Dietetics students apply their nutritional knowledge to help the community

Through the NutriZou clinic, dietetics students provide free nutrition counseling to the Columbia community.

Jennifer Anderson consults with a dietetics student as they make a nutrition plan for their NutriZou client.
Jennifer Anderson consults with Grace Osterman, a dietetics student, as they make a nutrition plan for their NutriZou client.

At the MU Family Impact Center, dietetics students get a real-world opportunity to exercise their skills and help the community through NutriZou. Through a simple online booking, anyone over the age of 18 can receive free, personalized nutrition coaching from a student in the dietetics program in the Division of Food, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Jennifer Anderson, registered dietitian and NutriZou Director, supervises the students as they practice their motivation interviewing skills with real clients.

“Motivation interviewing is a crucial part of working as a dietitian,” said Anderson. “It involves helping clients do what they need and want to do to reach any nutrition goal and concern through personal counseling and education. Some clients know what they need to do and just struggle to do it, and some don’t know what they need to do, in which case the students present them with nutritional education and information.”

When a NutriZou client arrives for their appointment, a dietetics student asks them about their nutrition goals, lifestyle and health history. The students then consult with Anderson halfway through the appointment to determine a plan to present the client. This might involve information about food groups and nutritional building blocks, recipes, lifestyle changes, or other nutrition education to help them reach their goals.

“The students really get to be independent in the consultations,” said Anderson, “but there’s also some cushion there when they meet with me. If the client agrees to be recorded, I also listen to the recording back and give students specific feedback on their motivational interviewing techniques.”

While the process of working with real clients as a student can be intimidating, the NutriZou environment also makes it rewarding for the students.

“It puts me to the test and allows me to build my confidence,” said Skyler Gray, senior dietetics student. “I get to work with real people, help with real problems, and hopefully, make a difference in their nutritional habits. It can be a scary feeling knowing you are working with actual clients, but at NutriZou you have a safe place to grow as a clinician and receive feedback on ways to further improve. Professor Anderson fosters a comfortable environment to expand your skills and provides advice to help you along the way.”

The students’ time in NutriZou lasts for three semesters, counts toward their 1,000 internship hours required to sit for the Registered Dietician exam and is part of CAFNR and FNES’s Accelerated Master’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics.

“NutriZou has been such a great opportunity for me to apply everything I have learned in school to help the community around us,” said Jose Jackson, a senior dietetics student. “It provides a great opportunity to free-of-charge nutrition coaching for anyone given by dietetic students. This allows us as students to practice, learn from mistakes and build our skills as a clinician. The best part is the success we see from our clients allows us to learn and grow bringing out our full potential of becoming great dietitians.”

“My experience in NutriZou has also been the first time I’ve felt like I’ve really made an impact in people’s lives,” said dietetics senior Grace Osterman. “I recently counseled a client on diabetes education, and seeing his reaction to the information I taught him is something I’ll remember forever. That was the first time I felt like I really helped someone, and it was all thanks to NutriZou.”

Interested in free nutrition coaching? Learn more about NutriZou and sign up.