Seltzer water is a healthier choice

Dining halls should offer healthy alternatives to sugary drinks like soda



Michael Wheeler, a freshman engineering major, pours himself a cup of soda Wednesday in Southside Cafe. After seltzer water comes to dining halls, students should choose health over taste.

KADE RUSSOM, Evergreen columnist

Dining Services is the primary provider of first-year nutrition, influencing student eating habits and dietary preference into their 20s and beyond. As such, it is Dining’s responsibility to encourage healthy lifestyle choices for the good of these students.

Think of all the issues the typical first-year college student goes through: social anxiety, homesickness, the constant and terrible desire to procrastinate. All these come to mind when thinking about this daunting year.

The bane of waistlines — the freshman 15 — is only one among a number of these issues, but it is one indicative of WSU’s approach to student health.

The information they offer on their foods is vast, accurate and available on request. Any diet is easily catered to in their dining halls, but it is up to students to decide.

Some choices are pointedly clear.

Pizza or a wrap? A side of fries or a salad? To eat or not to eat, that is the question.

But the most deceptive of these choices come after your food is set on your tray, as you wait in line for your order to be rung up.

There is always a set of cups within arm’s reach and the sugary splendor they might hold is just past the cashier in endless fountains. You pick one up, balancing it on your tray and thereby select the least healthy of every option: soda.

While not as addictive as other drinks, such as alcohol or cough medicine, this bubbly syrup holds danger in sugar, its passive poison.

I met with Gary Coyle, director of retail dining and catering, Sarah Larson, director of residential dining and Alice Ma, registered dietician for Dining Services, to gather information on the matter.

Forty-five percent of students who eat at dining halls purchase a beverage and 57 percent of them select their beverage from the soda fountains.

While their exact purchase is not tracked and there are some options outside of soda, Coyle said, one in every four students is likely to have it with their meal.

Every selection of non-diet soda has around 40 grams of sugar per cup. Assuming these students eat on campus every day and purchased a soda every meal, they consume roughly 840 grams of sugar weekly.

That’s 480 calories a day from drinks alone, not accounting for unlimited refills, a fifth of the daily recommended caloric intake of the average 20-year-old.

Those who take 25 percent or more of their daily calories in sugar were at far more risk to die from heart disease, according to a major study published in the Internal Medicine section of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This puts a fourth of residential diners a slice of pie away from heart failure — if not now, then a decade or two down the road.

Thankfully, the option for flavored seltzer is not far off, Larson said. With it comes the possibility of remedy.

Coca-Cola, WSU’s primary contractor, is currently under the development of its own seltzer product to rival that of La Croix and other brands. Residential Dining has been informed of this and is at work allocating the resources and availability for the product on its release.

Seltzer is essentially the same product as soda in all regards except in its taste and sugar quantity. In this regard, it is exceptionally healthier. But as people ordinarily develop quite a sweet tooth from drinking soda on a daily basis, this fact is easily ignored.

WSU is responsible for the informed care of its students, so in an effort to change diets for the better, a campaign for seltzer support should begin.

Nothing exaggerating, just information plain and clear.

When seltzer arrives, it should be known as a healthier alternative to the syrup so many get now — not only for the health of students now but for the health of alumni in the years to come.