I live in my sorority house with 29 other girls and we have the privilege to have a chef that cooks dinner for us 5 nights a week. While the dinner options have been considered subpar by all the girls in the house, I was approached by several of them about possibly planning the meals due to my major in Nutrition and background with healthy eating options. I had been planning meals and nutrition for some of the girls in the house so I jumped at the opportunity to work on meal plans for a larger client base with a wide array of restrictions.
We have every form of dietary restriction known to man living in this house, from gluten-free to different food allergies. My meal plans have to not only be healthy but also safe or modifiable for any type of food restriction. In addition to dietary restraints, I am also faced with budgetary and logistical restraints. Due to the amount of people that we are feeding, all of the food is bought in bulk and must follow certain pricing guidelines. These guidelines greatly impacted my ability to plan meals with fish and steak, due to price and also availability. Also, I had to be reasonable about cooking times and preparation for some of the meals. The chef only has three hours to prepare our meals each night so I have to make sure that he has time to prepare all of the food for that night.
Another part of this project has been working with our house mom to buy healthier options when she buys our food. The girls fill out a survey at the beginning of the year about which options or foods they would like to see in the house. While the majority of the food is pretty good, there are still some items that could be substituted for healthier, less-processed counterparts, such as cereal, granola bars, and crackers. I have been pushing toward buying more fruit and vegetables and providing healthier options such as quinoa, instead of easy mac for the girls to quickly grab and make.
The girls are all very supportive of these changes around the house and feel comfortable coming to me with any issues or changes that they would like to see in the menu or in the pantry. I always run the menu by them before submitting it to the chef and our house mom to make sure that everyone will be able to eat the dinner without issues. I look forward to continuing working with the girls and improving the houses food choices!