Here to Help: Nutrition Education Program
Oct. 8, 2019
SHSU Media Contact: Hannah Haney
“Here to Help” is a series focused on educating students on all the services available at Sam Houston State University. Many times students are unaware that these services are often offered at no cost with a Bearkat OneCard. Visit today@sam/HereToHelp to find the list of stories highlighted so far. If your department or student service would like to be featured for a future story email email@example.com.
What Is The Nutrition Education Program?
The Nutrition Education Program at Sam Houston State University is the result of a recent collaboration between the Recreational Sports Department and the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences to offer complete wellness and nutrition information to the university community.
Students seeking health and fitness advice have the option to meet with graduate interns from the Dietetic Master’s program when visiting the Recreational Sports Center. The Nutrition Education program is fully administered by the rec sports department, while the Dietetic Master’s program provides the interns.
The interns arrive with the expectation that they are going to get experience in community nutrition, and each intern has a list of requirements that must be met based on what they do during their rotation.
“The physical fitness component of wellness encompasses more than just exercise. Here at Sam Houston State University, we believe that we need to educate our students—that an active, healthy lifestyle includes a good diet along with a good exercise program,” Scott Berkowitz, assistant director of fitness said.
Meet Dietetics Intern: Christina Speaks
Speaks earned her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from SHSU and is currently working on her Master of Science in Dietetics. She will graduate in December 2019.
T@S: What attracted you to SHSU or your program of study?
I graduated from a community college in Colby, KS, and was ready to be closer to home. Going into college I knew I wanted to become a Registered Dietitian one day, and SHSU has a Nutrition and Food Science degree accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that would put me on the right career path.
T@S: Describe your internship:
To become a Dietetic Intern, you must complete at least a bachelor's degree and ACEND-accredited coursework requirements. Appointments to Dietetic Interns are awarded on a competitive basis (50 percent of applicants will be matched) and most use a national computer matching process. The SHSU Dietetic program accepts up to 11 cohorts.
My internship is a full-time job, 32-40 hours most weeks, in addition to my full time Master’s degree coursework and competency assignments. Currently all Dietetic Interns must provide at least 1200 hours of supervised practice. Our program divides these hours between clinical, community, food service, research, and professionalism. The SHSU Dietetic program is a 17-month program starting in August and ending in December the following year (we go through Summer) with an emphasis in Community Research and Wellness. Once completed, I will be qualified to take the CDR registration examination for dietitians.
T@S: What is your role?
My role as a dietetic intern is to gain experience through supervised practice, build relationships with future employees, acquire the skills needed to be a Registered Dietitian in a variety of settings and represent the SHSU Dietetic program.
T@S: What do you love about being a dietetic intern?
I love that I am gaining the knowledge and experience for my dream job. I also am with a group of cohorts (fellow interns) that are on the same boat as I am. It is nice to have a small group of people with such a great knowledge in nutrition. Each of us has a different strength and it is nice to come together and discuss a recent patient, or even a new wild fad diet that makes all our eyes roll. I have made some life-long friends in this program.
T@S: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to pursue a career in this field?
As a distance runner I was always curious about ways to take care of my body nutritionally. I read “Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathon Runners” and “Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook” (Clark is a Registered Dietitian). Ever since I knew becoming a Registered Dietitian was the career for me. I loved developing meals and understanding the mechanisms behind our food choices. Once I transferred to SHSU I really began learning more about the role of a Registered Dietitian, and loved the clinical aspect as well.
About the Nutrition Education Program:
T@S: Are interns required to do rotations with RSC?
Yes. The RSC rotation is an important part of our community rotation hours. We receive 64 hours of experience from this rotation.
T@S: What motivation do students have to seek fitness/nutrition advice at the RSC versus the health center?
Students from the health center must be referred to us by the physician there, then it is up to the student to make an appointment to see a dietetic intern. Whereas, at the Rec center, a student only needs to register online at shsu.edu/fitness or if the student does not want to meet with an intern and simply just has a nutrition question they can email an intern at firstname.lastname@example.org. I think it is easier for the student to go through the RSC since it is more convenient.
However, students from the health center can get a more variety and detailed type of care. Not only are they coming in for nutritional counseling, but also a full assessment of any labs taken at the health center, they can receive body composition measurements from our InBody 770, students provide the interns with a more precise diet recall using the ASA24 software, and we also can better assist students with other problems such as PCOS, diabetes, allergies, hypertension, etc.
Students looking for general weight loss counseling, caloric and macronutrient needs calculations, debunking nutrition myths, ways to fuel a workout with food, etc., should utilize the nutrition services at the Rec.
T@S: How does the Nutrition Education Program benefit interns?
Our experience at the RSC helps us gain an insight on what the students are like as far as what common questions there are, areas where nutrition knowledge lacks, misconceptions about nutrition, and experience with the college recreational sports population. Our only other experience with the college population is at the wellness center. At the Rec it is more specific to helping students achieve fitness goals and fueling their workout, so it provides a unique experience for the interns.
T@S: In your opinion, why is nutrition education important?
Not only is nutrition education important, but it is crucial individuals receive evidenced based nutrition information from a Registered Dietitian. It is too easy to become committed to a diet or supplement social media influencers are pushing, or something from a Netflix documentary that could actually be harmful to your health (and sanity). Nutrition education is important for being able to distinguish between good and bad nutrition advice. Food is essential, and not only offers calories to fuel the body, but plays a specific role in maintaining health. It is the best preventative method someone can partake in.
T@S: Any additional information you would like to provide?
I just really want to encourage students to utilize the free evidenced-based nutrition education the SHSU dietetic interns have to offer. We understand the frustration of fad diets and misinformation out there. We can work with students to achieve their goals safely and effectively.
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