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NH college uses dishes to promote healthy eating

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 18, 2013 at 5:42 am •  Published: September 18, 2013

"It's not a very nutritious lunch, but I'm drinking water," he said.

Carbone, 19, said he does try to eat healthily but said he pays no attention to the plates.

Sophomore Nicole Grote said while she doesn't match her food to the plates, they've made her more aware of portion sizes, and in general, she thinks the university is taking the right approach.

"I think it makes sense," said Grote, who stays away from both sugar and dairy products. "People should eat healthy."

Peter Heislein, a junior, said the plates have prompted him to choose an apple instead of french fries on occasion, but they have not been a major influence on his diet. And his main reason for preferring the plates had more to do with how they emerge from the dishwasher than the healthy message.

"I wish it was better than this, but I like them because they're not searing hot like the ceramic plates," he said. "It does make a little (health) conscious, but not a ton."

Dining hall manager David Hill said he has seen some students taking the plates seriously, while others ignore them. It's all part of the challenge of keeping up with students' changing tastes while also promoting health, he said.

"We're always trying to infuse more healthy options as a choice, but we don't impose it on people," he said. "That's really our strategy: to have a balance."

A number of versions of the plates are available commercially, and they're often used as teaching tools, said Dr. Robert Post, acting executive director at the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. He did not know of other schools that have been serving food on the plates like UNH but said many are using the image in banners and posters.

And since the USDA launched its "My Plate on Campus" initiative in the spring, he said, more than 800 students in all 50 states and nearly a dozen other countries have signed up to become ambassadors who encourage healthy eating at their schools.

The Wildcat plates are manufactured by a New Hampshire company. With USDA permission, UNH has copyrighted its modified design and hopes to license it to other high schools and colleges that could add their own logos to the plates and use them in their dining halls.