College is a big period of adjustment. Young adults are living on their own for the first time and making their own food choices. Having poor eating habits when you’re younger can start you on a path toward health issues later in life. Chronic conditions, like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, don’t appear overnight. And while your genetics play a part in your risk factors, diet and lifestyle are also really important when it comes to prevention.
The availability and promotion of healthy meals on a college campus can make a big difference when it comes to a student’s health.
These 10 universities were selected by Dr. John La Puma because they offer affordable access to healthy meals and organic food, prioritize fresh food over processed meals, and have reduced the amount of available sugary drinks and junk food.
Maharishi University of Management
Maharishi University of Management in Iowa has a strong commitment to sustainability and wellness. It shows, with its own organic vegetarian cafeteria. In addition to serving lots of vegetarian dishes, the dining hall bakes bread and pastries on-site, using organic flour. Organic produce comes to the school using FAIRfood, an initiative to support local growers. Dishes are also freshly prepared daily instead of relying on frozen foods.
When students grab a bite at the university food truck or café, they may not know what they’re eating. That’s not the case at Ohio University. In addition to having vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, the university also has nutrition labels available for the meals through its website. You can use a tool on the site to select your food items and it will add up the nutrition label totals.
Bowdoin College’s diverse dining hall menu has lots of healthy options. Everything is fresh and sourced through local vendors in Maine. For example, hamburgers are made from local grass-fed beef and all desserts, muffins, and breads are made in the college’s bake shop. There are also vegan and gluten-free meal options available for those seeking them.
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has a whole platform dedicated to promoting healthy eating habits on campus. Eat Well provides education on nutrition and supports projects, like on-campus gardens. You can also find resources for where to eat healthy on campus, how to get nutritional guidance, and where to find nonacademic programs and activities that promote healthy living. Campus dining halls also post nutrition facts and offer healthy choices.
Cornell University in New York takes food very seriously. The university employs classically-trained chefs and culinary staff to create menus with lots of variety. Also on staff is a registered dietitian, who reviews all the meals to make sure students have healthy choices. Students can meet with the dietitian for advice or attend nutrition events at different campus dining locations.
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University in Georgia combines sustainability with providing healthy food options. The university grows a large portion of its own produce, raises chickens, and produces honey. Each spring and fall, the KSU Farmers Market is held on campus. Local vendors provide fresh goods, grown locally and organically. The school also offers a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership option for those who want fresh, in-season produce delivered to them.
University of California, Berkeley
Cal Dining is UC Berkeley’s answer to merging healthy eating with sustainability. Dining hall meals are largely plant-based, with the philosophy of using smaller amounts of higher quality meats. Most of the ingredients are locally sourced from farms using sustainable practices and humane animal care. Cal Dining also focuses on using whole ingredients and reducing the amount of processed foods.
Like many on this list, Virginia Tech (VT) is committed to both healthy eating and sustainability. The school’s Y.E.S. Program, short for You’re Eating Smarter, designs menus to have healthy options at all the campus dining centers. In 2006, VT committed to eliminating trans fats wherever possible. The YES to Go program formed at the request of students, focuses on providing healthier quick food options for students on the go. Finally, Farms and Fields is VT’s sustainable dining venue, which works to bring local organic food to the school’s Owens Food Court.
In addition to havingg healthy food options available as part of its meal plans, Stanford University in California also works to educate students on how food choices affect them and their environment. The Sustainable Food Program provides cooking classes and learning sessions in the school’s organic garden. Jamie Oliver, celebrity cook and healthy eating advocate, has a training program at the university, as well. His Cook Smart Program is taught by chefs at the university who have been trained to teach students basic healthy cooking skills and mindful eating.
University of Maryland
The University of Maryland provides access to lots of healthy meal options at its dining areas. The school also has its own farmers market. Students are encouraged to participate in and help run healthy eating and sustainable food initiatives. There are several student-run gardens on campus, and students who are studying to be nutritionists write about healthy habits for peers on the blog, Terps With Taste.