Carnegie Mellon Dining Plans: Low in Stress, High in Nutrition and 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

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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.

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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!

Food For Thought

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.

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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.

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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.
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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!

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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!

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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
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    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!

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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!