Atkins fad fading, NU pushes healthier fare

Laura Schocker

The Atkins Diet Web site encourages followers to “Feel the Atkins change,” but are Northwestern students still looking to go low-carb?

“We are starting to see a decline in the popularity of low-carbohydrate foods, and are instead focusing on a more healthy, well-balanced menu,” said Kostya Dunaev, lead manager of the dining hall at Foster-Walker Complex.

The Plex, along with other dining halls on campus, is trying to make more healthy options available to students, particularly incoming freshmen who are making independent choices for the first time.

Dunaev said the biggest obstacle is getting people to try something new and understand that healthy does not have to mean less taste.

A different wellness item is included in the menu each day — which “isn’t steamed carrots,” he said.

“We’re including foods such as turkey cutlets and lemon ginger stir fry,” Dunaev said.

But the emphasis on healthy food does not mean that the high-calorie, high-fat, high-carb choices are going anywhere.

“Heaven forbid we give up serving French fries,” said William Feicht, executive chef at Foster-Walker. “It’s not healthy to eat a burger for lunch, dinner and a midnight snack.”

Incoming freshmen seem to be less than enthusiastic with the low-carb diets as a way to keep off weight.

“The ‘freshman 15’ is something to be worried about, but not to structure your life around,” said Weinberg freshman Kate Kashdan. “It depends what kind of food you make available to yourself in your room and how many flights of stairs you have to climb. Fad diets aren’t the way to avoid the ‘freshman 15.'”

Campus dietitian Rebecca Berman agreed that fad diets come and go, but healthy eating choices last longer.

Berman suggested that students follow a well-balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, moderate amounts of lean proteins and small quantities of oil. Although low-carbohydrate diets such as Atkins will take a noticeable amount of weight off in a short amount of time, the body eventually starts to crave carbohydrates, Berman said.

NU is incorporating a new healthy living program called “Balance, Mind, Body and Soul,” Berman said.

The program is a holistic approach to wellness where, “We focus on educating students on nutrition, which includes low-carbohydrate intake along with well-balanced meals.”

A nutrition center is now located in each dining hall with brochures and programs that are updated monthly.

Diet is not the only emphasis of the Balance program. According to Berman, the program will deal with all aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and mental health.

Other resources available to students on campus include classes and seminars on nutrition, a carbohydrate calculator found on NU’s Web site and a nutrition calculator on Sodexho’s Web site.

Students also can receive free counseling from Berman or write to her with any nutrition-related questions.

Medill freshman Alexis Jeffries said she thinks low-carb food is hard to find on campus and there are many ‘temptation’ foods available.

“Students should have their dietary needs met,” Jeffries said. “A huge number of students come into college on diets and Northwestern should accommodate that because, if nothing else, it’s more healthy. A diet like Atkins requires discipline, and the temptation is too high on campus.”

Berman said that the dining halls are accommodating these needs by offering low-carb breads and indicating carb-friendly options, those with 20 or less grams of carbohydrates, on the nutrition facts.

Evanston dining also offers a haven for the carb-phobic students.

Burger King customers now can order popular sandwiches without a bun, said Mario Delgado, shift manager for the restaurant. But Delgado said many students haven’t chosen the low-carb options.

“The last couple of months, I haven’t noticed such a demand for these items by students,” he said.

Reach Laura Schocker at [email protected].