Permanent link for The Freshman 15: The Who, What, and How it Harms Us on April 26, 2023

The “Freshman 15” is a phrase I am sure most of us are familiar with. For anyone lucky enough to have never come across the “Freshman 15”, let me provide an explanation.

The “Freshman 15” is a widely held notion that freshmen gain 15 pounds once they come to campus due to getting less exercise, excessively drinking, and having unlimited access to campus food.

It is widely known and talked about, but most often used as an anecdote or joke. The first time I heard the phrase was during a campus tour when I was in high school. A representative for that University’s Admissions Department said something along the line of “We offer a large variety of options in our dining halls, and yes some are healthy options, so you can avoid gaining the Freshman 15.” Once I was in college I again heard jokes and comments being made about gaining weight. Staff and students both would make comments about hitting the gym to fight the “Freshman 15.” As a young person struggling with an unhealthy relationship with food and my body, my biggest fear was gaining the “Freshman 15” when I came to college. The use of the term and its negative effect on students is not limited solely to my experience. This phrase is used across the nation and research shows us that it negatively affects students on campuses all across the country.

Despite the innocuous nature of the phrase and the comments it was and is used in, the term is based on weight shame and fatphobia. It is rooted in the false notion that gaining weight is shameful and the discriminatory belief that a thin body is a better body. These negative messages, no matter how small, have the power to do real harm to students' mental health. 

I am a graduating Senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College, for my Senior Project I chose to create a podcast that zeroed in on the “Freshman 15” and illuminated the harms it can have to student health. I am passionate about showing students, their families, and university faculty and staff that this phrase has the power to do real harm. 

The podcast is 3 episodes long, each with a different main focus. The first episode covers what “The Freshman 15” is, the history of its origins, and if it really even exists. It also covers why this term affects freshmen specifically and the unique stressors of the transition from high school to college. The second episode covers the stigma around weight and food in the US. I delve into the fatphobia embedded in our society and media and the harm it causes. The last episode covers the weight shame of the COVID-19 pandemic and how fatphobia harms us all. I also talk about the role of families and peers in body image and what we can all do to take care of each other and fight back against weight stigma. You can stream the podcast on Spotify, Check it out here!

We all have the power to fight fatphobia and weight shaming, not just for freshmen, but for everyone affected. This podcast is a tool for learning more about how the “Freshman 15” does harm and what we can do to spread body positivity/neutrality (read more on body neutrality in Camryn’s blog post here!) here on campus and also on social media, in our families, in our friend groups, and throughout our lives. 

I hope you check out the podcast and learn that there is a lot more to that simple phrase “the Freshman 15” than you likely ever knew. 

By: Eva VanWyck, WIT Peer Educator

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for The Freshman 15: The Who, What, and How it Harms Us on April 26, 2023.

Permanent link for Keto vs Fruitarian: All about those Carbs on March 17, 2023

Keto versus Fruitarian 

One moment we hear “Cut out all carbs!” and then the next we hear “Avoid all forms of fats!” It gets hard to believe what any of these diets are trying to promote. New diet fads are being created and spread constantly, but what do they even mean? Do they have any benefits? Or is it just all a scam to try to fit into unrealistic body standards or even to buy someone’s book or program regime. Carbs in the diet world today are a hot topic and the debate on whether to have them or not is at an all time high. We’ll look into two diets that are almost exactly opposite of each other; the keto diet and the fruitarian diet.

What’s a carb?

First, let’s dive in to make sure we’re all on the same page on what a carb even is. A carbohydrate is one of the three macronutrients. Macronutrients are essential for the human body, meaning we need all three in our diets. The other two macronutrients include fats and proteins (in addition to carbohydrates). Carbohydrates come in the forms of starches, fiber and sugars (Mayo Clinic). Sugars are the simplest form of carbohydrates, starches are more complex, and fiber is the indigestible part of the carbohydrate. The simple sugars in carbohydrates should be eaten in moderation, while starches and especially fibers have the best health effects, like improved digestion and benefiting heart health. In comparison to the other macronutrients, it is recommended that carbohydrates take up 45-65% of total calories. Fats are recommended to be 20-35% of calories and protein are recommended to be 10-35% of calories. Carbs are the main source of energy for the body and the preferred source of energy for the brain (Mergenthaler). Now that there’s some basic background information on carbs, let’s look into the keto diet, where the carbs are limited, and the fruitarian diet, where it is almost completely carbs.

Keto Diet: Get Rid of Carbs

The keto diet focuses on limiting the amount of carbs consumed and instead eating more foods high in fat and protein. The keto diet has the body switch from running on carbohydrates to using ketones as an energy source, by entering ketosis (to learn more about this, check out this link). In ketosis, the liver produces energy from stored fat which is in turn used as the main energy source for the body. People using this diet typically have the goal of losing fat and weight. In addition to losing fat, the keto diet can have possible benefits of managing epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome (Mayo Clinic). The keto diet might also increase risk for heart disease as it’s typically high in LDL cholesterol (which is linked to heart disease) and low in fiber (which is helpful against heart disease). The keto diet can also increase risk for nutrient deficiencies, since certain food groups are usually avoided, liver issues, constipation, mood swings and brain fog (Harvard).

Fruitarian Diet: Get Lots of Carbs

The fruitarian diet is almost the polar opposite of the keto diet, in which the majority of calories come from raw fruits, followed by some nuts, seeds, whole grains or vegetables. The fruitarian is typically a raw diet, meaning cooking should be limited or restricted and that it is typically plant-based as well. Fruits are loaded with vitamins and other nutrients in addition to fiber which are all beneficial to one’s health. These can help decrease the risk of certain diseases or cancer (Mayo Clinic). Since this diet is high in fiber, it may decrease cholesterol (Healthline) and as a result lower risk of heart disease. The fruitarian diet may also help someone lose weight, as these foods are naturally low in calories but high in volume, meaning they are not as calorically dense. Of course, there is a list of risks associated with this diet as well. The risks include nutrient deficiencies, such as calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, or just overall malnourishment due to lack of calories from fats and proteins (Healthline).

So, What Do You Do?

By examining these two diets, it can be determined that restricting and cutting out food groups can come with some benefits as well as many risks. It’s important to remember that everything is important and plays it part and moderation should be emphasized. As always when it comes to your own health: if you want specific and safe recommendations for you, talk to the Laker Food Co. dietitian Alyssa.

By: Claire Latourell, WIT Peer Educator

Categories: Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Keto vs Fruitarian: All about those Carbs on March 17, 2023.

Permanent link for Eating as a College Student on February 3, 2023

As college students, many of us are short on time and long on the grind. We have papers piling up, clubs to attend, hours to clock, and so it can be difficult to find time to sit down and nurture our bodies with all of the nutrients that we need. Last year, I found it difficult to find the time to eat, especially being on a budget and being obsessed with eating the ‘right’ way. Sometimes we make a full meal with vegetables, sometimes we have a donut with our coffee. I’d like to discuss the obstacles that come with food when you’re busy and how to improve our relationship with it. 

Eating On the Go

First up, addressing the big time constraint. If you’re like me, you’re taking classes full time, working part time, and pulling off multiple extracurriculars and side projects. When you’re busy and on the go, it’s hard to maintain an eating schedule, let alone finding time to eat. You’ve heard it from your friends, you’ve done it yourself; you’re running off a large cup of coffee and nothing else. We are human, we aren’t perfect. However, keeping our bodies nourished should be a top priority. Every meal may not be a five-course endeavor, but you can start by implementing snacks and simple meals. If this means taking a half hour to make some pasta and add some spinach to the sauce, go you! If this means driving to a drive thru before class instead of skipping a meal, still, go you! Making the time, and making the choice, to eat when and where you can will make a difference. You do not want your stomach rumbling in a silent lecture room.

Food Insecurity

I’d like to address and acknowledge the prevalence of food insecurity when it comes to trying to eat and maintain health. According to Basic Needs at GVSU, more than 1,000 students here at GVSU struggle with food insecurity. Food insecurity is the lack of access to nutritious food on a consistent basis. For college students, this might look like not having enough meals on our meal plans or living off of a few packs of ramen for a week. Food insecure college students don’t have enough food to properly sustain themselves through the week and their grades (and health) may suffer from this. While food insecurity is a broad issue, there are some resources out there and even some on our campus. 

Replenish is a basic needs center on campus with three different locations. One location is on the lower level of Kirkhof center, in room 074. The other two locations are on the downtown campus located at the Steelcase library building A of the DeVos Center and room 347 of the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Science (CHS 347). Students are welcome to stop in during open hours, check in with staff, and get the food or basic need items they need.

SNAP benefits, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, provides supplemental income via a Bridge card to lower-income individuals. While there are eligibility requirements, students can and should consider applying for SNAP. Students can apply for SNAP online and will later be contacted to complete a phone interview. There is no downside to applying for SNAP, the worst thing that can happen is you get denied and the best is that you are approved for benefits! If you need help applying, reach out to the CARE team by filling out a report for yourself. 

There are many food pantries across the towns surrounding our campuses, including Love Inc., The Other Way Ministries, and more. Students can search for resources using the Feeding America resource map.

There is nothing to be embarrassed about when it comes to experiencing food insecurity as a student. Many of us come from different backgrounds and experiences and it’s important to recognize them and help one another when we can. If someone you know is experiencing food insecurity, consider finding ways to help them like sharing the resources above. If you are experiencing food insecurity, ask for help and take advantage of the resources available to you. While folks who are experiencing food insecurity have a more difficult time with accessing nutrient-dense foods, it is so important to do your best to eat the food that is available. 

Food Guilt 

When you don’t have the time or the resources to eat the “right” foods, you might fall ill to food guilt. Food guilt is when you obsess and feel ashamed over the food you eat or think about eating. Sometimes this may look like eating a bag of chips instead of a salad, but the reasons may vary: the chips might be cheaper, the chips might have a higher calorie count and might be more filling, or, simply, you might be craving some chips. All of these reasons are completely valid, and what’s important is that you are eating. The way that diet culture has infiltrated our minds (and bodies) has made us believe that skipping meals is healthier than eating “junk” when in reality, skipping meals has faster, more harmful consequences than eating something unhealthy. Just checkout this resource.

Tips and Tricks

  • Eat the foods that make you feel good: try to balance foods for your soul and foods for your gut (instead of chips or salad, why not both, if you can). You do not need to give up any category of food- try to add vegetables and fruits when and where you can. It’s about adding nutrients, not taking them away. 
  • Have specific foods ready for on-the-go like protein bars, muffins, and yogurt. On busy mornings, afternoons, or evenings- it is helpful to have something ready to grab and take with you. To cut costs, some of these on-the-go items can be meal prepped and ready to have on hand.
  • Let go of the stigma surrounding different foods. Every food has its place. 
  • Have ‘backup’ foods for low-energy days like instant noodles, freezer meals, or even a gift card for a restaurant. It’s better to eat “unhealthy” than nothing. Having easy foods available to you when you’re not feeling your best can help make sure you’re still nourishing your body. 
  • Experiment with recipes in your free time, and find out what foods you like. You can find recipes online, from family and friends, and even on the RecWell instagram. Budget Bytes is a great resource for cheap and yummy recipes.
  • Try to attend a farmer’s market for fresh produce, such as the Fulton Street Farmers Market, a SNAP certified market
  • Try food-prepping meals or try to create a “grazing” plate in the fridge with things like cheese, veggies, crackers, and your favorite proteins (nuts, seeds, meats, meat alternatives, etc.).  

What to Avoid Eating

  • Foods you have a life-threatening allergy to
  • Foods that you dislike
  • Inedible objects
  • Foods that go against your values (if you’re vegan, religious, or otherwise)

To wrap things up, take care of yourself. I know it can be hard to maintain balance, especially as a student- and even more so if you’re a student with additional barriers. But it’s so important to make sure you’re eating consistently, even if what you’re eating is not always the ‘healthiest’ option. Don’t listen to diet culture and remember to prioritize food. 

Additional Links and Resources

By Rowan Armour, WIT Peer Educator

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition Press Pause
Posted by Maddie Vervaeke on Permanent link for Eating as a College Student on February 3, 2023.

Permanent link for WIT Blog Series is Back! on January 25, 2023

The WIT Peer Educators are back again this semester to share about their favorite topics in nutrition, sexual health, pressing pause and so much more. WIT members are GVSU students from a variety of majors and backgrounds. They are brought together by their passion to support their fellow students in pursuing health and wellness.

Stay tuned every Thursday for the latest blog entry. Have ideas for a blog post? Submit a question to our Ask WIT Form and we'll get one written just for you!

By: Katie Jourdan, Assistant Director RecWell

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition Press Pause Rest Sleep
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for WIT Blog Series is Back! on January 25, 2023.

Permanent link for On the Fence about Supplements? on April 21, 2022

The world of supplements can be a confusing and vast landscape. Nutritional or Dietary supplements are defined by the FDA as “products taken by mouth that contain a "dietary ingredient." This could be vitamins, minerals, protein, and many more substances intended to supplement the nutrients you get from the food you eat. It can be hard to determine if supplements are necessary, what supplements you should take, and if supplements even work. 

It is important to meet all of your vitamin and mineral needs but it can be hard to know if supplements are the best way to do that or if there are other options. Many studies now indicate that most dietary supplements are ineffective or can cause more harm than good, yet numerous companies advertise the many positive effects of their products. Eating a balanced diet full of nutrient rich foods is actually better than supplements because whole foods are more nutrient-dense, are a source of fiber, contain health protective substances, and are usually cheaper than supplements. Here’s a general guide on the most commonly used supplements and some tips on how to get a nutrient rich diet without supplements.

Vitamins and Minerals 101

There are two types of vitamins: water-soluble and fat-soluble

Water-soluble - These vitamins dissolve in water are easy to absorb into the body, but are not stored in the body's tissues. This makes it very important to get enough of these vitamins in your diet each day. Any water-soluble vitamins the body doesn't absorb go down the drain - literally - when you use the bathroom.

Fat-soluble - These vitamins dissolve in fat and the body stores them in fat tissue and can draw from those stores as needed. This means if you get too much of these vitamins they will stay in your body and can have negative health effects. The fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K. When supplementing these vitamins it's important to not exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (shortened to UL). This limit is the largest amount of a vitamin you can take without experiencing negative health effects. It is very unlikely to reach this limit from food alone.

Now that we know the different kinds of vitamins we are going to go through some of the most commonly used supplements by young adults. We will cover why each vitamin is important, how you can get more in your diet through food, and some risks of taking it as a supplement.


Many people take multivitamins, but aren’t sure exactly why they are taking them other than “vitamins are good for you.” There is actually no definitive evidence that multivitamins improve health or prevent illness. The main issue with multivitamins is that many foods we eat regularly have been fortified, meaning they have had vital nutrients and vitamins added so that we get our recommended daily amount. When you combine a multivitamin with our already fortified diets, you can quickly end up with an excess of vitamins and nutrients in your body, which can be dangerous. Another fact to keep in mind is that most of the benefits that multivitamins claim to have aren’t backed by science and are simply a product of marketing. If you do still want to take a multivitamin and you can always take half or take a children's multivitamin so you are not getting too much of any one vitamin or mineral. (But you should check with a nutrition professional before doing so). A balanced diet is the best way to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is crucial for calcium absorption in the intestines. Vitamin D helps maintain bone health, as it is key for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It is a very common vitamin supplement, likely because 70% of adults in the United States are deficient in vitamin D. To learn more about some factors that contribute to this, check out Stella's blog post about sunlight and its effect on mood. Vitamin D in the right dose can safely help with deficiencies, just make sure you speak with a healthcare professional to determine if you are deficient before you start taking any supplements. Vitamin D is not found in many foods in substantial amounts, fatty fish like salmon and tuna are good sources. There are also lots of foods that are fortified and are good sources of vitamin d and other vitamins, this is often dairy products and their plant-based alternatives

Antioxidants ( vitamin A and vitamin E )

Both Vitamin A and E are fat-soluble vitamins. Vitamin A is important for eye health, white blood cell production, maintaining the health of endothelial and bone cells, and it regulates cell growth and division. Vitamin E helps with immune system function and helps prevent arterial clots

Antioxidants have been marketed as protection from cancer and illness, but there is no substantial data to support this. The data we have shows that these vitamins can become toxic and increase the risk of long-term illnesses in some cases. Because of the dangers of high doses of these supplements, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional before taking them. It’s also important to know that taking antioxidant supplements for the prevention of illness isn’t backed by data or science. Some good food sources of vitamin A are leafy greens, orange and yellow vegetables, tomatoes, red bell peppers, milk, eggs,cantaloupe, and mango. Some good food sources of vitamin E are plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, pumpkin, red bell pepper, asparagus, and avocado.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so its important to get enough each day. Vitamin C plays a role in healing infections and wounds, it aids in the production of collagen, and plays a role in neurological function. Many people incorrectly believe that vitamin C can prevent or cure a cold. There isn’t much science to back this up. Vitamin C is considered safe in moderate doses, just don’t expect it to ward off cold and flu season germs. Some food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli/cauliflower, and potatoes.

Vitamin B 12

Vitamin B is a water-soluble vitamin, so it is also important to get enough everyday. Vitamin B12 is a very common supplement for people who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet because it is mostly found in meat and dairy products. However, unless directed by a professional to take it as a supplement, you can obtain your daily value through fortified grain products like cereals, oatmeal, and both dairy and non-dairy varieties of milk. Outside of a plant-based diet, vitamin B12 deficiency is rare.

Protein and similar supplements

Eating enough protein in your diet is important because protein is vital for the maintenance and growth of muscle. May people take protein powder supplements to help them reach their fitness goals, but just like all the vitamins we discussed food is often a better bet than a supplement. Whole foods are often cheaper than protein supplements and contain other important nutrients you need. Its important to get as much of your protein from plant based sources as you can, as plant based foods are lower in saturated fat and better for overall health. Some good sources are legumes like beans and lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, broccoli, asparagus, brussel sprouts, and artichokes. If you want to include meat into your diet you should try and limit your red meat and processed meat intake. Poultry, seafood, and dairy in moderation are good options.

So what now? 

The biggest takeaway from this should be that vitamins and supplements should be treated like any other medicine. You should always consult a doctor before taking them. If you don’t have a deficiency or a specialized diet, there is often no need for them. Eating a variety of food is cheaper and healthier than taking a supplement. Another big takeaway is that you do need vitamins and minerals for your body to function properly, but humans have survived for so long without commercial man-made supplements. If there is a particular vitamin you think you need more of, do some research to find what foods are naturally high in that vitamin and incorporate more of them into your diet. Many people wonder if they should be taking a vitamin or supplement, but for most of us we can get our vitamins better from the food we use to fuel our body .

If you want to learn more about getting vitamins and minerals from food check out this resource from the Harvard School of Public Health or you can talk to GVSU's Laker Food Co. Dietitian.

By: Eva VanWyck, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for On the Fence about Supplements? on April 21, 2022.

Permanent link for What is Diet Culture? on March 24, 2022

Diet culture is a wide-reaching phenomenon of encouraging and expecting extreme weight loss, deeming certain foods bad or good, and the false implication that to be healthy you need to lose weight and you need to do it with a diet. Diet and weight loss culture profit on fatphobia (also known as weight stigma) and making people feel uncomfortable in their own body. We are often made to feel that our bodies are wrong and in need of changing but, this is not true. It is important to remember that you can be healthy at any size and the implication that having fat on your body is something to be ashamed of is just plain wrong. Body size does not indicate health, and the most important thing is that you feel good in your own body and that you give it the right fuel and tools so it can do its job best.

(We also know that it’s hard to feel good in your body sometimes, so one of our peer educators wrote a whole post about Body Neutrality! You should check it out to learn more about accepting your body as it is.)

Diet culture has many manifestations and it can be tricky to know if a piece of information is sound nutritional advice or if it is part of diet culture. So, how do you know if something is diet culture? Bethany Wheeler, a registered and licensed dietician, has a Diet Culture Litmus test that is a great tool to use to determine if something is part of diet culture.

Is it diet culture?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it body shaming or claiming someone's body is the problem?
  • Does it label foods as either bad or good, or bash certain foods?
  • Is it saying food must be earned or burned off with exercise?
  • Does it only see food as fuel and look down on emotional eating?
  • Does it paint people as good or better for pursuing health?
  • Does it paint people who aren't pursuing health as lazy or lacking willpower and grit?
  • Does it ignore the fact that privilege, resources, and funds impact people's health related choices?

An answer of yes to any of these should make you wary of that information potentially being a product of diet culture.

Bad Fads: Diet trends not worth your time

Over time, a variety of fad diets have come and gone as a part of diet culture - all echoing a similar claim: quick and easy weight loss! As we said, body size and weight do not necessarily determine health so this claim is a signal that a diet does not have your best interest in mind. Most of these diets can even harm your body because many cause rapid weight loss that is not recommended by the CDC or other exercise and health professionals. The CDC states that an appropriate amount of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. This can be achieved with a slight calorie deficit and/or increased physical activity. They also mention an important point: when weight loss is gradual, the weight is more likely to stay off. Many of these popular diets cause rapid weight fluctuation. This is called Yo-Yo dieting and it has many negative effects beyond weight changes. It can lead to loss of muscle mass, higher risk for liver problems, increased risk of chronic disease, negative body image, and low body acceptance. Another problem with most of these popular diets is that though you may lose weight, that weight loss is probably not coming from where you think it is. The weight lost in extreme calorie deficit diets is usually muscle, bone, and water loss and body’s fat stores are maintained or even increased. If improving health is your goal, then diets with extreme calorie deficits that promote rapid weight loss are ones to avoid.


The Keto diet was developed to control epilepsy in children. According to Mayo Clinic, besides for those with epilepsy, there is little evidence to support the use of this diet in any other population and evidence is unclear as to whether or not this diet is safe for the general population. The reason being that this diet is high in fat and protein and very low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential nutrients, meaning they are needed for your body to function properly - they are actually our bodies’ preferred source of fuel. Severely limiting them means you will be lacking essential parts of your diet and at risk of nutrient deficiency. This also often means unsaturated fats are in excess in this diet and foods like fruits and vegetables are very limited, which can increase your risk for chronic disease. With the lack of fruits and vegetables, this diet makes it extremely hard to get all the vitamins and nutrients you need and can lead to other serious medical complications. Some long term health effects are increased heart disease risk due to increased fat intake and poor cholesterol, increased risk of certain cancers, gastrointestinal problems, and prolonged nutrient deficiencies.  

Drastic calorie deficit diets

Many diet trends consist of cutting your calories drastically and eating with few other restrictions. The problem here is that many of the caloric intakes they recommend are often the daily requirements for young children. The average adult needs 2,000-2,800 calories daily. That number changes depending on your body and will increase if you are active. Calories are our body’s fuel and the number of calories you eat is less important than simply eating a variety of healthy foods and maintaining a balanced diet.

Juice cleanses

The reason you don’t need this diet is simple, your body doesn’t need a cleanse because it cleanses itself! Your liver and kidneys do this all on their own without any change in diet, they are experts at removing waste and unwanted substances from the body. If you need more convincing, these diets usually have very little results and can be pricey. You are better off skipping the juice cleanse and letting your body take care of any detoxifying.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is about keeping your body free of carbs, so after 12-14 hours of fasting, your body begins burning fat. Though this diet can result in quick weight loss, it often triggers the Yo-Yo dieting we talked about earlier. On non-fasting days, you are more likely to eat more calories and more non-nutrient dense foods, which promotes weight gain. There are other negative side effects to this diet as well. Your body will feel very tired because it lacks the carbohydrates it needs to have energy throughout the day. This diet also causes lower levels of dopamine and serotonin, which can affect mental health. 

Science-based Swaps: science-supported diet changes that can positively impact health.

If you are looking to improve your overall health there are some ways to do it that are kinder to your body and support long term health improvements.

Plant-based diet

A plant-based diet consists of mostly or entirely plant-based foods (no animal sources). Plant-based foods include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and oils. There is an abundance of benefits to eating plant based. For example, this diet can lower blood pressure, promote heart health, decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, and many other diseases. A plant-based diet can also improve mental health! The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that “Research that looked at the impact of diet on emotional well-being and productivity at 10 corporate sites of a major U.S. insurance company found that a plant-based dietary intervention led to significantly reduced feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue”

Intuitive eating

Intuitive eating is a philosophy about giving your body what it needs when it needs it. Unlike a traditional diet, there are no guidelines or restrictions; the goal is treating your body well. Intuitive eating has many benefits, including improved cholesterol levels, higher self-esteem, reduced stress, and improved metabolism.

What is Most Important when it comes to Fueling our Body

Often getting physical activity, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding alcohol and smoking are more important for your health than your weight. Weight loss is not necessarily the path to health despite what diet culture tells us. Look out for the signs of diet culture and fad diets and take steps to promote your health in ways that make your body feel good.

Campus Resources

And, if you are struggling with navigating your way through food and nutrition, the GVSU's Laker Food Co. Dietitian, is available for appointments about general nutrition, weight loss, nutrient needs, allergy restrictions and so much more. It's free for students! Furthermore, if you are struggling with disordered eating or body image, the University Counseling Center has many resources to help.

By: Eva VanWyck, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for What is Diet Culture? on March 24, 2022.

Permanent link for How to "Beet" the Winter Blues on February 21, 2022

Can Food Really Affect Your Mood?

Are you getting a little tired of the endless cloudy Michigan skies? Has it been hard to focus on homework…spring weather in your daydreams? Maybe falling snow has lost its charm. Maybe you’re starting to think the lake effect is more like the lake de fect. Well you are not alone– according to a psychiatry journal, about 46 million Americans (18 and older) experience a gloomy winter. 

The good news is that what you lick off your spoon (or fork) can be a game changer for your mood. Neurotransmitters are little signals in the brain that impact the way you feel and can be affected by different nutrients found in food. There are so many tiny vitamins (like B12 and B6) or other nutrients (like folic acid and tyrosine) that can make a big difference!

5 Foods to Help Lift Moods

  1. Did the title give it away? Beets are one of the many great options to lift your mood. Their bright color isn’t the only exciting part about them. They contain nitrates that can decrease blood pressure and increase oxygen. Choline found in beets is a key helper for making one of those neurotransmitters (the tiny signals important for mood) in the brain. Other benefits of beets include memory help, decreased chance of heart disease, and decreased inflammation. 
  2. Winter squash is a seasonal favorite that is a mood favorite too. The vitamin B6 it contains is extremely important for keeping a good mood, not to mention all the fun varieties. Butternut, spaghetti, delicata and many others are all part of the clan that can give you a vitamin B6 boost. Pumpkin, another squash family member, not only contains vitamin B6 but also magnesium. Magnesium is an important mineral that could lower symptoms of depression.
  3. Bananas, like squash, have high amounts of vitamin B6. They also contain a good source of fiber which is important for the regulation of blood sugars and prevent energy roller coasters. They also contain prebiotics (note: not probiotics) which good bacteria thrive on in the gut. For more information on gut health visit one of our previous blog posts Mind-Gut Connection.
  4. Sweet potato, another orange vegetable variety, has vitamin C. Not only do these golden potatoes have the potential of lowering depression symptoms, they also have the ability to lower inflammation, another important aspect of mood. As you might already know, vitamin C can additionally support the immune system, a little bonus during the cold seasons.
  5. Brussels sprouts are another amazing option. Maybe not your first choice, but you don’t want to miss out on all the folic acid brain-mood booster qualities they can provide.

So Many to Choose From!

There are many other foods that can boost your mood. Some general options include:

  • Foods high in fiber
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Legumes (lentils/beans)
  • Potatoes (the skin is the best part!)
  • And many other fruits/vegetables besides those previously mentioned

Visit this Healthline website for more foods that can help with mood.

Slip It In

With so many options it might be overwhelming to think about how to get all of it into your diet. It’s important to remember, however, that you don’t need to eat them all at once. Maybe start by trying to incorporate one of these foods into a meal each week. You can always keep adding them in as it becomes easier. Furthermore, there are so many possibilities and ways to eat them it might take a little experimentation to see what makes your taste buds dance. Frozen, canned, shredded, sauteed, blended, baked, microwaved, chopped or any combination– your brain and mood don’t mind how it comes.

Some Specific Examples of How to Include

One low-cost easy way to get pumpkin in your diet is to buy 100% canned pumpkin puree. You could add it to your oatmeal, overnight oats or to a smoothie. Add shredded brussels sprouts to a stir fry, salad or soup. Skewering a few beets from a jar and eating them right off the fork is always a tasty snack. If you have access to raw beets, shred them for a colorful salad or roast some beets in the oven. Maybe grab a banana with some spare dining dollars. Simply thinking of ways to eat them could put you in a better mood!

There are also many resources online to help inspire you. Epicurious is a website and app. You can customize your search results for the specific food, type of meal, allergies, level of difficulty and much more!

Winter Doesn’t Have to be a Downer

Food may not be the first idea that comes to mind when trying to solve seasonal blues, but it clearly can have an impact. Enhancing your menus with some beets, bananas, squash, sweet potatoes or brussels sprouts has shown to boost mood and turn winter blues into reds, yellows and oranges. Keeping in mind some of these food ideas and having fun making up your meals are some first steps to keep you smiling through the end of March.

Don’t Hesitate

If seasonal depression is becoming unbearable, don’t hesitate to book a free consultation with the counseling center at GVSU. Or, if you need some more nutrition advice, and/or have some other wellness goals in mind there are many other resources on the Recreation and Wellness page. Want to ask an anonymous question? Our WIT Peer Educators are happy to answer questions on Ask WIT. The newest program called Wellness Navigators could even give you free one-on-one guidance!

By: Josie Kasmauskis, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series.

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for How to "Beet" the Winter Blues on February 21, 2022.

Permanent link for Eating Healthy and Sustainably (on a Budget) for One on February 15, 2022

The “Baby Carrot” Cycle

I’ll admit it, I did it too.  You know, the endless cycle of wanting to eat more vegetables, buying that one bag of baby carrots (you know the kind) or a bag of fresh lettuce, and eating maybe half the bag just to forget about them. Once I do remember, I find them hidden in my fridge and realize they don’t look nearly as good as they did when I bought them. Not to mention the guilt I feel when I realize nothing is salvageable and I have to throw it all out. If you are anything like me and feel this guilt (about the money I just wasted and the food waste I just created), the first stage is acceptance. The second stage though is using some of the tips I have below for navigating how to eat healthy, sustainably, AND on a budget.

Why Does Food Waste Matter?

So we know food waste is bad, but why? According to the USDA, 30-40 percent of the food supply is wasted. This adds up to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010 alone. 

Not only is food waste contributing to inefficiency and negative environmental effects, but it is costing us money too. The USDA also estimates that the average American family of 4 loses $1500 to uneaten food every year. From an ethical perspective, much of the food being wasted that is still safe to eat could be going towards addressing food insecurity. On the same note of ethics, wasted meat products also means that an animal that has died in order to provide food, has now died with no purpose. For more information about how GVSU is addressing food insecurity on our campus, read about Replenish below!

Make Frozen Vegetables Your Best Friend!

Eating healthy for one person in college (on a budget) is not easy, but it can be done! The first step is to break the stigma around frozen vegetables. I have heard a few times from other college students that “frozen fruits and vegetables aren’t as healthy” or “I only buy fresh vegetables.”

It’s time to dispel these rumors once and for all. Frozen vegetables are healthy and contain just as many nutrients as fresh, if not more than fresh store bought since they are usually frozen while they’re in their prime. When shopping for frozen fruits and vegetables, pay attention to the labels to check for those that do not have additives. Of course frozen vegetables can still age in the freezer and may not be as nutritionally dense after a year, but it will last you much longer than the few days you get with fresh. 

It is also important to note the”best if used by” dates on frozen fruits or vegetables. These dates are only usually recommendations based on when the food tastes best and can still be safe beyond this date, but it is usually better to buy food that does not expire for a while to avoid this. So if this happens, don’t stress! It is probably still safe to eat as long as it is cooked thoroughly. 

Maximizing Shelf Life (How to Store Fresh Fruits/Veggies Properly!)

Grocery shopping for fresh AND frozen fruits and vegetables is a great way to limit food waste and still eat healthy. When we are buying fresh fruits and vegetables, there are ways to store them properly to extend their shelf life. This NY Times article outlines a few really great ways to do this, but I will summarize for you here. First, start fresh! Even though frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good for you, there might be times when you prefer fresh options. Make sure when shopping for fruits and vegetables, that you are shopping for the freshest ones and that they don’t have any signs of aging already. Next, consider the conditions of how your food is stored. The author suggests considering “temperature, ethylene, and airflow.” This just means gaining a better understanding of what causes fruits and vegetables to go bad prematurely. Ethylene is a gas released by some fruits/vegetables that causes produce to ripen faster. Some may be better at room temperature, others in the fridge in a container rather than the produce bag it comes in. I recommend checking out the full article for specifics by the type of produce you are storing. 

Freeze Your Bread & Leftovers

Something I have learned when it comes to grocery shopping and eating just for one person is how quickly bread and leftovers go bad. But there are solutions to these problems!

First, refrigerate (or freeze) your bread. You can just throw the bread in the original packaging and throw it in the fridge or freezer (depending on how quickly you tend to eat bread). For those of us (myself included) who like to bake, homemade bread loaves can be stored in the freezer as well. To freeze store bought or homemade bread loaves for longer periods of time, make sure the bread is cooled and sliced then wrap first with plastic wrap then with foil or freezer paper. This link discusses more about the correct way to preserve homemade bread loaves.

Second is leftovers! If you make a meal with lots of leftovers, but you’re not the kind of person to eat the same thing multiple times that week before it goes bad, freeze your leftovers! Your food will taste fresher and you will have the option of a quick homemade dinner or lunch later on. The USDA outlines safe ways to freeze, thaw, and reheat leftovers here

Stir Fry, Pasta, & Curries

Cooking for one person without tons of leftovers can be hard,especially when you’ve just gone grocery shopping and need to use up a lot of the fresh vegetables you bought. An option for this is to cook things like stir fry, pasta, or curries. These can not only be relatively easy and quick to cook, but allow you to add whatever you might have laying around in your fridge. It’s relatively easy to make these recipes your own and tweak them to the foods you like or already have. Here is one idea for a veggie stir fry recipe. For other recipes, check out the One Dish Kitchen for single serving recipe ideas. 

Start a Compost

While limiting food waste sounds great in theory, we’re also human and it happens. So what can we do with our food waste when it does happen? The answer is COMPOSTING! We see the compost trash bins on campus, but what is compost you may ask? Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow, according to the EPA. Making compost takes food waste out of our landfills where they take up space and release methane which is a greenhouse gas. The EPA outlines the basics of composting if you’re interested in learning more. NPR LifeKit also published a great guide on how to compost at home. 

Replenish at GVSU

If you are a student at GVSU experiencing food insecurity at any level, Replenish is our on campus food pantry. There are three locations: Kirkhof 074 - Allendale Campus: open weekdays from Noon to 5 pm, Steelcase Library - DeVos Campus (1st floor entrance): open during library hours, and CHS 343 - Cook-DeVos Center for Health Science building: open 8 - 5 (CHS location is currently unavailable). Replenish is a completely free resource available for all students. Students are permitted two visits per month but emergency accommodations can be made. All you need to bring is:

  • Your student ID;
  • A passed daily Covid-19 assessment;
  • and a reusable grocery bag. 

Replenish also collects donations of pantry stable foods, hygiene items, household cleaning supplies, and new or lightly used school supplies. The Allendale location accepts walk-ins. 

As I mentioned before, eating healthy for one person in college on a budget is not easy, but it can be done! Just take it one step at a time.

By: Sofia Hessler, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series.

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Eating Healthy and Sustainably (on a Budget) for One on February 15, 2022.

Permanent link for Mind-Gut Connection on January 27, 2022

We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s all in your head,” but is that true?  

We experience stress and anxieties through school, work, and/or our social lives, almost on a daily basis. Usually we think about stress-relievers or self-care strategies to help with these feelings, but by learning how these processes work on a physiological level in our own bodies, it can help us discover ways to decrease these negative feelings in a different way. Our mood, emotions, and stress levels tend to be correlated with, and are thought of coming from our brain in the central nervous system. However, our nervous systems consist of more than just the central and peripheral nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord and the nerves, respectively. The enteric nervous system, which governs the gastrointestinal tract, also plays a very important role in communicating with the brain in order to regulate cognition, immunity, hormones, and emotions. By looking into how the gastrointestinal (GI) tract works, it can help bring understanding on how there’s a connection between our brains, our mood and our food. 

Gut Bacteria and Our Mental Health

An important aspect for the GI tract to function efficiently, that is not necessarily a part of our own bodies but still very important, is gut bacteria or the microbiome. These little organisms have such a large impact not only on the enteric nervous system, but the central nervous system as well. On the intestinal level, the gut flora can prevent dysfunction in the gastrointestinal tract and affect the nutrient availability in the food we eat. In a study conducted on ‘germ free’ animals, the findings supported that gut flora influences memory, anxiety, and stress. Stress and inflammation can be closely linked together. Stress can be in response to our body’s ‘fight or flight response’ and releases specific hormones and neurotransmitters which also activates inflammation. Yet, many people, such as students, experience chronic, or long lasting, stress and inflammation, which negatively affects the whole body. Microorganisms in the gut have been shown to decrease inflammation. In these studies, probiotics have also decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression, similarly to prescription medications. 

Flawed Gut Bacteria: Help it with Fiber

However, not all microorganisms should be viewed equally and can vary based on diet, medications, environment, or even what season it is. Some common examples of manifestations of a flawed gut that may occur can be bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or cramping.  It is important to have specific microbes rather than others to support a healthy GI tract. A very important aspect within one’s diet that can support the gut flora is fiber. Most people only get about half of what their fiber intake should actually be. Fiber is so valuable, as the microbes essentially eat and thrive from it. Fiber is also important for many other different things in addition to gut health such as lowering cholesterol, blood sugar and reducing risk of heart disease.

How to Increase Microorganisms in your Gut

  • Increase intake of whole plant-based sources for fiber:  legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Incorporate some fermented foods into your diet: yogurt, kombucha, or kimchi, or even supplementing with a probiotic (always ask a healthcare professional before supplementing your diet).
  • Get enough sleep: 7-8 hours a night
  • Exercise regularly: a few days a week
  • Reduce stress

These habits, in addition to gut health, can also benefit your overall health and wellness.

Our Body Systems Work Together

The body is made up of many different systems, but that does not mean they work independently of each other. These systems and processes work together in order to keep our bodies running smoothly. The digestive system illustrates this very well, as it impacts immunity, hormones, mental health and more.  Even though it seems like we don’t have enough time and energy to be 100% perfect all the time, little changes in choices can help us in more ways than one.

By: Claire Latourell, WIT Peer Educator

Part of our WIT Blog Series.

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Mind-Gut Connection on January 27, 2022.

Permanent link for Explore Wellness with WIT in Winter 2022 on January 10, 2022

“Wellness” has become a bit of a buzzword lately. We’re bombarded with ads for wellness products, we see the term tied to fad diets, and we’re told to buy items in order to practice self-care. But, do we really need all of that to be well? Unfortunately, it feels like the word “wellness” is being used to market consumerism rather than what its true meaning is... 

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is a life-long journey; "a conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential.” And if you look even bigger, the Global Wellness Institute says wellness is “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” 

There’s no purchase necessary when it comes to wellness. (But, there may be some reading and learning!)

Nowadays, a lot of us want short and simple information that we can read quickly and keep scrolling. But, there are some topics that require just a little more attention than a social media post.That’s why our WIT peer educators are going to be writing blog posts this semester to dive deeper into topics of general wellness, nutrition, sexual health, and rest. All of these areas can help you on your well-being journey.

If you want to check out previous posts written by the team, we’ve got plenty on the RecWell blog already (you can filter the posts by topic!). This is also where the new posts will show up each week - or you can just click the link on our Instagram stories each week.

Follow along with us this semester as we focus on what wellness really means, how we can improve our lives, and why learning about these topics is so valuable!  

By: Ryleigh Emelander, MPH Candidate, Health Promotion Assistant and Katie Jourdan, Student Health Promotions Coordinator

Categories: General Wellness Nutrition Rest Sexual Health
Posted by Katie Jourdan on Permanent link for Explore Wellness with WIT in Winter 2022 on January 10, 2022.

Page last modified April 26, 2023