UI promotes Colorful Choices health initiative

BY NATE OTJEN | OCTOBER 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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For some college students, a greasy slice of pizza during a late-night study session followed by a Red Bull the next morning before class can seem like a typical diet.

One University of Iowa program aims to incorporate healthier daily choices by using one simple rule: eat colorfully.

The UI Student Health’s Health Iowa program is promoting Colorful Choices, a program designed to help students eat healthy by including a variety of fruits and vegetables in their diet over a two-week span.  The program runs from Wednesday to Oct. 22.

“[It’s important] to improve short-term health, especially for students,” said JoAnn Daehler-Miller, dietician for Student Health and head of the Colorful Choices program. “Eating more fruits and vegetables can help students to stay healthy.”

Students can enroll in the program online through Health Iowa’s website.  Students print out a dietary log on which they can record the amount food they consume each day.

Health officials said the goal of the program is to get participants to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables combined each day for 20 days — 100 servings in all.

The program Colorful Choices reminds students to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, which come in a variety of colors.

“I enrolled in the program because I like to think I eat healthy,” said UI senior Caitlyn Crawford. “Even though I eat fruits and vegetables, I don’t know if I have a varied diet,”

As of Wednesday evening, 445 UI students were signed up for the program.

Daehler-Miller said faculty, students, and staff have participated in several previous programs on campus geared toward eating healthily. 

She said cost for the current program is relatively low  — less than $2,000 —because officials used the software from previous faculty and staff health initiatives to expand to students.

“It’s fairly low-cost because the materials were purchased before 2003,” she said. “We basically borrowed them from the [previous] faculty and staff programs.”

Daehler-Miller said the program isn’t about just eating enough fruits and vegetables. She said she hopes students will take it a step further and find other ways to be healthier.

“Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only thing we need to work on,” she said. “Weight management is a concern. It’s a concern because the numbers are growing in the general population.”

According to the National College Health Assessment, which assesses overall health in colleges across the nation — 6 percent of UI students consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day with 63.2 percent consuming between one and two servings per day. In 2011, only 3.6 percent of UI students consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

She said in Iowa City it’s easy to be tempted by unhealthy foods.

“In Iowa City, we have a lot of bars,” Daehler-Miller said. “People don’t realize that what they are eating will set them up for the future. You can still have a really good diet even though you’re in the college mindset.”

UI junior Lynn Rubino, who volunteered to raise awareness for Colorful Choices, said she thinks the program will make students realize the lack of fruits and vegetables in their diets.

“It’s going to be a really good way to make people aware of what they’re eating,” she said. “This could be a wake-up call for the students who don’t get the right amount of fruits and vegetables.”

But eating healthy isn’t always easy for college students, who have odd schedules and strict budgets.

“I would say most people aren’t really interested,” Crawford said. “If you ask a lot of students, they will say they are, but won’t actually do it. It’s all about breaking the barrier and getting kids to realize [the program] is easy.”

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