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IU dietitian advises students to plan their meals



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CAPS is located in the IU Health Center on North Jordan Avenue. The program recently added five new counselors to keep up with student diversity and increased mental health needs. Emily Eckelbarger Buy Photos

The third level of the IU Health Center is busy with nutrition consultations the week before Thanksgiving but not for weight gain concerns, said one of IU’s dietitians.

“I think it has more to do with students’ class schedules and availability,” dietitian Catherine Shepherd said.

Shepherd is one of three registered dietitians in the IU Health Center. She said being a dietitian at IU consists of nutrition counseling, which is a one-on-one meeting with students, as well as outreach on campus, consisting of health fairs, dorm programs and guest lectures for classes. 

“I’m just extremely interested in the connection between what we put in our mouth and how that directly correlates with our health,” Shepherd said. 

Shepherd said she finds herself giving two pieces of advice most often: plan your meals and eat more frequently. 

“If you want to eat well, you need to plan it and think about it,” Shepherd said. 

Besides the business for IU’s dietitians before Thanksgiving, Shepherd said she sees busy times after winter break when students are working toward New Year’s resolutions and before Little 500 when students are getting in shape for the bike race.

Shepherd sees about 15 students per week on average. Some students are referred by a doctor, but Shepherd said many are self-referred. She said some come in about dieting for sports training, becoming a vegetarian, noticing health concerns or utilizing their free appointment that is paid for by the student health fee out of curiosity. 

Freshman Grace Bertsch, a vegetarian, said sometimes it can be hard to find varying options. She said it is important to have people advising the best options to take and listening to concerns. 

“People want to eat healthy,” Bertsch said. “They want to have good food.”

In many cases, students enter college and suddenly become responsible for what they eat instead of having their parents prepare most of their meals, Shepherd said. She said it is important to have dietitians to provide education on proper eating habits and a resource for weight management.

“College students have unique and diverse types of nutritional concerns,” Shepherd said, adding that one concern is students not eating frequently enough or choosing what is quick and easy rather than what is healthiest.

Shepherd said she also often sees students who struggle with eating disorders and helps them back to a balanced, healthy diet. She also sees a small portion of students with diet-related health issues such as diabetes and high cholesterol. 

There are healthy options in the dining halls in addition to cooking, Shepherd said. She said in particular Forest, Collins’ traditional dining hall and the Bookmarket Eatery have a lot of healthy, fresh options. 

“I just review their resources and where the healthy options are on campus,” Shepherd said. “They are there.”

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