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Discussing Nutrition with Kathryn Sweeney

[TW: ED]

As the campus nutritionist, what are your daily responsibilities at BC?

So I’m technically within dining services, and my responsibilities run from clinical to food service. Essentially, I will, on the clinical side, help students with medical nutritional needs get accommodated with dining and also help students who just want nutrition consultation for health reasons or disordered eating reasons. I’ll see them as a clinician and then either supplement with resources on and off campus or continue to see them as much as I can to provide them with support. With the food service side, I work on making sure recipes and menus are accurate and I help support the dining staff in terms of creating new recipes and menus. I oversee a nutrition intern team as well, so I work with them on social media, marketing, nutrition education, and event planning. For example, this month at Lower, we’ve been doing vegan bao tasting. We’re going to choose a vegan bao that we’ve made in the last three weeks and submit it for an award application at one of our professional associations that we’re a part of.

Then I also do a lot of allergen training with the staff and make sure that they know how to answer questions about allergens or, if they’re making meals for students who are being accommodated, making those safely and following the protocols. 


What other positions did you hold before coming to BC?

Before BC, I was at Brigham and Women's Hospital. I managed their outpatient clinic. There were six dietitians, a practice secretary, myself and some volunteers. We would see any patient that walked in, so I've seen lung transplants, heart diseases, eating disorders, etc. obstetrics was one of my main focuses with a lot of prenatal and perinatal dietetic concerns like gestational diabetes. Before that, I was a dietetic intern at Brigham and Women's because when you become a dietician, you have to do a clinical rotation, just kind of like a residency for a doctor. I also went to the Friedman School at Tufts for my nutrition degree.


What is BC’s food philosophy?

Within BC dining, our philosophy is one that is really about non-judgement and celebrating the cultural diversity of food and of bodies. We really take a healthy look at an “healthy at every size” kind of non-diet approach to food where all foods matter. We don't put rules on food. A lot of us learned from an early age that we should have rules around food and that it dictates how we look. So, we really are trying to shed those belief systems because they aren't true and they don't serve us well. But yeah, we're really trying to reduce the toxicity of diet culture, weight stigma, and this idea that you have to look a certain way to be worthy. We want to celebrate food. Food is fun. Food has history from culture. Food is fuel. And sometimes you eat for all of those reasons. And sometimes we eat for one of those reasons, but it's not always going to be the same. So that's overall our philosophy, one where all foods fit.  We want to have a diversity in the food that appeals to all of our students, no matter what the eating patterns.


How do you think the way that Mac is run now is helping BC dining maintain its food philosophy in practice?

Now that we have this amazing renovation at McElroy, we have more stations and more equipment that we can use to cook food that’s customizable to order. At any given meal period, there are now, I'd say, four really solid options for meals that appeal to both vegan or plant or vegetarian type eaters, as well as meat eaters and flexitarians. And we're, of course, always trying to improve in all those areas. But the team here at McElroy has done an amazing job. I think we’re really creating more diversity and using the new equipment that we have to make the food more interesting and more delicious. I will just add that the vision that the management staff here have kept things very organized and clean. I think students know what's being offered and can read the signs really well. And when they do those special events, they're doing such a great job making them fun and festive.


How do you think BC dining overall is improving for providing students with dietary restrictions options?

Overall, food services are moving towards a plant forward model for sustainability reasons and the importance that we do have as a community to reduce our carbon footprint. And so with that, and with more students choosing to eat a vegetarian or plant forward dietary pattern, we are constantly thinking about how we can create meals that are customizable to the students. And we're doing our best to communicate those customizable meals through labeling on the online menu. We also send an email out regularly every week to the email lists that we have for those eating vegan, vegetarian, plant forward, or gluten free. We have an email list for food allergies, so we constantly are sending information about new things so that we can just let students know this is what's available at your dining hall this week, and these are the ways you can make it vegan, vegetarian, etc. Going forward, we will keep thinking about new recipes that we can bring to the students with our operations in mind, including the fact that we're making 22,000 meals a day and our level of staffing. Of course, we are continuing to evolve and hoping to do more test kitchens and then bring those test kitchen recipes to the cycle menu in the fall. 


How do you recommend students who are adjusting to college and the meal plan go about eating in a way that is healthy, but still not promoting diet culture?

When you're in college, there's a lot of distractions and a lot of things that can take you away from the basics of taking care of yourself like eating, sleeping, and drinking water. When you have a routine with those things like eating regular meals at regular intervals, most days going to bed at a certain time and waking up around a certain time, those things will help create a healthy lifestyle. But when those things are erratic, it's really hard to make healthy choices when it comes to food, or really anything for that matter. So I think the first thing is thinking about how you can create a routine that works for you as long as it feels good to you and it works with your biological and scheduling needs. You should also try your best to eat all types of foods in a normalized way, so that it doesn't feel scary or that it's controlling you. I really talk to students about recognizing there are components of nutrition that you need. Having carbs on your plates, having protein on your plate, having fat, having micronutrients, having a variety of all these is really what's going to keep you satisfied. But certainly the body image piece comes in and there's a lot of fear with doing that type of thing. So that's when it comes to meeting with me or talking to you about finding someone off campus that can help you with that.


Finally, as someone with a passion for food, what is your favorite cuisine?

It's so hard to choose. I really love all kinds of food. I will say I am partly Italian and went to Italy for my honeymoon two years ago so I love making fresh pasta at home. I love making sauces and pizza dough, homemade bread, that sort of thing. When we went to the Amalfi Coast,  just getting fresh fish and cooking that with homemade pasta was delicious to me, and something I never would not enjoy. It's a type of food I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A simple bowl of fresh pasta with some sauce.


If you are looking for more information regarding BC’s balanced eating advice, visit

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