DURHAM, N.H. (AP) — They may not be binging on broccoli, but some University of New Hampshire students are at least pausing before they fill up on fried food, thanks to dishware designed to remind them about healthy options.
Two years after the federal government abandoned the food pyramid as a symbol for healthful eating and adopted an image of a plate instead, the university has gone a step further by printing dietary guidelines directly on plates used in campus dining halls.
The so-called Wildcat Plates, named after the school's mascot, offer a bit more detail than the "My Plate" graphic promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While the USDA image shows a plate divided into four segments labeled "fruits," ''vegetables," ''grains," and "proteins," the Wildcat plate specifies "lean protein" and "whole grains" and offers suggestions such as "try whole wheat pasta, brown rice or quinoa."
Like schools around the country, UNH has revamped its dining halls in recent years to add healthier — some would even say gourmet — offerings. The university has set a goal of becoming the nation's healthiest campus by 2020 and believes the new plates are a helpful tool for students who may be away from home and making their own food choices for the first time, said Jo Porter, deputy director of the New Hampshire Institute for Health Policy and Practice.
"They're moving from a place where sometimes their dining experiences at home were kind of dictated by their parents, and now they have a lot of freedom, which is great in some ways, but this becomes one of the helpful reminders for how to eat well," she said. "Some people will use them to get kind of a sense of what a healthy plate looks like, and then ingrain that in their everyday living and not need that plate every single time."
The plates, made of melamine, are mixed in with the university's standard ceramic plates, with about 1,300 circulating through three dining halls that serve 12,000 meals per day. During one recent lunch hour, some students piled their plates with veggies, while others reached for grilled cheese, pasta and sausage. Freshman Mike Carbone covered the fruit and vegetable portions of his plate with fried onion rings and the protein section with grilled chicken. There was a pile of chicken nuggets in the middle, and blobs of ketchup and mustard in the grain section.
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