Nutrition: It Takes a Village

It takes a village to keep students healthy. Here, Jackie Armstrong, the wellness and performance nutritionist at Stanford, explains how dining and campus recreation go hand in hand with helping keep students at their optimal levels of health, fitness and mindfulness.

CR: Why is student nutrition and wellness a priority at Stanford, in addition to fitness and health?

JA: Stanford students are a very talented and diverse group with a wide variety of tastes and dietary needs. Dining on campus is a significant part of the Stanford experience and we believe that it offers an important opportunity to guide and educate our students on how food impacts their wellbeing and the health of the planet. We believe in engaging students in a dialogue about their food choices, as they are beginning to establish lifelong habits.

CR: Do you believe proper nutrition impacts academic performance?

JA: Both in the published research and in my professional experience, there is strong support for the role of nutrition in promoting academic performance. Even something as simple as eating a balanced breakfast has been shown to improve concentration, information retention and exam scores. At Stanford, we take things a step further by consciously evaluating our food offerings for their cognitive benefits, and building menus that support brain health and performance. We believe that attention to the nutritional quality of our ingredients, recipes and menus helps students at Stanford perform at their mental and physical peak.

CR: As a wellness and performance nutritionist, what is your primary role at Stanford?

JA: My core responsibility is to translate the latest scientific evidence on nutrition, wellness and sports performance into actionable recommendations for enhancing the dining experience at Stanford. I support the Stanford community in making smart food choices to help optimize their energy, resilience and performance through education, strategic marketing and culinary programs.

CR: Do you work with the campus recreation department?

JA: Stanford’s Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation and R&DE Stanford Dining share a commitment to the growth and wellbeing of all students, faculty and staff through our programs and resources. We know that nutrition and fitness go hand-in-hand to keep our students feeling and performing their best and we value the contributions of our recreation department to the culture of excellence at Stanford. We work closely together in support of the BeWell campus health and wellness program.

CR: In addition to food, what other ways does Stanford make wellness a priority for students?

JA: Student wellness is a top priority at Stanford. Each semester, R&DE Stanford Dining offers its De-Stress events during dead week, the week before final exams when there are no classes and few activities to allow students time for intense studying. For fall quarter, our De-Stress events were held at Arrillaga Family Dining Commons and included a chai tea making session, a yoga class and pet hugs courtesy of the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA. Additionally, students can reflect in our tranquil Windhover contemplative center, consult a student health educator, join a club sport or participate in iThrive Emotional Wellbeing courses and workshops. Student groups such as The Happiness Collective and Stanford Peace of Mind unite students with a focus on wellness. Students will also find a variety of events and activities across campus emphasizing spiritual growth, healthy lifestyle and stress relief.

Jackie Armstrong’s 5 ways campus rec professionals can help students make healthier choices:

  1. Emphasize the benefits of eating breakfast daily.
  2. Advise students to carry a reusable water bottle and hydrate throughout the day.
  3. Guide students toward whole foods rather than convenience items or supplements.
  4. Help students recognize the connection between what they eat and how they feel.
  5. Get to know the dining department’s nutritionist, who can assist in guiding them in making healthier choices in the campus dining halls, restaurants and cafes.
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Rachel is the Editor and Chief of Peake Media. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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