ANTIGONISH, N.S. - If there is one thing everyone can agree upon when talking about a healthy lifestyle, it’s the inclusion of a proper diet.
But what if you’re a university student, away from home after so many years of counting on your parents providing breakfast, lunch and supper? What if, for the first time, you’re living not only away from home but off-campus – totally reliant on your own shopping and cooking?
Is it affordable? Is it easy to include healthy choices in a busy schedule of classes, assignments and extra-curricular activities?
Yes, if you make the effort, according to six St. F.X. students.
“I think there are a lot of options: you can get a lot of veggies at the salad bar, that’s where I mostly look,” says Thea Hart, a second-year development studies student, who lives in Bishop’s Hall.
“It’s just being conscious of what you’re eating. You do have a lot of options and it’s easy to pick the not-so-healthy ones,” Hart added, noting, too, she keeps healthy snacks, like oatmeal, in a fridge in her residence room.
Twin sisters Jamie and Erin Samson, from Louisdale, Cape Breton, concur.
“I have DCB (declining cash balance) which you can spend on campus. So, for example, at Mini Moe’s, it’s good because they have sandwiches and wraps, salad options, vegetables trays/packets, which is good,” Jamie, a philosophy student, said, referencing the small, coffee shop-like location in the middle of campus.
“And at meal hall, there are always healthy options. A salad bar which is always opened with tons of veggies, different proteins. There is a make-your-own sandwich station as well, where you can choose your own bread, what you want to put in it, all your fillings.
“Even at the classics station, which is the main meal hall section where they have the hot foods, they have healthy options; have vegetarian options which tend to be healthier than others.”
Erin, a human kinetics student, said it can be a little more work to eat healthier.
“Sometimes, you have to work a little bit harder if you want to commit to a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating, just because most of the food that is already made for you would be slightly less healthy than what you could make for yourself, using the sandwich or salad bar, which always has fresh vegetables and stuff like that,” Erin said.
“There is also a feature called My Kitchen, where they stock the fridge for you and you can make your own meals in a backroom. It has the full kitchen set-up.
“I would say, even if it’s not pressed upon you, there are plenty of options for healthy eating. It’s entirely up to you, at this point, as an adult, to choose those options.”
READ MORE ST. F.X. COVERAGE:
Biology and chemistry student Sierra Oakley is living off-campus for the first time after spending her first two years at St. F.X. in residence.
“It’s affordable off-campus; a little more so than on-campus, in my opinion,” Oakley said, as she browsed around the Antigonish Farmers’ Market.
“The farmers’ market helps a lot. We try and come here every Saturday because they have so many fresh foods."
Oakley said eating healthy on-campus was “good”, but she found the meal plans could be a “little tough for someone who has dietary restrictions.”
“It’s easier, now that I’m off-campus, to go around and buy my own food,” she said.
Also living off-campus this year after spending time in residence are third-year students Abby Comeau (nutrition) and Jessica Hicks (Bachelor of Arts).
Chatting with the Casket while visiting the farmers’ market, both agreed it was a little easier on campus to eat healthily.
“In residence, it was easier because meal hall has all of these different options,” Comeau said. “There is this really big salad bar which is, actually, really nice.”
“I think I ate healthier there too,” Hicks added. “There are wraps and better choices. I’ll admit, I eat bad, but when we were in meal hall, it was way easier to eat healthy.”
Comeau said affordability can be a problem, especially when fresh produce is out-of-season.
“Especially in the wintertime, when there are not many options,” she said. “Usually, I go for frozen veggies and fruits, something healthy.”
'Up to them'
The Sodexo executive chef at St. F.X., Mike Pollock, said the company can’t ensure students eat healthy on campus, but certainly provides them with the opportunity to do so.
“It’s up to them to decide if they want to make those choices or not,” Pollock said, noting that there are other tools and resources which can help.
“Sodexo has a program called Mindful, it’s a healthy lifestyle program that is not just about food; it’s about living right, exercising. There is a website and app (called Bite) that we put out there for the students to access if they want to do it.”
And there are flexible options as well, he adds.
“We have a program here at Morrison Hall for the students who are on meal plans; it’s called Take 3,” he said. "It’s called Take 3 but it’s actually take four, we’ve added to it. They can come in, any time of the day, and grab a sandwich or wrap, or a salad – we offer different salads – a piece of fresh fruit or a yogurt, milk and go with that, anytime they want to."
He adds that there is a program called My Kitchen that allows students to make a healthy stir-fry, a smoothie or cook anything they want.
“It’s important to us, from Sodexo’s point of view, that we offer healthy choices for the students to take, or not to take, as the case may be.”