Can Your Institution Give Students the Ultimate Healthy Dining Experience?


October 14, 2016

This article is part of the 2016 Western Regional Conference Vendor Spotlight series.

With heightened awareness of conditions like celiac disease, allergies and high obesity rates, 56 percent of college-age adults agree it’s important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition information, according to the 2014 Generational Consumer Trend Report by Technomic. Whether it’s the paleo diet, vegan options or lean proteins, college students know what they want. And modern generations are not shy about sounding off on social media to make their demands known and giving campuses instant feedback on whether their dishes are a culinary delight or dining disaster.

Just 35 percent of students surveyed by Technomic felt their institution did an adequate job of offering healthy foods. With increasing demand for nutritious foods, students are looking for more variety beyond the mainstay dishes of the past like mystery casserole or gray gravy. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten alternatives are becoming popular even for students who do not have restrictions but are making the lifestyle choice to eat better. Students are also asking for whole grains, lower sodium and allergen-free menu items. Younger generations are more interested than their older counterparts in counting calories and knowing where their food comes from, opting to buy local food whenever possible. They want nutrition facts and prefer customization so they can substitute or omit ingredients to adhere to their healthy preferences.

Students are almost twice as likely as the general population to eat three square meals a day with snacks in between. This may be because of their easy access to food, with several on-campus dining locations to choose from. With the demands of studying and performing well in class, as well as extracurricular activities, students need to take care of themselves, and that means eating well. Developing healthy habits in college and maintaining them in the future can help prevent chronic diseases associated with poor diets, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Late-night eating is also common among college students. If students are trying to get through a late-night study session, a balanced snack will provide them with the energy they need to finish their studies and they expect your institution to provide that convenience, no matter the time.

Whether the menu will contain vegan items or items low in calories or fat, make sure the food is labeled well and the students can read the nutrition information. Make sure the chefs on your campus can execute the menu you’re trying to achieve. Without the right ingredients, the recipe cannot be created as it was designed and won’t deliver the intended experience. Another way to incorporate healthy menu options is to educate the students on the meaning of eating healthfully. Providing the nutrition information they want to see and offering programs to help them make the right choices can satisfy students’ need to live a healthier lifestyle.

Students are becoming much more savvy about what they’re eating, and demanding colleges and universities offer healthier options. Is your institution prepared to meet their needs?

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