UNH Student Finds Creative Ways to Teach GE Employees about Healthy Eating
UNH Student Finds Creative Ways to Teach GE Employees about Healthy Eating

by Jackie Hennessey
Communications and Public Affairs

She called him “Salt Man.” He was 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, and his intestines, liver, kidneys and pancreas were bright blue, red and yellow, a vivid reminder of the damage excessive salt can do to the human body. 

Briana Trudell, a junior majoring in nutrition and dietetics with a minor in psychology, researched the effects of sodium on the body and helped create a life-sized poster and interactive display during her internship with Sodexo at GE World Headquarters in Fairfield last summer. 

Briana Trudell '15 next to her depiction of "Salt Man"

Collaborating with GE’s graphics department to make the visuals, she also included popular menu items and vials of salt to illustrate the sodium content found in each. “Shake the Salt” was part of a corporate wellness plan devised by Sodexo and GE to encourage healthy lifestyle choices.  

“Salt Man definitely made an impression,” Trudell said. “It was so eye-catching. You saw it as soon as you walked into the cafeteria.”

It also helped Trudell develop an ease speaking with employees from all over the corporate landscape. Some of GE’s top executives stopped by for a look, and Trudell talked with them about the ways salt can creep into the diet and the abundance of available foods that are naturally low in sodium.

“Everyone wants nutrition advice,” she said. “I made a lot of connections from the internship that will help me in the future.” 

The internship was “a peek into the future,” and Trudell said she liked what she saw. “I learned so much about working, about the corporate world, about the different levels of management in a corporation, the way the system works and how important it is to be passionate about your work,” she said. “My favorite part was how creative they let me be. My boss and manager really let me take the reins, and they supported my ideas.”

Still, the corporate world took some getting used to. One day, two weeks into her internship, Trudell wore moccasins to work. “My boss and coworkers told me they weren’t appropriate to wear, and then I found out I had a meeting that day with GE executives,” she said. “I realized how important the way you carry yourself, the language you use and your overall appearance are in a work environment.”

Rosa Mo, lecturer and chair of the Division of Health Professions who is also a consulting dietitian for GE Medical Services, said this kind of experiential learning is valuable on many levels. In the classroom, Mo said, students might be apt to balk at group assignments because they prefer to work alone or find it challenging to arrange times to meet.

“Contrast that with the corporate world, and the student learns that it is vital to be able to work effectively in groups, to be able to communicate clearly and to manage and prioritize their time well,” Mo said. “Briana had to negotiate with her managers, persuade chefs to change menus and know when and when not to push the agenda.” 

Mo said Trudell’s approach was to teach employees about good nutrition one nutrient at a time – and then painting the whole picture. She called Trudell one of the most creative students she’s ever had.

The first semester of her junior year, Trudell took a semester off and took another paid internship with Get Healthy Connecticut, a community-wide coalition that aims to reduce and prevent obesity by “making the healthy choice the easy choice.” Trudell said a major goal is to find ways to break down barriers to good nutrition and exercise. Twenty Connecticut towns and cities take part.

At her very first Get Healthy Connecticut meeting, Trudell found herself in a roundtable discussion with health directors, pediatricians and other public health officials from around the state. Thanks to her experience at GE, Trudell didn’t find it daunting. Soon she was contributing her own ideas. 

Trudell researches and provides content for a series of packets on healthy food choices and simple ways to incorporate exercise and movement into daily life. She delivers those materials to libraries, community centers and public health settings around the region, and she speaks about Get Healthy’s initiatives at health fairs and wellness expos.

“People don’t always realize they can make small changes in their diet or their exercise or that the small changes add up,” she said. “I love nutrition and enjoy helping people take steps to lead even healthier lives.” After graduation, she hopes to study naturopathy, eventually opening her own health clinic. 

In addition to the two internships, Trudell studied abroad at UNH’s Prato campus. She said she loved living in a country where people took the time to savor food and where the emphasis was on cooking food that is directly from the earth rather than highly processed.

“Having hands-on experience while in college is crucial,” she said. “It has completely shaped my college experience.”

Briana Trudell’s 10 Tips on Being Healthy

  1. Eat from the earth whenever possible – whole grains, foods and vegetables.
  2. Avoid processed foods.
  3. Try to eat healthily 80-90 percent of the time, but allow for some indulgences and cravings.
  4. Drink water instead of soda; flavor water with a slice of lime, lemon, cucumber or watermelon.
  5. Use smaller plates and cups to reduce portion sizes.
  6. Fill half the dinner plate with vegetables.
  7. Make fruit a dessert choice.
  8. Prepare meals in advance, such as a healthy chili, and freeze it in small containers for a number of meals.
  9. Make a workout in the Beckerman Recreation Center part of your daily routine.
  10. Buy organic whenever possible. Choose at least one to two organic items when grocery shopping.

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