Cutting calories may not be the best way to lose weight, according to University health personnel.
Though calorie counting has been used to adjust weight in the past, students need to be careful, said Charlie Casrill, director of resident dining. Calories measure the amount of energy food gives the consumer. If the energy intake decreases, students can become sluggish and have cloudy thinking, Casrill said.
Julie Hupperich, associate director of the Student Health Center, said counting calories is important because it makes students more aware of the food they eat. Some students don’t realize why they gain or lose weight, and counting calories can help them understand, Hupperich said.
Through the University’s recently released dining hall application, students can view weekly calories of the food offered in on-campus dining facilities.
The application offers detailed nutrition information for food in the dining halls. Additionally, students can visit the dining hall’s website to keep track of their weekly calorie intake.
Casrill said if the meals change because food runs out or similar circumstances, the application will be updated. Otherwise, it runs on a weekly cycle, Casrill said.
Casrill said the most beneficial aspect of the application is that people with allergies can plan their meals prior to visiting the dining halls.
Although Hupperich said counting calories can be used for losing weight, she said she does not encourage it. Instead, she suggests keeping food intake balanced within the different food groups.
Casrill suggested using the USDA food pyramid to stay healthy and lose weight.
Hupperich said students, in general, do have an idea of how many calories they consume and how many calories they should consume, though they may not understand how it translates to food.
Students may not fully realize how many calories soda and alcoholic beverages contain. One can of soda can contain as many as 200 calories without receiving the nutritional return of other foods, Hupperich said.
Casrill disagreed, saying most students don’t know about the amount of calories they eat or should eat. Common ideas may not be accurate and it can be difficult to find a reliable source for balanced diets, Casrill said.
He also said common ideas are not always correct. For example, not every fried food is unhealthy and not all baked food is healthy, Casrill said.
Hupperich said a good practice for maintaining weight is to measure between 500 and 600 calories at each meal with snacks in between, such as crackers and peanut butter. Nutritional snacks should pair carbohydrates with proteins to sustain energy and fight hunger, Hupperich said.
She said students should be careful of casseroles and cream sauces with cheeses because it can be hard to know how they’re made, and often there are hidden calories in them.
Casrill said the dining halls try to be careful not to provide high calorie meals.
Hupperich suggested students educate themselves and pay attention to packaging while balancing calorie intake along with portion control to maintain weight.