Finding or cooking a healthy and nutritious meal can be difficult for most people, but for college students this can be especially hard. Texas A&M University offers a wide variety of healthy meal options for students on campus, but the vast majority of students will eventually have to grocery shop and cook for themselves. While most have the basic skills to prepare food for themselves, tight schedules and high academic demands force many students to rely on overly processed and prepared foods as a quick grab and go solution.
The Division of Student Affairs’ Student Health Services (SHS) understand the significant role a healthy diet can play in the academic performance of a student. “There is definitely a correlation between healthy eating and improved academics,” Meghan Windham, SHS registered dietitian says, “Many students I have worked with have found that making healthy changes can provide improvements in all aspects of their lives. They sleep better, are more attentive in class, and have energy to carry them throughout the day. I think the struggle students have is they don’t know where to start and that is where I come in to help.”
As a registered dietitian in SHS, Windham not only meets with students on a personal one on one basis but aims at helping to educate students so they feel comfortable making healthy choices on their own. “I usually begin by dispelling common food myths and trends. Healthy eating is lifestyle change and should not be looked at as a diet or quick fix. Educating students on where to find the right kind of knowledge and help them develop tools they can use on their own is how students will succeed in maintaining a healthy lifestyle into adulthood,” Windham said.
These educational tools are what prompted Windham to create the SHS Grocery Store Tours about 3 years ago. Registration is open to any Texas A&M student and provides hands on experience grocery shopping, but with the added benefit of a registered dietitian to guide the way. The grocery store tours vary to different locations throughout College Station and discuss topics ranging from how to properly read nutrition labels to health benefits of different protein. Participants also are provided with a reusable grocery tote, coupons, and recipe samples. Availability is limited, however Windham does host 12 tours per semester.
In addition to the many educational opportunities, SHS also offers the Bod Pod to current students. This non-invasive method measures body fat and lean body mass to provide high accurate body composition assessments. This tool, normally used in elite athletic facilities and medical research is a unique opportunity for students to learn more about how their metabolic and cardio pulmonary systems work specifically for their body.
While living a healthy lifestyle can be difficult during college, SHS has provided many opportunities and effective tools to motivate and encourage students to improve their food behaviors and practices. The healthy choices made in college will have long term effects on healthy adult choices in the future.
Written By: Courtney Rhodes