Finding healthy dining options at Franklin Dining Hall

By Elena Lopez

(Collegian file photo)
(Collegian file photo)

For some students, Berkshire and Hampshire Dining Commons are not the easiest eateries to access, due to high traffic, distance or motivation. That leaves the lovely Franklin Dining Commons (Frank), because Worcester Dining Commons is just plain awful. The issue many students find with Frank, as lovable as it may be, is that the options aren’t nearly as healthy as they could be.

Among the fries, stir fry, mass produced grilled cheese and the like, it’s hard to find the leafy greens that used to make us dread dinner time at home. Now, as health-conscious and mature, college-aged adults, it’s in the hands of the students to get a little crafty and creative with what fuels our bodies. Sophomores Tess Stirling and Shelby Duckworth both found their own ways to make meals well-rounded and delicious.

One of Duckworth’s ideas includes the burrito bar, minus the actual burrito shell. Most of the time, the tortilla breaks and creates a mess. So rather than dealing with that, she suggests making a Chipotle-style burrito bowl. Using the rice, lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese, guacamole and sour cream available, with chicken or beef for the meat lovers, a delicious burrito bowl is born. By using the ingredients provided in a slightly different style, it adds to the limited number of options in any of the dining commons.

Stirling shares the creativity related to making Frank food mouthwatering that many of us lack, but she shares a few of her go-to plates when Frank just doesn’t cut it. She includes mixed greens from the salad bar, cucumbers, carrots, bean sprouts, brown rice, walnuts, sunflower seeds, broccoli, green beans, peppers from the gluten free bar, alfalfa sprouts and adds some protein in the form of lean grilled chicken. A light vinaigrette of olive oil and balsamic vinegar serves as a perfect complement to this dish. A little bit of patience goes a long way when deciding what concoction to make next. The chicken can be replaced with kidney or black beans for a vegetarian or vegan option, making it accessible to all types of dietary needs.

The Mediterranean bar has a few hidden gems if you look close enough. One of Duckworth’s go-to meals is a hummus-based plate, an excellent source of protein to maintain her vegetarian diet. On top of a bowl of hummus, Duckworth adds black beans, kidney beans, red onions, brown rice, peppers, tomatoes, cheese and guacamole to create a bowl of succulent and healthy food, much more filling and conscious than heaps of stir fry.

The dreaded “freshman 15” and even greater weight gain can become very real if students aren’t conscious of what goes on their plate. The University of Massachusetts does a fantastic job of offering healthier dining options, but it wouldn’t be campus food if there weren’t piles of pizza, pasta and fries available everyday. All of these carbs can form a quick habit, and what was once a daily salad turns into a monthly bite of lettuce before going back for more fried potatoes.

It’s often easier to get these ready-made meals because that’s what the dining commons are for, but a little bit of patience and thoughtfulness can make for palate pleasing plates as both Stirling and Duckworth have found.

These dishes are simply suggestions to get the culinary juices flowing, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit because if it doesn’t work out, endless plates await you to try again with no extra cost to your meal plan. As winter draws nearer and the gym seems further and further away, one of the few ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle among the stress of college is to eat carefully and with your body in mind.

Elena Lopez can be reached at [email protected]