The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Some on-campus eateries provide healthy choices for students

With New York City’s Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden’s proposal to ban the use of trans fats in city restaurants, it would not be surprising if other cities followed suit.

The Los Angeles Unified School District and other school districts nationwide have long been in the news for the unhealthy state of their meal plans and schools’ lack of physical education for students.

Possibly overlooked is a typical college student’s frenzied schedule, which can easily lead to poor food choices and, in turn, poor health.

Ellen Bauersfeld, the registered staff dietician at the Klotz Student Health Center, has a wealth of information about steps a student can take to improve their diet. It first takes an understanding and awareness of the food available. She said trans fats add flavoring to food and increase their shelf life.

“Nearly all baked goods that you can find in a store – cookies, pastries, crackers, chips ? that need to have a long shelf life use it,” she said.

The problem with trans fats is they are an artificial component added to food.

“Trans fats are not inherently available in nature,” Bauersfeld said.

They are vegetable oils that have been partially hydrogenated and added to the food. Canola oil and olive oil are better than vegetable oils, because they contain monounsaturated fat, which promotes good cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats are naturally found in nuts such as almonds and cashews, pumpkin and sesame seeds and avocados.

Although nutrition information is not readily available for food acquired at the various eateries on campus, some of the food found in the Sierra Center and the bookstore food court is fairly similar to many of the food chains around campus. For example, the burritos found in the bookstore food court could be likened to the food at Chipotle; their menus are quite similar and generally follow the same basic ingredients – flour or corn tortillas, rice and beans, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, grilled peppers and other vegetables, salsa, and meats such as beef and steak. Similarly, food found at Bamboo Terrace in the Sierra Center is much like the menu offerings at Panda Express with their orange chicken, fried rice and chow mein.

The Rice Garden Chinese Cookery at the Bookstore Complex uses vegetable oil to deep-fry their orange chicken and stir-fry everything else, such as chow mein and vegetable dishes. Burrito del Norte at the Bookstore Complex uses chicken legs and wings (or the dark meat of the chicken) instead of chicken breast, which is low in fat. They use canola oil to saut? their vegetables and heat their tortillas. Checker’s Deli in the Sierra Center serves sandwiches with fresh lunchmeat. They also use canola oil to cook their fried chicken, battered chicken fingers and onion rings. Pizzaz, also located in the Sierra Center, uses canola oil to cook their pizza, breakfast (scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon) and to saut? their pasta. Bamboo Terrace in the Sierra Center boils their soups in water, and they use soybean oil to fry their chow mein and rice.

All nutrition information for eateries found near campus can be found on, a site created in 1998 and maintained by Dottie Coon, a San Fernando Valley resident who took it upon herself to compile nutrition information for all the eateries in the area. Bauersfeld recommended the site.

She also recommends the Peer Nutrition Counseling program at the health center. This is a free service in which students can have a one-hour consultation by a senior dietetics major. The peer nutrition counselors work with the student to pinpoint the problems in their diet, as well as discuss weight, eating habits and other relative concerns.

Currently, the only viable alternative – one that would maintain the flavor of most processed foods – is saturated fat, a component that can be equally dangerous to one’s health.

“Most of the big manufacturers have pulled trans fat and added saturated fat,” Bauersfeld said. While the amount of trans fats in processed foods has gone down, “the grams of saturated fat have gone up. Saturated fat might be even worse than trans fat, so switching is still bad,” Bauersfeld said. Both trans fats and saturated fats raise low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol, which can cause plaque build up in arteries and lead to coronary heart disease.

“Anything that raises cholesterol levels increases the risk for heart disease,” Bauersfeld said.

She noted that some of the smaller companies are working to rid their food products of trans fat, but the bigger companies still need to reform. According to a recent law passed, all food manufacturers are required to include the amount of trans fat per serving on a product’s nutrition label. When looking for foods in the grocery store, it is a good idea to look for the ones with the label “No Trans Fat.” However, Bauersfeld said these labels are still cause for concern.

“It is very difficult trying to maintain a shelf life with saturated fat,” she said, so most foods with labels that say “No Trans Fat” still have trace amounts of trans fat.

“Typically in labeling laws, if something is less than .5 grams of anything – in this case, fat – they can say ‘0 percent trans fat.’ So, if it has .4999 percent of trans fat, they can get away with the zeroes. Another one of the tip-offs is ‘partially-hydrogenated oils,’ which is still trans fat.”

“I always say, don’t become a victim of your food environment,” Bauersfeld said, adding that students must take it upon themselves to be responsible and distinguish the healthier foods from the less healthy ones. Although fresh baked goods such as the pastries found in The Freudian Sip may not contain much trans fats, they probably contain saturated fat.

“Although I say it is better to have a higher quality version of something,” such as a fresh-baked pastry as opposed to a processed pastry bought in packages at the store, Bauersfeld advises students to stay away from such foods in general.

“I’m not going to tell you to go and replace processed foods with fresh-baked doughnuts,” she said.

With so much negative light placed on carb-rich foods and trans fat, it can be easy for a student to become wary of all fats. However, this is not healthy either. Bauersfeld said a diet should be rich in the good fats – unsaturated fats, like the monounsaturated fats mentioned earlier.

“You need fat for overall general health – proper growth and organ function. The typical American diet is too high in fat ? 30 percent is recommended,” she said.

It is hard not to be self-conscious about one’s health, lifestyle and diet choices when there is so much focus on these issues, and when states across the country are implementing bans with the goal of improving the health and lifestyles of their citizens. However, with fairly accessible information, taking advantage of some of the services here on campus and a willing attitude, it can be easy to begin making the right food choices.

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