Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

PODCAST: Norovirus, Oh My! Georgetown Professor Offers Nutritional Advice to Students


Thomas Sherman, professor of pharmacology at the Georgetown University School of Medicine, has a simple piece of advice for students this year: eat more beans.

Whether it be choosing toppings at unfamiliar salad bars or avoiding food poisoning scares, navigating college dining plans can be yet another challenge for some students. This week, The Hoya spoke with Sherman about how to stay healthy on a meal plan.

From advice about cooking with a limited budget to recreating healthy meals in dining halls, tune in to hear Sherman share his thoughts about the importance of nutrition for students’ well-being throughout their time at school.

Podcast Transcript:

ME: Dinner time at Leo’s. For a place we all visit once, twice, even three times a day, how often do we really stop and think about what we’re eating? 

ME: It is an important question, and as Georgetown University finds itself in the midst of a norovirus outbreak, students are directing this query toward themselves and their peers more now than in recent years. With students increasing their focus and scrutiny on what they eat given the recent incidence of gastrointestinal illnesses, I felt it was important to get in contact with a professional and try to assess the importance of what foods college students consume. 

TS: Hi, my name is Tom Sherman. I’m a professor in the department of pharmacology and physiology. I’ve been at Georgetown since 1996.

MS: I had a thought-provoking conversation with Dr. Thomas Sherman, a biochemist who greatly enjoys teaching about nutrition and our food system, about this very topic in order to get a better understanding of the nutritional value of dorm food. 

TS:  I’m a biochemist. I’m trained as a molecular neuroendocrinologist. But, I love teaching biochemistry, and I love metabolism. 

ME: Yeah, you heard that right. Sherman loves all things metabolism. And so each fall, as Sherman led graduate courses on biochemistry, he started to notice how many questions students had about how biochemistry looks in our everyday lives. Yeah, chemical reactions and such are cool, but what about how we experience biochem each and every day? 

TS: And one of the things I notice, towards the end of my biochemistry course, when I would start integrating the different pathways of biochemistry with known things that we do — fasting, starvation, diabetes, exercise, pregnancy, breastfeeding, alcoholism — when I would start talking about these things, the students really seemed interested. And they were sort of seeing practical applications of biochemistry, and they would start asking me nutrition-related questions. And so I realized, well, maybe — maybe I should teach nutrition. You know, I’m interested in it, I love to cook. And so I studied nutrition for a year or more, and then started teaching nutrition in the spring. 

ME: Through teaching these courses on nutrition, Sherman realized the kind of practical applications the course had for his students. For some college students, balancing studying time with quick and easy yet nutritional meals can be a challenge. However, Sherman highlights that nutrition is linked to more than just healthy eating habits. 

TS: You know, I think students, rightly so, should think that the main reason why they’re here is to learn their field of study and grow as a student and as a young scholar. And they may think other pursuits like nutrition and exercise and sleep are less important. And — and it really is not less important that you study best; you’re healthier when you get a full night’s sleep and you eat well and you continue to focus on your exercise and on wellness. It’s part of what I’m challenged with here at the Medical Center with medical students and young physicians and graduate students who will constantly say they don’t have enough time. 

ME: Another issue college students face is balancing the two priorities of limiting their spending and also eating nutritionally rich foods. 

TS: For students who don’t have access to a kitchen, which is the majority of undergraduates, it’s very challenging. It really is … And I’m willing to concede, really, that these are a number of years when you’re just going to sort of make do until you’re in a situation when you’re in just a better control of your cooking and eating environment. So I’m more than willing to concede that. So what you want and, to some extent, I think the cafeteria designers are trying this as well, is giving you the opportunity to go into a cafeteria and make good choices. 

ME: Because shopping and cooking is not only time-consuming but can be expensive, especially considering that most students living on campus are already paying for a meal plan, Sherman offered tips to navigate dining halls. The first step? Sherman acknowledges that we need to recognize that eating in a dining hall inherently disregards some level of choice about what we’ll be eating for dinner each evening.  

TS: Unfortunately, we’re surrounded by really inexpensive, really tasty, not particularly nutritious foods. We’re just surrounded by it. And we can’t pretend like we have complete control over our choices … And I know the typical response to eating a junky meal, right? It’s sort of, ‘Oh, I’m never going to eat again. Oh, I’m stuffed,” you know, and that’s not the way you feel when you eat a nutritious dinner, you feel energized. And I wish everybody would recognize that.

ME: Sherman also discussed specific food groups that students tend to maybe not include in their diets and that they should consider including more of.

TS: Everybody should eat more beans. 

HC: On Monday, he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry. 

TS: I think everybody should eat more vegetables in general. 

HC: On Tuesday, he ate through two pears. But he was still hungry. 

TS: I think worrying about how much protein you get is just not necessary. Everybody gets enough protein. Everybody probably gets about twice as much protein as they need. Mothers worry about it, kids worry about it, parents worry about it. But, everybody gets enough protein. Except for really the elderly and special cases. So, don’t worry so much about nutrients or worry about antioxidants or all these other buzzwords or superfoods. It’s all marketing. And eat more whole grains and beans and vegetables. They can be very hearty. 

ME: Sherman also recommended that students look at how other off-campus establishments try to create balanced, easily assembled meals that students could then try to copy in the dining hall. 

TS: You know, one of the nice things about Sweetgreen, for example, which I don’t get to go to very often, and it’s expensive, I recognize that. But, they have sort of grain bowls. And that’s sort of the kind of foods you should aspire to eating because they have beans and grains and vegetables. And that makes you realize that, you know, I don’t need to eat as much meat. 

ME: At the end of the day, Sherman realizes that navigating the dining hall is yet another adjustment students have to make when they come to college. But, norovirus aside, assembling meals is meant to be a fun, communal experience. At the end of the day, if we can’t bond over the food at Leo’s, what can we do? 

TS: And there’s a famous expression in nutrition that says, if you don’t think you have enough time for eating well, then you better make time for being sick.

ME: This podcast was recorded, edited and produced by Melanie Elliott. Special thanks to Dr. Sherman for taking the time to speak with The Hoya. That is all for today, but tune in for more next week. 

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