Director of Health Promotion Programs Paula Martin has been a part of the Carnegie Mellon University community for 10 years. Here she shares her background in health and wellness, information on National Nutrition Month® events on campus and the Dining Services Nutrition Calculator, and tips about how to become a mindful eater.
Where did you go to college/graduate school and which licensed/registered degrees have you earned?
I’m a two-time graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. In 1995, I earned a bachelor’s degree in clinical dietetics and nutrition. In 2008, I received my Master of Science in wellness and human performance. I’ve completed and maintain the national Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential, and I’m a Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist (LDN) in the state of Pennsylvania.
How did you get into the field of nutrition?
I realized during a childhood illness that I could enhance and control my health based on what I ate. Having a chronic illness is overwhelming. You’re not in control of things most of the time, the treatments are not flexible, and you feel like a human pincushion. During that time, I had a dietitian who was wonderful. She didn’t hurt me! She helped make food my medicine and offered support that lasted a lifetime.
Also, I’m very invested in our regional food systems: how we grow our food, how we access safe and nutritious food, and how we treat everyone and everything within the food system, from the field and industry workers to the animals.
How do you stay up-to-date on nutrition trends and information?
I am very active in several national, state, and local professional health and nutrition organizations. I’m on the public policy committee for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Hunger and Environmental Dietetics Practice group, as well as a member of the Society of Nutrition Education and Behavior. I’m also involved with the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Continuing education is required to maintain my state (LDN) and national (RDN) credentials.
Why is National Nutrition Month® important to you and why do you feel it’s important for the CMU community?
For me, it’s personal. Health and wellness through nutrition has been my life’s work and, for the past 10 years, I’ve been active in supporting nutrition efforts across our campus community.
National Nutrition Month® is a chance to reflect on how far, as a society, we have come and where we still need to go. It is also an opportunity for the next generation of health and nutrition professionals to showcase their knowledge and expertise. I also appreciate Registered Dietitian Day each year on March 11, when nutrition professionals are recognized for the work they do within communities. March is also special because it is the beginning of the growing season in Western Pennsylvania, so it kicks off our community’s local food involvement as well.
What kinds of things are happening on campus to promote National Nutrition Month®?
Two dietetics interns from the University of Pittsburgh will be tabling near The Fence on Tuesday, March 24, from 9:00 am to noon, giving away complimentary apples and sharing tips for healthful eating.
Additionally on March 24, every Dining Services vendor location across campus will be promoting a healthy food item from their menu that corresponds with at least one of our healthy food icons. Each of these food items is searchable in our Dining Nutrition App. The flier shown here will be at each dining location next Tuesday showcasing which healthy food item is being promoted.
A Farmers Market is also taking place on March 24, from 5:00 to 8:00 pm on the second floor of the Cohon Center in the Marketplace.
Reading (and understanding) food labels is a great way to be mindful of healthy eating habits. What are the main things on food labels that conscientious eaters should pay attention to?
Food labels highlight food strengths and weaknesses. We’ve developed a food icon system to help students make quick decisions about food labels. Per serving, a food item 500 calories or less with at least 10% daily value (DV) of key nutrients can be considered for the Healthful Choice (HC) icon. Other food strengths include dietary fiber, protein, iron and calcium. Whole grains account for dietary fiber so be on the lookout for the Whole Grain (WG) icon. Weaknesses are trans-fats, saturated fats, and sodium or salt. To limit those, look for the Heart Smart (HS) icon.
The Nutrition App is a comprehensive look at most of the food served on campus. The campus community can review menu options and see the nutrition facts panel with ease. Details about ingredients, food allergies, and the health icons are literally in the palm of your hand. The app is constantly updated and refreshed to keep up with new menu items and options.
You can access the Nutrition Calculator from your computer here: http://cmu.mynutritioncalculator.net/. Or you can download the app on your phone or tablet from the Apple App store (search for “CMU Nutrition”) or the Google Play store (search for “Carnegie Mellon Nutrition”).
I’d love to hear from you about the Nutrition App: What does everyone think of the App and the web version for meal tracking? You can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply comment on this blog.
In terms of diet and nutrition, what services can students seek out from University Health Services?
Students visit University Health Services (UHS) for individual nutrition assessments, Medical Nutrition Therapy for health problems, body composition testing, and eating disorder concerns. Each spring we offer “Personal Nutrition” as a mini academic course from January through March. We also offer Peer Health Advocate nutrition education programs for any campus-affiliated group. Students may also “Ask the RD” any question or concern at email@example.com
If you could give one piece of nutrition advice to a busy CMU student, what would it be?
The good news is that young bodies are very forgiving and our collective health on campus is very good. The goal is not to be a perfect eater but a mindful eater. Every few hours, ask yourself: How am I feeling? Am I thirsty? When is the last time I had water, vegetables, or a good source of calcium from milk or a leafy green? Think about these simple questions during your next food and drink decision.