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Low-cal Loop items surge in popularity

The fresh aroma of food, the friendly chatter of students and a few menu changes greeted customers at The Loop when they returned for the fall semester.

Since the restaurant began listing calorie content for certain menu items, the Cajun fish wrap has quickly become one of the most popular of The Loop's "Let There Be Lite" choices.

"It's kind of nice," sophomore Cathy Zhou said as she sipped the soup she ordered with the wrap. "It feels like I'm healthier."

The Let There Be Lite menu now lists the calorie content for four entrees that contain 10 grams of fat or fewer.

With 393 calories and only two grams of fat, the Cajun fish wrap reigns over the Lite Menu in high popularity and minimal fat content.

Loop employees said they have noticed that both the wrap and the spicy black bean burger-another feature of the Lite Menu-are quickly becoming student favorites.

"I like the option of having a healthy meal," said sophomore Sara Quick. "Some things seem really healthy, but they turn out to be full of fat."

Many students, however, are less focused on calories and more focused on taste.

"I'm not really calorie-conscious, because I have a high metabolism," frequent Loop customer and senior Jonathan Port said. "I think that there is a widespread issue with body image at Duke, and [this menu] reflects it, but I don't think it adds to it."

The debut of the Loop's Lite Menu has students questioning why other campus eateries do not offer calorie listings or nutritional information displays.

"It would be nice to know what I'm eating exactly-not just calories, but also sugar and fat content," freshman Debbie Yen said.

Despite these student opinions, the University tends not to present calorie content to customers, Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst said.

"We have the information on hand, but we don't want to present the calorie information as a standard practice," Wulforst said. "We don't like to have it in your face."

Displaying nutrition information will not help promote good dieting practices, Franca Alphin, assistant clinical professor and director of health promotion for Duke Student Health, wrote in an e-mail.

"We feel very strongly that displaying calories and fat grams is not the most effective way to educate people on how to eat healthy, balanced meals," Alphin wrote.

Some students, however, said they disagree with Duke's reluctance to display nutritional facts.

"[The policy] deprives students of the control and the means to actually effect change in their lives," freshman David Bitner said. "If they don't give you an idea of portions and what's used in it, students cannot move in the direction of a healthy enjoyment of life."

Other students said they support Duke's choice to not focus on calories in its eateries. "Ignorance is bliss," said sophomore Sally Liu. "[Knowing the calorie content] would make me feel guilty."

Despite the University's practice of not displaying nutritional information, The Loop will continue to offer students a choice of fat and calorie contents in the Lite Menu.

The Loop Pizza Grill, a chain franchise with a number of locations in the South, finished rolling out the Lite Menu in all of its locations this year.

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