Hey, There! I’m Mary, The Campus Dining Dietitian. I love FOOD. Real, whole foods. I have a passion for helping people fuel their bodies with it. You’ll probably see me running around campus asking people to try free samples of new & exciting foods (You should try them- they’re always delicious).  I know that as most of you are busy College students, so taking time to evaluate food choices to make sure you’re making the BEST one, is tough. I’m here to help. Every week, you’re going to see some mini-posts from me on how to eat healthy on campus. Topics will range from Fueling your Workout to the Freshman 15.  So read up, it’s good stuff!

As far as my education goes, I finished my undergraduate education at Eastern Michigan University. Knowing I wanted to be a dietitian, I pursued my Master’s degree in Dietetics & Exercise Physiology at Washington State University.

What’s the difference between a Registered Dietitian & a Nutritionist?

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (‘RD’ or ‘RDN’) are awarded the credentials after each individual has earned at least a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from an accredited University, has completed 1,200 hours of supervised practice under experienced Dietitians in multiple areas of the dietetics field, & passed a National Examination. Whereas, anyone with any sort of nutrition experience can call themselves a ‘Nutritionist.’ After all, everyone eats- so everyone must be a nutrition expert!


Go Further with Food

written by: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

Happy National Nutrition Month! This year the theme is Go Further with Food. This theme urges us to find ways to cut back on food waste. Learning how to manage food resources at home will help you "Go Further with Food", while saving both nutrients and money.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food waste occurs when an edible item goes unconsumed.  Wasted food is important on many levels.  First, the costs for producing food that goes uneaten affects farmers, businesses, and the economy. Consumers are faced with higher food prices and lose money when food spoils or gets thrown out.  Food waste also affects the environment. Much of the food that is tossed out winds up in landfills, and over time this causes changes in the earth’s climate. Another reason why preventing food waste is so important is because there are numerous households in the U.S. that are food insecure.  This means that millions of children and adults lack access to food at some point in time.

Not all food that is wasted can be saved and eaten, but a lot of food waste could be prevented. Here are some ways to prevent Waste:

  • Be mindful of portion sizes.  Over the years, portions of most foods and drinks have increased in size. Choosing smaller portions will not only help to reduce food waste, but it will also help you stay within your calorie requirements.
  • Be conscious of ‘Best by’ dates on food. Many people consider these to be expiration dates, however that may not be the case. Food manufacturers provide these dates based on what they consider to be the best quality for that specific food item.  For example, “Use by”, “Best by” and “Best Before” dates are often found on condiments, such as mustard and ketchup.  In many cases, these items are safe to eat beyond the date stamp, if they have been stored properly. “Sell by” dates are used for perishable foods, such as meats and dairy products.  It’s possible these foods may be used a few days after the date, as long as they were stored at a safe temperature.
  • Another way to prevent food waste is to get creative with leftovers.   A meal doesn’t always need to be eaten in the same way as a leftover.  A lot of times, it can be transformed into another meal, a soup, salad, or even a sandwich.
  • Donating foods that are still safe to eat to a local food pantry can be a win-win, as it provides food to those in need and will help prevent food waste. GVSU Replenish is a food pantry for students on the Allendale Campus.
  • Consider composting! It’s a good way to return valuable nutrients to the soil and will help reduce space in landfills. Notice that in almost all on-campus restaurants, there are composting bins. Throw food scraps, disposables, and napkins into these bins.



United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Economist.  Frequently Asked Questions. https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm. 

National Nutrition Month 2018 Presentation. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/resources/national-nutrition-month/toolkit

further with food

Making Healthy Food Choices


written by: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

We make about 227 decisions about food each day, according to researchers at Cornell University. Inevitably throughout our day strings of questions run through our head: “Should I have coffee this morning? Should I brew my own? Should I get my coffee at a restaurant? What size should I have? What brew would I like? Hot? Cold? Cream? Sugar? Milk?”There’s 10 decisions on what to do about a simple morning coffee. When it comes to making healthy decisions, MyPlate provides some guidance.

  1. Make half of every plate Fruits & Veggies. Choose whole foods packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals.
  2. Vary your lean protein routine. Mix it up with beans, peas, nut, seeds, soy, and eggs for a balanced diet.
  3.  Make ½ your grains whole for a boost of fiber, iron, and zinc. Try oatmeal, whole grain bread, or brown rice.
  4. Move to low or non-fat milk and yogurts to cut back on saturated fats.  Dairy and dairy substitutes are high in calcium & phosphorus to keep bones strong.

Is Butter a Carb?

Written By: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

What you need to know about carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are your body’s simplest form of energy. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended a healthy diet be 45-65% carbohydrate. There is a common misconception that ‘carbs make you fat,’ but they sure don’t! An excess of any nutrient (protein, carbs, fat, or alcohol) can cause in increase of calories, which can lead to an increase in weight. Not enough carbohydrates can lead to an excessive intake of fats to compensate for calories missing from carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain. Be aware though, not all carbohydrates are created equal. Simple Carbohydrates digest quickly providing a rush of energy then a ‘crash’ shortly after. Simple Carbohydrates are found in refined grains, syrups, added sugars, and candies. Complex Carbohydrates are digested slowly and will keep you feeing energized longer. Complex Carbohydrates are found in whole grains, beans, potatoes, peas, and corn. To increase in your intake of complex carbohydrates try eating more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain rice & breads, and legumes.


Brain Food


Written by: Amanda Lovell, BS, GVSU MS Dietetics Student

You may have wondered if there are ways to boost memory and brain function. Sleep, activity level, and stress can all influence cognitive performance, so keeping these in balance is crucial to improve memory. Furthermore, nutrition plays a big role in nourishing the body as well as the brain, so it is important to make healthy food choices to ensure this is happening. Focus on including these foods in your diet to help improve memory:


Making sure that you consume ample amounts of vegetables, especially Cruciferous can help to improve memory. Cruciferous vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial in fighting inflammation. They are also rich in fiber which promotes satiety and fullness and helps decrease your chances of overconsuming foods. Some good nutrient-dense cruciferous vegetables to include in your diet: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, arugula, and cabbage.  


Rich in antioxidants, fiber, potassium and folate, berries are another good nutritional powerhouse to increase in your diet to help increase brain health. Antioxidants may include, vitamin A, C, or E, flavonoids, certain minerals, and carotenoids. These are good for increasing memory, and protecting the body against damage that occurs as a result of natural aging or environmental exposure. Some good berry sources may include: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries.  


DHA is a form of omega-3 fatty acid that has been found to be crucial for brain health. It helps the brain work naturally and proficiently, so low levels of this fatty acid have been linked to an increased risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s later on in life. The Westernized diet that most people in the U.S. follow, is known for having very low levels of Omega-3’s and high levels of Omega-6’s. This imbalanced ratio has been seen to promote many chronic diseases, try including more foods like: seafood, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, flax meal, and soy foods to correct this imbalance.   


Walnuts provide a very rich source for antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and also some vitamins and minerals. Along with being linked to improving brain function, walnuts have been well known for their benefits in improving heart health and lowering risk for certain cancers.  Some easy ways to begin implementing them into your diet could be by adding some to a salad or oatmeal, eating them as a snack, or mixing them into a stir-fry. 

What does a Healthy Weight Loss Plan look like?

Written By: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

Everyone is a unique individual who struggles with eating in different ways. When it comes to losing weight & keeping it off, it takes a little more than a fad diet or wishful thinking. Remember that the most successful weight loss plans include a balanced diet, increase in exercise, & changing unhealthy habits.

1. Identify Unhealthy Habits

Are you doing something that is making weight gain more likely? Evaluate your days to identify any habits you could improve. Some of these unhealthy habits may include:

  • Skipping meals
  • Grazing on high-calorie snacks
  • Emotional eating
  • Eating while distracted
  • Eating large portions
  • Eating or drinking high sugar & fat snacks or drinks. 

2. Make A Change

The best way to lose weight is to disrupt these habits that are causing weight gain. After identifying problem areas, pick one area at a time to change. Replace old habits with new healthier habits. For example: cutting back on sweets & replace them with fruits or exercise classes.

3. Keep Track

Keeping track of what you eat can provide accountability & a marker to identify problem habits. Phone Apps make tracking food & exercise easy! Check out the free MyFitnessPal app to track foods eaten in On-Campus Restaurants. Make sure to write your goals down, keep track of progress, & celebrate milestones!


Fueling your Best Workout Ever


Written By: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

Looking to get the most out of your workout? The food you eat before, during, & after you hit the gym is what fuels your workouts. Consistently filling your body with good fuel can help you train longer & harder without “running out of gas.” Make sure you adequately “fill your tank” by following these pre-workout fueling tips:

  • Plan Ahead: Make sure to get enough food & fluids to carry you through workouts. Eat a small snack or meal 1–2 hours before workout, or a larger meal 3–4 hours before.
  • Focus on carbohydrates: Carbs are the body’s simplest form of energy, they provide most of the energy for your workout. When planning your pre-workout meal or snack, aim for a higher carbohydrate content. Try to avoid fried or greasy foods, which can make you feel sluggish & can delay the digestion of energy-producing carbohydrates.
  • Eat what you Like: Choose foods for your pre-workout meal or snack that you like & are used to eating to avoid upsetting your stomach.
  • Fluids: A good hydration plan is essential to any workout. Having a good hydration status will reduce cramping, increase performance, & even help you think clearer throughout the day. Carrying fluids with you in a water bottle may help you get in what you need.

After a tough workout, you may not feel like eating anything. But, a small post-workout snack can play a critical role in replacing energy stores, repairing muscle tissue, & making maximal gains!

  • Timing is Everything: Studies show that beginning to eat or drink your recovery meal or snack within 30 minutes after a hard workout or competition is ideal.
  • Focus on Balance: Increased blood flow to your working muscles after exercise allows for rapid nutrient replacement- so this is prime time to eat a well-balanced meal. Taking in fluids, carbohydrates, & protein are essential for replenishing your body.
  • Fluid, Fluids, Fluids: Your recovery nutrition plan should include lots of fluids! Rehydrating is important to replace the fluids lost in sweat during your workout. The best way to monitor your hydration status is to note your urine color & volume. The paler yellow & more volume you produce, the better hydrated you are.

5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Written by: Lynsey Ricci, GVSU MS CPD Dietetic Student

The holiday season is here! For the next three months we are showered in Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, and New Years Eve goodies—hooray!  Although all of these celebrations bring a plethora of excitement to our busy lives each year, the indulgences can sometimes lead to unwanted weight gain…

How can we make it a point to fully celebrate this holiday season, indulge in once-a-year food creations while also avoiding unnecessary weight gain? Here are 5 tips on moderation to encourage you to not miss out on holiday goodies this year while keeping your weight stable in the process.

  1. Refrain from limiting calories early in the day to “save up” for holiday meals later on…this could lead to overeating and stuffing yourself during your events!
  2. Watch portion sizes- start by grabbing a smaller plate!
  3. Load up half your plate with lighter vegetable or fruit-based dishes and the other half of with indulging foods.  
  4. Listen to hunger cues- enjoy each bite with gusto, but stop when you’re full!
  5. Stay active throughout the holiday season. Play catch outside with the family during a get-together or take a walk around the block after a big meal to help digest.

  These tips don’t have to be limited to the holiday season! Don’t be afraid to carry them with you throughout the year and use them for all of your big events and get-togethers.  


Avoiding Bloat


Written By: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

Bloating: a feeling of fullness or swelling in the abdominal area. The foods you eat can be the culprit of bloat & the overall sluggishness that accompanies it. Foods like: cakes, cookies, ice cream, processed lunch meats & cheeses, and salty snack can be high in added sugars, sodium, saturated fat, or other highly processed/refined ingredients that can contribute to bloat.  Ways to help avoid bloat & help you feel more energized:

  • Eat few foods High in Saturated Fats: Too much saturated fat in our diets is contributing to increasing rates of heart disease. Some examples of foods that can be high in saturated fats include: high fat cuts of meat, processed or cured meats like sausages & cold cuts, full fat dairy products like cheese or ice cream, and baked desserts like cookies, pastries, &cakes.
  • Look out for Sodium: Sodium is a fancy word for salt. Try limiting sodium to 1,500 - 2,300mg a day for good health. Check the nutrition facts label for sodium content in each serving. Eating less sodium will help to decrease fluid build-up that accompanies bloat.
  • Choose foods with little Added Sugar: Added sugars are any sugars that are not naturally occurring in the food. Added sugars contribute no nutrients, but many calories to a diet that can lead to weight gain.  
  • Drink plenty of Water: Intake of fluids will help to keep your body running smoothly all day. Try drinking fizzy waters that are naturally sweetened, or adding fresh fruits & herbs to water.
  • Eat an overall healthy diet: Include high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits & vegetables, and calcium-rich foods like low-fat milks, yogurts & cheeses.
  • Physical activity: Exercise may offer benefits to help reduce bloat & feel more energized. It is recommended that Americans participate in physical activity for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Try taking a walk, biking, or jogging.

Smart Snacker

Written By: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

People who skip meals get hungry. Hungry people usually aren’t happy or patient- you might even call them ‘hangry.’ When we get hungry, we snack. Blinded by hunger, we sometimes choose less than healthy snacks. Studies show that those high fat, high calorie, & salty snacks can be too good to resist, even for the best of us. For those times when you’re short on time, hungry, & need to grab a quick snack, here are some tips to help you Snack Smart:

  • Go for the Good Stuff: Try to choose snacks that contain lean protein (like low fat yogurt or string cheese), healthy fats (like peanut butter, sunflower seeds, or almonds), and fiber (like whole grain pretzels or popcorn.)
  • Moderation is the Key: Make sure to check the serving size of your favorite snack & eat it outside of the big bag, box, or bowl it comes in. Like off a plate, small bag, or napkin. Many studies show that we eat more when there’s more food in front of us. Snack Smarter by downsizing your package or serving container.
  • Plan Ahead: Unplanned snacks are often the enemy of the Smart Snacker. People who plan their snacks are more likely to have a healthier choice on-hand. A good routine can also help establish the habit of snacking on the same amount of food, at the same time- a good way to avoid over-snacking.
  • Emergency Stashed Snack: Planning your snacks is a great idea, but the reality of life interferes with the best laid plans. Having a healthy back-up snack like a granola bar, a bag of nuts, or a piece of fruit ready to go at a moments’ notice can help you avoid feeling hangry.  
  • Beware the Nighttime Munchies: Those who snack after dinner or in the middle of the night often over-snack. Try to avoid this by making your evening meal more satisfying- include lean proteins, whole grains, & veggies. These foods are ‘nutrient rich’ & they help you to feel fuller longer, reducing that late-night craving.
  • Indulge in moderation: Enjoy & savor the occasional treat. By slowing down & enjoying them a little more, you learn how to eat less, without feeling deprived.


Diet Myths


Written By: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

“Sally McFamous Lost 50 Pounds in 2 Weeks by Eating Only These 3 Foods.” Headlines like this seem to plaster Pinterest homepages & magazines lining grocery store checkout lines. Diet, exercise, & nutrition fads gain a lot of attention & excitement.  Who wouldn’t want to lose 50 pounds in 14 days? It’s easy to “jump on the bandwagon” while these headlines are promising such quick & easy results. I caution you, BEWARE! These are fad diets; and, like most fads, they disappear quickly. Most of these programs are unrealistic, short term, & do not live up to the results promised. Let’s look at how to spot these Fads:

 “Too-Good-to-be-True Fads” may include supplements, diet plans, or exercise programs whose promises don’t work & can be harmful. Avoid these by steering clear of exaggerated claims such as:

• Eat as much as you want & still lose weight

• Lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time

• Lose weight without diet or exercise

“Too-Much-of-a-Good-Thing Fads” are plans that can actually work, but replace a balanced diet with a short-term program that can be bad for your health. Avoid these crazy diets by watching out for:

• Programs that limit your choices to very few foods

• Diets that ask you to follow very inflexible menus

The bottom line: If a diet seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you want to maintain a healthy weight, build muscle & lose fat, the best path is a lifelong combination of eating smarter & moving more. A healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. According to a study done by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, rapid weight loss is often associated with loss of muscle & bone density; while slower weight loss, when accompanied with strength training, is much less likely to affect muscle & bone density. Though following fad diets may result in rapids weight loss- slow & steady wins the race. Losing weight, and keeping it off, require plans that include diet, exercise, & changing unhealthy habits.

Choosing the Right Fuel to Make Gains in Your Workouts

Written By: Morgan Muchez, GVSU MS Clinical Dietetics Student

Food is fuel. Have you ever heard of this saying? Well, it’s true. Every piece of food you put in your body affects your brain and functioning. The worse the food is for you, the more damage it does to your body. So when you decide to start going to the rec center to help avoid the “freshman fifteen,” make sure you are fueling your body with the right stuff, before and after your workout. More studies have been showing that it is important to get micronutrients like vitamins and minerals; as well as macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbohydrates after that workout. Here are some tips on what to include or avoid to help boost energy before working out and to help muscle recovery after:

  1. Vitamin B:

Need help finding energy before the workout? Try eating dark leafy greens, pork, black beans, peanuts, or lentils. These items include the vitamin B group consisting of B6, B12, thiamin, riboflavin and folate. The body uses these to help convert protein and sugar into energy to energy. Try to eat some of these foods 2-3 hours before working out and notice the performance difference!

        2. Vitamin D:

Vitamin D can be found in milk, salmon, trout, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Remember taking cell biology? Well here’s a throwback. With enough vitamin D, the mitochondria, muscle fibers can regenerate energy after muscle contraction. Be sure to include some of these foods after your strength building workout!

         3. Iron:

Iron is important in carrying oxygen to muscles. Providing oxygen to the muscle after a workout is vital in muscle repair. Be sure to include beef, eggs, spinach, broccoli or fortified cereals as a post-workout meal.

         4. Magnesium:

Magnesium helps provide energy during the workout because it plays a role in breaking down energy. It even comes out through sweat! Because of this, some people deplete their magnesium stores, leaving them to have less energy. Try having leafy greens, almonds or quinoa in your pre-workout snack.

         5. Sodium and Potassium:

Lacking potassium and sodium can lead to cramping after a workout. Especially during hot weather when the body sweats out most of the sodium. This is because these play an important role in balancing water content throughout the body and helps the muscles and nerves work properly. For potassium, try incorporating sweet potatoes, avocado or banana into the post-workout meal. For sodium, include salty nuts or pretzels after the workout!

It may be hard aft first to incorporate all these foods into your snacks or meals before and after workouts, so try working one or two in. You can find most of these items as offerings on campus at the dining halls. Fuel your body before and after workouts to help reach your goals!


Freshman 15


Written By: Mary Cummings, MS, RDN, LDN

The “Freshman 15”- the notion of gaining weight during your first year that your parents & friends all warned you about. As a new student on campus, it can be difficult to adjust to eating in a restaurant for every meal. However, with a little help from MyPlate, you can eat healthily every day. MyPlate gives a general outline of what every plate should look like. Research shows that if Americans follow these guidelines they will improve overall health, reduce incidence of nutrition-related diseases, & have healthier weights.

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables:

Whether fruits & vegetables are fresh for the season, frozen from the freezer aisle, canned or dried, they should be the foundation of every healthy plate.

Make half your grains whole grains:

Whole grains contain significantly more fiber and other nutrients than refined grains. To see if your grains are whole grains, check ingredient labels for words like: “whole wheat”, “oatmeal”, “brown rice”, “whole grain cornmeal”, & “quinoa”.

Vary Your Protein Choices:

The protein food group includes animal sources like meat, poultry, seafood, & eggs as well as plant sources like beans, peas, soy products, nuts, & seeds. Since many of our meat choices can contain unhealthy saturated fats, keep meat portions small & lean, and mix in plant based proteins like beans, soy, & nuts more often.

Switch to Skim Milk:

Dairy is recommended because of calcium &protein it provides. Fat free or low fat versions of milk, yogurt, cheeses, & other dairy products have less unhealthy saturated fat. Fortified dairy alternatives & dark green vegetables like kale, collard greens, and broccoli are also good sources of calcium.

Page last modified March 7, 2018