HANCOCK - While sophomore Finlandia University student Nick Killian jumpstarts his day with a hearty breakfast of eggs and sausage, he's sure to opt for a lighter side come lunchtime.
"I always get the salad bar," the physical therapy assistant major said from his cafeteria table in Finlandia Hall Wednesday. "There's a lot of healthy options here - fresh fruits, vegetables and dairies. ... I like that."
Eating healthy in college isn't always easy, especially when students are on the go morning, noon and night. In that case, Finlandia University Food Service Director Tim Nakkula said the kitchen staff prepares a diverse menu of traditional cafeteria favorites and lighter, healthier options for the more health-conscious diner.
Kelly Fosness/Daily Mining Gazette
Finlandia University sophomore physical therapy assistant major Nick Killian tops a fresh lettuce salad with dressing during lunch Wednesday at the campus cafeteria. Killian said he frequents the campus cafeteria’s salad bar throughout the week for a lighter, healthier side to his meals.
"A healthy concept has really been a big part of our work in the last five to seven years; even in the last couple there's been a big push for it," he said. "All of my cooking oils are zero trans fat and we incorporate whole-grain products so we're always offering as many healthy options as we can."
Over the course of the 19 years Nakkula has been with Finlandia, he said he's seen a change in the way students think about food. Not only are they more informed but they're also more open to trying new things.
"Although we still have all the old (cafeteria) favorites, students have really come a long way in knowing what they should be eating," he said. "It's surprising how many students are adventurous compared to how they used to be."
Nakkula said Finlandia's central cafeteria in Finlandia Hall has undergone major renovations recently inside and out to better serve students. Along with expanded kitchen space, fresh salad bar and deli, and newly installed state-of-the-art equipment, there's a lot more seating in the cafeteria.
"This is our fourth week in the new facility," he said. "We're still getting used to it, but we've got more oven space and the kitchen is laid out differently. We now have four convection ovens, which means we're doing more baking than frying. It's really nice."
Nakkula said they cater to vegetarians as well, and always keep fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables out for a healthy snack on the go.
Currently, he said the cafeteria is open only during breakfast, lunch and dinner, but down the road they're looking into being open all day long and even into the evening.
Nakkula said he's always looking for input from students about menu offerings as well.
"I have it in the handbook, my office is open all the time," he said. "If they have a favorite recipe, say it's something their mom makes and it's their favorite, something they're craving, they can come in and talk to me. If it's within budget we'll try it."
Last year, he said students went in the kitchen and had their own barbecue.
"We're looking to do more of those theme-type meals to get students involved," he said. "Once they realize what goes on behind the food, they have more respect for the process and the people doing it."
As for the students' eating habits, he said, he's definitely seen a change in what they're putting on their cafeteria trays.
"Students are taking more of an interest in what they're eating," he said. "They're more concerned with their health."