Eating a healthy diet is one of the hardest things to do on any college campus, but the task will soon become easier for Stony Brook students.
Campus Dining Services has hired nutritionist Kristina Tiernan, RD to develop healthy, nutritious menu items throughout all of the dining facilities on campus, including more vegetarian and vegan options. Tiernan will be working closely with Campus Dining chefs to create these meals while also talking to students about what they would like to eat.
“My goal is to take student suggestions for healthier dining options and create menu items that are healthy, taste good, visually appealing and affordable,” Tiernan said. Tiernan, who began working here in February, is currently assessing all of the meal options on campus. She has met with students from the Meal Plan Resolution Committee and the Vegan and Vegetarian Taskforce to gather information on what students like and dislike about dining on campus, and what they would like to see on the menus.
Part of Tiernan’s job goes beyond the dining halls as well. She hosts Cooking 101 classes every Tuesday, where she provides cooking tips and nutritional information. She will also be offering free counseling for students. In addition, she has also introduced a new feature to Campus Dining: setting up tables at dining locations where students can try free samples of featured superfoods every month.
Students who try to eat healthy on campus are already optimistic of the changes Tiernan will bring. Hanna Baglivi, a sophomore biology major who has been a vegetarian for a year, said that right now she eats mostly salads, side dishes and soups from the dining halls, but said that she is excited about the idea of more meatless menu items.
“We live here. This is our home,” she said. “We should be able to eat things that make us comfortable. A salad isn’t really good for every single meal.”
While there are many healthy options in the dining halls already—almond and soy milks, grilled chicken, turkey and veggie burgers, whole grain breads, salad bars—Tiernan acknowledged that because their stock is limited, students might overlook them.
“Healthy options on campus do exist,” Tiernan said. “I hope to change the way people think about their food and offer more healthy options that attract students to choose these over fried foods.”
But with every change comes some difficulties. Tiernan cited taste, appeal and pricing as some of her biggest challenges when it comes to developing healthy menu items.
Staff members who work directly with Tiernan are also optimistic about the services she will bring to campus. In an email, Angela Agnello, director of marketing and communications for the Faculty Student Association, wrote that having a nutritionist on campus will provide many advantages for students.
“The benefit of having a nutritionist on staff is that students with special dietary needs, allergies and those students interested in eating healthier can utilize free nutritional counseling offered by Campus Dining Services,” Agnello wrote.
Tiernan said students will see new healthy menu items introduced throughout the rest of the semester. She added that making small changes to a diet and choosing the better options that are already available are some steps students can take to healthful eating in the meantime.
“Choose whole wheat bread instead of white, eliminate that afternoon bag of chips and choose a piece of fruit, and drink water instead of soda,” she said. “Making small changes can be beneficial for our health and can eventually turn into everyday habits.”