Carnegie Mellon Leads the Way with Allergen-Friendly Eating

From making new friends to exploring new activities and figuring out what you’re really passionate about, college is one of the most exciting times of your life — especially at Carnegie Mellon! While navigating and exploring your new home away from home, the last thing students should have to worry about is issues related to food allergies. As universities around the country become increasingly sensitive to students’ dietary concerns, Carnegie Mellon Dining Services is taking the lead on this weighty and prevailing topic with Nourish, an allergen-friendly kitchen that opened this fall.

Allergen-Friendly Food Full of Taste

Nourish features a menu that is prepared entirely without gluten and the eight ingredients most likely to cause allergic reactions: eggs, wheat, dairy, soy, tree nuts (except coconut), peanuts, shellfish, and fish. Nourish is operated by CulinArt Group and led by Executive Chef Victor Schmidt, who has been serving allergen students at Carnegie Mellon for eight years.

“Chef Vic has poured his passion for food and his allergen expertise into the Nourish menu,” says Director of Dining Services Pascal Petter. “It’s a diverse and delicious menu that our entire campus community can enjoy.”

Prepared and sealed in a dedicated kitchen to ensure safety commitments to guests with dietary restrictions, the menu features a wide variety of made-to-order and grab-and-go foods, including sandwiches, salads, bowls, pizza, burgers, and hot entrees. There are also a number of unique vegan and plant-based offerings that can be customized to nourish sampleplease any palate.

Students, faculty, and staff can place their orders for pick up at Nourish, located on the second floor of the Cohon Center, using GET Food via the app or online from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Additionally, grab-and-go menu items are available at a number of on-campus locations: Carnegie Mellon Café, Entropy+, Rothberg’s Roasters II, Heinz Café, and Maggie Murph Café.

Campus Dining Meeting the Needs of Students

Food allergies aside, students tend to have stricter dietary preferences than the general population. According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend Report, they’re more likely to follow special eating plans, including vegan, vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian (e.g., pescatarian) diets. The report also notes that 49 percent want to avoid meat and animal products in their meals.

“While accommodating dietary preferences has long been one of our dining program’s primary objectives, providing delicious, nutritious, allergen-friendly meal options to students unable to tolerate certain foods or ingredients is just as important to our program and the university,” says Petter.

Allergic reactions can present serious health risks and can even be life-threatening. A study at the University of Michigan found that while 47.7 percent of students with food allergies reported that they maintain a prescription for emergency medication including self-injectable epinephrine, only 6.6 percent of these individuals reported always carrying this device.

Foods can cause adverse reactions other than allergies, too. For example, people experience intolerances or sensitivities to food that cause a range of digestive issues, which can result in secondary conditions such as migraines, chronic fatigue, inflammation, skin problems, nutrient malabsorption, and severe nutrient deficiencies. Many of these individuals do not produce the enzymes necessary to break down certain types of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, including dietary fiber or sugars. Students with these reactions may need to eliminate many of the same types of food that the Nourish menu is designed to address.

nourish sampling
Students enjoying their first taste of Nourish during a tasting event.

“Even minor health issues can take away from a student’s college experience and journey,” says Jessica Tones, Carnegie Mellon Dining Services’ nutrition educator and dietitian who joined the team last fall. “Carnegie Mellon is committed to reducing this source stress for our students by offering safe, delicious, and convenient food options. That’s why opening Nourish for this academic year was a number one priority for me and for our dining program.”

Serving Safe Foods on Campus

For students with severe food allergies, even the tiniest exposure can produce an adverse reaction. That’s why designated food preparation areas and equipment are required to ensure their safety and health; for instance, cutting boards used to slice bread should chopping vegnever be used to chop vegetables, and separate refrigerators and food storage areas are needed to avoid unintentional cross-contact.

Equally essential is staff training: even common allergens have many aliases — like semolina for wheat and casein for dairy — so food service employees need to be aware of alternative names. Training should also emphasize accurate labeling and communication with students who have allergies.

Carnegie Mellon is excited to offer allergen-friendly dining with Nourish. These safe, delicious meals will make eating on campus easier for students with dietary restrictions, who often feel like an invisible group. Going to college is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should be enjoyed to the fullest — without worrying about food allergies!

Carnegie Mellon Dining Services wants to hear what you think of Nourish. Share your feedback here!

Carnegie Mellon Dining Plans: Low in Stress, High in Nutrition & Convenience

Dining Gets It – You’re Busy!

As a Carnegie Mellon student, you’re busy. You have class in an hour, a paper due tomorrow, and a midterm exam next week. On top of everything else, you’re hungry, so it’s hard to concentrate. But your next meal isn’t exactly what you want to be thinking about. So, what are your options?

You could put off eating until after your classes, run to the grocery store, buy ingredients, and cook a nutritious meal at your apartment or residence hall. Of course, by the time you’ve done that, you’ve lost at least two hours of what might have been productive work time — and you could be in for a long night ahead. Alternatively, you could grab a couple of snacks, which will energize you for a while … until you crash and burn a few hours later. With deadlines approaching, the last thing you need is to feel sluggish. There’s got to be a better option, right? There definitely is.

Nutrition Is Paramount to Success

“As a college student, your mental and physical health is as important as your education and extra-curriculars. In fact, nutrition is essential to success,” says Jessica Tones, dietitian and nutrition educator for Carnegie Mellon Dining Services. “Eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods has been linked to improved cognition and mental functioning, in addition to lower stress levels, lower rates of chronic disease, and lower incidences of mood disorders. Having a dining plan helps you nourish your body consistently throughout the day.”

Of course, the problem is that stress and poor nutrition often go hand in hand: stress or lack of time leads to poor food choices, which in turn leads to a diminished physical and mental state that further increases stress in a vicious cycle. This cycle can be hard to break, but Carnegie Mellon’s dining program is designed to provide students with, convenient meal options for every palate.

A Healthful and Convenient Way to Eat on Campus

CMU’s dining plans offer a range of options and choices for students throughout their time as an undergraduate student or graduate student. They offer convenience for students who live or spend a lot of time on campus because dining locations exist on nearly every part and corner of campus. Additionally, investing in a meal plan removes the stress of figuring out where your next meal is going to come from, making it easier to take care of yourself (and treat yourself) when you’re busy or stressed.

Community Dining Plans

community plans no background (2).fw
Carnegie Mellon’s Community Dining plans offer undergraduate and graduate students a mix of meal blocks and flexible dollars per semester. Traditional Dining Plans, which are required for first-year students and function on a biweekly basis, are also available for undergrads and grads.

Students Say It Best

But don’t take Dining Services’ word for it: many current students enrolled in meal plans rely on them to stay healthy — and end up being pretty happy, too.

Russell_Holbert
Current student Russell Holbert (left) not only loves his CMU dining plan but also Au Bon Pain (ABP) and Bri, who is part of the ABP team, as indicated by this photo he posted on the To Dining With Love Facebook page on Valentine’s Day. Thanks for all the love, Russell!

Russell Holbert, a soon-to-be-senior studying music, said this about his meal plan: “I love having a meal plan! It let’s me be social while eating my meals and helps me attend more events on campus. I don’t worry about finding time to shop and cook. It’s been such a convenience being able to get food where and when I want it, and it has helped me maintain commitments around campus at any time of day.”

After all, mealtime shouldn’t just be a study break. It’s an opportunity to explore campus, socialize with friends, and even meet new people. And with the extra time afforded to Russell by having diverse food options at his fingertips, he can take advantage of everything Carnegie Mellon has to offer, including extra-curriculars and special events.

Kanisha Vaughn, a junior studying psychology, echoed Russell’s sentiments: “I personally like having a meal plan because I like the convenience of being able to get food on campus, especially at times when I’m on campus late or need to grab quick food in the middle of the day. I would love to be able to cook regularly, and I did try it for a while, but I often get home late at night, and once I’m in my dorm room, I usually don’t want to have to cook — in fact, I usually just want to go directly to sleep. So it’s nice knowing that if I have the time and desire to cook, I can; but if I don’t have time to cook one week, I don’t have to force myself to take the time out to do so, since I have a meal plan.”

Dining Is Here to Serve You!

At Carnegie Mellon University, dining plans vary based on students’ needs and interests; they’re flexible, so students can get the most out of their meal plan. With more than 30 locations across campus, you’ll never have to eat at the same place twice in a row (unless you want to), and you’ll always have access to a satisfying meal, whether it’s an early breakfast or second dinner late at night. Chances are, you’re already busy enough — don’t let meals stress you out even more!

Learn more about your meal plan options today!

Studying for finals requires energy, stamina, and constant focus. You have been training your brain all semester, similar to the way an athlete trains their body for competition. Imagine if an athlete skipped meals, ate mindlessly, and refueled with candy, junk food, and caffeine in preparation for a big race. Without balanced nutrition, even the best athlete’s performance would suffer!

brain-2-graySurprisingly, our brain, which is only 2% of our total body weight, consumes 20% of the calories we eat. This means that eating quality food consistently throughout the day is essential for our mind to perform at its best.

During this busy time it may feel overwhelming to spend time thinking about meals, so here are a few tips to keep your brain out of the fog:

  1.  Eat a morning meal and get your brain into gear! Grab a breakfast sandwich with a side of fruit, a quinoa breakfast bowl, or a fruit and yogurt parfait. Enjoy a coffee with breakfast, but steer clear of the sugar-laden flavored lattes that can cause your energy levels to crash.
  2. Don’t skip meals. Aim to eat a meal every 4 to 5 hours to maintain a steady supply of energy to the brain. Pack snacks like trail mix, granola bars, or fresh fruit for those times when you can’t squeeze in a meal.
  3. Stay hydrated. Water is essential for delivering nutrients to our cells (i.e. brain cells!) and can help curb cravings for junk food. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, which means that extra hydration is in order if you are drinking coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks during long study sessions. Carry a water bottle and use the water fountains around campus to refill regularly!

Now, let’s look at some of the brain-boosting foods that can help you maximize your study time.

think-green-header

Go green with vegetables like spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, and broccoli! tumblr_nabgwdrqgs1rge63io1_1280Leafy greens are packed with protective antioxidants like vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene) and C, and nutrients that boost cellular antioxidant defense like sulforaphane, which is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or kale. The good news is that you can find greens all over campus – check out a few of our favorites!

  • Grill ‘n’ Greens –  every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Global Flavour station in Resnik, chefs prepare lean proteins and super food greens grilled to order. You can choose from greens like bok choy, Swiss chard, kale, broccolini, radicchio, and more.
  • Super Foods Vegetarian Salad at Rothberg’s Roasters II. This salad is packed with good-for-you food: kale, Brussel sprouts, Napa cabbage, red cabbage, radicchio, as well as chickpeas, broccoli, pickled carrots, cucumbers, flax seed, avocado, edamame, and signature lemon vinaigrette.
  • Kale salad at Tazza D’Oro – kale, roasted butternut squash, and dried cranberries, served with apple cider vinaigrette.

nuts-and-seeds

Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, or flaxseeds may be small, but they deliver big nutrition. They provide a variety of unsaturated fatty acids, which are essential to brain structure and function. A diet lacking in fat can lead to sub-par brain performance, so to ensure you are operating at full capacity, sprinkle nuts and seeds on a salad or grab a handful for a satisfying snack. There are lots delicious ways to enjoy nuts and seeds when dining on campus:

  • Harvest Turkey Salad at Au Bon Pain, featuring roast turkey, romaine and spinach, cranberries, grapes, granny smith apples, goat cheese, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Super Foods Wrap at Rotherberg Roasters II – this wrap will keep you full and focused with wheat berries, almonds, cranberries, bell pepper, ginger, honey, orange, avocado, arugula, and tomato, on a whole wheat wrap.
  • Snack on a KIND Bar from Entropy+.

omega-3

Omega 3 fats are also known as essential fatty acids (EFAs), or fats that cannot be made by the body and must be obtained from food. Among the long list of omega 3 EFA health benefits, brain development and cognitive function are at the top! Omega 3 fats may also boost your mood, something we all need during the stress of finals week. The most potent sources of omega 3 fats are found in marine foods, such as salmon, trout, albacore tuna, mackerel, oysters, and seaweed. If you prefer plant-based sources, reach for walnuts, soy, flaxseed, chia seed, and pumpkin seeds.

These dishes will help you enjoy the recommended 2 to 3 servings of fish each week:

  • Create your own unique poke bowl at iNoodle with your choice of rice or noodles, vegetables, up to two types of raw or cooked fish or shellfish, and customized flavor with sauces and spices.
poke-bowl
Poke bowl at iNoodle
  • Blackened Salmon Sandwich at the Underground, featuring a blackened center cut salmon filet topped with melted provolone on a whole grain Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, and creamy dill sauce.
  • Nakama Sushi – choose from a wide selection of raw, cooked, and vegetarian options, rolled fresh daily.  Nakama sushi is located in Resnik Servery, but can be found in grab-and-go coolers around campus as well!

whole-grain-header

Grains provide a dense form of carbohydrate, the nutrient that is most efficiently used to fuel the brain. The best grain foods for our body and mind are whole, unprocessed plants that digest slowly and provide a steady supply of energy. Choose whole grains like oatmeal, barley, quinoa, whole wheat, corn, or brown rice, which will provide sustained energy as you study.

  • Start your day with steel cut oats at the Carnegie Mellon Cafe, complete with your choice of custom toppings like flaxseed, hemp seed, dried fruit, and more!
  • Supergrain bowl at Evgefstos – every Monday and Thursday create a custom Supergrain bowl at the only exclusively vegetarian dining location on campus.
  • Crunchy Quinoa Salad at the Underground – quinoa, kale, shredded carrot, red cabbage, cucumber, scallion, red pepper, edamame, and cashews, with spicy peanut dressing over spring mix. Yum!

bean-header

Just like whole grains, beans and other legumes (like lentils and peas), provide slow-digesting, complex carbohydrates. Beans also pack a full serving of protein per 1/2 cup, making them a great choice when you need your meal to keep you satisfied so that you can keep your mind on your studies. Beans offer an excellent source of B vitamins like folate and B6 that are linked to regulating metabolism and maintaining normal brain and nervous system function. When you order food on campus, ask for beans on a salad, in a burrito, or make them your main dish!

  • Chana Masala at the Taste of India – chickpeas are the star of the show in this
    tazza-d-veggie-lunch
    Chickpea salad & mushroom panini at     Tazza D’Oro

    flavorful Masala curry dish.

  • Build your perfect tacos, burrito, or bowl at El Gallo de Oro. You choose between black beans or pinto beans, combined with rice, protein, vegetables, and the salsa that fits your spice level.
  • Chickpea salad at Tazza D’Oro – this grab-and-go salad is tossed with Mediterranean spices, lemon, and olive, making it a filling and flavorful treat. Pair with a panini made with a multigrain roll and a mixed green salad for the perfect trifecta of brain food!

berry-header

Berries are truly a powerhouse fruit. Due to the high skin-to-fruit ratio, berries are low in calories, high in fiber, and provide a dense source of unique plant nutrients, called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are concentrated in the skin of fruits and are linked to the color of the fruit. The highest concentration of a group of phytonutrients called anthocyanins are found in dark blue and red berries such as blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries as well as cherries, and red and purple grapes. Anthocyanins have been shown to improve memory, as well as protect brain cells by reducing inflammation. Take advantage of berry benefits by adding them to your yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, smoothie, salad, or simply enjoy them as a snack!

Carnegie Mellon Dining Services wants to know what foods help you to stay focused during finals. Share your tips here!

Getting to Know Jessica Tones

Carnegie Mellon Dining Services continues to strengthen its commitment to health and wellness for the campus community, and one exciting way it’s exemplified that this academic year is through the hiring of Jessica Tones, the newest member of the Dining Services team serving as a registered dietitian, nutrition educator, and marketing coordinator. In this unique role, Jessica will collaborate with Carnegie Mellon Health Services and dining vendors to counsel students, and other community members, on dietary restrictions and allergens, and assist them in navigating our unique dining program. Additionally, Jessica will organize campus-wide health and wellness initiatives and outreach programs, and assist in marketing the dining program.

Jessica most recently worked for Giant Eagle, Inc. as a regional dietitian specialist and wellness coach. She has extensive experience in nutrition-based educational programs and classes, one-on-one counseling, and the creation of nutrition education materials. Jessica was also an adjunct instructor of nutrition at the Pittsburgh Technical College.

We are so excited to welcome Jessica to the Carnegie Mellon community. Let’s learn more about her!

Where did you go to college/graduate school and which licensed/registered degrees have you earned?

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist, which means that I completed both an undergraduate degree and a post-graduate 1200-hour dietetic internship. I graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition and completed my dietetic internship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside Presbyterian Hospital.

How did you get into the field of nutrition?

Simply put, I love food. I wanted to share my love of food in a way that is science-based, while also respecting where food comes from and promoting good health. My own journey with food and nutrition taught me that a healthy, balanced relationship with food means more than just “eating healthy.”  Through my education and professional experiences, I have learned that nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. Nutrition is about nourishing the body through food, and I love to help people figure out what that means for them. My goal is to help others hash out nutrition fact from fiction and to provide clear, food-based solutions that inspire people to develop healthier food habits.

How do you stay up-to-date on nutrition trends and information?

The world is saturated with nutrition information, so I try to keep up with current, evidence-based research as well as consumer interests and food trends. In addition to reading professional journals, I love Today’s Dietitian magazine and follow dietitians on social media. Grocery shopping also happens to be one of my favorite ways to keep up with what is going on with food. I spend a lot of time checking out new foods and reading labels – don’t go grocery shopping with me if you are in a hurry to get home!

My most valuable professional resources are my memberships to Dietetic Practice Groups (DPGs) through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which are subgroups of dietitians who work to share information and offer extensive resources and continuing education opportunities. I am currently a member of three DPGs: Food and Culinary Professionals; Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition; and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine.

What are some of your priorities for the coming year regarding nutrition on CMU’s campus?

My number one priority is to listen and learn. I want to know what students are looking for in regards to nutrition information and healthy offerings from Dining Services, and I will use this info as a guide for my work. In my time so far, I can see that dining is doing a lot of exciting work to provide variety and healthful options around campus, and sometimes students aren’t aware of what is available to them. I hope to expand communication between Dining Services and students through our website, social media, discussion, DSAC meetings, and signage at the point of purchase. I am also looking forward to opportunities to engage with students in-person at events throughout the year, such as Taste of the Tartans (which takes place Tuesday, 9/27, from 11 am to 2 pm in Rangos in the Cohon Center) and cooking demonstrations.

How will you be a resource for students?

I am a resource for anything related to dining. I can help students identify foods on campus that fit their health and nutrition goals, whether it be related to a food allergy, identifying vegetarian/vegan options around campus, or fueling for athletic events. If you don’t have specific questions, but want to keep up with how dining is working to offer healthful options on campus, follow us on our social sites as I will be contributing to these regularly.

If you could give one piece of nutrition advice to a busy CMU student, what would it be?

Don’t forget to eat! Food is fuel, for both your body and your mind. You can’t perform at your best when you are running on empty. Take a few moments to think about your day and when you can fit food in. This may mean that you have to pack some snacks or grab a yogurt and a piece of fruit if you have a busy day and will not have time for lunch. Our hours and locations page on the Dining Services website makes it easy to see what’s open now and you can filter to see what will be open in the future.

Personally speaking, what is your favorite meal to prepare/cook/serve?

My favorite type of food is Mexican food. After living in San Diego for eight years, I have an almost constant craving for handmade corn tortillas and Al Pastor tacos.

My favorite food to cook is anything braised – soups, stews, slow-cooked meats that shred with a fork. I love taking simple ingredients and creating something rich and complex that can only be achieved by heat and time.

pozole-verde-3-2
Pozole verde – delish!

My favorite dish to prepare and serve is pozole verde. It starts by making chicken stock, simmering overnight. The verde, or green sauce, is made from tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds, which help to thicken the soup. The verde sauce is blended and sautéed to develop flavor and then added to the broth, along with hominy and shredded chicken. Then you wait. I usually let it cook for at least four to eight hours, barely simmering on the stove. When it is time to eat, the best part is making it your own with all of the toppings – cilantro, diced onion, dried Mexican oregano, avocado, thinly-sliced cabbage, radish, a squeeze of lime, and a tostada to eat it with or crumble on top. This is a fun meal to share with friends; everyone can customize their pozole, kind of like phở. There are many ways to speed up the preparation process, but I love to make every part of it from scratch. I usually make it over the holidays when I have a few days off in a row and can take my time and enjoy the process.

 

family-pic-2
Jessica hiking with her husband and daughter.

Outside of food and work, what are some of your hobbies/interests?

I love to travel and learn about other cultures, read, go to stand-up comedy shows, and exercise – hiking, cardio kickboxing, and yoga being my favorites. A new hobby is making succulent and cactus gardens – my goal this year is to create a succulent wall in my living room. I was inspired on my last trip to San Diego where it is really popular to use drought-resistant plants. Also, I have a 16-month old daughter, who I jokingly like to say is my new hobby, since a leisurely day drinking coffee, reading a book, going to yoga, and going out for a nice meal is a rarity these days. She is amazing – she is sweet, snugly, and loves to make people laugh.

Tell us at least one thing that is on your bucket list.     

Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu. These combine my love of hiking, traveling, and learning about other cultures in some of the most incredible places in the world.

What questions do you have for CMU’s dietitian? Share them here!