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College Dining Know-How and Micronutrients for Mental Health

Are you sending your kid off to college this year, or do you know someone who is? Read on for our interview with Kelsey Rosenbaum, RD to get the scoop on eating healthy in college. We'll also talk about how micronutrient deficiencies may be impacting your mental health.

Eating Well On Campus with Kelsey Rosenbaum, RDN

We brought Kelsey Rosenbaum onto the show to talk about college dining. Kelsey is a registered dietitian. Kelsey supports universities throughout Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma. She provides training and support on a variety of health and wellness topics and programs for dining services and students. She believes in empowering people to lead healthy lifestyles through education and access to healthy foods. You can find her at @DiningHallNutritionist on Instagram.

What are the biggest challenges to eating healthy in college?

Kelsey says that students need to learn about nutrition now more than ever because there is so much bad information out there through TikTok, influencers, and diet culture. Finding a balance and not aiming for perfection is really important.

Besides getting the right information, she also said that skipping meals is big for college students, and that they believe that healthy eating has to look a very specific way (like all kale and a vegan diet, when in reality, balance is key and a gentle approach is best.

What is your most asked questions from parents and incoming first-year students?

Kelsey said her most-asked question is: can you actually eat healthy in the dining hall? Her answer to that is yes, absolutely! Kelsey says that the dining hall is a great learning lab for students. They have access to so many different foods every day at every meal, and they don't have to menu plan, cook or clean up. All they need to do is show up and remember the basic blocks of nutrition - color, lean protein, whole grains, and making sure they are satisfied.

Do you work with students with food allergies or other special dietary needs?

There are a number of ways Kelsey and other campus dietitians support students with food allergies. This includes:

  • Having students meet with the chefs and the entire dining team to understand their dietary needs and schedule so they can prepare special meals for them.

  • Some universities, like Loyola in New Orleans, have a program called Simple Servings where they don't cook with 8 of the top 9 allergies or gluten.

What does plant-based eating look like on campus?

Kelsey said that 65% of Gen Z students find plant-based cuisine as something that they're interested in trying more of, so her company (Sodexo) has made a commitment that 50% of their menus will be plant-based by 2025. At one of her universities, Jackson State University, they did a plant-based takeover where every station in the dining hall had a fun, delicious plant-based entree. Another of her universities, Xavier University, has amazing plant-based entrees like cauliflower tacos with pickled veggies and avocado crema.

How does dining services support students looking to lead a balanced lifestyle?

Kelsey says that Gen Z is really looking at health. Sodexo has an amazing health and wellness program that's called Mindful. It really focuses on the pillars of nutrition and physical activity, as well as social, emotional, and mental health. They try to educate students through social media, quick messaging in the dining hall, and fun interactive events.

Sodexo also wants to make food more accessible to students. So, they have the Everyday App, which is a great place for students to get nutrition information, allergy information, and order food online for pickup or delivery by robots in some locations! This helps keep students from skipping meals and provides meals for students who need them since about 30% of college students are food insecure.

Is food insecurity a large problem on college campuses?

Kelsey says that about 30% of college campuses are food insecure. It typically affects non-traditional students who are living off campus, working full-time, and supporting a family, but can also affect students that are living on campus or international students receiving financial aid.

To help with this problem, some universities accept SNAP and EBT, some have food pantries and drives, and Sodexo has a program called Swipe Out Hunger where they donate meal swipes that the universities can discreetly distribute to students in need.

Micronutrient Deficiency

Micronutrient deficiency is common in the U.S. The nutrient deficiencies seen most often include potassium, fiber, choline, magnesium, calcium, potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C. Some populations are also at risk of selenium, zinc, folate, and B12 deficiency.

What causes micronutrient deficiency?

Micronutrient deficiency can be caused by multiple factors including:

  • Chronic Stress - are you "wired and tired?" This that you are too stressed to sleep well at night and you are exhausted during the day. If you are, it can negatively impact your micronutrient concentrations and lead to depletion.

  • Member of an At-Risk Population - this can be genetics, race, location, etc. For example, selenium deficiency is common in New England, especially in New England.

  • Digestive Impairment - if you aren't digesting your food properly, it's harder to absorb all of the vitamins and nutrients from it.

There are so many things that can cause micronutrient deficiency, these are just a few to start thinking about. If you'd like to get micronutrient testing or uncover the root cause of nutrient deficiencies you already have, click here to make a free call with me!

Micronutrients and Depression

Last week, we talked about how digestion and probiotics relate to mental health, but did you know micronutrients can also influence depression and anxiety? A recent study actually showed that supplementation with magnesium and zinc had a positive impact on participants who were struggling with depression.

Now remember, I don't want you running out and buying whatever supplement you hear about. First, it's important to do a micronutrient test and see what you are truly deficient in because so many deficiencies can contribute to depression. Also, not all supplements are created equally. If you are buying from certain big box online retailers, you may not be getting the supplement you think you are. And if you're buying from your local grocery or health food store, those supplements may not be high-quality.

When you work with me, I'll make custom recommendations from vetted manufacturers through my online apothecary, so you can be confident in what you're buying. Ready to take the next step? Click below to schedule a free 45-minute call with me to discuss testing.

Episode Transcript


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