Elgin Community College’s library cafe reopens with healthier options on syllabus
By Emily McFarlan Miller email@example.com September 2, 2013 4:26PM
The newly reopened Food for Thought Cafe at Elgin Community College’s Renner Academic Library and Learning Resources in Elgin. | Emily Miller~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 4, 2013 6:07AM
ELGIN — “This is the bomb-dot-com,” said Avantae Black, blending a pineapple-and-banana smoothie recently in the Food for Thought Cafe.
And it’s not an option that was available last year at the cafe, inside the Renner Academic Library and Learning Resources at Elgin Community College.
That’s because the cafe reopened this school year with a new, healthier menu of smoothies, wraps, fresh fruits and to-go plastic bags of bright green edamame — all options that can help community college students avoid the dreaded “Freshman 15” weight gain.
“It’s hard to make healthy decisions when you walk into a cafeteria full of french fries and burgers,” said Maria Terry, director of food services at the community college.
The new cafe menu also includes gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options, something that students had been requesting, Terry said.
So she, Black and other community college staff spent the summer taste-testing more nutritious options, options under 200 calories with no added sugar that met students’ diverse dietary needs, she said.
Janet Whitsitt, a biology instructor at Elgin Community College who also is a registered dietician and nutritionist, said she was “impressed” by the menu they’d put together.
Freshman weight gain
That, coupled with continued physical activity, can help students avoid weight gain at the start of college, Whitsitt said, although some of that is inevitable. That weight gain is partly because of a change in diet — choosing unhealthy snacks during study time or less-healthy, ready-made meal options — but it’s also partly because “this age is one where our metabolism slows down a little,” she said.
The instructor pointed to a 2010 study in the Journal of American College Health that shows first-year students gain 6.82 pounds, actually less than the “Freshman 15.”
And men gain more weight than women, she said, but many people don’t take into account the fact many men may be trying to add muscle and weight.
She recommended that first-year students make use of Elgin Community College’s fitness center or enroll in physical education courses, which they may have had all through high school.
They also can park farther away in the school parking lots or bring headphones to walk around campus for added exercise, Whitsitt said.
And, she said, “Increase your fruits, increase your vegetables, increase your whole grains.”
That’s something Black, a second-year student at the community college, said she and her parents have been doing since she began making healthier options at work at the Food for Thought Cafe.
And it’s the youngest students at her school she’s heard express the most interest in different dietary options, she said.
“It definitely has opened me up to a lot of things,” she said.
“Maria went above and beyond making sure we had something for everybody’s dietary needs. On this campus, everybody has a spot.”