Worried about your calorie count at 1920 Commons? Nutritional information is becoming easier to access as Bon Appétit works with Penn Dining to update their new website. Online menus for dining halls and retail cafes have been updated since the first day of fall classes.
“Menus are streamlined, have easier access to information, increased readability, require less scrolling and now you can filter the menu you see based on your dietary preferences,” Bon Appétit dietitian Dan Connolly said.
The biggest and still ongoing update includes detailed nutritional information for a wide range of foods served at dining halls like Commons, Kings Court English House and Hill College House.
“Nutritional information will be available for our regularly occurring, static items because we can get information from the foods that we always serve,” Connolly said. Facts will include serving size, calories, fats, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugars and protein.
Menus also identify food as vegetarian, vegan, made without gluten, locally sourced and seafood.
Though a significant amount of foods still need their nutritional information calculated and uploaded, information will gradually be available for the salad bar, pizza station, cereal, drinks, condiments and any regularly occurring item.
“Our daily specials — which set Penn Dining and Bon Appétit apart from everyone else — don’t necessarily have a regular recipe, so we can’t have detailed nutritional information for them regularly,” Connolly said. Ingredient information is still available for those dishes.
The update in nutritional information follows from student demand.
“If you invest money into a meal plan, you should have the right to the nutrition facts of what you have to eat,” College freshman Shannah Reagan said.
But students say the additional information won't necessarily make up for other considerations that go into choosing a meal plan.
“It doesn’t change the fact that I feel the nutritional value of the food isn’t that great,” College sophomore Connie Miller said. “I didn’t want a meal plan anymore because I never felt like I got the quality of food that I wanted.”
Connolly acknowledged that “nutrition information isn’t really the whole picture when it comes to wellness because we know from studies and other professionals that having the facts listed doesn’t necessarily lead to increases in wellness. It’s great information to have, but it doesn’t always get you to where you want to go."
Bon Appétit relies on other methods like nutrient-rich ingredients and behavioral economics “to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” Connolly said. For example, the salad station is prominently placed in the front of Commons.
The new website is also designed to make it easier for students to access healthy foods and information.
At the top of the page, students can see the hours of operation for each dining facility and what meal each is serving currently. The new menu website is mobile friendly, and diners can also sign up for a daily menu email featuring whichever dining halls and cafes are requested. The website features a “farm-to-fork map” that highlights where ingredients come from. Students may also ask Connolly specific dietary questions directly through the website and look at frequently answered questions.
“We need to always be explaining what we do and how students can eat well because it’s the new freshman class that eats the most in the dining halls each year,” Director of Communications and External Relations for Business Services Barbara Lea-Kruger said.
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