WKU dietitians Brandi Breden and Summer Spillman are launching their first semester of nutrition tours this week with the aim to bring nutrition counseling directly to students.
“When somebody walks in the door, our first thing is, ‘Hey do you have any nutrition concerns on campus? Are you finding healthy meals?’ Then just going from there,” Breden said.
Spillman said addressing student needs is the guiding principle for the tours.
“It’s all about education,” she said. “Once we figure out what they’re interested in and what their concerns are, they guide the education.”
In addition to one-on-one education, the tours will also connect students to ongoing campus resources. The campus dietitians provide guidance for a number of concerns, including food allergies, eating disorders, diabetes and celiac disease.
“I feel like we do a good job of of getting our services and our name out there, but still, I bet if you ask ten people, maybe one person will know that there’s a dietitian,” Breden said. “We’re here to help you make college a little bit easier. For free.”
Breden wants to make nutrition and healthy eating less threatening to students.
“We love food and we want other people to love food,” she said. “I think a lot of people are afraid of the term ‘dietitian’ because it says diet. If we could be called nutrition therapy or nutritionists, that would be easier.”
Spillman also advocates a broader view of nutrition.
“We’re really big on not counting things,” Spillman said. “I know that’s easy for some people to have a number to follow, but if you can switch your brain to thinking about your fullness cues rather than a certain limit number-wise, I think that’s pretty important.”
Breden believes timing is the most challenging aspect of nutrition for college students.
“Our jobs are 8:30 to 4:30,” she said. “So I know when I’m going to have breakfast and dinner and lunch every single day. But a college student could have their first class at 11 a.m. and their last class at 7 at night.”
Spillman also focuses on individual student needs in her work as a campus dietitian.
“We don’t live that life,” Spillman said. “So we have to adapt, which isn’t hard. But you do have to consider that whenever you’re talking to someone, advising them, it’s that timing issue. Every student is different.”
For students living on campus, Breden advises seeking variety while using meal swipes.
“Get creative,” Breden said. “Don’t go to the same place every day. There’s great food at the top of the hill. The Den has some really great options. But I think people get into a rut because that Chick-fil-A line is always really long. Go all over.”
Breden and Spillman worked with WKU dining services to create a healthy eating guide, which outlines the healthiest meal plan options at 14 locations. The guide can be found hanging up around dining locations and online.
For students who commute, Breden and Spillman said it is important to plan ahead by packing a lunch box. One of their favorite additions is trail mix, which can introduce variety into snacking.
“Summer and I are go-to trail mix people,” Breden said. “You don’t need a refrigerator for this. We always bring stuff in to add to this bag, like a dried cereal, nuts and seeds. This time we have coconut in it and craisins.”
Ultimately, Breden and Spillman want to help students meet their nutritional needs without sacrificing enjoyment.
“Be mindful,” Breden said. “Don’t rush through a meal. Pay attention to the taste and the smell and the color of your food. Enjoy the experience of the meal and what you can get from it, rather than shoveling food down super fast.”
Nutrition tours begin Jan. 30 and end April 17. More information can be found at https://www.wku.edu/wholesomewku/.
News reporter Olivia Eiler can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow Olivia on Twitter at @oliviaeiler16.