Adjusting to the college culture often includes conscious management of eating habits, particularly amid the unlimited options offered by dining services across campus. Registered dietician nutritionist Sharon Collison says she enjoys helping people make realistic lifestyle changes.
Collison, who joined the university’s Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition this summer, began providing nutrition counseling to the public one day a week at the Nurse Managed Health Center on STAR campus. Here she offers medical nutritional therapy to help clients with weight management, eating disorders and other specific diagnoses such as diabetes.
“A lot of people think they need to go on a diet or make drastic dietary changes to improve their health, but even small changes can make a big difference,” Collison says. “The most rewarding part of my job is when my patients see improvements in their health from the changes they have made in diet and exercise.”
Collison’s interest in food began as a child while watching her mom cook. She then started cooking and paying more attention to food labels and ingredients, which led to her career in diet and nutrition.
Collison received her bachelor’s degree in food science with a minor in chemistry from the university in 1989 and returned to earn her master’s in human nutrition with a concentration in exercise physiology in 1993.
She now has her own private practice and works as a dietitian within various physicians’ offices. She also works as a sports nutrition consultant for athletes at Wilmington University.
Collison has taught nutrition courses at the university, including “Nutrition Concepts” and “Health in Sports,” which was designed to help athletes manage their diets in order to optimize their performance. While she is no longer teaching at the university, Collison says she is open to the possibility of returning in the future.
Collison also has a passion for creating her own recipes. She has competed in several national contests, and in 2005, she won the Southern Living Cook-Off grand prize award for her chocolate coffee cheesecake with mocha sauce, she says. Some of her other recipes include orange-balsamic glazed chicken breasts and chicken fajitas.
When it comes to a healthy college diet, Collison recommends four essentials.
“At the dining hall, try to have a balance so that your food choices include protein, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables,” she says.
Collison says she is impressed by the variety of options that the university offers.
“I love what they have now compared to what I had,” she says. “There are definitely more healthy options, and I’ve noticed the salad bar has doubled since I was there.”
While Collison provides services to the public on the STAR campus, she encourages students with questions about their dietary needs to make an appointment with a registered dietician at the Student Health Center, where dietary and nutritional counseling services are available under the same insurance included in student tuition. Collison’s services are provided under private insurance.
Collison says one of the most important things to remember about nutritional habits is that every person has different nutritional needs.
“What is recommended for one person might not be the best option for someone else,” she says. “And that’s what registered dietitians are there to help you with.”