NUTRITION AT A GLANCE. Ball State's Health Zone stickers allow students to identify foods that are consistent with different diet regimens, from low-carb to low-fat and low-cal.
To help students negotiate the wide range of choices they face in the university's residence dining halls, Ball State University, Muncie, IN, has come up with a simple color-coded sticker system to identify menu choices that conform to different diet regimens. Called Health Zone, the program uses purple (low-calorie), red (low-fat) and green (low-carb) tags on a la carte offerings and on menu boards listing entrees (a blue sticker indicates an item that conforms to all three diets).
AnnTalley, director of residence hall dining services, says the system is simpler than the old one offering complex nutritional breakdowns. "That was not very customer friendly because students simply don't have time to go through them," she says.
A fitness awareness campaign is also part of the Health Zone initiative. Talley says the program is an attempt by the university to promote healthy overall lifestyles to students all too apt to fall into unhealthy habits while dealing with the rigors of keeping up with their studies.
The labeling program began at two major dining areas, the Atrium in the Art & Journalism building and Cardinal Crossing in the Student Center, in late August (except for two of the Atrium's nationally branded concepts, Sbarro and Chick-fil-A, which are declining to participate). About half of the university's 10 dining outlets will go on line over the balance of the first semester and the rest starting in January.
For grab-and-go items, especially in the five campus c-stores, labels are affixed to the shelf slot rather than on each individual item, which would be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive to effect, Talley says.
At food stations, the sticker is on menu boards or next to item descriptions. The five food courts each have a mix of national restaurant brands, manufacturer branded concepts (Sara Lee Sandwich Shoppe, Campbell's Soup Station, Sysco Block & Barrel Deli, etc.) and in-house brands developed by the self-operated Ball State Dining team.
To be tagged with a sticker, a menu item must conform to strict guidelines. Low-fat items must have under three grams of fat per serving, low-calories items must have under 100 calories per serving (or under 250 for main dishes) and low-carb items must contain no more than 11 carbohydrate grams per 100-gram serving.