Healthy Eating with HealthWorks Cooking Demonstration

HealthWorks utilized the kitchen in Beaver Hall to prepare a full, healthy meal for students. The purpose of the demonstration was to help students see how easy it is to make a nutritious meal with fresh ingredients.

In just thirty minutes we were able to prepare guacamole, black bean salad and vegetarian stuffed peppers. All three of these dishes are simple, healthy alternatives that can be prepared quickly for dinner or prepared at the beginning of the week to be eaten at a later time.

One of HealthWorks goals is to help students develop cooking skills that they’ll need when they move off campus.  The kitchens in the residence halls are a great resource to help you start learning skills that you’ll need when you move into an apartment. By setting aside time in the day to prepare meals, or even once a week to meal-prep, you can create a healthy, nutritious meal with your friends. The recipes used in our demonstration, along with many other easy and delicious recipes and video tutorials, can be found here on the Healthy Penn State website in the Health Eating section.

How to Combat the Winter Blues: Stay Light at the Wellness Suite

Do you experience feeling “down” during the winter months? In the medical world, this is known as “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD). The term SAD is used to describe recurring major depression with a seasonal pattern. However, most of us have mood fluctuations during this time of year that can be described as “winter blues”. Since sunlight can be rare in Central Pennsylvania during the short, dark days of winter, many individuals struggle with feeling down and having a lack of energy (1).

How can I boost my mood in the winter? 
There are several ways to improve your mood during the winter months. Most of the recommended tips involve every day health behaviors: 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day, 7-9 hours of sleep per night, a balanced diet with at least 5 servings (about 5 cups) of fruits and vegetables per day, and spending time with friends and family. Research also shows that use of light therapy boxes can significantly improve feelings of sadness during the winter months (1).

How can I access light therapy boxes?
PSU students can use the new light therapy boxes in the Wellness Suite in 20 Intramural Building. The light therapy boxes can be used in the relaxation room. It is recommended that students use the lights for 20 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning. A trained peer educator will walk you through how to use the light box.

Stop by the suite and check out the light boxes. The Wellness Suite is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm. Call us at 814-863-0461 or email, if you have questions.

1. Melrose, Sherri. “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches.” Depression Research and Treatment 2015 (2015): 178564. PMC. Web. 13 Feb. 2018.


Importance of Breakfast

You have heard the adage before, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.  Is it though?  Let’s look at some data:

  • Individuals who eat breakfast have higher intakes of vitamins and minerals like fiber, calcium, iron and other essential nutrients (Nicklas, Bao, Webber & Berrenson, 1993).
  • Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved cognitive function and academic performance, and reduced absenteeism (Taras, 2005).

Taking a little time for breakfast can make a big difference even if you are in a hurry.  Here are some quick grab and go breakfast ideas: a nutrition and a piece of fruit, yogurt with nuts or overnight oats packed in a to-go container.  If you have more time, try making scrambled or hard boiled eggs with a piece of whole grain toast.

For more great breakfast ideas, download the Time for Breakfast brochure. The brochure was created by Alexandra Kummerer, an undergraduate nutrition major at Penn State.

Environmental Wellness

 Environmental Wellness: What It Is, Why It’s Important, and How to Cultivate It

 What does it mean to have Environmental Wellness? Environmental wellness is about having a connection with the earth. This means you actively work to preserve and protect the planet and help make it a clean and safe place to live (1). This includes protecting yourself from environmental hazards such as air pollution, ultraviolet radiation in the sunlight, chemicals, noise, water pollution, and second-hand smoke (2).

 Why is Environmental Wellness important?

If the environment isn’t healthy, then humans and other creatures cannot thrive.   Human beings have the greatest impact on the earth’s resources (e. g., air and water) than any other creatures.  It’s up to us to make sure we’re engaging in behaviors that foster sustainability and are ecologically friendly.  Also, having a healthy and clean environment contributes to your overall physical and mental health (2).

 How do you cultivate Environmental Wellness?

Protect and preserve the environment by reusing and/or recycling paper, glass, plastic, and metal.  Understand that natural resources are not limitless (2).   Buy less stuff (e. g., clothing,  electronics).   Reduce trips in the car by walking, taking the bus, or riding a bike to work, class, and the store.  Use natural cleaning supplies.   Reduce your use of paper; don’t print things unless you need to.   Make sure your living space is clean and free of the environmental hazards listed above.

 Share examples of how you reduce your impact on the planet with #healthypsu


  1. UC Davis Worklife and Wellness:
  2. University of California, Riverside Wellness:


Health Promotion and Wellness now accepting applications for peer educators

Health Promotion and Wellness is currently accepting applications for HealthWorks, a peer outreach and education program at University Park. The deadline to apply is March 2.

HealthWorks offers two unique opportunities for students who are interested in health and wellness. These opportunities include facilitating one-on-one wellness services and conducting outreach events and educational workshops. During the application process students prioritize which opportunity they are most interested in.

Participation in the program is a three semester commitment, which includes one semester of training (during fall 2018)  and two semesters of service. For this reason, students who wish to apply must plan to graduate in fall 2019 or later.

Training for the program requires the completion of a three-credit course offered through Biobehavioral Health in the fall semester.  Students learn about the following topics in the course: alcohol and other drugs, financial literacy, sexual health, nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and stress. There are no prerequisites required to register for the course.

After completing the 3-credit course, participants are required to complete 45 hours of service each semester. Members participate in one of two opportunities:  1) deliver free wellness services about stress and time management, physical activity, nutrition, sleep, sexual health and healthy relationships, and financial literacy;  or 2)  conduct educational workshops, hold outreach events, plan and implement health promotion initiatives.  A few examples of the health promotion initiatives include conducting healthy cooking demonstrations, writing blog and social media posts for Healthy Penn State and appearing in The Body Monologues.   A small group of students are trained to provide HIV test counseling.

If you’re passionate about health and promoting the well-being of all Penn State students, then HealthWorks is a great fit for you,” said Christina Volpicelli, a senior majoring in biobehavioral health.  “HealthWorks also offers many leadership and learning opportunities for its members such as video editing, leading health campaigns, public speaking and teaching skills to educate the Penn State community.  Everything you will learn and the people you will meet through this organization will benefit you throughout any career you wish to pursue.”

For more information about HealthWorks, including an application, please visit


The link between binge drinking and having an ER visit

According to the most recent National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, on at least one occasion in the past year, 32 million adults in the U.S. engaged in binge drinking. Many of these individuals fell in the 18 to 24 year old age range.  Binge drinking is defined as having four or more drinks on an occasion for women, or five or more drinks on an occasion for men. This can produce blood alcohol levels greater than 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit for driving in the United States.

Researchers identified 3 drinking levels based on the respondents’ drinking behavior in the last year. Level 1 binge drinkers were 13 times more likely to have an alcohol-related emergency room visit compared to non-binge-drinkers.  Being a Level I, II, and III binge drinker also increased the likelihood of meeting the criteria for an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

What level do you fall in?  Does your drinking put you at-risk for an alcohol-related ER visit?  Does it put you at-risk for an AUD?  How does your drinking behavior line-up with your educational and career goals?

Hingson, R.W.; Zha, W.; White, A. M. Drinking beyond the binge threshold: Predictors, consequences, and changes in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine52(6):717–727, 2017. PMID: 28526355

Exercise is Medicine

Exercise is Medicine on campus (EMOC) is a global health initiative that promotes exercise as a way to decrease chronic disease. Exercise is Medicine is designed to increase physical activity and use exercise as the best ‘medicine.’ Every year in October, Penn State’s Kinesiology department organizes a week-long series of events to spread the word about how exercise can improve the well-being of Penn State students and employees.  Based on the Penn State Health Assessment, 56% of students are meeting the national guidelines for aerobic exercise (1). However, 50% of students report spending 4 or more hours per day on their computer, mobile device or watching TV (not including time for work or schoolwork).

There’s still work to be done, which is why this is a great campaign to get people moving! Health is wealth. Keep moving Penn State.

1. Penn State Student Health Assessment 2016 

Meal Planning, Grocery Shopping and Cooking…Oh My!

Meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking for yourself can be exciting but it can be overwhelming.  Healthy eating, when cooking for yourself, is possible when you are on a college student budget.

Let’s explore ways you can plan out meals for the week:

  1. Map out meals for the week.
  2. Know what foods you have on hand already.
  3. Think about your schedule.  Choose meals that are easy to prepare on busy days and save longer recipes for weekends or days when you have more time.
    • Cook several meals at once when you have free time.  In other words, make lasagna or a casserole that can be used for several meals. The extra food can be reheated or finished after a busy day.
    • Use a crockpot to create meals that are ready when you get home.
    • Check out nutritious and delicious recipes and view cooking videos on for ideas.
  4. Make a grocery list
    • Can use scratch paper, templates or mobile apps.
    • Keep an ongoing list in your kitchen or on your phone.

Discover Intuitive Eating

Do you find yourself dieting frequently, feeling guilt after eating certain foods, or setting up rules for yourself surrounding eating patterns?  Do you often feel like you’ve failed when it comes to eating and weight?  If you identify with any of these concerns, you may want to consider intuitive eating.  It’s not a diet, rather it’s a way of eating that encourages you to make peace with food.  Intuitive eating can help you achieve the natural weight that is the best fit for you. There are 10 “rules” that will help you to ditch diets and start enjoying your food, your body and your life.

  1. Reject the Diet Mentality: Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. They don’t work.
  2. Honor Your Hunger: Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat.
  3. Make Peace with Food: Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing.
  4. Challenge the Food Police: Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re ‘good’ for eating under 1000 calories or ‘bad’ because you ate a piece of chocolate cake.
  5. Respect Your Fullness: Listen to the signals from your body that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that you’re comfortably full.
  6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor: When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content, likely with less food.
  7. Honor Your Feelings without Using Food: Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues and emotions without using food.
  8. Respect Your Body: Accept your genetic blueprint. A person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six. The same is true for body size. Learn to feel better about the body that you have.
  9. Exercise and Feel the Difference: Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Focus on how it feels to move your body, instead of how it “feels” to burn calories.
  10. Honor Your Health With Gentle Nutrition: Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters; progress not perfection is what counts.

If you’d like more help with planning a healthy well-balanced diet, make an appointment with a dietitian at by calling 814-863-0461 or by visiting our website.  Nutrition visits are free for all Penn State students.

Source: Resch, E, Tribole, E. Retrieved from Intuitive Eating.