Red Sox Nutritionist Offers Seasoned Advice
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 00:10
Boston Red Sox nutritionist Tara Mardigan spoke about healthy eating last Thursday in Fulton Hall, with 200 students in attendance. The talk was organized by the Office of Health Promotion and Dining Services, which provided assorted fruit and yogurt before the event.
Mardigan graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She then graduated from Tufts University with master’s degrees in science and public health. In addition to being the team nutritionist for the Boston Red Sox, Mardigan started a nutrition-counseling program called The Plate Coach, and works at Lown Cardiovascular Center, InsideTracker, and FutureChefs.
“Tara is an experienced and skilled dietitian, and we wanted to bring her to campus to support the kick-off of our NOURISH campaign. She shares a similar philosophy about food and eating to the campaign,” said Betsy Cook, administrative assistant of the Office of Health Promotion (OHP).
In an effort to help students make healthy choices in the dining halls, OHP has partnered with Boston College Dining Services (BCDS) to promote the NOURISH campaign. The six key messages of the campaign can be seen throughout campus and in the dining halls.
“Each year we develop and disseminate a Health Social Marketing Campaign. This year is NOURISH—the kickoff was at Healthapalooza,” Cook said.
The talk was also the first in the Be Well Series, a program under OHP that offers talks on health topics by BC community members and outside experts.
“The goal of this talk and the NOURISH campaign is to help students broaden their knowledge of healthy eating,” Cook said.
Lead health coaches Griffin Sharp and Anna Trilleras, both A&S ’14, introduced Mardigan with a brief overview of her background and work.
The PowerPoint for the talk was divided by different categories: healthy nutrition basics, what to eat and when, supplements, special considerations, trends and hot topics, and practical strategies. The presentation began with a list of the top five reasons why BC students report not eating a healthy diet: time and convenience, peer influence, alcohol, wait until older, and boredom with food choices.
To create the PowerPoint for the talk, Mardigan collaborated with OHP in order to make her presentation as relevant as she could to the choices BC students have in the dining halls. Along with her own images, she also used graphics and messages from the NOURISH campaign.
“We thought the talk was excellent,” Cook said. “She delivered a wonderful presentation with a wealth of practical information to support students in understanding what healthy eating it, making food choices, and understanding that all foods can fit.”
One piece of advice Mardigan gave was to eat mindfully when it comes to sugar, fat, and salt. She explained the “bad popcorn in big buckets” 2006 study by Brian Wansink, which proved that people will eat food if it is front of them—even if it is not palatable.
She reviewed the benefits and drawbacks of trendy diets like gluten-free and Paleo diets. When it comes to choosing a trendy diet herself, she said, “How long do I have to follow it for?”
Mardigan also explained the importance of timing when eating food before or after a workout, the effects of coffee and tea in different people, and the vital role sleep plays in making food choices—according to Mardigan, even the Red Sox have a sleep room.
Although Mardigan’s nutrition advice is geared for professional athletes, the same advice can apply to anyone with some individualization.
“Nutrition ideally should be individualized because people have different cultural preferences, and some students like to sleep late, and some students like to wake up early,” Mardigan said. “But BC has a great opportunity and so many resources where students can individualize through Sheila Tucker [nutritionist for OHP and BCDS or the health coaches.”
Mardigan ended the talk with a Q&A to give students a chance to ask questions.
“I’m really impressed by the reception that I got from the students who were there,” Mardigan said. “Everybody was so warm, friendly, and genuine, and the student body was very interested. It was a very positive experience. I won’t forget that.”
The second talk of the Be Well Series will feature professor Kelly Rossetto who will speak about the impact of stress on college students.