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Jones junior combines food and color palettes

By Molly Chiu     10/6/11 7:00pm

While many Rice students are still trying to avoid the "Freshman 15," one student is going above and beyond to promote healthy eating habits. Rice Health Advisor and Jones College junior Chris Keller is introducing a new initiative in nutrition called Eat the Rainbow, which encourages students to incorporate foods of every color of the rainbow into their diet.

The idea for the project is based off of the Nutrition Rainbow, a dietary chart created by doctors at The Cancer Project. The Cancer Project is a program seeking to decrease the risk of cancer and increase cancer survival rates through a variety of ways, one of which is nutrition. Each color in a fruit, vegetable or legume is produced by a specific chemical. For example, tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, a red carotene with antioxidant properties that studies show may help reduce risk for certain cancers. Doctors reason that by eating a variety of colors, people can diversify their intake of beneficial chemicals.

Keller, who is not affiliated with The Cancer Project, said that he learned about the Nutrition Rainbow at a gym and decided he wanted to try the idea out at Rice.

"I was entranced by the bright colors, and I decided to bring it back to Rice to see how it would be received," Keller said. "I'm happy to say that after presenting it at Jones Cabinet meetings, and most recently at the Sept. 26 Student Association meeting, the idea has become wildly popular. It's taking the campus by storm. A brightly-colored, nutrient-packed storm."

Keller said that while the Eat the Rainbow initiative is not a comprehensive dietary plan, students will gain from adding a rainbow of colors to their diet.

"Eating a balanced diet that is full of fruits and vegetables can help prevent a number of different cancers," Keller said. "Our bodies use the nutrients we get from fruits and vegetables for energy and for rebuilding our cells, which can be essential in cancer prevention and treatment."

Nutrition and Body Image Specialist and registered dietitian at the Wellness Center Maria Tsakalis said that she thinks Keller's Eat the Rainbow initiative corresponds well with the Wellness Center's preferred dietary plan, the plate method.

"The plate method consists of making one quarter your plate protein, one quarter of your plate starch, and one half your plate fruits and/or veggies," Tsakalis said. "We can optimize the plate method by following the Eat the Rainbow initiative by making one half the plate fruits and/or veggies a variety of colors. This way of eating ensures that your diet gets proper amounts and different types of vitamins and minerals daily."

In addition to Keller's Eat the Rainbow plan, Tsakalis said that students looking for healthy food options should eat more whole foods.

"Choose the foods that went through the least amount of processing to get to your plate," Tsakalis said. "Vegetables, fruits, whole grains like brown rice, barley, quinoa, lean proteins like beans, grilled chicken or fish, are all great whole food sources."

Tsakalis said that she applauds Keller's initiative to make Rice a healthier campus.

"It is great when students have such high caliber aspirations for their fellow students and a true concern for health promotion," Tsakalis said.

Brown College sophomore Simone Martin said that she likes the Eat the Rainbow idea.

"It gives people an easy way to remember what to eat," Martin said. "So many people cut out entire food groups, but the Eat the Rainbow and the plate method encourage people to put some balance in their diet. You can't just eat one food group."

Students interested in getting more information or specific plans for dietary needs can make a one-on-one appointment with Tsakalis by calling 713-348-5194. For more information on the Nutrition Rainbow and other cancer-fighting nutrition programs, visit

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