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April 20, 2007

Purdue dining services reduces bad fat, provides students nutrition information

Cooking with trans fat free cooking oil
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Building on its decision to reduce trans fats in its food preparation almost two years ago, Purdue University Residences now is giving its diners more tools to maintain healthy eating habits.

University Residences has been sponsoring nutrition education games in its dining courts and creating an interactive nutrition education Web site. Educational displays have been posted in dining courts informing students about the university's switch to trans-fat-free oils for food preparation.

University Residences made the change in oils in 2005, several months before new federal regulations requiring improved food labeling to show the public how much trans fat is present in products like oil, shortening, margarine, cookies and cakes.

"With all of the research coming out about how unhealthy trans fats can be, we knew it was the right thing to do," said Sarah Johnson, director of University Residences dining services. "This is something that quickly reduced the trans fats in the diet of our customers."

Kathy Manwaring, assistant director of University Residences dining services, said there is little difference in the taste of trans-fat-free blend of canola and cottonseed oil, and the new oil has a longer lifespan for cooking than the oil previously used.

University Residences uses approximately 95,000 pounds of cooking oil a year. The new oil costs 7 cents per-pound more, a difference of less than $7,000 per year. Several colleges, including Ohio State University and the University of Pennsylvania also have recently switched to trans-fat-free oils.

"I assumed everyone changed when we did, but it's not true," Manwaring said. "However, the growing trend of using trans-fat-free oil can significantly impact the health of students nationwide for the better."

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Research demonstrates that a high intake of trans fats increases levels of bad cholesterol and decreases levels of good cholesterol. As many as 30,000 premature coronary heart disease deaths a year might be due to consumption of trans fats, according to Texas A&M nutritionists.

Purdue University Residences posts notification of its use of trans-fat-free oil at dining court cooking stations throughout the year. During National Nutrition Month, tabletop displays reminding student residents that University Residences uses trans-fat-free oil were posted in each dining court.

During the recently completed National Nutrition Month, University Residences also placed "My Pyramid" displays in its dining rooms to show students how to eat healthy and select proper portion sizes. More than 1,000 people entered the Nutri-Game trivia competition that required diners to find answers that were posted in serving areas of each dining court. Those answering all five questions correctly were eligible to win prizes from food vendors.

University Residences dietician Ann Pickett said students can fall into several bad habits, including skipping breakfast, eating more when stressed, substituting sugary foods for fatty ones and substituting carbonated beverages for milk and water.

During nutrition month, diners were given handouts with these and several other tips.

"Students need to be realistic and make small changes in how they eat and exercise over time," Pickett said. "They also need to be adventurous by trying new foods and making sure that their diet includes every color of the rainbow."

Other healthy hints on the flyers included learning about nutrition from reliable sources, reading food labels, joining an exercise group, walking instead of driving and enjoying all foods in moderation.

University Residences will launch a Web site in August to provide students with a tool to make healthful choices with University Residences dining. Diners will be able to visit the "NetNutrition" site and choose all of the items they ate in the dining courts that day and in what amounts. The system will then calculate the nutritional intake for the dish, the meal or the day. 

"The system will calculate nutritional content based on portion size, allowing students to directly see how portion size relates to nutritional intake," Johnson said. "It should be eye-opening."

Writer: Jim Schenke, (765) 494-6262,

Sources: Sarah Johnson, (765) 494-1000,

Kathy Manwaring(765) 494-1000,

Ann Pickett, (765) 494-9204,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Purdue University Residences has switched to trans fat free cooking oil in its food preparation areas as part of a continuing effort to help students choose a healthier diet. (Purdue News Service photo/Jim Schenke)

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