider taking a more active role in the future?
-I think that we do take on an active roll and we work with the RHA in that regard.

Did you know that the average American freshmen gains 4.2 pounds during their first 12 weeks on campus? This creates a significant health risk, but it's rarely viewed as a serious issue. Do you think you could use the student government's power to educate students about the risks?
-We already educate students about this. We utilize the SG magazine which all students receive to talk about this issue and highlight off campus eateries and the fitness centers.

In your opinion who should take responsibility for poor health choices made on American University's campus? The student, or the 24 hour convenience store selling half priced Krispy Kream dough nuts?
-Students should take responsibility for their own actions. the SG and AU should help that there choices are well informed.

Interview with Elissa Yotsuji

I spoke with Elissa about the nutritional values of items sold at the Davenport Coffee lounge, a small cafe located in American University's International Studies building:

Do you think the foods available at the Davenport are generally healthy?
-No, probably not. I'd say we have healthy options.

Would you say a large amount of the snacks you sell are high in trans fats?
-No. I don't think any of our foods have trans fats, though, we don't know the nutritional information of our baked goods. It's mostly fried and highly processed foods that have trans fats, and we don't have that sort of thing.

Do you think avoiding trans fats is the responsibility of the company or the individual?
- The individual. It would be different if AU only had one place to find food, and it didn't have any healthy options, but that's just not the case. You don't have to have that Krispy Kream dough nut, you can reach for the Odwalla bar instead.

But if these options weren't available wouldn't that help people make better decisions?
-Unless we get rid of all the trans fats in the world, I don't think so.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No Buried Leads

American University’s food services have banned trans-fats to try keep the student body healthy. So, why don’t students know?

Student Government President

After speaking with student government president Joe Vidulich it seems pretty obvious that the council does not take nutrition on campus into their own hands. With so much on their plate it's no surprise that the student government does not try and micromanage the food available on campus.

Still, heart disease is the number one killer in America today, and many bad habits start when students arrrive at college. I couldn't help but wonder if the council couldn't do more.

Here's a transcript of the e-mail interview with Vidulich:

I was wondering if the student government has a stand on the nutritional value of the foods served on campus.

We of course want the most healthy campus possible, but on this issue we had not taken not a stand.

To be more specific, TDR stopped serving foods made with or containing trans fats, did you guys facilitate this change at all?

No we did not. You should talk to Dorothy Mejia of the RHA

If not, why not? Do you think that the welfare of the students is connected with the foods available to them on campus?

We did not assist with this policy change because to be honest we weren't aware of it. Sorry.

Would you ever consider taking a more active role on this subject in the future?

I would like to say yes, but to be honest, I really doubt it. It's not the council's place to tell people what they can eat, and anyways if the foods are not available on campus people will just have it delivered.

Look for some follow up questions with Mr. Vidulich soon! And keep looking out for Trans Fats, it seems no one else is...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Interview With TDR's executive chef

We caught up with executive chef Brazil Murphy earlier this week to find out his take on the trans fats ban at TDR and Tavern, here's what he had to say.

Why did you guys stop serving foods with trans fats?
-Well, it's not just us, the entire company (Bon Appetite) stopped serving trans fats.

Why do you think the company adopted this policy?
-Trans fats are really bad for you, they can make you really sick. I think we just realized that foods tasted the same, or better when we used alternative methods that were healthier, and once we knew we did not have to give up good taste for good health it was an easy choice.

Do you think restaurants and caterers have a responsibility to serve only trans-fat-free food?
-Maybe not to serve it, but I think we have a responsibility to at least tell people what they're eating. A lot of people I know don't even understand what trans fats are, so they eat them all the time. And, like, I think when you've gotta serve unhealthy food you should have healthy options around too. Like, sure serve pizza, but also have salads.

Did switching to trans-fat-free cooking methods make your job any harder?
-No, we didn't notice a huge difference. We always cooked with fresh ingredients and tried to be healthy, now we just use oils that are better for you.

What about giving people the right to decide what they eat?
-We didn't take that away or anything. We serve stuff like french fries, and cake and cookies, we just made them better for you to eat. If we just stopped having anything but salad, yes, that would be taking away people's right to choose, we but still offer a wide range of options.

Have you considered cutting out any other unhealthy foods from your menu?
-Probably not right now, but we do make a big effort to have foods with no dairy, no eggs, and no gluton available for people who what them.

Places like McDonald's and Eagles Nest still serve trans-fats on campus, do you think they should make a better effort to serve healthier menu items?
-Not really, I mean it isn't the company's responsibility to force people to eat healthy. I guess since I know it was pretty easy for us to start cooking without trans fats I gotta wonder what makes it harder for them?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What Jared Didn't Tell You About Subway

Jared may have lost some 100 pounds eating subway subs, but he must have been a bit more picky with his choices than he specified as he showed off those over sized blue jeans.

Several of the menu options available at American University's subway contain trans fats. The double meat steak sandwich and the meatball marinara sub, for example, each pack at least two grams of trans fat per foot long sandwich.

Eating fresh does not always mean eating healthy, huh subway?

Eagles Nest: a nest of trans fats?

Some quick research at Eagle's Nest, AU's friendly convenience store, proves that Trans Fats are most certainly available at AU's campus, and not only at the obviously unhealthy McDonald's.

Instant meals like Bowl Appetite's and Compleat Meals, Cake forsting, and Gifford's Ice cream are just some example of foods available at Eagle's Nest that contain at least 1 gram of trans fat per serving. Of course, these aren't prepared foods, students have many healthy choices at the convenience store as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

MCDonalds, or mcDONTalds?

Unlike American University's Chick-Fil-A, the McDonald's on campus does not offer a nutrition-friendly limited menu, it offers all of it's traditional menu items, and all of its traditional trans fats.

Take note: McDonald's is most certainly NOT a trans fat free environment. Are you really surprised?

Check out a full list of nutritional information here.

Chic Fil-a makes the grade

Preliminary research has shown that while the Chick-Fil-A chain, nationwide does have menu options high in trans fats, such as the morning biscuits and the fudge brownie, these items are not available on the limited menu available at American's Chick Fil-A. It's a trans-fats free menu, and they cook with natural peanut oil, not animal fat.

Here's a list of Chick-Fil-A's nutritional facts. The kiosk in AU's tavern only offers the "classics," the salads, waffle fries and chicken nuggets.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Where's The Beef?

A List of Places to grab a bite to eat on campus:

Mary Graydon Center First Floor (The Marketplace): Has a salad station, a sandwich station, and an Einstein Bagel Shop

The student cafeteria is in the lower level of Mary Graydon: Terrace Dining Room

Davenport Coffee Lounge


MegaBytes Café: Häagen-Daz ice cream, Starbucks coffee, Sandwiches and Indian Cuisine

Mudbox in the basement of Bender Library: serves Starbucks coffee, snacks, and baked goods

Wagshal’s American Café in the lobby of the Ward Circle Building: hot & cold sandwiches, salads, drinks, coffee/tea, desserts

Katzen Cafe

Eagle's Nest: General convenience store

Subway Sandwich Shop

The Tavern located in the Mary Graydon building: serves pizza, pasta, quesadillas, french fries, hamburgers, and salads

Chick Fillet

Monday, April 7, 2008

Coming Soon...

We'll be looking into what other groups and individuals have to say about the media's influence on nutrition in the U.S.

Here's some groups we're hoping to interview:

Bon Appetit's management team (AU's main dining hall, the Terrace Dining Room, is catered by Bon Appetit)

Davenport Coffee Lounge Manager Elissa Yotsuji

Joe Vidulich, Student Government President

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Banning Trans Fats

Many cities and states have prohibited, or are considering the prohibition of, trans fats in restaurants. This is a controversial issue because it boils down to how much power the government should really have. If I want to clog my arteries with piles of big macs every night, shouldn't I be allowed to?

check out a website that answers that question with a resounding "no."

Prime Time Nutrition

There's more to today's media than newspapers and the evening news. Media outlets outside of these are playing a role in America's relationship with food.
Click here to read about how prime time television shows might be affecting your view of food.

CSPI Story

Here's a quick story about trans fats, food labeling, and why our government isn't cracking down on nutritional deviants.

Site's Focus

This blog has been created with the intention of exploring the role that politics has on the media coverage of nutrition. 

We'll do so by focusing on the prevalence of trans fats in foods sold in the United States, and more specifically in foods available at American University.  We'll explore where trans fats are and are not available on campus and why.

Through our focus on American University the blog hopes to understand the role trans fats play in the diet of the average college student and how this role might be changing.