Students looking for healthy dining options have a new resource on campus — registered dietitian Stephanie May.
Having just completed a Stony Brook University Dietetic Internship and passing her registration exam in July, Stephanie is eager to put her experience to good use in promoting Stony Brook Campus Dining‘s Mindful program.
Stephanie grew up in New York’s Hudson Valley, where she was surrounded by fresh produce from local farms and eggs from her family’s chickens, all of which provided her with the ideal background to become a dietitian.
“I always had a love for food,” Stephanie said. “I started cooking with my grandfather when I was very young and developed a passion from there.”
Being a high school varsity and club sport soccer player in college made good nutrition a priority.
“Playing soccer helped me realize the importance of fueling my body for success,” she said. “For any sport, it is important that athletes focus on a balance of micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Nutrient needs change based on the sport, position, training schedule and body composition.”
But the Campus Dining program looks much farther afield than that — to the special dietary needs of students with food allergies and those who are vegans or vegetarians, or who follow kosher and halal diets.
“I really enjoy working with the chefs and other staff members to promote health and wellness and to develop menus and promotions,” Stephanie said.
For instance, vegans can choose West Side dining, where Chef Sean and his team offer great flavor and variety at the Vegan Station at International Market. Chef Romel and the cooks at the Student Activities Center (SAC) are adding more plant-based proteins and innovative flavors to the menu. Also new this semester at the SAC are Gluten Free Thursdays at Oodles noodle bowl station.
“Chef Victor takes great pride in the Simple Servings station at the Union Commons to ensure that the menu items served do not contain the “Big 8” allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, gluten, shellfish, eggs or dairy,” Stephanie said.
Students can access menu boards using resources such as the Mindful icon, depicted by a green apple, as well as vegetarian, vegan, whole grain, local, organic and gluten-free symbols. By scanning a Mindful barcode on a menu board, students can also view nutrition information, and by combining it with the MyFitnessPal app, can track both fitness quotients.
A third way that students can find nutrition information is by visiting the Campus Dining website. For many students, college is their first opportunity to make their own decisions, including pursuing a healthier lifestyle.
“From an outside perspective, it is interesting listening to students and hearing them say they cannot find anything healthy to eat,” said Stephanie. “When I point out a healthier meal or station where they typically dine and many reply that they never tried that option or didn’t know it existed, it is my favorite moment. That’s when I can help them remove the blinders.”
Stephanie advocates taking small steps in making a sustained lifestyle change.
“For example, students may favor a small flavored latte, then transition to a small latte, then substitute coffee with milk, and finally choose to drink plain coffee,” said Stephanie.
For those students who crave sweets, Stephanie recommends creating their own trail mix, which combines healthy fats, protein, whole grains and a little something sweet.
Her recipe: ¼ cup unsalted cashews; ¼ cup whole walnuts; ¼ cup roasted or raw almonds; ½ cup raisins; one cup gluten-free cinnamon Chex cereal and 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips. Those with nut allergies can swap nuts with pumpkin or sunflower seeds for the nuts.
While many people use the titles “dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeably, Stephanie points out that there are important distinctions between the two. Those who call themselves nutritionists without an RD or RDN designation typically do not possess the extensive education and scientific foundation necessary to provide credible counseling and information.
Stephanie has office hours at the Campus Recreation Center on Mondays 9 am to 11 am, when she encourages students to stop by and ask questions or just chat about food and nutrition. Free nutrition counseling appointments for students are available on Thursdays from 9 am to to 4 pm, Friday from 9 am to 12 noon and every other Monday from 2 to 4 pm.
To schedule an appointment, email her at Stephanie.May@stonybrook.edu.
— Glenn Jochum