Episode 62: Nutrition Education Student Podcasts Winter 2024

This week, we have a special and unique Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast episode featuring the excellent work of three groups of fourth year Applied Human Nutrition students. These students were given the opportunity to conceptualize and develop a podcast episode as part of their fourth year Nutrition Education course.

In today’s lineup, we feature the insightful contributions of Hanika Saini, Tolunimi Oware-Acquah, Elyssa Murray, who created an episode on sleep. Followed by Gracen Nehme, Manahil Zaid, Christine Rivera, who created an episode on caffeinated energy drinks. Lastly, we have Amber Hames, Krista Carrigan, Katrina Huyer, who created an episode on family meals. We extend our gratitude to the NUTR4070 students for their hard work in creating these informative podcasts and allowing us to share them on the Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast!

Interested in learning more? Check these additional resources https://www.selfregulationskills.ca/ 




Healthy Habits, Happy Homes Podcast

Season 6, Episode 8

Guest: Nutrition Education Students


Episode on Sleep: Hanika Saini, Tolunimi Oware-Acquah, Elyssa Murray

Resource mentioned: https://www.selfregulationskills.ca/


Episode on Caffeinated Energy Drinks: Gracen Nehme, Manahil Zaid, Christine Rivera


Episode on Family Meals: Amber Hames, Krista Carrigan, Katrina Huyer plus teen guests

Resource mentioned: https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/es/


Tamara Petresin  00:00

Welcome back to the Healthy Habits, Happy Homes podcast. I’m Tamara.


Maricane Any  00:45

And, I’m Marciane. 


Tamara Petresin  00:47

And, today we have a very special and unique episode of the Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast. Today’s episode features the work of some fourth-year Applied Human Nutrition students right here at the University of Guelph in the Family Relations and Applied Nutrition department. These students were tasked with creating an informative podcast for their fourth-year Nutrition Education course. And, today, we have the pleasure of sharing three of the amazing student podcasts.  First up, we have an episode on sleep by students Hanika, Tolu and Elyssa that features Kathy Somers from the Stress Management and Health Performance Clinic on campus. Enjoy!



Hanika Saini  01:32

“Oh, no, I’m late to class.” Has this ever happened to you? I know it’s happened to me, that’s for sure. I’m your host, Hanika, and I’m joined with my co-host, Tolu. You’re listening to the “Stress Less, Sleep More” podcast. And, today’s episode is titled “Snooze, Don’t Lose.” And, we’ll be interviewing our sleep expert Kathy Somers, who will delve into some scientific research on educating you on how to get effective sleep by learning more about the beneficial sleeping behaviours and how to use effective stress management techniques in your sleep routines. But before we get started, I want to ask our co-hosts about what her experience has been with sleep. So Tolu, what’s been your experience?


Tolunimi Oware-Acquah  02:21

I remember the night before the first day of university. I was so anxious and excited that I stayed up all night researching information about the school. By the time I woke up, I was exhausted, it felt like I took a long blink.


Hanika Saini  02:37

That’s quite an experience. And, I’m sure many of our listeners may have had a similar experience, as well. I learned the hard way, that’s for sure. Now I need to put my phone, which is my alarm clock, on the other side of the room so that I have to get up to turn off my alarm.


Tolunimi Oware-Acquah  02:55

That’s a really good idea, Hanika. I’m really interested to see what our sleep expert Kathy has to say about this topic. So, let’s get into it.


Hanika Saini  03:04

So, we have Kathy here who works at the University of Guelph in the Stress Management and High Performance clinic. Kathy works there as a Registered Kinesiologist and is Board Certified in biofeedback. So, Kathy, how did you find yourself working in this field?


Kathy Somers  03:23

I was a student at the University of Guelph and was very fortunate to take an undergraduate class where we had to learn some stress management and biofeedback techniques, and was very surprised because I realized they were having an impact on my headaches. I then took an advanced fourth-year class and was amazed when I graduated and was able to get a part-time job teaching these kinds of strategies.


Hanika Saini  03:45

Wow, that’s interesting how you got into the field. I’m very excited to learn more about this. So, let’s jump into some questions. So, what is effective sleep? And, how can one get that?


Kathy Somers  03:59

Good sleep is being able to get enough energy to function through the next day without falling asleep while you’re watching TV or reading a boring textbook. So, to be able to get that, it’s very helpful to learn more about your body, especially, what are the signals that tell you what is your ideal bedtime? Because most people will push through when their eyes are getting heavy, or they’re feeling a little bit tired. It’s also really helpful to make sure that I’m spending enough hours in bed. If I’m trying to get a lot of work done, it’s all too easy to say I’m going to stay up later to get more work done. And, I’m going to get earlier tomorrow to get more work done. And, I’m not spending enough hours in bed to get the sleep that my body really desires. In addition to the number of hours, it’s  important to think about the quality of sleep that I’m getting. And, to get that quality of sleep, we want to relax our body when we’re in bed, relax our brain when we’re in bed, and most of these people say that their nemesis is shutting off that busy brain. And, thirdly, doing some sleep strengthening behaviours which are commonly called sleep hygiene. Hygiene doesn’t just mean being clean from the Greek roots of that word. It means the “art of health.” So, when we say “sleep hygiene,” we mean the “art of sleep health.”


Hanika Saini  05:11

That’s amazing. Do you know any scientific evidence that shows what is like the best time to go to sleep? Does it vary between person?


Kathy Somers  05:20

It does vary among individuals. Our body does begin slowing down after supper. There’s more information out about trying to find your own chronotype, which means your body’s time signal. So, you can understand better whether you are that night owl [owl sound]:  you work, performs think best in the evening, or, are you the morning lark [rooster sounds]: you work, think, perform best in the morning, or, are you, sort of, intermediate and it’s partway through, half-and-half?


Tolunimi Oware-Acquah  05:48

It sounds a lot like we have to pay attention to our body’s cues. And, that’s intuitive. Sleeping is a big part of getting effective sleep from what you’ve said. So, I wanted to give you some context about my personal experience with sleep. So, when I had started university, I had a lot of trouble going to sleep and staying asleep. And, it was this spiralling cycle of worrying and being tired, but not being able to get enough sleep. And, I would be tired and groggy all day. And, then there’s this idea of how, just like water and food, we need sleep, but I was never taught how to sleep. But, my question to you is what techniques can you tell us and our listeners in regard to falling asleep and how to stay asleep.


Kathy Somers  06:30

I meet so many people who say, that “I’m exhausted because I’ve been short on sleep. And, yet, when I get into bed, I can’t seem to fall asleep.” The sleep doctor sometimes call this being “tired and wired.” To make it easier to fall asleep, it’s especially helpful to take the pressure off yourself. Some people want it so badly that when they’re in bed, they’re watching the clock; they’re counting the hours; they’re thinking about the fact that they should be asleep. But, unfortunately, this makes it even harder. They’ll start saying “I’ve got to fall asleep right now. I need all my energy for tomorrow; it’s a really big day.” That might have sounded pretty calm in my tone. But, those words were very rigid and demanding. I literally said. “I’ve GOT to fall asleep NOW. I need ALL of my energy for tomorrow. It’s a big day, and my brain and body will respond to these rigid, inflexible words that sound so urgent. By saying, “this sounds really important. I know exactly what to do: release adrenaline to get that important job done.” Research tells us it will take three times longer to fall asleep, or to fall back to sleep, if I’m saying “I HAVE to sleep now, or have to sleep eight hours or I’ve got to have all this energy, or I’ve got to stop these awakenings.” So, we want to take the pressure off. Rather than focusing on sleep and whether or not it’s happening right now, I encourage my clients to focus on resting to say instead, “It is so nice to just rest here at the end of the day. It is so nice to sink down into the mattress; to feel my head supported by the pillow; to be warm and cozy underneath the blankets,” and encourage my brain and body to rest and let go of all the other things from the day or my expectations about sleep. In fact, if you’ve ever fallen asleep in front of the TV, or in a boring class, in those situations, you’re not trying, you’re not saying I’ve GOT to do it right now. You’re saying,  “After the day I had today, it’s so nice to put my feet up and be entertained by this mindless show and do nothing and rest.” That’s the skill we want to use in bed. But, for my novices who are not used to resting in bed, I do also suggest that they stop looking at the clock, [clock ticking] because doing that math keeps our brain activated. In fact, research is telling us, in addition to keeping the brain alert, we perceive our sleep as being worse than it really is. So, Tang titled his research study, “Stop sleeping with the enemy.” That’s the clock, turn the clock away or cover it up. So, I prevent my brain going there. If I asked myself, “What time is it?” The only appropriate answer is, “It’s nighttime, and it’s time to rest.” When the alarm goes off,  “It’s daytime, it’s time to get up and do things.” We also would benefit prior to bed by turning our screens off for 60 to 90 minutes before bed because having no screens on, even if I have the special dampening down of the blue light, there still is some blue light gets through. And, the blue light prevents our brain from releasing melatonin, which is our own sleep chemical. It prevents our brain from moving into the slower predominantly state of brainwaves speed, which is drifting in and out, the pre sleep state. Light as a signal to be alert. So, I’d like to turn off my screens and devices a long time before get into bed. So, I actually have a better chance with my sleep chemicals of melatonin, brainwaves starting to slow down, that it’s working in my favour. And, then, once I’m in bed, to calm your mind and body. Maybe it’s hard to think about calming things. I start with constructive things: slow down your breathing, because just before we drift off, our breathing does slow down. And, current research is suggesting, if I breathe in quite slowly, about five seconds to breathe in and five seconds to breathe out, that’s a very slow pace. But, it’s the most powerful way to turn on our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of our nervous system that calms, heals, restores, and rests. So, this is what we want to have happen in bed. I, also, suggest, once we’ve got our breathing slower, that we work on relaxing our muscles in bed, especially the muscles around our eyes, and our jaw. We’ve known for almost 100 years, if people can let go with the tensions in their face, they will fall asleep more quickly. And, more and more the sleep doctors are saying if you’re that person who tends to furrow your brow, squint your eyes, clench your jaw, shoulders wrap around your ears during the day, it will be harder for you, and your sleep won’t be so great. They want you to release these muscle tensions before bed or in bed to improve your sleep. So, thinking about slowing down your breathing, releasing tension from your eyes, your jaw and your face. And, maybe, also, remembering a time when you are warm and cozy. If you’ve ever not wanted to get out of bed some days, because it’s so warm and cozy and that cocoon underneath the covers, remembering that. We’re thinking about when it was warm in the sunshine, or in the shower or the hot tub, [shower sounds] tends to calm us emotionally and mentally and make it easier for us to drift off to sleep.


Tolunimi Oware-Acquah  11:46

Wow. That’s amazing.


Kathy Somers  11:49

Now waking up in the night is a different topic. Everybody wakes up two to 10 times every hour all night long. But, most of the time, we’re unaware that we are waking up through the night. It’s so fleeting, we move right into the next stage of sleep; we move right into the next dream; we are unaware that we were awake. They think maybe our body’s doing this so that we can readjust our posture, we can make sure that we’re comfortable. It’s only if we’re awake for more than eight minutes do we really start registering, “I am awake,” in the night. It is not one continuous, uninterrupted function. It’s very dynamic, very flexible, there’s a lot of stuff happening. So, the sleep doctor would say, “You know, it’s really about getting back to sleep,  can I more easily get back to sleep after I’ve woken up?” So, that would be the first thing to consider, using the strategies I was mentioning a moment ago: “Can I make it easier to get back to sleep?” We are more prone to waking up in the night, if there’s noise, or if there’s light coming through the blinds. So, the darker, the quieter, my bedroom, the better. If my bladder is full, I am going to have to go get up to go to the bathroom, maybe avoiding having so much fluids just before I go to bed. Some people, the reason that they’re waking up in the night, they’re consuming alcohol too close to bedtime. But, we now better understand that initially it does act as a central nervous system depressant. But, then there’s a rebound stimulant effect, and it will wake us up. So, it is recommended to have no alcohol for three hours before getting into bed; to have no nicotine for four hours before getting into bed; and no caffeine for six hours before getting into bed. So, many sleep doctors will say, “No caffeine after lunch, or no caffeine after breakfast.” If I have my final meal, within three hours of bedtime, it will increase my risk of waking up in the night by about 40 percent. So, there may be some factors that making me more prone to waking up in the night. If that’s the case, can I diminish them as much as possible?


Tolunimi Oware-Acquah  13:59

Wow, I didn’t realize how many of these factors can impact, not only us falling asleep, but also staying asleep. It really seems like it’s important to address our attitude towards sleep, in terms of, like, demanding it versus welcoming it. And, also taking a look at how our daily lives impact the way that we would fall asleep.


Kathy Somers  14:21

I think that students are challenged because they tend to live a very busy life. And, if we’re trying to fit a lot of things into our life, some of the first things we’ll give up are going to be our exercise and our sleep. And, the bottom line, I think is that sleep is considered a behaviour; a behaviour of our brains and our bodies. Have you ever tried to change a behaviour? To make a New Year’s resolution? It’s more than just making that decision. You have to be committed. And, you’ve probably heard them say, “I need to do that new behaviour every day for 28 to 35 days before it feels more familiar more comfortable. There’s actually a chance,  it could become a new habit for me.”


Hanika Saini  14:58

That’s amazing. So, sadly, we’re nearing the end of our podcast. And, I was wondering, Kathy, what will be some of the key takeaways you would like our listeners to know before you head out?


Kathy Somers  15:11

Sleep is a really important behaviour of our brains and our bodies. It can so strongly impact our health, our thinking and our performance, including academic performance. Many people have unrealistic expectations about sleep. They expect to fall asleep as soon as their head touches the pillow. On average, though, it usually takes between 10 and 30 minutes before people fall asleep. They expect to have a great sleep every night. Yet, the sleep researchers say that’s unrealistic, as well. So many things change our sleep, whether I’m starting to catch a cold, whether I have more pain today, whether there’s a lot of stress or something really exciting is happening tonight or tomorrow, that they say it’s more realistic to aim for five good nights out of seven. And, if I’m trying to improve my sleep, rather than expecting an instantaneous improvement, it usually will take between three to four weeks before I can tell if I’m even on the right track. So, it is an experiment. And, I want to cut myself some slack and just do one step at a time and give myself credit for what I am doing.


Hanika Saini  16:15

Kathy, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Is there any way our listeners can stay up to date on what you’re doing?


Kathy Somers  16:24

Go to my website, which is www.selfregulationskills.ca.


Tolunimi Oware-Acquah  16:29

We are looking forward to following you on your journey and learning a lot more on bettering our sleep behaviours and our attitudes towards sleep.



Tamara Petresin  16:36

Wow, what an insightful episode. One thing that really stood out to me was the language we use around sleep, too, like the whole, “I GOT to go to sleep right now,” and how that can actually influence our ability to fall asleep. And, to stop looking at the clock. I’m also really bad for that. So, I’m definitely going to be able to take some of these tips away and try them out to improve my sleep. 


Maricane Any  16:55

These tips are applicable for any age. It’s so true that sleep is a behaviour we need to be committed to. Next up, we have students Gracen, Manahil and Christine, who put together an episode on caffeinated energy drink consumption, featuring Dr. David Ma.



Christine Rivera  17:19

Hello, and welcome back to “Campus Buzz,” your go-to podcast for keeping you up to date with the latest trends and news happening in colleges and universities. Today, myself, Christine, and my cohost Gracen, two fourth-year nutrition students from the University of Guelph will be discussing the buzz around caffeinated energy drinks.


Gracen Nehme  17:37

Recently, a 21-year-old student from the University of Pennsylvania unfortunately passed away after drinking a “Charged Lemonade” from Panera Bread, an energy drink with a high amount of caffeine. Her parents say that she was not aware of how much caffeine was in the drink and thought it was just a regular lemonade. This news has brought up great concern about the safety of energy drinks and the lack of awareness about them. This is an important topic to discuss since energy drinks are a popular beverage across college and university campuses. Research has found that around 51percent of students reported having at least one energy drink per semester. As a student, I think I’ve experienced more exposure to energy drinks ever since starting university. Christine, do you also feel this way?


Christine Rivera  18:24

Yeah, I can agree. Um, I actually have an interesting story about my first time drinking one. So, when I was in my first year and studying on campus, I had a Red Bull student ambassador who had a huge Red Bull-shaped bag come up to me. And, they offered me a free Red Bull, which I accepted since it was free. And, I was hoping to save it for later to try it when I was tired. But, before handing me the Red Bull, they already opened it for me so I had to drink it right there. And, from previous advertisements I’ve seen for energy drinks, I assumed that that it would help me study by increasing my energy and by helping me stay focused.


Manahil Zaid  19:00

Oh, wow, I’ve seen them around campus, too. I agree that advertisements make you think that they would increase your energy levels. I’ve had a couple of drinks myself on long study days. While it did help me stay up for a while, I had an energy crash and I ended up having to take a nap.


Christine Rivera  19:17

Hmm. So it seems that energy drinks can have some negative side effects that students may be unaware of. To help students stay informed about using energy drinks safely, potential side effects and strategies to reduce intake, we have invited Dr. David Ma to join us on the podcast today. [phone ringing] Hi, Dr. David Ma. Thank you for joining us today on the “Campus Buzz” podcast. Before we begin our interview, could you please provide the listeners with an introduction of yourself?


Dr. David Ma  19:48

Yeah, thank you for having me on the podcast. My name is Dr. David Ma. I’m from the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, and also the Director for the Guelph Family Health Study.


Manahil Zaid  20:00

Thank you for joining us. What sparked our interest in having you as a podcast guest was your recent global news article about energy drinks. Before we get into the details, could you please describe to the listener what a caffeinated energy drink is?


Dr. David Ma  20:15

Sure. So, a caffeinated drink sold in Canada is primitively sold with a higher level of caffeine, up to 180 milligrams per can, and may contain also other additives such as vitamins, ginseng, or other stimulating compounds.


Manahil Zaid  20:32

Interesting. So, just to put in perspective, how does the amount of caffeine and energy drink compared to other drinks like coffee?


Dr. David Ma  20:41

Yeah, great question. So, caffeinated energy drinks are regulated in Canada, so, they cannot contain no more than 180 milligrams per can, in comparison to, say, an average cup of coffee, an eight ounce cup of coffee, may have somewhere around 100 milligrams per cup. And, it varies a little bit depending upon, you know, the variety of the beans and who’s making it, but on average, I usually use 100 milligrams for reference.


Christine Rivera  21:09

That is a helpful comparison, especially for students like me who drink coffee very regularly. So, as you mentioned, Health Canada allows for a maximum of 180 milligrams of caffeine per energy drink. I’m curious to know, are there energy drinks that contain more than this amount on the market?


Dr. David Ma  21:28

Yeah, that’s a phenomena that occurred this past summer.  There were a number of instances where it was found that there were products, these caffeinated energy drinks, that exceeded 180 milligram, and some had upwards of 200- 300 or more milligrams of caffeine per drink. And, so, these are not permitted to be sold in Canada. And, so the question is, how do they get into Canada?  The response, and it was that they were accidentally imported into Canada for sale. So, when these products were found to be on the market, Canadian Food Inspection Agency was notified, and they did a search snd there was, actually, several recalls over the summer. So, we created some awareness and education around what can be sold in Canada legally. And, then, I guess they worked with the specific retailers to figure out how these products actually got into the market.


Christine Rivera  22:19

Wow, it’s really surprising that those energy drinks were accidentally imported. I’m glad to hear those drinks were recalled from the market.  When researching this topic, we found that Health Canada recommends a maximum of 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for those over the age of 18. I’m wondering if you think that students are aware of how much caffeine they’re having when they drink energy drinks?


Dr. David Ma  22:44

I think intuitively the answer is “no.” That there’s a lack of awareness in terms of what we’re consuming, because unless you’re reading the ingredient labels, most of the time, we’re not sure what we’re consuming in many of these packaged goods. We have a sense but not necessarily a precise understanding of the actual level of caffeine or other constituents.


Manahil Zaid  23:05

I definitely agree. Even as a nutrition student, I wasn’t aware of this information before this episode. Research suggests that many students are not aware of the amount of caffeine and energy drinks and they’re linked to negative health effects. Speaking of, what are some of the side effects that students who are having high amounts of caffeine may experience?


Dr. David Ma  23:27

Sure. So given that these energy drinks may contain up to 180 milligrams, one can quickly exceed the limit. So, even with regular coffee consumption, or tea, say on average at 100 milligrams per per beverage, if you’re drinking four or five more cups of coffee, or a couple of these caffeinated energy drinks, that can quickly get you to the 400 milligram limit per day. And, you might start to experience some anxiousness, maybe some dizziness and some headaches. If you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, it might land you in the emergency room for a little bit of follow up. We all enjoy coffee in the morning to get us up and going because it is a stimulant, but then we can potentially overdo it if we’re consuming all day long. And, if you’re sensitive to caffeine.  So, some of my colleagues know if you have coffee at dinnertime, you might not be able to sleep. There are varying degrees of sensitivity. And, if you overdo it, you might have some short-term benefits, but then you might end up with these side effects that are not so not so fun or helpful.


Manahil Zaid  24:37

Wow. It is interesting that having caffeine or energy drinks can lead to disturbances in sleep and energy. A research article that I read mentioned that 67 percent of post-secondary students reported having energy drinks to help them feel more awake. When you put this into perspective, it almost seems counterproductive to be having energy drinks. So, as you briefly mentioned, Health Canada recently recalled some energy drinks that were over the caffeine limit of 180 milligrams per serving, for example, Prime Energy, which was created by famous YouTuber Logan Paul. Do you believe that this recall had any impact on the amount of energy drinks that students might have?


Dr. David Ma  25:19

Again, I think the intuitive answer is probably “no.” The drinks that were removed off the market, they have versions of them that have the lower amount that are acceptable for sale in Canada. And, so, you can still purchase the same brands, it’s just a lower amount. The challenge, again, is if you’re drinking one, then you might end up having a second one and a third one, and you would quickly exceed the caffeine limits per day.


Manahil Zaid  25:44

So what more could be done to decrease energy drink consumption?


Dr. David Ma  25:49

There’s always more to be done. And, one simple approach is having greater awareness for what you’re consuming. So, some education around just reading an ingredient label to know exactly how much caffeine you’re consuming, and/or the other constituents that are present in the things that we buy from the store. So, having some greater nutrition literacy, I think, would be very helpful in parts to be able to read the labels correctly, and to also understand the nutritional impact of what you’re consuming.


Christine Rivera  26:20

Definitely. Increased awareness is very important and something that we hope our listeners are able to achieve after listening to our podcast. Lastly, are there any other strategies that students can use when wanting to decrease their intake of energy drinks?


Dr. David Ma  26:35

Well, I don’t think it’s going to go away. I think the simple message is moderation. You know, having one or two cups of coffee, or one drink, one of these energy drinks and maybe sipping it rather than guzzling, it might be some very simple, helpful messages. That awareness and approach for moderation, I think, would be a good first step.


Christine Rivera  26:55

Those are some great strategies that are fairly easy to use. Thank you so much for your valuable insights and for joining us on our episode today, Dr. David Ma.


Dr. David Ma  27:04

My pleasure. Thank you.


Manahil Zaid  27:07

That was Dr. David Ma joining us, a faculty member in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph. Here’s the “buzz of the day.” Caffeinated energy drink consumption is common among college and university students. They have a large amount of caffeine which often exceeds the limit of 180 milligrams. Dr. Ma discussed some of the negative health effects of having too much caffeine, including anxiousness, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. Also, at high doses, caffeine can have negative effects on your heart, including irregular heartbeat and increased heart rate, which can lead you into the emergency room, as Dr. Ma mentioned. The take-home message is that it’s important to be aware of how much caffeine is in your energy drink. And, it’s also important that you do not drink more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day as recommended by Health Canada. Dr. Ma discuss some great strategies to reduce intake, including drinking slowly and in moderation.


Christine Rivera  28:07

Some additional evidence-based strategies include: aiming for gradual change to avoid caffeine withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability and feeling foggy. Also, swapping your energy drink for a different beverage, such as herbal teas and sparkling water, can help to reduce your caffeine intake. This can help you avoid negative side-effects of having too much caffeine. It is also important to be aware of marketing tactics.


Manahil Zaid  28:36

Energy-drink producers tend to target young adults, including college and university students. Some of these tactics include hiring students to promote energy drinks on college and university campuses, as Christine experienced. Also, advertisements for energy drinks may make them seem like the perfect solution to increase your energy levels and focus. This can seem beneficial especially for students who are studying late.


Christine Rivera  29:02

However, as we learned from Dr. David Ma, there are still negative health effects from drinking too many energy drinks, which is why we must be aware of the potential health concerns and how we can reduce our intake to avoid experiencing any side effects.


Manahil Zaid  29:16

If you feel like you’re experiencing caffeine withdrawal symptoms or are struggling to decrease your intake, reach out to Campus Health Centres for resources or connect with your doctor or dietitian.


Christine Rivera  29:26

Thank you for listening along today.


Manahil Zaid  29:31

We will see you on the next episode of campus buzz.


Christine Rivera  29:34

Until then. Stay buzzing.




Maricane Any  29:45

What a great episode with so much important information on caffeinated energy drink consumption.


Tamara Petresin  30:00 

Yes. It’s so important to be informed about caffeinated energy drink consumption and to spread awareness about this, especially in light of some of the recent recalls made to these types of drinks here in Canada last summer. Thank you, Gracen, Manahil and Christine for keeping us informed and educated on this topic.


Maricane Any  30:16 

Our last student episode features Amber, Katrina and Krista’s podcast on eating family meals with adolescents and includes guests Dr. Jess Haines from the University of Guelph, and Bri DeRosa from the “Family Dinner Project.”



Krista Carrigan  30:39 

Welcome back to “Mindful Bites,” where each week we, two nutrition students from the University of Guelph, take a deep dive into a topic that helps you, the parent, nourish your teens wellbeing.


Amber Hames  30:50 

I’m Amber and I present the evidence-based research…


Krista Carrigan  30:54 

And, I’m Krista, and as a mum to two adolescents, I try to bring the practical side of things. And, boy, do we have a doozy of an episode for you this week. What if we told you there was one thing that you could change tonight that could help your teens mental-health, academic success and improve their dietary intake? And, what if we told you is as simple as eating meals together?


Amber Hames  31:16 

Krista, I’ve been waiting so long to do this episode because I thought up the perfect name:  “Breaking Bread; Building Families”.


Krista Carrigan  31:24 

I love that one. I heard that you had an amazing interview set up for us this week. Amber?


Amber Hames  31:28 

Yeah, I actually got the chance to interview Dr. Jess Haines from the University of Guelph. We got to talk about her research and how eating together can benefit your teen.


Krista Carrigan  31:37 

I can’t wait to hear what she has to say. I’ve heard a lot about her research that I can’t wait to take a deep dive into that. I actually had the benefit this week of interviewing Bri DeRosa from the “Family Dinner Project.”  She’s going to give us some practical tips on how to make this change possible. And, she has some great resources for our audience. So, I can’t wait for everyone to get to hear what she has to say. So let’s dive in.


Amber Hames  32:00 

Yeah, let’s bring on Dr. Jess Haines. Okay, so I’d like to introduce our first guest, Dr. Haines. Thank you so much for joining us today on “Mindful Bites.”


Dr. Jess Haines  32:08 

Oh, I’m happy to be here and excited for the topic.


Amber Hames  32:12 

We thought you’d be perfect because our topic this week is the importance of eating as a family. And, we know you’ve done a lot of research on this topic. Would you be able to tell us about some of your research on the benefits of eating as a family, particularly for adolescent children?


Dr. Jess Haines  32:28 

You bet. And, we’ve done some work as well as others. We have taken a look to see, you know, for kids that eat more frequent family meals: what are the benefits? And there turns out, there are quite a number of them. One is kids that eat more family meals, more frequently, appear to have better dietary intake, so, eat more of the foods we’d like them to eat. So, things like fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and those type of things, and, less of the stuff, you know, the highly-processed foods that are high in sugar and salt. So, that is interesting. And, not only have we seen it where, sort of, cross-sectionally, meaning when we measure both diet and family meals at the same time, but, also adolescents who eat more family meals, even as young adults, it appears they have better diets overall. So, it seems like some of those benefits are happening, sort of, creating those routines and habits early, seems to have a long term effect. So, that’s pretty exciting and interesting to think about family meals. The other thing is there’s also sort of psychosocial benefits of eating family meals. Adolescents that eat more family meals are at a reduced risk for depression, and also disordered eating. And, they also seem to engage in risky behaviours less, so, things like smoking or drinking. They’re less likely to do. So, we have this interesting family ritual that can happen that seems to be protective against some of these risk behaviours, and promote some of these healthy behaviours. We also say, if your kids are old enough, ask them to help, right? It doesn’t all have to fall on the parents to make this happen. So, in fact, some of our research has shown when the kids are involved, the benefits may even be higher, right? So, getting your kids involved might make it a little easier for you, teaches them some skills and may actually lead to that they may be more apt to eat those foods that you’re preparing.


Amber Hames  34:16 

Perfect. What is one piece of advice you’d give to parents to start implementing this if they feel overwhelmed by this or they feel like it’s not something that’s realistic for their lives?


Dr. Jess Haines  34:28 

Yeah, I love it. My main tip, I think, would be to start small. So, meaning, keep it really relaxed. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be a big, special occasion. It can just be, like, is there a time that, you know, it doesn’t happen to be lunch on a Saturday where everyone has time to connect? So, starting small meaning it doesn’t have to be every day and it doesn’t have to be fancy. So, yeah, keeping it simple, I think, will keep stress down for you. And, of course, your kids can read that. So, yeah, “keeping it simple” would be my main tip.


Amber Hames  34:59 

Awesome. Thank you so much for your time. Dr. Haines, we really appreciate it. Thank you so much.


Dr. Jess Haines  35:05 

You are so welcome. Thank you for having us.


Amber Hames  35:08 

Wow, the evidence clearly supports the many benefits for teens for eating together.


Krista Carrigan  35:13 

Yes, absolutely. What I find most interesting is that when I came back to school for my career change, I was particularly interested in the link between diet and teen health. And, what I found most fascinating is some of the most conclusive research findings are not so much around what teens are eating, but how they’re eating.


Amber Hames  35:33 

I’m curious, Krista, as a mom to two adolescents, how practical is this?


Krista Carrigan  35:37 

Well, I’m so glad you asked that question, Amber, because I’m sure a lot of our audience, at this point, is thinking the same thing. I know, as a mom to two adolescents myself, with a full time schedule, it’s sometimes hard to plan ahead and make this happen. But, our next guest actually has some really great, practical tips, and some resources that our audience can use to help make this change.


Amber Hames  35:58 

Can’t wait.


Krista Carrigan  35:59 

Let’s dive right in.


Well, today, we have a very special guest for you, for our audience, today. We have Bri DeRosa. She is the content manager for the family dinner project and co-author of “Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook.” And, are we ever excited to have her speak with us, because, we wanted to look at the benefits for adolescents, in particular, and, also, the struggles that a lot of families that have with adolescents trying to get them to the table and get everybody together in today’s society with everyone being so busy. What kinds of tips and strategies do you have for parents to help them make that happen?


Bri DeRosa  36:40 

First of all, family meals are family meals. So, even though we’re the “Family Dinner Project,” it doesn’t have to be dinner, right? It can be breakfast, it can be, you know, Sunday dinner once-a-week, non-negotiable, right? It can be your Saturday Night Movie Night with pizza, and, here’s how we’re going to do this. It can be snack in between school and sports practice or after they get home from Drama Club or whatever the thing is… just the three ingredients food: fun and conversation existing together and that no one eats alone. So, maybe you’re eating in shifts, you know, Tuesday nights in my house, we can’t eat together. It’s the one night of the week, it just cannot work out all four of us sitting down. So, we eat in pods. Two people eat now; two people eat later, as long as you’re not having somebody sitting by themselves. It still qualifies as a family dinner.


Krista Carrigan  37:42 

Okay, so what I hear you saying is that there’s no perfect way to do it. Like, just, you know, whatever way you can do it. Do it that way.


Bri DeRosa  37:49 

Absolutely. Yeah. There is no perfect family dinner; there is no perfect thing to eat. There is no: if you strive for perfection, I think you’re gonna doom yourself to stress and failure from the start, right? None of us are perfect, and the world is not perfect. So, let go and relax, and do as best you can, on any given day. That’s all any of us can do.


Krista Carrigan  38:14 

That’s a great message. As a mom to two adolescents myself, I feel like I could use that message. Let’s talk about your book. It’s a very exciting book; it talks about tips and strategies, like, specific takeaways for parents. Can you tell us more about what people can find in that book?


Bri DeRosa  38:30 

Yeah, so, “Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook,” as the name suggests, is intended to be kind of your playbook for menus, recipes, and, then, fun and conversation to go along with it. So, there are dinner games; there are tips; there are conversation starters for all different ages. And, it’s also built around stories that we got from real families about all of the different challenges that they have tried to overcome in getting to the table. So, time pressures, budget issues, picky eating, right? All of these different types of things: tension at the table. So, sometimes families sit down and all they do is — they feel like —  all they do is argue, right? How do you get around that? So, we, kind of, like, built it out around: what have real families, over our decade-plus in existence, told us really hinders them from getting to the table? And, what has really helped them overcome those things? And, we built their strategies into the book, so that you can read how people, like yourself, have dealt with this, instead of just feeling, like, you know, we’re not the experts from on high. Right? We are also real people trying to get this done.


Krista Carrigan  39:45 

Well, that’s great. And, so, you took information from families themselves and deliver that in this beautifully-packaged book for other families to find out what works and what doesn’t really. Given our audience has mostly adolescent children, and, given that most adolescents these days have phones, I just wondered if your organization has offered any suggestions for helping families have dinner without their phones or without technology in general? Any tips that you have for our listeners?


Bri DeRosa  40:17 

Yeah, absolutely. So, we have, we actually have a whole section of our website on technology at the table, because this is a big issue. One thing I will say is, right off the bat, parents are the worst offenders. Research actually shows that parents are more likely to have their phone at dinner than the kids are, because we’re, like, “I can’t unplug from work. What if somebody needs something? I have to text this person. I have to be on 24/7.” So, there are a lot of reasons why the phone might be at the table. We take the approach that, if you’re going to have the phone at the table, we should help you use it in a way that connects to the people you’re sitting with, instead of the people far away. So, if you’ve got tech at the table, you’re not using it to text your buddy, right? You’re not using it to be on social media. You’re not calling somebody who’s not there, unless it’s a family member, and you’re trying to, like, zoom them into family dinner, right? Instead, you can have the phone, but we’re going to use the phone for some games that we can all play together. We have a bunch of them on our website. Or, we’re going to use the phone to enhance our conversation to look up answers to trivia questions that we’re asking each other, or to share. “Hey, you know, here’s one photo I took today, that really shows you how my day went.” And, we can pass that around and talk about it. “Or, here’s an article that I found today and made me think of you guys, I want to pull it up and read something to you.” And, let’s have a conversation. Right? So, it’s not a “no-phone zone,” necessarily. But, it’s a “phone positive zone. ” We’re using the tech in a way that connects to the people in the here and now.


Krista Carrigan  42:09 

Wow, I love that distinction. Instead of, you know, having the technology distract us from the people around us, you’re enabling it or allowing it to help you connect to those around you. That’s, that’s a great feedback. Thank you. I’m glad you mentioned the website, because, wow, I was so amazed when I went on there. I mean, it’s so perfectly organized. Can you just remind our listeners, what your website is, and the kinds of information that they could find on there?


Bri DeRosa  42:35 

Sure. So it’s thefamilydinnerproject.org. We are not, I want to say, a recipe site. Right? People think The Family Dinner Project they’re like,  “It’s a cooking site.” We do have recipes; we have a section of our site food, and it is recipes,  a lot of them come from real families. But, it’s not our main focus. Our main focus, what you’ll find a lot of at our site, is the fun, the conversation, the expert advice. And if you can’t find something on our site, get in touch with us, because maybe it’s an idea that you know that time has come and we should create it.


Krista Carrigan  43:09 

Wow. So, it sounds like, not only is it a lot of practical hands on, but it’s very inclusive to many different families, no matter, you know, how many children they have, or how many issues they’re facing. So, great job! I absolutely loved the website, and I highly recommend our listeners go check it out. Before we leave today, I just wanted to ask if there is one takeaway, if families are out there listening to you right now, and they don’t even know where to start, they haven’t had dinner together in a while, everybody’s, kind of, on their own schedule, what’s one thing that they could just take away and start doing today? Like, today for dinner? Do you have one takeaway for our audience?


Bri DeRosa  43:48 

Yeah, I mean, the biggest thing is make the commitment, right? Don’t say, “Maybe we’ll do it.” If you really want to do it, just start today. Let go of the expectations; let go of the pressure. Don’t have an idea what it’s going to look like, okay? Because the more positive the interaction is at dinner, the more benefits you’re actually going to get. It doesn’t matter what you’re serving; it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect; it doesn’t, you know, just sit down and have a positive interaction because that breeds the next family dinner.


Krista Carrigan  44:27 

Absolutely fantastic advice. I think that that’s a great way to end today. Unless there’s anything else that you think is important to share? But, I think that that’s absolutely fabulous. A lot of helpful information for our listeners.


Bri DeRosa  44:40 

Oh, well, thank you so much. It was fun to be with you today.


Amber Hames  44:43 

I’m so happy she brought up the point about technology being that it’s so prominent today, especially among teenagers.


Krista Carrigan  44:49 



Amber Hames  44:51 

What we’ve hope you’ve taken away from today’s podcast is the many benefits for eating together for teens; that there’s no such thing as a perfect meal; and that you start small and make the commitment tonight.


Krista Carrigan  45:03 

And, we want to give the final word today to who matters the most. Let’s hear from the teens themselves. Tune in next week for “Eating Clean with Your Teen.


Special thanks to our producer, Katrina.


Teen 1  45:15 

Yeah, I think the benefits is, like, it actually connects people and it’s really,  like, I like to have a family dinner. The days I don’t have family dinners, I can tell like the difference.


Teen 2  45:24 

I really enjoy having dinner with my family, especially at the end of the day. Like, if I have a really long day at school, it’s something I can look forward to.



Maricane Any  45:33 

We’d like to thank Amber, Katrina and Krista for their hard work putting this podcast together. It was highly informative, and so nice to hear from Dr. Jess Haines, and Bri Derosa. They shared so many great tips for encouraging healthy mealtimes with adolescents.


Tamara Petresin  45:51 

To wrap up our podcast today. We want to thank the students from Nutrition Education for their hard work and putting these podcasts together, and for sharing them with us on the Healthy Habits Happy Homes podcast. We hope our listeners enjoyed this episode. And, we’ll see you next time. Bye.