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Students congregate in the fishbowl to eat and take a break from classes. (Connor Cox/Emerald)

At the start of every new year, Americans convince themselves it’s time to diet. Whether that be following some obscure plan that only allows wheat grass and oxygen, or a strict workout regimen, the effort rarely lasts longer than a few weeks.

University of Oregon students are not immune to this fad, so the Emerald decided to offer its help in making the process a little more simple and to maybe, just maybe, help students maintain their New Year’s resolutions a little bit longer. Here is a guide to the leanest and meanest foods at the EMU.


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Patrons line up in front of Chipotle in the EMU fishbowl during the lunch rush. (Connor Cox/Emerald)

Chipotle has a bad rap for being an unhealthy chain restaurant; however, with all the choices Chipotle offers, it is possible to construct a reasonably healthy meal. The key at this restaurant is to choose your portions carefully. With the power to choose all ingredients at the point of a finger, there’s no reason to go overboard on the unhealthy stuff.

Steak Burrito Bowl - 450 Calories

One serving of steak, one scoop of black beans, one serving of fajita vegetables, pico de gallo, lettuce and a half serving of guacamole.

This meal might as well be a salad, but it's filling, and you’re getting most of those Chipotle flavors you’ve come to love.

Cheesy Carnitas Burrito - 1,485 Calories

 One scoop white rice, one scoop black beans, one serving of carnitas, one scoop of cheese, one scoop of sour cream, one scoop of queso, romaine lettuce, one scoop of guacamole and tomatillo red chili salsa.

This burrito tastes fantastic, but all the trimmings like cheese, sour cream and queso really add up.


Known for being the self-proclaimed weight loss professionals, Subway claims to be the place to help someone slim down. But Subway is also the home to an endless list of fatty sauces and cheeses. Like Chipotle, this restaurant is all about choices, which means it is important to exercise your freedom with intention.

Footlong Turkey Breast Sandwich with Honey Mustard - 530 Calories

Order this sandwich straight from the menu and then ask for the honey mustard at the end.  Trust the sandwich makers. This sandwich has the filling meat, soft bread and all the veggie trimmings, but keeps that calorie count low. By adding the honey mustard to this sandwich, the dry combination of ingredients Subway wanted you to order is now a little more exciting with that sweet flavor.

Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt - 1,080 Calories

Usually the words “bacon,” “ranch” and “melt” used together mean what you are eating is most likely going to be bad for overall health. This instance is no exception. Say no to the fatty bacon, excess cheese and ranch dressing. You want to live past age 40, don’t you?


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A student awaits his Starbucks order in the EMU. (Connor Cox/Emerald)

While Starbucks is better known for its drinks, some of the food options are actually delicious and surprisingly filling. The options that don’t come out of that green straw mostly consist of pastries, cookies and cakes — but there are also a number of healthy options.

Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon & Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Sandwich - 210 Calories

This sandwich is filling and actually tastes good while keeping the fat content under 5 grams. The sandwich also contains 18 grams of protein, so it’s a great option for those trying to build muscle in 2019.

Spicy Chorizo, Monterey Cheese and Egg Breakfast Sandwich - 500 Calories

This option doesn’t necessarily break the calorie bank; however, it does have 30 grams of fat, which is better avoided if possible.

Panda Express

Panda Express is another one of those places that has a bad rap but actually can be a good option when the right choices are made. The restaurant leaves a lot of room for customization and has a wide array of meat, vegetable and base options.

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A patron awaits their order at Panda Express in the EMU. (Connor Cox/Emerald)

String Bean Chicken Breast with Brown Steamed Rice - 620 Calories

This is a great option for those looking for a heartier meal. The brown steamed rice offers more fiber and less sodium than the steamed white rice option so those 420 calories won’t go to waste. The string bean chicken gives that necessary and satisfying protein to keep the day going at only 190 calories.

 Orange Chicken with Chow Mein - 1,000 Calories

Orange chicken is one of the most popular dishes at Panda Express for good reason: It’s fried chicken tossed in a tangy, sweet orange sauce. Sadly, the orange chicken isn’t the best option when trying to slim down. Paired with the 510 calorie chow mein, this meal pairing is better left on the wok — even if you do eat the little pieces of lettuce in the chow mein that we all know you eat around.

Jamba Juice

Smoothies are a sneaky affair. They consist of almost exclusively fruit, which is seen as healthy food, but sometimes juices and sorbets are added. When this happens, an unhealthy amount of sugar and calories take over. Jamba Juice offers a wide array of smoothies that consist of these unhealthy mixtures, but they also carry drinks that include exclusively healthy ingredients as well.

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Jamba Juice employees look on as students study and relax in the EMU. (Connor Cox/Emerald)

Peach Perfection (16 oz) - 210 Calories

This smoothie tastes great and is on the lower end of the menu with respect to calories and sugar content (42 grams). It has that sweet, fruity and refreshing taste while cutting out all the unnecessary sugar additives.

Strawberry Surf Rider (power size) - 640 Calories

This deliciously tart smoothie is a no-go on those Thirsty Thursday power size deals. With 139 grams of sugar, the Strawberry Surf Rider has over four times the recommended sugar intake for the entire day, according to the World Health Organization. Steer clear of the power size drinks at Jamba Juice — no matter how thirsty you are.

Joe’s Burgers

Burgers are rarely a great option when trying to focus on making healthy decisions. They are hard to turn down. Luckily for UO students, Joe’s offers a number of healthy, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options for those days when a burger just sounds too good.

Lettuce Wrap Turkey Burger

The turkey burger is just that, a patty made of ground turkey, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato and sauce, packed into the leaf of lettuce. This burger substitute isn’t going to be named “healthiest food” any time soon, but it does cut down on the fat in a beef burger and the calories and carbs that are in an enriched, white burger bun. This is a great option when you need to indulge but don’t want to ruin all the work you’ve put in.

Cowboy Joe

This burger is topped with bacon, BBQ sauce, onion rings and American cheese, making this burger one fat-filled meal. If something sounds like a stomach ache, it should be avoided.

Falling Sky Brewing Pizzeria

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A Falling Sky Pizzeria employee prepares food behind the counter. (Connor Cox/Emerald)

Falling Sky’s third location is located inside the EMU, serving up beer on campus along with gourmet pizza and salads in a sit-down-style restaurant. Traditionally, beer and pizza isn’t the ideal weight loss regimen, but with the introduction of salads and sandwiches, Falling Sky offers a doable option for those joining a friend for a slice and a pint.

Kale Caesar! With the Dressing on the Side

Contrary to the name, this caesar salad won’t stab you in the back. By using kale instead of romaine lettuce, and roasted portobello mushrooms instead of meat, this caesar is setting you up for health success. The only downside is the typically unhealthy caesar dressing; however, this issue can be easily fixed by getting the dressing on the side so you can make the choice of how much needs to be poured on.

Pepperoni Pizza by the Slice

Falling Sky offers a pepperoni option that stays on the menu constantly as part of their rotating menu of pizzas by the slice. This option is loaded with greasy pepperoni pieces on top of the already fatty cheese pizza. This oversized pizza slice is a no-go for those trying to avoid the excess fat this season.

Fresh Corner Market

The little market on the bottom floor of the EMU offers snacks, drinks, pastries, salads, bowls and many other healthy options for students. Most of these options are organic, vegetarian or vegan, which provides people with certain dietary restrictions a copious amount of options.

Whole Bowl with Cheesy Cashew Dressing

The Whole Bowl has organic spinach, cauliflower rice, Marrakech tofu, broccoli, pickled beets, carrots, sunflower seeds, dried sumac and cheesy cashew dressing. This bowl is vegan, raw, oil-free and gluten-free. It’s comprised of almost exclusively vegetables, so for those not limited to a vegetarian diet, I would recommend adding either the herb chicken or Mediterranean tuna instead of the tofu to increase your protein consumption.

Baked Goods

Fresh Corner Market only has one section of mildly unhealthy food. Located in the center of the store are clear, plastic containers that house a wide array of baked goods like scones and muffins. Try avoiding these and opt for the other countless healthy options that the Market has to offer.

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