College Nutrition Tips From An Expert

RyanOn Thursday, Feb. 4, I had the pleasure of having an important conversation with Kerry Peterson, associate professor in the food and nutrition department. In the interview, I asked a combination of nutrition questions geared toward the everyday college student and some fun questions about her life. 

Interview with Kerry Peterson, registered dietician and associate professor in food and nutrition at UW-Stout


What was your diet like when you were an undergrad?

Very pastabased. Where I did my undergraduate, in Massachusetts, every dorm had a commons. There were a lot of people with different dietary patterns, because it was a very multicultural institution. This meant that there were a lot of vegetarian options and that typically means that there was a lot of pasta. So my diet was consistently three meals a day and not a lot of snacking. I also drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of bread. But to be honest I never thought about what I was eating, I just ate.

Do you have a snack stash hidden somewhere in your office?

*rolls chair over to the cabinet and lifts the door open, revealing a cabinet full of snacks* Yes of course! I have brown rice cakes, and everyone knows I am obsessed with peanut butter and almond butter, so I put that on my rice cakes. I also have Zone bars. I also keep a stash of Zone bars in my car for emergency purposes.


Is the freshman 15 mostly true or mostly a myth? If it’s true, what aspects of the college lifestyle cause such a shock to peoples’ bodies?

I think it is mostly true, but it may not be 15 pounds. Weight gain when we go off to college is very common. The reason why it is so common is because you are now responsible for making your own dietary decisions. Also frequently, higher calorie foods are more accessible. A lot of people also start to cope with new stresses in life by stress eating.

As a college student, what would be the most important things to avoid in your diet?

Soda! Absolutely soda. I think that is the number one thing. I really do not like to tell people to avoid anything; my advice is everything in moderation. But if I had to tell anyone to avoid anything I would have to say soda is number one, because it is all calories and no nutrients, alcohol is very high in calories as well (avoid it). I would say that students should focus on healthy foods that fuel your body and brain the best. Those are going to be the fruits and vegetables, the healthy grains.

What’s one food that should be in everyone’s mini-fridge?

Peanut butter! Unless you are allergic to peanut butter, then you can do almond butter or sunflower butter. I think it’s a great food because it’s easy, it’s quick, it’s fairly inexpensive, and it’s got a good mixture of healthy fats and proteins. It’s something that will also fill you up so you aren’t hungry. I honestly think it should be its own food group. 

Who would win in a fight? A shark or a bear?

I think that the bear would win because the bear has paws and is able to pin the shark. The shark can only use its mouth to bite.


Besides choosing the right diet, what habits can students develop now that will benefit them when they’re older 

I believe that is so incredibly important to develop healthy habits now so that you have them in the future. I think this because you are transitioning into independence and this is the time where you develop habits that follow you into adulthood and old age. Those habits would include having consistency in your eating habits. I also think it is incredibly important to include exercise, if you aren’t exercising now. You can have a lot of health complications if you do not develop these habits.

How would you go about developing these habits if your schedule included days off and days where you had constant classes?

That’s a tough one. I think prioritizing meal planning is important. Your schedule is set for the whole semester, so you know exactly how you could plan your meals way ahead of time. My advice would be to purchase and prep foods that are healthy and convenient. But if you have a meal plan, you should go about this problem by purchasing foods on your break that can last in your backpack all day. This could be something like a whole grain cereal that is easily portable but also won’t spoil. You just need to make it a priority.

So to go off the previous question, If someone had a consistent eating schedule on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but only ate one meal on the rest of the days. Is that slowly killing them?

I don’t think that is detrimental to your health at this time. Your body has a lot of mechanisms to prevent major nutrient deficiencies and major nutrient overloads. I think the problem is that it is setting you up for failure down the road. You aren’t developing those important habits for the future.

What is your spirit animal?

A cat! I have a cat and he is my soulmate.

kerry cat.jpg

What is your spirit food?

Oh that’s easy! I would be a beet, because beets are phenomenal. Beats are incredibly healthy for you. They can be used as a dietary supplement and to help increase endurance. I love beets; they’re delicious.

Weirdest thing that you have ever eaten?

I’m not an adventurous eater, to be completely honest. I will eat any vegetable or fruit that is placed in front of me, but when it comes to meat I am not adventurous. But I would have to say the weirdest thing I have ever eaten, even though it isn’t a weird food, would be Tripe. It wasn’t weird, it was just out of my comfort zone.

I notice a few Packers merchandise items and a few horse related objects. Could you tell me about them?

I was never a huge Packer fan or football fan in general until I moved to Wisconsin. I am now obsessed with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. My other office has a huge Aaron Rodgers fathead on the wall.

The horse statue was given to me by my Ph.D. adviser, who bought it for me when I took on a department chair role. I was huge into horses. I even competed with them when I was in college.

kerry packers.jpg

If you know a fun faculty or staff member we should interview, let us know in the comments!

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