Hall food: value for money? Possibly. Healthy food? Absolutely not. You would have thought that the emphasis put on healthy eating by the media, government and individuals like Jamie Oliver might have had some impact on the food served on the Nottingham campus. But think again.
It seems to me that Nottingham University is taking its students for a ride. When I picture a hall meal all I think of is carbs, and not good ones. Think potato wedges, chips, oily roast potatoes, soggy boiled potatoes, fried potato croquettes, fried potato balls, and all the other potato variations you can imagine.
At the ridiculous time of 5:30pm you are served up a measly portion of the main option which normally contains a meagre amount of protein, usually cooked until it’s tough as boots. As a gym-going 6ft 3″ man it’s very hard to get enough protein, or food for that matter, to suffice. The only option is to fill up on unhealthy, usually, deep fried carbs and try and sneak an extra pudding, or two.
There are healthy options – there is a fruit bowl, from which you can take one piece of the most dull, tasteless pieces of fruit you have ever tasted. Along with that, there is an unexciting salad bar, serving up dry carrots, sweet corn, lettuce and tomatoes. Sometimes you will be lucky and get some left over egg from breakfast. It would not be hard to serve a few different salads every day and to offer a more balanced option of foods.
Finally the fact that portions are controlled by the staff serving them is ridiculous. It means that smaller individuals with small appetites end up leaving half their meal and those who need more protein end up leaving hungry or else filling up on chips.
To be able to eat healthily in halls, you just need to learn the right approach. Whilst I accept the initial glance of what‘s on offer does not make the most appealing proposition when watching your health, I think it is important not to ignore the wider picture.
For me dinner is what you make of it. The portions of carbs are nearly always matched by a variety of vegetables and the salad bar does have enough options to be able to create a suitable salad to complement your meal – and balance is the key to healthy eating. The common problem with hall food is less with the healthiness and more with the quality – but that is a different debate all together.
Furthermore, dinner is not the only meal of the day. The amount of healthy options available for breakfast, for example, are abundant. On most days halls will offer eggs, porridge, cereal, fruit, yogurt and even pastries, or a Saturday fry-up if you want to go slightly ‘unhealthy’.
Thirdly, what people forget is that the meal cards given to catered students also fall under the banner of ‘hall food’. With the £5.10 you receive daily, you are able to go and eat as you please, whether it be at one of the Mixes in halls, or in the food court at Portland. The options are endless: a baguette bar, a Starbucks, Chinese, pasta, African, chicken, and a proper salad bar!
If we’re being honest, it’s pretty unrealistic to eat healthy 24/7 and as long as students are able to eat a varied lunch of their choice, then frankly what’s wrong with coming back to halls for a bit of comfort food after a day of lectures?
Images by Trinity and Edward Webb