Healthy choices increasing in MU dining centers

From left, Gabby Williams, Sonny Chang and Katie Whitwell prepare salad at Pangea, a student-operated restaurant in the Memorial Union. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Healthy meal choices are increasing on campus, and for one Oregon State student, it’s providing her an opportunity to practice skills that will help her land a job when she graduates in December.

Elisabeth Miller has had a busy fall term. She is about to graduate with a degree in Nutrition Food Management and is getting married this Friday. In the mean time, she’s been in charge of designing the menu for Pangea’s new all-you-can-eat vegetarian dishes on Meatless Mondays.

Each Monday, customers who chose the all-you-can-eat option get an entrée with three vegetarian items, and can request more of any or all three for free. And it’s not just a plateful of carrots. Miller said she’s carefully planned each offering to be tasty, nutritious and a bit adventurous.

“I try to include things that are familiar but with a unique twist,” Miller said. “I try to think about things that go well together, so they don’t feel like they’re just eating a plate of vegetables.”

Miller pulls recipes from culinary school menus and reworks them to make them fit the weekly menu, saying she likes the challenge. She tries to make the dishes low in fat and sodium and avoids allergens like peanuts.

“I want to make it tasty but healthy.”

Pangea is a student-run and operated restaurant in the Memorial Union, and MU Retail Food Services Director Robyn Jones explained that everything from ordering produce to serving meals is left in student hands.

“Any of the specials we offer, we have a student developing it, costing it out and producing it,” Jones said.

Jones is a member of the nutrition subcommittee for the OSU Healthy Life Challenge group, and it was there that the idea of an all-you-can-eat vegetable special came to life. She said the success of the special grows each week, mainly by word of mouth and by emails they send out to patrons.

Some of the produce comes directly from the OSU Organic Growers Club, which has provided salad greens, beets, eggplant, leeks and sweet potatoes, allowing the specials to not only be healthy, but also locally grown.

Jones said all of the food retail locations on campus have healthy options, but that customers are not necessarily buying them.

“We don’t eat enough vegetables, and we’re trying to make it easier for people to find those options,” she said.

Nov. 14, the all-you-can-eat special is vegetarian chili served with roasted corn and brown rice, salsa and salad.

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~ Theresa Hogue


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