Everything Fits

March 28, 2022

UR Dietitian talks about how she came to her profession through some bad advice

When Karen Hensley played soccer in high school, her coach advised the team to maintain a very low-fat diet. In college she realized this practice was hurting her performance on the field. After focusing on a more balanced diet, and seeing the positive results, she took an interest in sports nutrition and how athletes should properly fuel their bodies.

Now, as the Senior Registered Dietitian at UR, Hensley looks back on that moment as pivotal in how she came to her chosen career. As an athlete at Muhlenberg College, she majored in psychology, but her side-hustle was educating herself and other athletes on proper sports nutrition.  After graduating, she enrolled at New York University and completed all the undergraduate nutrition courses before taking an internship with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. Hensley then completed her master’s in nutrition science with a concentration in sports nutrition from the University of Connecticut and began working at Princeton University as the dietitian in Student Health and Athletics.

In 2010, Hensley started at UR and was the sole dietitian until Madeline Nathe was hired last year. While Hensley focuses on the menu in the Heilman Dining Center (HDC), counseling students on special dietary needs, sports nutrition, and eating disorders, Nathe works with faculty and staff, as well as students, and manages the programming at the Demonstration Kitchen in the Well-Being Center.

 “It is important to have liaisons like Madeline and myself to make sure that our campus is a safe environment for our students with food allergies, and to teach them how to eat, essentially for the rest of their lives. If you are a person with a special dietary need, it can be scary to be in a place where you can’t cook your own food,” says Hensley. “And for some of our students, whose parents have always managed their meals, college is the first time they’ve had to choose what they eat and how much.”

Menu planning for the HDC starts months before the semester begins and it is one of Hensley’s favorite parts of her job. She makes sure that special diets are considered, but also that the offerings are balanced and that students are given delicious choices, even at Crumbs & Cream, the HDC dessert bar.

“Dessert is okay! A person’s diet should not be about eliminating foods, but rather enjoying food in a balanced way so that you are healthy and happy. I like to say ‘Everything Fits’, which means everything in moderation. There are no good or bad foods.”