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Right down the street from Oldways and Whole Grains Council headquarters is the bustling campus of Boston University, with nearly 30,000 students and 8,000 staff members.  It was this time last year, during Whole Grain Sampling Day 2012, where we met students and faculty of BU and their partners, the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center staff.

The Sargent Choice Nutrition Center, with five full-time registered dietitians, provides a variety of services to the BU community and the general public.  One thing that impressed us mightily is their tireless campaign to bring healthier choices to the BU dining halls, through a program called the Sargent Choice Healthy Dining Program.

We connected earlier this month with BU to support their efforts for this year’s Sampling Day activities. Their plans are awesome, including special whole grain dishes in all three dining halls, cooking demonstrations and samples, and information tables. Plus — just like last year – BU students will help our team with distributing whole grain samples throughout the city of Boston.

We spent some time with Stacey Zawacki, DrPH, RD, LD, director of the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center and asked her to share more about their nutrition programs, especially the Healthy Dining campaign.


OLDWAYS/WGC:  Can you give us an overview of what the Sargent Choice Nutrition Center does?

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STACEY: The Sargent Choice Program provides support on multiple levels. To start with, we offer, individual nutrition counseling services  customized group seminars and one-credit nutrition classes (Healthy Cooking on a Budget is our most popular). We also offer population-based supports including our Sargent Choice Healthy Dining options and our interactive website and blog.  I know that was a mouthful (no pun intended); we just have a lot to offer!

OLDWAYS/WGC:  What can you tell us about today’s students and their food choices?  Are they really committed to eating well?
STACEY:  Health is important to nearly all of the students who have participated in focus groups or completed our surveys at BU.  The difference is how they define health.  Some define health as a disciplined lifestyle with a focus on specific eating behaviors such as choosing whole grains or avoiding fast food, using absolute terms like “everyday” or “never,” while others define health in terms of moderation and a more flexible and balanced approach to food and exercise behaviors.

OLDWAYS/WGC: So how does your Healthy Dining program help them follow through on their interest in good health?
STACEY: The Healthy Dining program encourages something we call “thoughtful eating” – getting off automatic pilot and paying attention to the food choices you make. But then you have to make sure there are delicious, healthy choices available. As we say on our website, “We think everything you eat should always taste delicious.” We’ve worked with chefs in the dining halls to create special dishes that meet the Sargent Choice criteria – one of which is that grains should always be whole grains. Our students, in fact, think whole grains are pretty mainstream. Students and staff can look for the Sargent Choice logo to find these delicious-and-nutritious dishes.

OLDWAYS/WGC:  I love that taste is a driving factor.  Can you tell us what your favorite dish is and/or share a recipe with us?
STACEY:  Our classic cookie recipe is a favorite because it is a modified version of the Original Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie, which most people are familiar with and love.  In fact, this is the recipe that started the whole Sargent Choice program. We introduced it in 2004 for a pilot nutrition program, and everyone said we should make choices like this available campus-wide. I am attaching our recipe card which shows how we modified the recipe, line-by-line, to make it whole grain and heart-healthy, but still delicious!

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OLDWAYS/WGC:  Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about your program and the students involved or benefiting from it?
STACEY:  We think that colleges have a unique opportunity and responsibility to introduce and reinforce beneficial eating behaviors, and provide the skills and supports to help students develop preferences and habits that will benefit them for a lifetime. 


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