A version of this article first appeared on the fitDEGREE blog

Some people have the misconception that they can’t maintain a balanced diet during their undergraduate and graduate years. College is often the first time students are independent and able to make their own decisions. So while they struggle to balance classes, a social life, and campus activities, it becomes more and more likely that maintaining balanced nutrition will become less of a priority and can easily fall to the wayside.

Time, convenience, peer influence, accessibility, and budget are all factors that play a role in the weight gain and poor nutrition habits of college students. As part of National Nutrition Month (NNM), throughout March, colleges and universities are finding ways to educate students and promote healthy nutrition on campus.

The University of Missouri, the University of Illinois, and Washington University of St. Louis all found different ways to incorporate nutrition on their respective campuses. We’ve compiled a list of what they did to engage their students, faculty, and staff across campus.

The University of Missouri

The University of Missouri attacks National Nutrition Month head on. Campus Dining Services release weekly articles throughout the month of March that break a complete nutrition plan down into four sections: whole grainslean proteindairy, and fruits & vegetables. The articles highlight specific foods from each category, where to find them on campus, and they even share insights on personal macronutrient goals to aim for based on individual body type and current goals.

Blogs are a great way to draw students’ attention and provide them with nutrition information to refer to both during March and all year long. Check out the University of Missouri‘s Campus Dining Services blog for ideas about how to better motivate your students.

The University of Illinois

The University of Illinois takes an “all hands on deck” approach to National Nutrition Month. Over the years, the university has recruited departments from all over campus to participate in promoting good nutrition. Organizations including Campus Recreation, University Dining Services, and NutrImpact (a student-run organization) team up and host numerous events to promote nutrition education for students. Some of the events that UI implemented on their campus include:

  1. A Nutrition Fair where students can taste-test healthy snacks and win prizes.
  2. A nutrition midterm game show where students compete in trivia for prizes.
  3. A food vendor show called “Be Flexitarian” which served hundreds of plant-centric food samples.
  4. Healthy cooking class demonstrations where NutrImpact informed students on how to achieve a daily serving of fruits and vegetables.

The University of Illinois is a great example of how to get students involved in learning more about how to eat healthy on a budget for various activity levels and how to reach healthy weight loss goals.

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis takes a creative approach to National Nutrition Month. They built an incentive program where students are rewarded for eating healthy with the chance to win a free Fitbit. Their “better-for-you option” rewards program allows students to simply pick up a punch card from any participating location on campus. When they purchase a Myplate approved meal, the cashier will punch their card. After any combination of ten Myplate-approved meals, students turn in their card and are entered in a drawing to win one of four Fitbit Flex wristbands!

The university takes advantage of its already existing resources and uses the incentive program concept students are already familiar with. The punch card rewards program makes students aware of the healthy choices that are already on campus and makes them more willing to make the healthy choice to earn their hole punch. Playing to the popularity of the Fitbit fad, WUSTL is able to engage, motivate, and aid its students in forming healthy nutrition habits that will carry over even after National Nutrition Month is over.

How you can raise awareness

Creating National Nutrition Month awareness and encouraging students to form healthy nutrition habits does not have to be a daunting task. Get creative and choose an idea that fits your campus’ needs, goals, and resources! In just a week or two, you can organize programs and events like those at the University of Missouri, the University of Illinois, and Washington University of St. Louis that build buzz around campus.

Getting started is the hardest part. Here are a few ideas we recommend to help jumpstart your own National Nutrition Month campaign:

  • Decorate the cafeteria or dining hall with National Nutrition Month posters or banners, table tents, and balloons. Create a “take one” display with NNM brochures, bookmarks, Eat Right Nutrition Tips, and recipe handouts. Check out some Eat Right image assets for print promotions and reference sheets.
  • Highlight different ethnic and cultural food traditions. Offer special menu items from international cuisines (Asian, Mediterranean, Mexican, etc.) or regional foods of the United States.
  • Distribute coupons for discounts on healthy meals and groceries near campus.
  • Feature and advertise nutritious beverages, meals, or snacks in the cafeteria.
  • Have a social media competition where students can submit and vote for the best healthy recipe for the chance to win a grocery gift card.

To find more ideas like these check out the “eat right Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics” and join the team of colleges and universities nationwide celebrating National Nutrition Month!

Stop by our booth at the 2017 Campus Rec & Wellness Expo

fitDEGREE will be exhibiting at the NIRSA 2017 Campus Rec & Wellness Expo in National Harbor this coming February. Stop by and see our reps in booth #1014.

Visit the online NIRSA Buyer’s Guide for great software and technology vendor options. If you have questions about the exhibitors who will be at the NIRSA 2017 Campus Rec & Wellness Expo, contact NIRSA Director of Corporate Accounts Heidi Cleary.

Nick Dennis is currently the CEO of fitDEGREE, a NIRSA Associate Member since 2015; he can be reached at nick@fitdegree.com.