Penn State Student Nutrition Assistants Karrie Rice and Allison Vinciguerra.

The RHEAL Deal Blog Brings Healthy Eating Tips

Student nutrition assistants are here to help their peers take the guesswork out of eating healthy, and they're doing it through the RHEAL Deal, the official blog for Penn State's Auxiliary and Business Services Registered Dietitian's office.

RHEAL, short for Residential Healthy Eating and Living, is a program that identifies and promotes healthy items in the dining commons. RHEAL items are easy to identify by a carrot icon marked on the entree cards of dishes that meet the healthy qualifications.

A team of registered dietitians and the student nutrition assistants maintain the blog with weekly posts highlighting a new RHEAL-certified food available in the dining commons that students wouldn't normally think to try.

"My favorite aspect about writing blog posts is that I get to choose some of my own topics. It is so much more fun to write about topics that I am passionate about, so being able to choose topics that I think are really important right now is awesome," Student Nutrition Assistant Ally Vinciguerra says.

The blog posts include information about the nutrients in the given food, different ways it can be prepared, and where it can be found in the dining commons. Table tents in the dining commons are also equipped with cardholders that provide an overview of the week's featured food and a link to the blog post so students can read the mobile site as they're eating.

"We're using the blog as another means of educating students on eating healthy," Registered Dietitian Meghan Kronenwetter says. "Whether it's one student or a handful of students who see the post, I consider it a success."

They also feature posts on overall health and nutrition, pace changer meals, which are unique items not typically found on the dining commons menu, and seasonal foods or meals.

"As a student at Penn State, I like to think of what other students would find interesting and useful," Student Nutrition Assistant Karrie Rice says. "We gather evidence-based research about a nutrition topic and try to compile it into a short post full of fun facts, helpful tips, recipes and more."

The RHEAL Deal blog started at the beginning of the fall 2015 semester and the team behind it hopes to continue with posts effective for helping students identify healthy options.

"Being a Student Nutrition Assistant, I was able to learn about so many facets of the field and gain valuable experience. Since the position is relatively new, we were able to add our input in making the job and responsibilities more impactful. Having that type of say made coming to work so much more fun," Vinciguerra says.

Registered Dietitian Melissa Hendricks says the blog is great for student nutrition assistants to apply what they're learning in class and "take ownership for it." The RHEAL Deal can be found here.