Spreading the word about good nutrition

What can you do with 30 minutes?

That was the question and challenge Jyotsna Sharman presented to students in her fall semester Community and Cultural Nutrition course at Radford University.

Near the end of the semester, the Nutrition and Dietetics assistant professor sent her students out into the community – most went to the Community Health Center of the New River Valley in Christiansburg – to teach the health benefits of proper nutrition within a 30-minute presentation.

There, students presented topics aimed to educate groups about weight loss, heart health, diabetes and hypertension.

Bert Herald's presentation gave his audience information about the barriers to losing weight and the significance of online and community support for weight loss. Herald talked about trigger foods, those foods that can cause people to overeat, and tracking software such as MyFitnessPal, he said, for smartphones.

The presentations were perfect practice in preparing him for an internship after graduation, said Herald, a former electrical engineer from Tempe, Arizona who is embarking on a second career as a registered dietitian.

"Delivering this content helped me refine my techniques and made me feel more comfortable in front of different types of audiences," said Herald, whose future plans include counselling groups and individuals on weight loss and help support and coach their lifestyle changes.

For his presentation, Campbell Carter offered tips and facts about heart healthy foods. "This included heart health promoting foods that should be eaten often to help prevent atherosclerotic effects in the arteries," said the senior from Chase City. "Daily values, or percentages of certain things to decrease in the diet, were also included, such as sodium and cholesterol levels that were appropriate."

Carter provide handouts full of information and guidance about nutrient values.


Students in Jyostna Sharman's Community and Cultural Nutrition course ventured out into the community last fall to talk about the health benefits of proper nutrition.

Megan Osborne reached out to a different crowd for her presentations and engaged her group well beyond the required 30 minutes. The senior from Luray gave two 90-minute talks to students at her alma mater, Luray High School.

"The main purpose of my presentations was to explain the benefits of vegetables," Osborne said. "I tried to present on vegetables that I knew people aren't as familiar with in hopes that they may try something new."

She created a PowerPoint presentation to help her explain the numerous types of vegetables and their specific nutrients and how those nutrients play a role in the body. She also taught her lesson through a Bingo-style game and made healthy fruit and vegetable smoothies for the school children.

"I really enjoy interacting with people and explaining to them how nutrition is fun," Osborne said. "Teaching people that eating well doesn't have to be boring, nasty or expensive is very rewarding."

Osborne said she chose to give her presentation at her former high school "because it's in a rural area which tends to have a higher prevalence of nutrition-related diseases. I feel if I can reach out to one person at a time, eventually I'll make a bigger difference."

Osborne has a passion for providing proper nutrition information to children. Her future plans include working in a neonatal intensive care unit, administering nutrition support to premature infants.

For Sharman, sending her students out into the community benefits them on two levels: personal and professional.

"On a personal level, the service-learning experience gives them an opportunity to apply their classroom learning in a community setting, helps them build communication skills as well as confidence in their abilities and also boosts their application for dietetic internships," said Sharman, a registered dietician.

As for the professional level, Sharman said her "students learn how to assess the specific needs of the local and regional communities, and then meet the identified needs by offering nutritional advice consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Such an education helps individuals make healthy food choices, adopt healthy nutrition-related practices, change their eating behavior and thus enhance their nutritional well-being."

Feb 17, 2016