Nieszczur: Why UT shouldn’t encourage fueling up on “empty calorie foods”

Kerri Knippen, Guest Columnist

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Last week UT students and faculty members received an advertisement via email that included some mixed messages about stress, focus and health. The advertisement came from the University of Toledo Barnes and Noble Bookstore. You may remember seeing this ad, which is pictured here. The heading for the ad was “Stay Fueled & Stay Focused” (see ad in the next column). I do not see much here that is worth fueling your body. Certainly, yes there are calories here … so by those terms alone, this is “fuel.” That said, the items in this advertisement are empty calorie foods, which means they lack nutritional value. These types of foods are loaded with simple sugars, solid fats and sodium.
Let’s think about this: does it really sound like the best strategy to “fuel up” on simple sugars and empty calorie foods to “focus”? I think we all know the answer to this, and it is NO. UT is sending a mixed message to students with advertisements like this. As an instructor and fellow student on campus, I recognize the stress students are under this time of the year. As a dietitian, I know there are better options. These types of choices, although okay in moderation, do have detrimental effects if consumed in excess. For example, if consumed on a regular basis, empty calorie foods are likely culprits for weight gain. It has clearly been documented that students who consume more fruits, vegetables and grains score higher on academic assessments. I recommend foods that provide valuable nourishment to fuel our minds and bodies. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015), people should consume nutrient-dense foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein as part of a healthy eating pattern. Moreover, the guidelines specifically recommend the avoidance of empty calorie foods, like the ones presented in this image. A major movement in the public school system is to provide nourishing choices for students. What about colleges?
Should UT not hold this environment to the same standard? As a learning institution, UT needs to provide an environment that fosters student learning and success at the highest level. If UT or the bookstore promotes sugar- and fat-laden snacks to students … are they really helping students?
Kerri Knippen, MPH, RDN, LD, BC-ADM

Associate Lecturer, Dept. of Health & Rec.
College of Health Sciences
Doctoral Student, Health Education

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1 Comment

  • Reynny

    You need to be more aware of the difference between an advertisement for a business and a public service announcement.

    With higher education funding a constant problem, should the university only accept advertising and contract revenue from companies who want to pay to put out “pre-approved” messages?

    [Reply]

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Nieszczur: Why UT shouldn’t encourage fueling up on “empty calorie foods”