Meet the DHFS registered dietitian

DHFS Registered Dietitian Lindsay Wilson informs a student about the services she offers.

Oftentimes UT students may not be aware of the numerous free services offered at the University. One of these services includes personal appointments with the Division of Housing and Food Service registered dietitian

Mrs. Lindsay Wilson has served as DHFS’ dietitian for over two years, and is available year round for student consultations on a wide range of nutritional concerns. In a time when the Internet provides an information overload, students can meet with the RD for accurate, evidence-based information on food allergies, how to follow a healthy vegetarian diet, how to manage weight loss or to dispel the myths concerning the plethora of fad diets. Wilson sat down recently with Longhorn Life to answer our questions on nutrition concerning students and dining at UT.

Longhorn Life: What is the importance of nutrition and what you do on campus?
Lindsay Wilson: We live in the age of the internet, where an overwhelming amount of information is available at our fingertips. Unfortunately, not all of that information is accurate or healthy for us. Therefore, having a registered dietitian on staff to help disseminate the surplus of information is an invaluable resource for the Division of Housing and Food Service and UT as a whole. In my position with DHFS, I take part in the menu planning process, aid students with nutritional concerns and promote education and awareness to our customers.

LL: Does the university take adequate nutrition and diets into account when establishing dinning hall menus? How so?
LW: DHFS constantly considers our very diverse customer base and the depth of their ever-evolving needs and concerns. We do have certain mandates for our menus, such as there always has to be a vegetarian and/or vegan entree option at every meal at each of our dining venues. DHFS has also initiated Meatless Mondays this past school year. It was piloted in the spring of 2013 and we have plans to expand Meatless Mondays to all of our dining venues this coming year.

Also, with the advances in medical research and diagnostics, Celiac Disease and food allergens are at the forefront of consumer demands. So, we have seen an increased need for gluten-free and allergen-free options over the past few years and have taken multiple steps to step up to consumer demands. We have developed an icon-labeling system to identify the top eight food allergens in the dishes we serve. We also make our menus available online, in which you can find the allergen icons, full ingredient listings and nutritional information for foods we serve.

In regards to health and wellness, we are continuously making improvements to our dining menus. To name a few, we have been working to make our in house bakery free of artificial trans-fat (following New York City guidelines), have taken on an initiative to reduce sodium, increased the amount of whole grains on our menus and have a “healthy suggestion” program available that identifies healthier choices within our dining venues.

LL: Do you feel students don’t take full advantage of having a registered dietitian on staff?
LW: In the two and a half years that I have worked for DHFS, I have seen a steady increase in the number of students that seek out my assistance each academic year. I believe this can be attributed to two factors. The first is the fact that the general public is genuinely becoming more concerned and better educated on proper nutrition and realizing the importance it plays in our everyday lives. The second reason, I feel, lies within the hands of our DHFS marketing department. They have assisted me tremendously in spreading the word across campus about the available nutrition services through table tent ads within our dining venues, via social media and by assisting in creating healthy special dining events and nutrition education materials.

LL: In terms of weight gain, what do you see as the most common mistake students make when it comes to their diets or nutritional intake?
LW: The two common themes that I see with weight gain in college revolve around moderation and portion control. All foods can fit within a healthy diet if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion sizes.

Along with this, people often focus on the “quick fix,” which tends to be the latest fad diet made popular in Hollywood or in the media. The important thing to keep in mind is that there is not a single “super food,” magic pill or juice cleanse that can replace a total diet approach to healthy eating, coupled with physical activity.

LL: Where and what would you recommend when eating on campus?
LW: I have several favorite places to eat on campus, depending on the time of day and what mood I am in that day. At breakfast, Littlefield Patio Café and Jester City Limits both offer a great oatmeal bar. Cypress Bend has the best made-to-order salads, especially the Strawberry Fields Salad. The veggie plate at JCL is a staple at lunch for me, as well. Oh, and Kinsolving recently added a hummus bar several times a week, and our roasted red pepper hummus is delicious! I don’t often eat dinner on campus, but when I do, the VIP line at J2 is my go-to choice (the Caprese Grilled Cheese Sandwich is a personal favorite).

As you’ve probably noticed, there are quite a few dining venues and choices that I mentioned, but that falls in line with one of my common suggestions for dining on campus: get creative! The options are vast, so feel free to mix and match choices from different serving lines. Add a piece of chicken from the grill to a hearty salad, add tofu to a vegetarian soup to amp up the protein content or make a taco salad instead of using the fried shells for regular tacos.

LL: How can a student best go about maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle when at UT?
LW: The first step is to understand the importance of proper nutrition and exercise on your overall health and wellness.

The second step is to learn about what resources are available to you. The Division of Student Affairs provides numerous resources for UT students that will help them take learning beyond the academic classroom. Within the DHFS, I am available for free, personalized counseling sessions for all students who live and/or dine with DHFS. We have nutrition education stations in each dining venue that contain a brochure area and display cases that feature nutrition education materials. The DHFS Nutrition Team holds educational tabling events within the dining halls several times each month. DHFS is launching a blog this coming school year that will act as an educational resource for students. We have started an educational video series of “dormable recipes,” which are quick and healthy recipes that students can make in their room using only a microwave. We have also done “Ask the Dietitian” sessions on Twitter, had mini nutrition trivia contests on our Facebook and created event pages for our monthly Vegetarian Focus Group events. At DHFS, we aim to produce a comprehensive out of classroom learning experience that will enrich and enable students to thrive.

Also within the Division of Student Affairs, the Counseling and Mental Health Center is a great resource for anyone dealing with an eating disorder, depression or stress. While RecSports offers great opportunities for students to get involved in many forms of physical activity and University Health Services is also a wonderful resource for guidance on body image and mindful eating.

There are so many great opportunities for lifelong learning here at UT, which leads to the final step in maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. Be sure to take advantage of all of the informative and educational resources that are available at UT to make the most of your academic experience.