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Healthy Eating on Campus

Special thanks to Aramark General Manager Adam Summer and Chef Ralph MacRina for providing my wellness students with a cooking demonstration and tour of the Charles E. Daniel Dining Hall this week.

Adam discussed many of the healthy options that are available in the dining hall and Chef Ralph demonstrated how to make an easy homemade Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette (recipe below).



Healthy eating on Furman’s campus is a snap.  We thought we would share some of the behind the scenes information that we learned during our tour.

Top 10 tips for Healthy Eating in Charles E. Daniel Dining Hall


1. Try to dine during off-peak hours when possible.  Long lines and big crowds can be frustrating.  Try to schedule your meals when the dining hall is less crowded.  This is usually at the beginning and end of each meal shift.  Take your time to check out the options at each station and build a healthy plate.


FUEL Plate

2.  Build a healthy plate.  Fill 1/2 of your plate with colorful vegetables and/or fruits, 1/4 with whole grains or potatoes, and 1/4 with a healthy protein source.

Here are a few examples:

Meatless Monday:  Build a large salad and top with beans and whole grains.  Whole grains can be found in the Dining for Life Station or occasionally at the whole grain bar at the end of the salad bar.  Drizzle a light vinaigrette over the top.

Mongolian Grill:  Start at the front of the line and fill your bowl with a generous helping of your favorite vegetables that will be grilled to order.  Then serve with brown rice or soba (buckwheat) noodles and a healthy protein source such as chicken, shrimp, or tofu.

Vegetable Hummus Sandwich:  Spread a thick layer of hummus (garbanzo bean spread) on 100% whole grain bread or tortilla.  Top with your favorite fresh vegetables or grilled vegetables from the Grill station.  Serve with a fruit and yogurt parfait for dessert.

Baked Potato Bar:  Top a baked potato or baked sweet potato with sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, black beans, and salsa.  Serve with fresh or grilled vegetables.

Meat and Three:  Serve a piece of rotisserie chicken (skin removed) or fish from the Homestyle station with a baked sweet potato and fresh or grilled vegetables.

Whole Grain Pasta Bar:  Top whole grain pasta with marinara, grilled chicken or shrimp from the Mongolian Grill and fresh or grilled vegetables.

Veggie Burger and Salad: Top 100% whole grain bread with a veggie burger and a large helping of fresh or grilled vegetables.  Veggie burgers are available upon request at the Grill and cooked to order.

Oatmeal and Fruit Breakfast:  Top a small bowl of oatmeal with your favorite fixings such as raisins, nuts, cinnamon, and a little brown sugar.  Serve with a glass of skim milk, 1% milk, or soymilk and a large portion of fresh fruit.

Egg Sandwich and Fruit Smoothie:  Make a sandwich with toasted slices of 100% whole grain bread.  Add a scrambled egg or vegetable omelet made to order from the omelet bar.  Enjoy it with a fresh fruit smoothie from the smoothie bar.


3. Check out the nutrition cards at each station.  Through Aramark’s Healthy For Life program, nutrition cards are posted throughout each station.  Foods are flagged if they are lower in fat, trans fat free, lower in sodium, locally grown, vegetarian, and more.


4. Download the free CampusDish mobile App.  Search the daily menus and nutrition information from your phone.  CampusDish is now synchronized with Aramark’s production records so you can see exactly what is offered in the dining hall each day.


5. Track your food and exercise habits through myfitnesspal.  Have you ever wondered if your diet is on track?  Are you eating the recommended amounts of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals?  Download the free mobile app myfitnesspal to track your food intake and exercise.  This user friendly app can help you to pinpoint any areas of concern by comparing your actual nutrient intake to recommended intakes.  You can scan bar codes straight from your smart phone to upload the nutritional content.  Plus, over 85% of the recipes in Furman’s Charles E. Daniel Dining Hall are accessible through myfitnesspal.  Simply search for “Armark on Campus.”

dh nutrition

6.  Build a healthy meal using the Furman Campus Dish website.  Dining Services posts the menus online each week to assist students who like to plan ahead.  Simply check the foods that you would like to eat and you can view the nutrition information for each dish and the entire meal.

Visit and search “Eat Well” and “View Menus.”

Pitcher of Iced Tea with a Glass of Ice Tea

7.  Rethink your drink.  Soda, lemonade, and sweet tea can fill you up on sugar but not much else.  Choose water with lemon, unsweetened tea or coffee, or the flavored water station.


8.  Be cautious with condiments.  Fresh foods need a little bit of flavor but try to uses sauces and condiments with sugar, fat, and salt sparingly.


9.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Executive Chef Ralph MacRina must be one of the friendliest folks on campus. Chef Ralph encouraged students to ask a Dining Services team member if they have a special request.  Would you like fresh vegetables from the salad bar grilled?  Just bring them to the grill station and their staff will be glad to help.  Do you need some chicken or shrimp to complete your plate?  Just stop by the end of the Mongolian Grill station and ask the staff.  Chef Ralph says, “It is no hassle at all.  We LOVE to cook. That is what we do.”


10.  Take your time and enjoy your meal.  Try not to scarf down food as you run from class to class.  Take a few short breaks each day to enjoy healthy and balanced meals.



Chef Ralph’s recipe for Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a blender combine: 

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh herb of your choice (we used oregano from the Furman Farm)

coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper


Remove the steam vent from the blender lid and place the lid on the blender.  Blend at low speed while slowly pouring in 1/4 cup of olive oil to create an emulsion.

If you don’t have a blender, you may combine the ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk in the olive oil.

Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.

Serve over salads, steamed or roasted vegetables, chicken, fish, beans, or whole grains.