By Lauren Duffy
When we all came back from our Winter Break, two of our campus’s Dining Commons had a pleasant little surprise waiting for us…. Berkshire and Worcester now have make-your-own natural peanut butter machines! They are absolutely amazing! Not only are these machines really easy (and kind of fun) to operate, but they also provide a healthy alternative for students looking to satisfy their peanut craving. Just as before, all four Dining Commons still offer their usual Jif® Peanut Butter, but I highly suggest that you give the more natural stuff a shot…
The Jif® Regular Creamy Peanut Butter that you’ll find at all four of the DCs (located near the bagels and toast) is a highly processed peanut spread. In order for it to be so creamy and a bit on the sweeter side, Jif® adds molasses, sugar, preservatives, salt, and various oils. This may cause the peanut butter to be a bit more spreadable, but it also makes the numbers on the Nutrition Facts significantly higher.
The new peanut butter machines at the Dining Commons are completely different. Just by looking at the machine, you can see that there is one main ingredient: peanuts. No sugars, no molasses, no preservatives– essentially nothing to take away from its nutritional benefits. The peanut butter it makes has less fat, less calories, less carbohydrates, less sugars, and less sodium… but more protein and nutrients! You can’t see it, but the machine may add a little bit of vegetable oil to make the peanut butter easier to spread, but it’s nowhere near as much as Jif® adds, so don’t worry about it too much.
So next time you’re looking to add peanut butter to your bagel, banana, sandwich, or celery, be sure to try going for the more natural choice and test out the new peanut butter machines! They have signs on top of them that tell you how to operate them in four easy steps.
Remember… everything in moderation! The more natural you eat, the healthier you’ll be. Just keep in mind that eating a ton of peanut butter (natural or not) will not do you any good. Happy peanut butter making!
By Lauren Duffy
If you’re looking to live a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to remember that common phrase: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. Eating breakfast has proven to be a reason for better weight-loss results, more energized people, and less hungry people, so it is important to incorporate breakfast into your daily routine. But we must keep in mind that while choosing to eat breakfast is beneficial for your personal health, choosing to eat an unhealthy breakfast is not. Unhealthy food is bad for your body no matter what time of the day you eat it, so you need to make the right choices; however, these choices can be tricky if you’re eating breakfast at a Dining Common.
Every morning Franklin and Hampshire open at 7am to start serving breakfast to the early-risers of the UMass campus. These DC breakfasts have a Main Line, an Omelette station, a fruit section, hot and cold cereals, a make-your-own waffle station, and a toast section. They do have healthy options available, you just need to find them hiding among the insane amounts of unhealthy options.
- The Main Line seems to draw the most attention at breakfast time, so I’ll break down those options first…
- The Eggs:
- Each morning scrambled eggs are offered in the main line of the breakfast options. I don’t know what the DCs do to these eggs to make them so fattening, but try to avoid them. According to the Nutrition Cards, these eggs are loaded with fat and calories, so they are not a good way to start off your morning. The healthy alternative? They have hard boiled eggs on the main line! You crack and peel your own so you know that nothing extra is added to them. Just try to avoid having too many yolks and you’re good to go!
- The Meats:
- The main lines offer bacon, ham, sausage, kielbasa, and corned beef hash (one or two of these options are available daily). These five meats are offered on a rotating basis at the DCs. The only advice I can give… keep away from them! They sit on the main line in a puddle of their own grease and they are swimming in sodium, fat, and calories. To some people they may be tempting, but your arteries will thank you if you steer clear of them.
- The Potatoes:
- The DC breakfasts have either home-fries, hash-browns, or some weird shaved-potato thing depending on the day. Home-fries are okay in moderation because they are relatively low in fat and calories (just watch your carbs). And the mysterious shaved-potato thing is okay in moderation, too… I think. But the hash-browns are fried, so try to avoid them.
- The Sweets:
- Hampshire and Franklin always seem to have an option for those with a sweet tooth. They have muffins, muffin tops, flavored or stuffed french toast, flavored pancakes, and assorted pastries at the end of the main line each morning. These are more of a dessert than a breakfast food so I wouldn’t reach for them if I were you.
- The rest of the breakfast options (simply put)…
- Omelette station:
- Many people don’t know that you can ask that your omelette be made with egg whites to avoid having too many yolks. Request egg whites, load up on the offered vegetables, and go easy on the cheeses and you’re good to go!
- Fruit section:
- Eat fruit! Eat lots of fruit! The cantaloupe, honey dew melon, pineapple, and grapes are pretty fresh on a daily basis, so enjoy those! Just go easy on the fruit that was clearly taken from a can because the syrup it sits in is very high in sugar.
- Hot Cereal: There is always hot oatmeal or hot cereal offered in the mornings (it’s at the soup station). The DC oatmeals are kind of bland and sticky, but you can make it more tasty by adding some dried fruit or nuts from the fruit section and adding (a little) brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, or honey.
- Cold Cereal: Honestly, when it comes to these go for the more natural-looking options. If the cereal is brightly colored or chocolatey, it’s probably all sugar.
- Make-your-own Waffle:
- The batter is all fat, the syrups are all sugar, and the whipped cream is as unnatural as they come. Two words: walk away.
- Toast station:
- I just read an article that explained that a typical bagel is often the equivalent of four pieces of bread smooshed together. So, to avoid extra carbs, try to reach for toast instead of bagels. Also, go for the whole grain or wheat breads, and go easy on the butter, jelly, cream cheese, and peanut butter, too (but it’s all okay in moderation).
So… eat breakfast! Just keep this information in mind as you’re choosing your meal. Make time for it in your schedule if you want to feel less hungry and more energized during your crazy college day. DCs are often very quiet before 10am on weekdays, so you can get some work done as you enjoy a healthy breakfast. Happy dining!
*One more fun tip about breakfasts at the DCs:
On weekends all of the Dining Commons offer breakfast, but try to avoid going into a DC before 12:30pm on a Saturday or a Sunday. This is not because the food is bad before 12:30, but it’s because sometimes the DCs think it’s a good idea to have a live band play on early weekend mornings. If you have a hangover, the unnecessary loudness and noise of the live bands can make you want to curl up in a ball and die. It’s the worst… You are warned.
By Lauren Duffy
When we think of the UMass Dining Commons, we commonly think of the pizza station, the main line, the salads, the pastas, etc. But each dining common has a little station that most of us seem to forget about: the soup station. All four of the Dining Commons have one, and they offer several different kinds of soups every week. Berkshire’s soup station is located at the end of the salad bar (towards the TV), Hampshire’s is at either end of it’s salad bar, Franklin’s is near the Deli, and Worcester’s is between the bread and the salad bar. If you’re fighting a cold or it’s just a chilly Amherst day, the soup station is sometimes the perfect place to pay a visit. But, as usual, sticking to healthy choices can sometimes be a challenge.
There are two different kinds of soups offered each day, and the soups always change daily. I’ve seen so many different kinds of soups offered: Italian Wedding, Clam Chowder, Chicken Noodle, Minestrone, Broccoli Cheddar; you name it, they’ve offered it. To be honest, it’s sometimes alarming to see how many calories and how much fat can be in some of these soups (according to the Nutrition cards). But on a brighter note, it’s actually relatively easy to determine which soup will stay true to your diet. Let me break it down:
- The Chowders, etc.
- I have personal rule that I try to follow when it comes to choosing certain foods; it applies to sauces, salad dressings, and soups of all kinds. The general rule is: If you can’t see through it, it’s probably not a good choice. What I mean is, you simply need to avoid anything that looks creamy. You’ll notice that DC soups such as Corn Chowder, Clam Chowder, Cheddar Broccoli, etc., are very creamy and therefore they are high in fat content. The cream adds extra fat and calories that can really add up, so you’re better off just avoiding the creamy options all together.
- The Clear Broths:
- Soups with a clearer broth are almost always a good option to choose at the soup stations. The soups that the DCs offer with clear broths are Minestrone, (homemade) Chicken Noodle, Italian Wedding, Tomato Tortellini, and a few others. Of course I don’t mean that these broths are completely clear, but they’re not thick and creamy like the aforementioned ones. They’re a lot healthier because they’re lighter, packed with veggies, and low in fat. What I like about these soups is that when you’re ladling them into your bowl, you can essentially choose what you want in your soup. For example, you can go heavy on the veggies and broth, and light on the noodles to cut out some excess carbs.
- I am not sure whether or not the previously mentioned soups are homemade by the DCs, but I do know that sometimes they serve Campbell’s brand soups. I know this because they will tell you if it’s a Campbell’s soup right on those small Nutrition cards that they put next to the soups at the stations. Let me put this simply: if you see a soup that says it’s Campbell’s, walk away. Campbell’s is famous for it’s red label and it’s “mmm mmm good” slogan, but it’s also very famous for the amount of sodium found in the soups. The DC’s offer Campbell’s condensed Tomato and Chicken Noodle soups, and they always seem to be popular choices by students. But keep in mind that even though these soups may remind us of our childhoods, they can also make us bloat from their extremely unhealthy and excessive amounts of sodium. So.. beware of Campbell’s!
- Next to each soup station there are always little packages of Oyster crackers or Saltine cracker packets. Even though adding these to your soup may add some extra carbs, just go for it– one pack of these won’t undo your day. Sometimes adding a little crunch to your soup is the best part! :)
As much as there are plenty of bad choices offered at the soup sections of the UMass DC’s, there are also plenty of opportunities to choose a healthy soup that will follow your diet. You just have to know how to choose the right one! Be experimental with the soups and try something new! Bon Appétit!
Try our soups:
Spicy Harvest Pumpkin Soup
Chicken Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup