‘Lunch And Learn’ with UConn Dietetics

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UConn’s Off-Campus and Commuter Services brought UConn Dietetics to talk to students about healthy snacking and how to understand food labels. The talk was held in the Student Union on Monday afternoon. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom/The Daily Campus

As the semester winds down, commuter students still have to worry about making their own meals and snacks so they have enough energy to power through the day. Monday afternoon, Off-Campus and Commuter Services brought in UConn Dietetics to talk with students about healthy snacking and how to read and understand food labels so they can better plan their meals. 

“Some things that you can do to make healthy foods more convenient includes prepping your snacks,” Monique Mazaika, a fifth-semester dietetics student, said. “So figuring out how what foods you want to take based on the nutrients and also just your preferences and how much of the food you’re going to take, so basically portion out how much you’re going to eat.” 

Mazaika discussed how the placement of healthier foods may also make them more convenient for you to eat. 

“Maybe put a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter so you’re more likely to reach for it,” Mazaika said. “Organizing your fridge as well can be helpful, so maybe healthy options are in a place that’s more visible than in your drawers.” 

She also suggested thinking about if you’re actually hungry, if you’re actually just craving a certain food or if you’re thirsty. 

“Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you might also be thirsty, so just drink some water and then see if you’re still hungry,” Mazaika said. “Another good way it taking out distractions. That doesn’t mean don’t eat with people, it just means don’t eat when you’re staring at your phone, because then you’re not really paying attention to what you’re putting in your body.” 

Natalie Ranelli, a fifth-semester dietetics student, provided some snack ideas and what nutrients to look for in snacks. 

“You should look for snacks that are high in fiber and low in sugar and sodium, and you should consider fat and protein too, ” Ranelli said.  

Some snack ideas she mentioned include whole fruit, raw vegetables with hummus or peanut butter, low-fat yogurt, whole grain crackers with cheese slices, DIY trail mix, air-popped popcorn and granola.  

“Also, rethink your drink,” Ranelli said. “Try switching out soda with water, you can add fruit and herbs and sparkling water has become really popular now. Milk is also a good option, and try unsweetened coffee or tea. Fruit and vegetable juices are good in smaller quantities.” 

Information about food labels was also provided to students, such as being aware of serving size and servings per container. 

“If you’re just eating out of a bag or pouring out of a box, you’re not really thinking much about how many servings you’re putting into your body,” Alyson Gaylord, a fifth-semester dietetics student, said. “It’s definitely good to know to limit, like sugars, your saturated fat, which can have a really negative effect on your health and sodium.” 

Liz White, a fifth-semester dietetics student, showed where to check for fat, sugar and sodium content on food labels, as well as important nutrients to include in your diet. 

“You definitely want to know what to maximize too,” Gaylord said. The percentages on food labels can also be quantified, with less than five percent being a low source, 10-19% being a good daily value and more than 20 percent being an excellent source.  

Gaylord and White also provided tips on portioning out food for the appropriate serving. 

“One thing you could do is have a smaller bowl,” Gaylord said, using cereal as an example. “If I have a huge bowl, I’m going to fill it up and I’m going to eat the whole thing, so if I just grab a smaller bowl, I might be full after that.” 

The “Lunch and Learn” event is one of many that Off-Campus and Commuter Services puts on. 

“We have events almost every week on campus,” Mary Hogan, an eighth-semester woman, gender and sexuality studies and English double major, said. “This is at least the second year that we’ve done a program with the UConn dietetics department. It gives us an opportunity to bring commuters in so they get any information from us that they need and good information from the dietetics.” 


Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.

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