New dietitian looks to promote healthy eating on campus


Source: Karen Sechowski

Karen Sechowski smiles at students during one of her “Meet the Dietitian” booths at Sargent Hall. The new dietitian, hired June, hopes to aid students with nutrition needs and also works to assist those with eating disorder concerns.

Alana Farkas, Reporter

Karen Sechowski sat behind a clothed table that displayed “Mindful by Sodexo,” handing out free samples of quinoa salad and greeting students.

Sechowski, the newly hired campus dietitian, ran the booth for a “Meet Your Dietitian” session, a chance for students to chat with the Sodexo employee tasked with advising them on their dining options.

“The biggest thing that I do is work with kids who have food allergies to make sure they can eat safely on campus,” Sechowski said.

Sechowski, who started work in June, said she uses software that contains all of Sodexo’s recipes and compares them to the daily dining hall menus to figure out what to serve students with allergies each day. She said she provides free consultations for students with gastrointestinal issues, as well as students looking to lose weight, gain weight or build muscle.

In addition, Sechowski works with Counseling and Psychological Services to assist students struggling with eating disorders. Sechowski, who started college in 2007 as an English education major, decided to train to be a dietitian after taking a nutrition class her freshman year.

As a dietitian, Sechowski also encourages “mindful eating” among students, a recommendation echoed this week when the World Health Organization announced Monday that processed meats — including hot dogs, bacon and sausage — cause cancer. In addition, WHO also said red meat “probably” causes cancer, too.

Sodexo serves all of the above in campus dining halls.

Although she hopes students will make healthful decisions, Sechowski said offering “not-so-healthy” options in dining halls lets students form habits they’ll use after they graduate.

“At some point in your life, you need to learn how to make these choices,” she said. “If you hear something like that from a reputable source like the World Health Organization, students should make good choices accordingly.”

Medill freshman Lauren Dolowich, who follows a gluten-free lifestyle, said the new program is very beneficial to her.

“Having a campus dietitian would benefit me because it would help guide me to the healthy gluten-free options in the dining hall,” Dolowich said. “It would prevent me from accidentally eating something that was made with gluten.”

Sechowski said Sodexo will hold more sessions of Meet the Dietitian during Winter and Spring Quarters.

Rachel Tilghman, director of communications and engagement for Sodexo, said the group launched the Meet the Dietitian program to inform students of Sechowski and the services she offers.

“First, the purpose is to raise awareness — most people don’t know that we have a campus dietitian,” Tilghman said. “The other part is educational awareness. We use Meet the Dietitian as an opportunity to be part of the student learning initiative.”

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