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Q&A: Meeting Young Adults Where They Are - Rachel Paul, PhD, RD - the "College Nutritionist"

Rachel Paul, PhD, RD, CDN

Rachel Paul, PhD, RD, CDN

Dr. Rachel Paul, PhD, RD is a nationally recognized nutritionist who helps college students and young professionals look and feel amazing by eating healthfully, cooking on their own, and making good food choices in social situations. Dr. Paul is known for her practical advice and easy-to-follow guidance, particularly on Instagram with over 300 thousand followers. She has been featured in Business Insider, Buzzfeed, The Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan, and Martha Stewart Weddings. Visit collegenutritionist.com and @collegenutritionist on Instagram to learn more.

What inspired you to create the College Nutritionist?

I had a lot of difficulties eating on my own when I went to college - stress eating, emotional eating, late night eating, etc. Especially at that time, there weren’t a lot of nutrition resources available for college students and young adults - there were materials for those with heart disease, high blood pressure, etc., but not a lot for this age group. When I graduated from my masters and became a dietitian, I wanted to make students’ lives easier than mine had been - so started The College Nutritionist blog and social media accounts.

A lot of trends show that young adults want on-the-go snacks, but healthy and sustainable - it is possible to have both?

Of course! Young adults are so busy they need to have easy to-go options. And - it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to get an insulated lunch bag to carry around more perishable items. Some easy, filling snack ideas are: 1 apple + 2 Tbsp peanut butter (put 2 Tbsp in a small tupperware or buy pre-packaged); 1 cup baby carrots + 1 to-go container of guacamole; 2 string cheeses and an orange; ¼ cup of nuts and baked carrot or beet “chips”

According to studies, too many college students may develop poor habits that set them on a lifetime of potential poor health, which has implications on our nation’s military readiness and healthcare costs of increasing chronic disease - what role do you believe social influencers can and/or should play in addressing these trends?

Many social influencers are young adults - meaning they can easily relate to college students. What’s so fun about social media influencers is the ability to connect with them one-on-one, in real time! Since influencers primarily help their audiences by solving their problems, and followers ask influencers questions through direct messages, comments on posts, etc. those influencers focusing on health & wellness will likely be already helping students and young working professionals overcome obstacles (such as overeating, not getting enough sleep and exercise, etc.) and develop healthy habits.

Conversely, how can the public health community engage social influencers to help shape the culture of health in communities across the country?

Social media influencers are often looking for ways to partner with other organizations - I do think more and more, influencers will be aligning and promoting causes they identify with on their own. However, creating mutually beneficial partnerships by promoting each other’s brands may be helpful in initial conversations.

What healthy food and beverage trends are seeing with young adults?

Nut and grain based milks and yogurts; Grain and gluten-free products; Whole, real foods; Snacks and bars; Low carb eating patterns; Trying different cuisines at home