Carnegie Mellon Dining Services continues to strengthen its commitment to health and wellness for the campus community, and one exciting way it’s exemplified that this academic year is through the hiring of Jessica Tones, the newest member of the Dining Services team serving as a registered dietitian, nutrition educator, and marketing coordinator. In this unique role, Jessica will collaborate with Carnegie Mellon Health Services and dining vendors to counsel students, and other community members, on dietary restrictions and allergens, and assist them in navigating our unique dining program. Additionally, Jessica will organize campus-wide health and wellness initiatives and outreach programs, and assist in marketing the dining program.
Jessica most recently worked for Giant Eagle, Inc. as a regional dietitian specialist and wellness coach. She has extensive experience in nutrition-based educational programs and classes, one-on-one counseling, and the creation of nutrition education materials. Jessica was also an adjunct instructor of nutrition at the Pittsburgh Technical College.
We are so excited to welcome Jessica to the Carnegie Mellon community. Let’s learn more about her!
Where did you go to college/graduate school and which licensed/registered degrees have you earned?
I am a registered dietitian nutritionist, which means that I completed both an undergraduate degree and a post-graduate 1200-hour dietetic internship. I graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition and completed my dietetic internship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Shadyside Presbyterian Hospital.
How did you get into the field of nutrition?
Simply put, I love food. I wanted to share my love of food in a way that is science-based, while also respecting where food comes from and promoting good health. My own journey with food and nutrition taught me that a healthy, balanced relationship with food means more than just “eating healthy.” Through my education and professional experiences, I have learned that nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. Nutrition is about nourishing the body through food, and I love to help people figure out what that means for them. My goal is to help others hash out nutrition fact from fiction and to provide clear, food-based solutions that inspire people to develop healthier food habits.
How do you stay up-to-date on nutrition trends and information?
The world is saturated with nutrition information, so I try to keep up with current, evidence-based research as well as consumer interests and food trends. In addition to reading professional journals, I love Today’s Dietitian magazine and follow dietitians on social media. Grocery shopping also happens to be one of my favorite ways to keep up with what is going on with food. I spend a lot of time checking out new foods and reading labels – don’t go grocery shopping with me if you are in a hurry to get home!
My most valuable professional resources are my memberships to Dietetic Practice Groups (DPGs) through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which are subgroups of dietitians who work to share information and offer extensive resources and continuing education opportunities. I am currently a member of three DPGs: Food and Culinary Professionals; Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition; and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine.
What are some of your priorities for the coming year regarding nutrition on CMU’s campus?
My number one priority is to listen and learn. I want to know what students are looking for in regards to nutrition information and healthy offerings from Dining Services, and I will use this info as a guide for my work. In my time so far, I can see that dining is doing a lot of exciting work to provide variety and healthful options around campus, and sometimes students aren’t aware of what is available to them. I hope to expand communication between Dining Services and students through our website, social media, discussion, DSAC meetings, and signage at the point of purchase. I am also looking forward to opportunities to engage with students in-person at events throughout the year, such as Taste of the Tartans (which takes place Tuesday, 9/27, from 11 am to 2 pm in Rangos in the Cohon Center) and cooking demonstrations.
How will you be a resource for students?
I am a resource for anything related to dining. I can help students identify foods on campus that fit their health and nutrition goals, whether it be related to a food allergy, identifying vegetarian/vegan options around campus, or fueling for athletic events. If you don’t have specific questions, but want to keep up with how dining is working to offer healthful options on campus, follow us on our social sites as I will be contributing to these regularly.
If you could give one piece of nutrition advice to a busy CMU student, what would it be?
Don’t forget to eat! Food is fuel, for both your body and your mind. You can’t perform at your best when you are running on empty. Take a few moments to think about your day and when you can fit food in. This may mean that you have to pack some snacks or grab a yogurt and a piece of fruit if you have a busy day and will not have time for lunch. Our hours and locations page on the Dining Services website makes it easy to see what’s open now and you can filter to see what will be open in the future.
Personally speaking, what is your favorite meal to prepare/cook/serve?
My favorite type of food is Mexican food. After living in San Diego for eight years, I have an almost constant craving for handmade corn tortillas and Al Pastor tacos.
My favorite food to cook is anything braised – soups, stews, slow-cooked meats that shred with a fork. I love taking simple ingredients and creating something rich and complex that can only be achieved by heat and time.
My favorite dish to prepare and serve is pozole verde. It starts by making chicken stock, simmering overnight. The verde, or green sauce, is made from tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds, which help to thicken the soup. The verde sauce is blended and sautéed to develop flavor and then added to the broth, along with hominy and shredded chicken. Then you wait. I usually let it cook for at least four to eight hours, barely simmering on the stove. When it is time to eat, the best part is making it your own with all of the toppings – cilantro, diced onion, dried Mexican oregano, avocado, thinly-sliced cabbage, radish, a squeeze of lime, and a tostada to eat it with or crumble on top. This is a fun meal to share with friends; everyone can customize their pozole, kind of like phở. There are many ways to speed up the preparation process, but I love to make every part of it from scratch. I usually make it over the holidays when I have a few days off in a row and can take my time and enjoy the process.
Outside of food and work, what are some of your hobbies/interests?
I love to travel and learn about other cultures, read, go to stand-up comedy shows, and exercise – hiking, cardio kickboxing, and yoga being my favorites. A new hobby is making succulent and cactus gardens – my goal this year is to create a succulent wall in my living room. I was inspired on my last trip to San Diego where it is really popular to use drought-resistant plants. Also, I have a 16-month old daughter, who I jokingly like to say is my new hobby, since a leisurely day drinking coffee, reading a book, going to yoga, and going out for a nice meal is a rarity these days. She is amazing – she is sweet, snugly, and loves to make people laugh.
Tell us at least one thing that is on your bucket list.
Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu. These combine my love of hiking, traveling, and learning about other cultures in some of the most incredible places in the world.