Opportunities to Enforce Healthy Habits

by Emily Glass

As you enter any dining hall on University of Maryland College Park’s campus, you will notice the tables are all lined with table tents. These table tents are used to advertise events on campus, detail the hours of the dining hall and promote student wellness. During my college dining rotation, I developed a table tent to help university students “Build a Better Salad.” This infographic gives details on how to navigate the salad bar and know what choices to make in order to make a balanced meal. 

Build a better salad


Creating Visual Tip Sheets

by Kelsey Felter

I was able to apply my nutrition knowledge in my college dining rotation by creating visual infographics and articles. Each week, my partner and I would brainstorm and develop a cooking tip sheet, exercise tip sheet, nutrition tip sheet, and recipe based around a visual theme. At the end of every week, we designed a Wellness Wall, a bulletin board with nutrition visuals for employees and students to read, using each of the visual tip sheets. Check out a few of the visual tip sheets that I created below!

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Eat Better Together Month

by Julia Werth

Click the image below to view full post on the Maryland FSNE Blog

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Creating Promotional Nutrition Materials

by Becky Handley

When promoting healthy eating, it’s important to consider the needs of your audience. The following are a few questions to consider:

  1. What conditions readily affect your target population, and what foods health support improved health status?
  2. Are there any barriers to healthy eating, such as access to food, physical limitations, or monetary restrictions?
  3. Are there any cultural food preferences or dietary restrictions to incorporate?

Working with populations across multiple ages throughout our rotations, including pediatrics to college students to geriatrics, has reinforced how important it is to assess the needs of your audience and ensure these questions are being answered when developing promotional material. Although some populations may require more tailoring than others, in the end, considering all these questions is key for promoting sustained behavior change and improved wellness. 

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Wellness Broadly Defined

by Daniel Turner

“Wellness” as a term used in our popular culture has become synonymous with picture-perfect paleo food blogs, young women doing yoga while sipping locally-sourced kombucha, and an unattainable Instagram #fitspo feed. Wellness has been co-opted by an industry that focuses itself on aesthetics above health, and has become shorthand for what is trendy in “healthy” living. In short, wellness as we have created it has become a status symbol attainable by only a select few.

As an industry, wellness is a growing market, which according to the Global Wellness Institute is estimated to have reached $3.7 trillion in 2016, and is expected to grow by 17% over the next 5 years. The breakdown is as follows, and is dominated by beauty and anti-aging products market:

wellness economy

It’s clear that wellness as a concept has been branded, sold, and traded in for something less grounded in reality. It may be beneficial to our collective wellbeing to reclaim the concept of wellness.

Wellness as a term is the opposite of illness, and in 1972 author and physician John Travis sought to illuminate the correct combinations of mental and physical health that constitute wellness in a medical setting by creating the illness-wellness continuum.

wellness illness continuum

While this model served its purpose in certain specific medical settings, wellness as professionals, scholars, and educators understand it today is more nuanced, and inclusive of more than just physical and mental health. Wellness is understood as a highly individualized pursuit that plays out differently in the life of each individual. Wellness has been conceptualized broadly as consisting of 8 dimensions: environmental, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, occupational, physical and intellectual.

8 dimensions

Dietitians can be advocates for wellness in the older sense of the word. By promoting realistic and holistic wellbeing, with nutrition as a key part, we can work to better ourselves and our clients.



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Contribution by: Adam Sachs

Healthy Aging Month is a great time to consider how beliefs and behaviors around food change as we age.  Aside from what is often a distinct set of beliefs about nutrition, and an evolving set of eating behaviors, older adults also have different nutritional needs than their younger counterparts. As the body ages, it processes food more slowly and requires different levels of nutrients in order to fuel the body, maintain muscle mass and promote optimal cognitive health.

The 2017 Food and Health Survey findings include a detailed report focused exclusively on older adults ages 50 to 80. This report was conducted in collaboration with the AARP Foundation.  The findings shed new light on older adults’ eating attitudes and perceptions. Let’s see how they stack up against their younger counterparts.

Health Risks

  • Reality: Older adults are among the most at-risk populations for various chronic illnesses. Heart disease and complications from obesity are the two biggest concerns for older adults. Risk of both of these conditions can increase with poor diet and insufficient exercise but can be limited by a healthy eating style and increased physical activity.
  • 2017 Food & Health Survey:Older adults are looking forspecific benefits from food to address their unique health risks. For the general population, weight management/loss is the top benefit that people are interested in getting from the food they eat. Around the age of 50, cardiovascular benefits start to outweigh weight management as the top benefits consumers want from food. This shows older adults are well aware of their changing nutrition needs and are looking for foods that will help them meet their goals. Older adults – compared to their younger counterparts – are also more likely to be able to name a food or nutrient that can provide the health benefits they want. So not only do they know what health benefits they want from food, but they are also more likely to know where to look for them.

Fluid and Fiber

  • Recommendation: Fluid and fiber are key nutrients for healthy aging. Drinking small amounts of water or other fluids throughout the day is necessary to stay hydrated. As the body ages, proper hydration becomes increasingly difficult. The digestive system also tends to slow down as we age, so fiber can help prevent problems like constipation, bloating or general abdominal discomfort.

  • 2017 Food & Health Survey: Older adults are more likely to be taking steps to be healthy than younger age groups. They are also working to meet their fluid and fiber needs. For example,many older adults report efforts to “drink more water or other liquids to stay hydrated” (88%), and “eat more fruits and vegetables” (84%) in the past year. Also, around three-quarters of older adults report making an effort to eat more whole grains. Fruits, vegetablesand whole grains are all great sources of fiber. Taken together, these insights show that older adults are taking steps toward better hydration and digestive health.

As you can see, older adults are a pretty nutrition-savvy group. The 2017 Food and Health Surveyshows how older adults may be changing their eating habits to match their unique nutrition needs and to lower their risk for chronic disease.

This could be, at least partially, a result of who they trust for their information. The survey shows how older adults are more likely to trust conversations with healthcare professionals and registered dietitians as sources of information on what to eat and avoid. They are also less likely than younger consumers to get nutrition information from family and friends. This trust in – and reliance on – credentialed sources, like health professionals and registered dietitians, could be putting older adults on the path to good nutrition.

For more information on how nutrition needs change over time, and how to get the nutrients you need for healthy aging, check out this resource.

Blog post written by Emily Kohler for the University of Maryland blog “Terps with Taste”

Isn’t It Past Your Bedtime?



What do you do when you’re run down from a long week? Apparently, my answer is to write a blog post about sleep. There’s no better way to recognize your problems than to disseminate information about them, right?

Why we need sleep:

I think the best way to answer this is by just simply reflecting on how we feel when we sleep less and when we sleep more. If we didn’t need it, wouldn’t we feel like spring chickens after 4 hours of sleep instead of feeling like an entire day is one big blur?

To be more scientific, researchers have come to the conclusion that sleep simply helps the brain do damage control and clean up the mess that is created by its use throughout the day; it helps the brain get rid of waste that’s accumulated during waking hours. More sleep means more time to get rid of everything that can hurt our health.

While cleaning up the brain is important, less sleep also causes reduced attention, memory, and general cognitive function. We need sleep to be productive human beings that have a clear head, ready to attack the work or school day. We lack energy physically and mentally without sleep, and this makes it that much harder to balance our diets and sustain physical activity.

Sleep and nutrition:

On little sleep, we can definitely have a balanced diet and can definitely work, but we are absolutely making it much harder on ourselves to do so. In terms of exercise, finding the energy to do it at all, especially when lacking sleep, is not always easy. In terms of healthful intake, our body is actually working against us via hormones when we don’t get enough sleep: the hormone leptin, which inhibits hunger, is suppressed and the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, is increased. In plain English, we are hungrier with less sleep. To add, it has been shown that humans crave higher fat and higher carbohydrate foods with less sleep.

This week, I would like to challenge readers to try just three things:

  1. Pick an official time to close your eyes for 7 hours—this does not mean to pick a time to get in bed and allow a few texts to interrupt, but a time to actually close your eyes and keep them closed (if you already get 7 hours of sleep, move to 8 or just aim for consistency).
  2. Activate the do not disturb function on your phone at that time.
  3. Start dimming the lights an hour before your chosen time, including dimming your phone screen.

While there are many other things we could be doing, they might not suit the starting point for sustaining your new habit. Remember, you are not going to meet all of these recommendations all of the time, but you can meet them some of the time. That is an incredible improvement! Move on when you’re ready.

Blog post written by Alex Long for the University of Maryland blog “Terps with Taste”

 Enjoy the Heat of a Habanero

Image by Alex Long

To my fellow spice foodies out there: rejoice. We now have more reason to make and order the spicy foods we crave. It’s for our health after all! Capsaicin has more effects on our body than just a runny nose, flushed face, and possibly a couple tears.

What is capsaicin, and where can I find it?

Capsaicin is a phytochemical that is responsible for the spicy flavor in chili peppers. Some ingredients you may be familiar with that contain capsaicin are chili powder, hot sauces, and chili peppers such as habaneros, jalapenos, poblanos, and scotch bonnets; the list goes on and on. Capsaicin is stable at high temperatures, so if you decide to cook your chilis, don’t worry! The capsaicin will survive the cooking process.

What are the health benefits?

Capsaicin has promising effects on the body for heart health. It has the ability to dilate blood vessels by triggering the production of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, leading to lower blood pressure. Capsaicin has also been linked to slowing atherogenesis, or the formation of plaques in the arteries. In addition, it stimulates the production of antioxidant enzymes, reduces inflammation, improves glycemic control, increases the thermic effect of food, encourages fat metabolism, helps to control appetite, and can even prevent or hasten the healing of stomach ulcers.

Don’t use it as a “cure-all”.

Unfortunately, the health perks of capsaicin don’t give us the freedom to liberalize the rest of our diet. Yes, this means buffalo chicken dip isn’t magically healthy for you just because it’s a little spicy. It’s still in your best interest to make choices that are lower in fat and sodium. Try throwing some cayenne or poblano into the marinade of your grilled chicken, or garnish your taco salad bowl with some slices of fresh jalapeno.

For those who don’t enjoy spicy foods, one big, extremely spicy meal doesn’t translate the same as a diet of consistent capsaicin intake. Capsaicin is only one of countless phytochemicals that are found in the plants we eat. Don’t torture yourself over a spicy meal! If you don’t enjoy your meal, the health benefits won’t be worth it. Otherwise, continue to satisfy those cravings if you enjoy the heat of a habanero like me.