Spike the Punch: A JMU guide to on-campus nutrition

Grilled Cheese Thursday. Late night snacks at The Dog Pound.  Desserts at E-hall. On-campus dining is part of the JMU experience, offering a little something for everyone. But with so many tempting and delicious options, it can be easy to over-do-it on empty calories. That one last cookie leaving E-hall, peanut butter pie at D-hall, or full bowl of Elbows mac n cheese can add up after a semester.

So where are some of the healthier “punch” options on campus? While our university is great about providing nutritious to-go options such as fresh fruit, yogurt, hummus, and veggie containers, most of these options aren’t included in “punches” across campus. Many “punches” are too large of a portion size, include sides such as chips or fries, and include a fountain beverage. Even though the university is taking great strides to increase student nutrition awareness (Did you know campus dining nutrition facts are available for each campus dining location? Check it out here: http://www.campusdish.com/en-US/CSMA/JMU/Nutrition/), it can still be difficult picking out the most nourishing meal options on campus.

Hopefully the following tips can serve as a guide to finding the punches on campus that are not only spiked with beneficial nutrients and vitamins, but work with your meal plan and appetite. Rather than sticking with the same chicken wrap and fries combo from PC Dukes, try out some of these punch suggestions that can cut out empty calories and replace them with vitamin and nutrient dense foods.


For just a $5 punch, these campus salad bars are an incredible deal when it comes to the amount of vitamins and nutrients you can get in just one meal.  It’s important to know which foods to pile on and which toppings to avoid.

Stock up on:

Chickpeas: This legume is a terrific source of fiber, folic acid, and potassium. Along with fiber, chickpeas contain protein that will help you feel fuller after your salad is finished.

Sunflower seeds: This topping not only gives salad a nice crunch, a quarter cup of these seeds contain about 90% of your daily Vitamin E needs, a cancer-preventing antioxidant that is also important for the health of our cell membranes.

Broccoli: Yeah yeah, we’ve all been told we need to eat our broccoli. And it’s true. Broccoli is a mini-warehouse of phytochemicals, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, with more and more research showing a possibility for it’s protective role against cancer.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a great source of Vitamin C and potassium, two very important nutrients for stressed, worn-out college students. Sufficient Vitamin C intake may lower the risk of catching a cold while potassium intake helps conquer electrolyte imbalances caused by one too many cups of coffee.

Pass on the:

Iceberg lettuce: The darker the leaf, the better when it comes to salad. Pick greens such as spinach or romaine, which are high in Vitamins K and A (essential for bone and eye health, respectively).  Baby spinach is also rich in phytochemicals known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties as well as numerous minerals your body needs to function on a daily basis.

Brand-name dressing: Cream-based Ranch and Caesar dressings tend to be high in sodium and saturated fats, adding on possibly hundreds of unnecessary calories to a salad. And don’t be fooled by the “fat-free” Honey Mustard or Italian. These dressings can still be full of sugar. Stick with a do-it-yourself dressing: olive oil and balsamic vinegar (in moderation of 2 Tbsp. each). This option is lower in sodium, calories, and provides the nutrient and antioxidant benefits of olive oil. And if you’re like me and can’t live without an occasional blue-cheese dressing topped salad, grab a to-go cup rather than pouring the dressing on straight from the bottle. The amount of dressing is still enough to cover the salad but not enough to really hurt your waist line.

SANDWICHES 101: At Festival, PC Dukes, and Market One

Wrap or bread? Maybe it’s the Atkin’s Diet craze, the hype of the gluten-free diet, or just taste preference, but many students choose wraps over bread. Wraps used on campus tend to have about the same amount of carbohydrates as 2 slices of bread, while packing in a bit more sodium and fat. Whether you choose a wrap, slice of sandwich bread or bun, pick the 100% whole wheat option. This means that all parts of the wheat grain are used in the bread product to provide: hunger-suppressing fiber, metabolism and immune system supporting B vitamins, and iron. Don’t miss out on such a delicious and available source of nutrients!

Load it up. Having the option to build your own sandwich gives you the ability to pile on veggies and increase your daily intake. Never had green bell peppers on your sandwich? Try it out to not only increase your Vitamin C and fiber intake, but to keep yourself from getting your “usual”.

Pass on chips and soda. Though it’s okay to have the cheddar Sun Chips every now and then, pass on the chips some days and go for the banana or apple. Skip out on soda and PowerAde (both filled with sugars most likely not needed by your body to fuel you through your after-lunch class) and fill up on water or coffee with light creamer.

Easy on the condiments. Mayo, cheese, oil, and hummus are all key to making your sandwich both wonderful and satisfying, but can add up in calories if all used at once or used too excessively. If you can’t do without mayonnaise, go easier on the cheese. Hummus is always a great option for cheese or mayonnaise. It leaves one with the same feeling of satiety but is richer in fiber, vitamins, protein and unsaturated fats.

FESTIVAL: Burger Studio

Wait, what? A healthy punch at Burger Studio? A key part of a healthy, balanced diet is moderation. Cut your burger in half before digging in. This can help prevent overeating. Take it easy on the condiments and don’t skimp on the veggies or avocado (a terrific source of the “good” fats). Also, replace the fries (composed of 301 calories and 22 grams of fat) with the side salad or apple slices (just 37 calories).


While tator tots may be the first thought after reading the title above, D-Hall has other delicious and nutritious breakfast options available with just the swipe of a JACard. Load up on fruit from the salad bar and don’t forget the yogurt for a healthy digestive tract and strong bones. Pass over the waffles and French toast and get some oatmeal to provide energizing whole grains. And lastly, the omelet bar is a great place for a portion-controlled breakfast. You can special request one egg over easy or just egg whites. Just one egg is a low-calorie option full of filling protein and fats as well as Vitamin A, iron, niacin and folic acid.


The vegetarian, vegan, international and gluten-free stations at both D-hall and E-hall are usually loaded with non-traditional foods one might not usually choose to eat. Variety is crucial to a healthy, balanced diet so don’t be afraid to take a look at what these stations offer. Veggie Variations at D-hall usually offers wholesome whole grains, nutrient packed veggies, and protein filled tofu and legume options. The sweet potato at E-hall is a tasty source of Vitamin A, fiber and potassium at the gluten-free station.

Stay hungry,






Preedy VR; Watson RR; Sherma Z (2010). Dietary Components and Immune Function (Nutrition and Health). Totowa, NJ: Humana Press. pp. 3652ISBN 1-60761-060-4.

The Visual Food Lover’s Guide. Wiley. QA International. 2009.

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