Dietitians teach healthy habits

Rebekah Maple

Student health is focus of program

Dietitian Jodie Luidhardt is waiting for the next person to walk through her door.

Luidhardt is a Kent State graduate and coordinator for the Nutrition Outreach Program. During the fall and spring semesters, she said she sees approximately 15 students every week to encourage healthy lifestyles.

“There is so much misinformation out there,” Luidhardt said. “We want nutrition information available for all students.”

Last semester the outreach program worked with the Portage County Health Department and Robinson Memorial Hospital on an obesity grant it received last year. Luidhardt said she saw patients at doctor’s offices and offered them free nutrition education. She also provided tool kits that help the patients develop healthier lifestyles.

Luidhardt works with each student on an individualized basis. She acts as a health coach and motivates, encourages and supports students to make healthy changes. She said she tries to focus on changing behaviors or making healthier choices, not just how much someone weighs. “I hate to focus on weight,” she said. “Weight is just a number on a scale. It doesn’t show you how much muscle you have, body fat or water weight.”

In the fall, the Nutrition Outreach Program will offer six workshops that include a presentation and a cooking class in Nixson Hall. The lectures will be based on healthy eating, weight loss, celiac disease, vegetarianism, diabetes and sports nutrition. Students who are interested in participating can sign up at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

Luidhardt said athletes like to take advantage of the programs offered. She said many of them want to eat better to maximize performance. Athletes and students in general must see a dietitian before they can get a personal trainer. Luidhardt can provide her services for free, while the Recreation Center charges students for services.

Dr. Natalie Caine-Bish is a registered dietitian who helps Luidhardt with the Nutrition Outreach Program. She said she helps acquire grants for the program and records outcomes from previous grants.

Her focus isn’t only on grants, however. Six years ago Child Health Services asked Caine-Bish to develop a weight-management program, so she came up with the Kids Interested in Diet and Sport (K.I.D.S.) Camp at Kent State.

“The goal of the program is to teach families healthy eating habits,” Caine-Bish said. “Nutrition education includes healthy snacks (and) games like nutrition fear factor.”

The Nutrition Outreach provides many other programs for children in addition to K.I.D.S. Camp. Luidhardt said she went three times in July to the King-Kennedy Camp in Ravenna and did one-hour sessions about nutrition education. The program was funded by United Way and gave low-income families help and support with their diets.

During the school year, Luidhardt visits area schools and does after-school nutrition and physical activity programs. In a program called 4:3:2:1 Healthy Kids, she encourages children to eat four servings of fruits and vegetables per day, three servings of dairy, limit themselves to two hours or less of television time per day and engage in at least one hour of physical activity.

Recently she went to 10 Portage County school districts and measured children’s body mass index measurements, heights and weights.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “One of seven low-income, preschool-aged children is obese.” The prevalence of obesity is still growing, but not as rapidly as in the past.

Luidhardt said Nutrition Outreach is trying to get healthier lunches in schools. The focus in schools is on testing, and nutrition isn’t tested. She said the government doesn’t accommodate the fruits and vegetables as they do meat and dairy.

“One of the biggest misinformations out there is that fruit is bad because it has so many carbohydrates and sugar in it,” she said. “Fruit is wonderful. It has a lot of water and fiber and tons of vitamins and minerals.”

Luidhardt said Kent State students have many opportunities for healthy food options on campus. The Nutrition Outreach Program is affiliated with the Food 4 Thought Cyber Café in White Hall.

According to its Web site, the café offers healthy, fresh-made wraps, salads, soups and smoothies. It also offers a “comfortable wireless atmosphere with two large screen LCD displays which can project video and sound from a computer, DVD, camcorder or other device for group presentations.”

Luidhardt uses some of the tools from She said people can enter their information and the program generates an individualized diet to follow. This can help students lose weight and become healthier.

“It’s rewarding when someone says ‘thank you,’ or when I see someone happy because of the changes made,” Luidhardt said.

Contact health reporter Rebekah Maple at [email protected].