Free dietitian provides healthy options on campus

Melanie Powell is WKU’s first full-time registered dietitian. She gives students advice on finding nutritious food on campus and tips for formulating a healthy diet.

Lindsay Kriz

When coming to a college campus, a student’s main fears may be grades, making new friends or the dreaded “freshman 15” – the weight gain attributed to the unsupervised food options.

But according to WKU’s registered dietitian, Melanie Powell, there are healthy options available on campus.

“I hear a lot of complaints, ‘There’s nothing healthy on meal plans,'” she said. “But if you just pay attention and look around at what’s healthy on a meal plan, you can get the grilled chicken sandwich at Chick-Fil-A, or get a salad at your Greens to Go place. It’s really good.”

Subway has similar healthy food options. Fresh Food Co. offers vegetarian choices, as well as those that cater to food allergies. At the top of the hill, in Garrett Conference Center and at DaVinci’s, a variety of healthy options are also offered, Powell said.

“Remember moderation,” she said. “I wouldn’t sit down and have five pieces of chicken in one sitting, or even one week. But don’t limit yourself.”

While everyone’s schedule in college is different and hectic, there are certain things that should never be ignored, including breakfast, Powell said.

“I hear so many people say, ‘I hate breakfast. There’s no breakfast foods that I like,'” she said. “It doesn’t even have to be breakfast food.”

Powell also recommended following the trend of six small meals a day, as opposed to three big meals, which is now outdated. A snack could even be considered a meal.

When it comes to beverages, caffeinated drinks are never great and although diet caffeinated drinks can be better sugar and calorie-wise, sodas are typically empty calories that provide no nutritional value, she said.

As for avoiding the “freshman 15,” Powell said students should choose the healthiest option, not necessarily just the quickest option – grilled chicken instead of chicken nuggets or turkey over meatball subs.

Powell also said that students that want to lose weight should also take advantage of the Preston Center.

“I think most people don’t understand that working out is going to make you feel better in general,” she said.

“People think that when they start going to the gym they’re just going to, you know, be tired and worn out and exhausted, but it really has the opposite effect.”

Powell also serves as registered dietitian for students in the WellU program on campus, where students are encouraged to participant in healthy behavior and can get points for setting up an appointment with her to talk about their personal health.

Alissa Arnold, coordinator of Student Wellness, and Todd Misener, assistant director of Health and Fitness, both help run the WellU program and say that having a free full-time registered dietitian on campus can really benefit students.

“A lot of what she does serves us program-wise,” Arnold said. “We collaborate a lot with her.”

While the dietitian program has been in existence for a while, Powell has only been a registered dietitian for a few months. Arnold and Misener both agreed that Powell is the first full-time dietitian the university has had in a while and has done a good job so far.

“I think having the opportunity to talk with a registered dietitian for free is a huge deal,” Misener said.

Jay McDorman, a senior from Vail, Ariz., participates in WellU and said visiting Powell helped him to change his daily diet.

“She talked with me about how to get more energy, how to maximize the effectiveness of a workout and to get the most out of what I was eating,” he said.

McDorman said the key to healthy eating habits is to get the right mix of foods and eating enough fruits and vegetables.

“She opened some new doors for me,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get more protein. She said the easiest thing is to put peanut butter on something in the morning to go.”

To keep with his healthier eating habits, McDorman usually eats at Subway and Chick-Fil-A when he is on campus and stays away from fried foods. He recommended Powell’s services.

“If you’re willing to take the time to go and talk to her,” he said, “she can help out with your health and diet.”