USC Dietitian Makes Healthy Habits Easy

Patrice Barber believes your body tells you all you need to know about nutrition. But first you have to listen.

Barber, a registered dietitian for the USC Engemann Health Center, tells students they need to learn to listen to their bodies – “When it’s time to eat, when you’ve had enough or what to eat are all things we must listen to.”

Barber works one-on-one with students to create individualized food plans that fit their daily routines. In addition, she suggests that students start planning their meals in advance. When they don’t, they risk overeating because they’re not getting balanced or regular meals.

“Try to eat every four hours and make sure snacks are balanced between carbohydrates, protein and a little healthy fat,” Barber advises. “The carbs give you energy while the protein and fat keep you full.”

To maintain a regular and healthy diet, start the morning with breakfast. Barber considers the worst thing students can do is to skip breakfast because it often causes them to overcompensate for those calories at another meal.

If you are in a hurry to dash out the door in the morning, she advises assembling a fruit and yogurt cup the night before.

“Fill one-third of the bottom of a cup with fruit, then the next one-third of the cup with yogurt, and in the morning top with cereal. It’s perfect to eat while you walk to class,” Barber says.

Barber also recommends trying more fruit and vegetables since students typically don’t eat a wide variety: “The best place to try fruit and veggies is at the Trojan Farmers’ Market because they offer samples and students can ask the growers how to cook them.”

If cooking is not your forte or you simply can’t find the time to cook a balanced meal, then look for healthier options when you eat out.

Barber advises choosing whole grains, sweet potatoes, or brown rice, grilled – as opposed to fried – lean meats such as chicken or fish, and brightly colored vegetables.

In 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture released a nutritional guide called MyPlate (, which Barber suggests students follow and attempt to match the photo guide with their restaurant plates.

Barber also recommends that students not try to clean their plate and take the time to talk with friends and really taste the food.

“We eat to be satisfied, so savor the food to get that satisfaction,” she says.

To make an appointment with a registered dietitian, students should first make an appointment with their primary care physician to get a referral. To make an appointment, go to or call 213/740-9355.