‘Fuel Good Food’ event heightens obesity awareness, gives healthy alternatives

Taylar Miller speaks with students during a presentation at the Fuel Good Food in Herrig Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 7. (Monique Belser | GCmag)

“In Michigan, you have over a two in three chance of being an overweight adult,” Taylar Miller said at a nutrition seminar in Herrig Hall.

This unsettling statistic was provided in Miller’s presentation as part of a Nov. 7 event dubbed “Fuel Good Food” put on in association with the Student Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (SAND) organization on campus. Students listened in for surprising facts about snacks popularly consumed by the college crowd and other scary obesity statistics, as well as tips for eating well.

Miller, a sophomore from DeWitt, Mich., displayed a list of nutritional facts for students to see. It contained 12 ingredients, which included such multisyllabic mouthfuls as “monopotassium phosphate” and a red flag entry of high fructose corn syrup. She asked if anyone could guess the product. Eyes wandered throughout the room and a puzzled look donned the faces of some students as they waited quietly for the answer.

To break the silence, Miller showed a blank powerpoint document with the words “100% orange juice” and asked if students could identify the item. Several chimed in with the correct answer.

“It (orange juice) is orange because oranges are orange; Gatorade is not blue because they put blueberries in it,” Miller said, producing a few chuckles from the crowd. “Gatorade has added sugar, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. It’s just not good for you.”

Miller then confronted students with a figure of $12.5 billion — the estimated medical costs associated with obesity in Michigan by 2018. The state also has the 10th highest prevalence of obesity in the U.S., and direct medical costs allocated toward the epidemic across the nation top $147 billion.

“The sad part is this can be prevented if we just start eating healthier,” Miller said, citing the importance of freeing the state budget of the $12.5 billion so it can be spent elsewhere on something more useful.

Prior to the seminar, students sampled healthy alternatives including Amy’s minestrone soup, KIND fruit and nut bars and Falafel chips provided by vendors. A panel of SAND members offered information and advice about the products to students.

“(Nutrition) is something more people need to be aware of,” said Matt Isherwood, a SAND member and participant in the event. “People may think they know some stuff about nutrition or are unsure about certain things, so we’re here to clarify and show good alternatives.”

Following the samples, students were directed to the Market and given assistance in choosing healthier options when shopping. Market employee Teyondra Burch said the Caesar salads sell quickly, though the most popular items students buy are pizza, sandwiches and bulk candy, with Gatorade ranking in as one of the most bought drinks.

“A lot of students get healthier stuff, but it’s cold,” Burch said. “If you’re thinking about a meal, you’re going to want something that’s hot. If there were more hot healthy stuff, I think it would sell more.”

As Burch continued to talk, Lindsay Nosek, another employee, said eight of the last 10 students in line bought a pizza.

“There’s a bigger demand this year for organic and natural items, but it definitely doesn’t move as fast (as other popular items),” Nosek said.

Rebecca Pittman, a junior from Sterling Heights, said the granola and KIND bars were her favorite items to sample. It was her first time attending a nutrition event on campus and she said students can learn a lot from it.

“People don’t realize how much sugar and fat are in the (popular kinds of bars) that people eat every day,” Pittman said. “They think they’re eating healthy but really they’re not.”

Everyone is affected by nutrition whether they realize it or not, SAND member Andrea Thelen said, after giving a tour of the market to students.

“It’s not just about being thin; it’s not about losing weight, and it’s not about eating healthy to lose weight,” Thelen said. “It’s about eating healthy to maintain your body and prevent diseases in the future.”

Miller said she plans to host the event again in the spring in the Towers.