Guiding the Way to Healthy Living on Campus
‘Healthy Aggies’ Educate and Empower Students with Essential Nutrition Information
In a matter of minutes, UC Davis student Wendy Liang effortlessly sets up a table in the lobby of the Activities and Recreation Center just near the entrance to the gym, but the information she provides to those who stop to chat has the potential to guide and nourish them throughout their lives.
Liang is part of Healthy Aggies, a student group at UC Davis that provides free, evidence-based nutrition information to students and the campus community. She’s a fifth-year clinical nutrition major and one of four nutrition peer counselors who promote healthy habits and living a balanced life during college and beyond.
“On a college campus, especially for a lot of people who are transitioning to living on their own and figuring out their lifestyle and making choices about food, I think it’s really important to spread awareness about making healthy choices,” Liang said.
They do that by hosting drop-in hours four days a week in the lobby of ARC (click here for hours) and offering private consultations to share personalized nutrition advice. They also produce a monthly newsletter (sign up here) featuring nutritious recipes, quick tips, articles about various health topics and helpful campus resources.
The Healthy Aggies program is supervised by Kayleigh Rohrbach, assistant director of UC Davis Living Well, and Linda Adams, a registered dietician with Campus Recreation. Nutrition peer counselors are seniors majoring in clinical nutrition who have learned various topics in the classroom during their coursework. They spend significant time training with Adams on how to conduct motivational and behavior change counseling. Adams said the students first shadow her during consultations until they feel comfortable leading them on their own.
“It’s amazing seeing them develop these skills,” Adams said. “It’s a skill set that will put them ahead of others who are also on similar career paths.”
By having access to trustworthy information, Liang believes she and the other counselors can help individuals develop a healthy relationship with food, their bodies and their overall well-being.
“We all deal with the societal pressure of people constantly telling us what we should do and shouldn’t do, and nutrition is a huge part of that,” Liang said. “Our philosophy is that there is no good or bad food, it’s more about listening to what our bodies need.”
For Liang, being able to support and guide fellow students in reaching their health and wellness goals through nutrition has been a rewarding experience.
“It makes me feel really good to be able to be there and be a resource for somebody,” Liang said. “Being a peer nutrition counselor has really helped me feel that passion for what I do and see the changes I can provide for people.”