Are you looking to eat healthier? Do you lack valuable sports nutrition information? The Keene State College (KSC) Nutrition Coaching Program may be just right for you.

Going away to college can be a very stressful time for college students, especially those in their first year. Along with an academic experience, moving into college offers one of the first steps into adulthood. Unfortunately, this also means moving away from all of the comforts being home has to offer. For some students, college is the first time away from home. Once students arrive on campus, learning how to balance schoolwork, potential jobs and other activities can become very stressful.

Dietetic Internship Field Supervisor Whitney Hightower said a collaboration between the KSC Dietetic Internship Program and the Center for Health & Wellness permits dietetic interns to provide students with valuable information that can encourage healthier choices. Using past experiences from her time at Central Washington University, Hightower said she was motivated to be a part of the program in Keene. Rather than hire nutrition coaches, the program utilizes post-graduate interns to educate the student body.

Colton McCracken / Equinox Staff

Colton McCracken / Equinox Staff

Hightower said when she began working with KSC in 2015, she was excited to bring her experience from former nutrition coaching programs to Keene.

In order to help students learn about healthy eating options and resources on and off campus, Coordinator of Wellness Education from the Center for Health & Wellness Tiffany Mathews said a partnership with the Zorn Dining Common was formed.

Rebecca Hunt, a registered dietitian, said she provides food tours in order to show healthier options and to help students become more familiar with the staff. According to Hunt, staff at the dining commons are prepared for anything students ask for, including allergies. Hunt also stressed the importance of the option to use special pans that are not in contact with particular foods for students with allergies. Hunt also mentioned the success of Vegan Valley for students who wish to eat meat and dairy-free meals. Hearing personal experiences from former and/or current students can help encourage healthier choices in the dining commons, according to Hunt.

Hunt said students should ask the dining commons staff “for what [they] want and the workers will notice and work with [them].” An example of this can be as simple as asking for olive oil rather than canola oil at the stir fry line. Hunt mentioned the potential of a “mix and match” station at the dining commons in order to incorporate several food stations into one meal.

In support of this, Hightower said she views the program as a bridge between knowledge and behavior change, while “helping students develop the strategies to make healthy choices.”

Mathews said the program offers an initial 15-20 minute goal-setting, along with an additional follow-up coaching session lasting 45-60 minutes. Unfortunately, not all students realize this.

Mathews said the program was first started as a pilot program in the spring of 2016 for first-year students. She said the program proved to be successful with high participation levels and a high percentage of students who were interested in continuing to meet with nutrition coaches throughout the semester. In the fall of 2016, the program became available to all KSC students. Currently, according to Mathews, the program consists of 17 students enrolled, who are distributed among five nutrition coaches.

Mathews said, “Students who are interested in participating in the program will gain invaluable information that will guide them in their nutritional choices now and in the future.”

Even sports teams now have the opportunity to gain valuable nutrition information through group education presentations and possible one-on-one nutrition coaching for those interested. When asked how the Nutrition Coaching Program informs student athletes, Hightower said the program is currently developing a presentation for the men and women’s swim and dive team for the fall and have worked with the women’s lacrosse team in the past.

Hightower said she understands that “simply knowing what to eat does not equal behavior change. Working with a coach can help bolster your confidence and encourage strategies that students can sustain. Developing relationships on campus through the KSC nutrition program can offer students valuable information.”

Rebecca Hunt noted, “March is national nutrition month, all students should feel encouraged to visit and chat with members of the nutrition program.”

Mathews said undergraduate interns from the health science department collaborate by tabling twice a week with the Center for Health & Wellness in the student center.

John Piatelli can be contacted at

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