Some 'healthy options' fattier than Big Mac

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Food Services' Lifestyles food display

Jon Purdy

NAUSEA, HEARTBURN, UPSET STOMACH ... YAY PEPTO BISMOL! Some of Food Services' Lifestyles healthy options baguette sandwiches are a wolf in sheep's clothing. In reality, they will gum up your arteries just like a Big Mac or a Whopper. Mmm...

Maintaining a healthy diet on campus could be tougher than you think â€" some campus foods promoted as “healthy on-the-go options” may actually be worse than eating at McDonald’s.

Anne Zok, nutrition manager with Hospitality Services at Western, described a healthy student diet: “The average lightly active adult female aged 19 to 30 needs approximately 2,000 calories per day, while the average lightly active adult male needs approximately 2,600 calories to maintain a healthy weight.”

These calories are derived from proteins, carbohydrates and fats and are necessary to sustain proper growth and development.

Lifestyles refrigerators are part of Hospitality’s Lighter Options on Campus nutrition campaign, which claims to offer items with less than 30 per cent calories from fat.

Such fridges, found in many campus buildings, are “equipped with countless healthy on-the-go options,” according to Hospitality’s website.

Lifestyles boasts health-conscious slogans like “Fresh is Tastiest!” and “Nourishing Your Life.”

However, some of Lifestyles’ food items â€" particularly baguette sandwiches â€" are high in calories and fat.

Public health dietitian at the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Ghezal Sabir, said only 30 per cent of a person’s daily caloric intake should be derived from fat.

“That’s 70 grams per day for moderately active females, and 90 grams for moderately active males aged 19 to 30,” she explained.

Some Lifestyles menu items contain almost half the recommended daily caloric intake for adult women, Sabir said.

The Spicy Veggie Baguette features 910 calories and 56 grams of fat, compared with a McDonald’s Big Mac, containing only 540 calories and 29 grams of fat.

Other sandwiches, including the Outback Baguette, Chicken Cordon Bleu Baguette and Italian Mozza Baguette all contain more than 800 calories.

Noelle Martin, nutritionist for the University Students’ Council, argued “[The fat and calories in these sandwiches is] too much for the average consumer.”

Zok said cheese and salad dressing accounted for the extra calories. She noted many athletes require higher daily calorie consumption and could choose these sandwiches in good health.

“This is quite concerning,” Sabir said. “Students are probably unaware of how misleading [health claims] are.”

Third-year arts student Nicole Assing said health-conscious marketing does not fool her. “I see what they’re trying to portray, but it doesn’t affect my eating habits at all.”

Students can find a healthy meal on campus though.

“Most foods represented in Canada’s Food Guide can be found on campus, from fresh fruits and vegetables, lower fat diary products, whole grain breads and cereals as well as lean meats, legumes, eggs and nuts and seeds,” Zok said.

She pointed to Harvey’s Chicken Supreme Sandwich as an example of a healthy meal found on campus.

Students chose salads, soups and sushi as healthy meal options.

“I’d eat something from the Salad Bowl,” first-year health science student Dayna Jablecki said.

Sabir encouraged students to question campus eateries, read labels and access available nutritional information.

Martin recommended students aim to prepare 90 per cent of meals at home.

“Ultimately it is up to the consumer to make an informed choice,” Sabir concluded.

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