Students looking for nutritional information around USC are often unable to find sodium content, which is especially problematic as many Americans already have too much in their diets.
Nearly 60 percent of Americans do not know how much sodium they consume each day and 88.2 percent of those who are not at risk for sodium-related health issues exceed the Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily sodium intake of 2,300 mg, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
USC Hospitality does not have nutritional information available for a majority of its University Park Campus dining locations. According to its website, the information was scheduled to be available in spring 2011, but it is still unavailable.
It can be difficult for students eating on campus to stay under the recommended limit.
Some food items available at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, like the “Classic Burrito” with chicken from Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, are under the FDA approved mark with 1695 mg of sodium. Other options like the “Western Bacon Six Dollar Burger” from Carl’s Jr. contains 2440 mg of sodium. If one adds a medium-sized order of “Natural-Cut French Fries” and an “Oreo Cookie Hand-Scooped Ice Cream Shake,” the overall sodium intake of the meal increases to 3680 mg.
Vito Campese, professor of medicine and chief of the Keck School of Medicine Division of Nephrology, said students should be wary of fast food.
“Fast food is rich in salt and other spices to give it a better taste,” Campese said. “Since cheap food is less tasty, companies add salt to make it more acceptable to consumers.”
People with sodium-heavy diets are prone to heart problems, according to the FDA.
“The most obvious effect of high sodium is high blood pressure,” Campese said. “Studies have also found a link between high sodium and cardiomegaly, or the enlargement of the heart. In the long run, this may coincide with kidney problems.”
Though many places, such as The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, display the calories of their items, few have the full nutritional information available on site. Other eateries, like Trojan Grounds, display the calorie amounts for their beverages, but leave muffins, bagels, scones and croissants unmarked.
Hannah Getts, a sophomore majoring in critical studies, said visible nutritional labels would change her eating habits.
“Seeing something or reading something relating to sodium on a label would make me think about my sodium intake before eating,” Getts said. “Otherwise I won’t think about it.”
Marco Guillen, assistant kitchen manager at Everybody’s Kitchen, said EVK does what it can to keep options open for students who are looking to limit their sodium intake. He said some items, like the tri-tip, tend to have higher sodium levels and should be eaten in moderation.
“Steamed vegetables are good for students who don’t want too much salt,” Guillen said.
Some students said they don’t stop to consider sodium intake before grabbing a bite to eat on campus.
Alexa Pace, a junior majoring in psychology, said she never thinks about sodium levels.
“I haven’t really noticed [nutritional information] but I’m sure it’s somewhere,” Pace said.
Marissa Honda, a graduate student studying music performance, said campus options are sparse for those trying to eat healthily.
“I assume [on-campus food options] are not as healthy as the food I make at home, but there are ways you could make it healthy,” Honda said. “Students can get healthy items like salad from the Seeds Marketplace.”
Honda said restaurants like Submarina, which was located in The Lot before the opening of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, provided students with healthier options.
Alicia McDonough, professor of physiology and biophysics at the USC Keck School of Medicine, said it can be hard to make healthy choices on campus when there are few low-sodium options.
“Even here at the Health Sciences Campus, I’m faced with a cafeteria that has a Panda Express, which has an extremely high sodium content, a little Mexican place and counters and counters of processed food,” McDonough said. “I always think, ‘What are we trying to do here? Are we trying to give people hypertension and cardiovascular disease?’”
McDonough had a few words of wisdom for students who are trying to limit their sodium intakes.
“Eat a banana or a salad,” she said. “Just try to eat things that look like real food.”