Experts: Late-night munchies may harm health

Sophomore Amar Mandalia returns to his dorm at 11 p.m. most nights. His day is packed with classes, organization meetings and work. Before he starts studying, he calls several friends and takes orders for a late night “Taco Bell run.”

For Mandalia, like many students, late-night dining is routine.
“I am so active, and work piles up,” Mandalia said. “Food fills my stomach and keeps me going.”

Ashley Falcon, assistant director at the Wellness and Recreation Center, said she is concerned about students’ late-night eating habits. She said eating prior to bedtime can slow metabolism, cause digestive problems and lead to weight gain.

“If you are eating right before going to bed, it is energy you don’t need, and it won’t be burned,” Falcon said.

Leanne Rutter, staff physician at the Health Center, said a large number of the medical conditions she has seen on campus are related to weight problems. High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disorders can often result from unhealthy diet and nutrition, she said.

“Whether it is the dining hall, the food court or a restaurant, it comes down to the individual making proper choices,” Rutter said.

Some students are aware of the health hazards but will not change the habit.

“When I am hungry, I don’t care,” sophomore Tiffany Matthias said. Since college students stay up late to study, it is natural to get hungry, she said.

Freshman Courtney Ewert usually eats an extra meal at night because the dining halls stop serving hot food at 7:30 p.m., she said. Ewert thinks the dining halls should serve hot food until closing time at 9 p.m. on weekdays.

“If I eat later, I won’t have to eat another unnecessary meal,” Ewert said.

Mel Tenen, assistant vice president of Auxiliary Services, said requests are continually being made to extend dining hours. They are evaluated based on student feedback and sales.

“There is not a year that goes by that we do not make an adjustment to our hours,” he said, noting that dining hall hours were extended to 9 p.m. on weekdays in 2003. Several eating facilities on campus, such as Wendy’s and Starbucks, have also extended hours this year.

Junior Karen Cherian said finding healthy options is difficult for students who want a “quick and convenient meal.”

“As a college student, I’m low on time, low on funds and hungry,” Cherian said. “At night, it is difficult to find healthy, affordable food.”

Falcon said the types of food available at the late-night or 24-hour establishments have an adverse effect on health. Pizza and fast food are “empty calories,” she said.

They lack nutritional value and are high in fats and sugars.
Falcon said these types of foods cause a temporary burst of energy and then a sudden “crash.” Students may then feel tired and find it difficult to focus.

“Just like you wake up and worry about what you will wear for the day, you should also take some time to think about what you are putting into your body,” she said.

Although late-night options at the C-store or food court may not be healthy, a new Whole Foods, which provides organic products, opened last month across the street from Sunset Place.

Still, some students believe Whole Foods may be too expensive to draw in college students.

“I was so excited to get healthy food and it was delicious and yummy, but when I went to ring it up, it was $21.50 for lunch alone,” R.T. Kitten, a senior, said.

Other students believe that new off-campus options won’t impact students living on campus.

“Most people go out and eat late at night because they have nothing left in their rooms,” said senior Robert Weber-Velez.

As for healthy options on campus, Tenen said Wendy’s offers healthy side dishes such as baked potatoes and salads. Still, french fries are still the number one side dish sold, he added.

“Everyone knows fries are not the healthiest option available,” Tenen said. “It comes down to students making smarter choices.”

Tenen said Chartwells has added a line of organic and natural foods to the university’s convenience store to meet student health concerns. Also, the “360 Marketplace” planned to open in 2010 will serve only organic, natural and sustainable products.

Karunya Krishnan may be contacted at

Domestic junk food companies are getting a makeover

The University of Miami plans to open a completely-organic “360 Degree Marketplace” as a healthier substitute for the C-store by 2010. Nationally, college students may have “healthy” junk-food options as well.

Frito-Lay, the world’s largest producer of snack foods, is re-engineering products as part of the “Eden Project.” For every ounce of the new vegetable crisps, the company plans to include one-half serving of real vegetables. Frito-Lay is looking into using more whole grains, colon-healthy fiber and lycopene, an antioxidant found in watermelon and tomatoes.

This year, Coca-Cola also launched Diet Coke Plus, fortified with vitamins, and all 4,500 Dunkin’ Donuts stores plan to start using zero-gram trans-fat oils in their doughnuts.

-By Karyn Meshbane

Wellness Center programs

Upcoming free of cost programs:

-Heart Garden Meditation workshop series (4 workshops starting in November)
-Are you Nutrition label able? Nov. 12, Classroom 1 at noon
-Handling Stress with Fitness, Nov. 19, Classroom 1 from 5:30-6:30
-Portion Control: Deflate your plate, Nov. 19, Wellness Center Conference room at noon

Additional programs:

-Nutrition Consultation: A one-on-one meeting with a member of the Wellness staff involving an in-depth analysis of physical fitness, daily eating and exercise habits. Cost: $20 for students
-Champ Fitness Assessment: Lasts for about 60 minutes and tests cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness and flexibility. Free for students