Melissa Long is ready for questions about carrageenan. Just try to stump her with a concern about mono- and di-glycerides. This summer, Chautauqua Institution’s nutrition consultant is prepared to help everyone learn a little bit more about what’s in their food.

Melissa Long
Melissa Long

From delivering lectures at the Turner Community Center to providing counseling sessions throughout the summer, Long will focus on helping Chautauquans set fitness goals, discover new meal ideas and learn more about weight loss.

“Nutrition is so confusing in the fact that you’re being bombarded from all different angles by the media, by role models, professional athletes and magazines,” Long said. “You don’t really know what is true and what isn’t.”

The 2016 season will be the first in which Chautauqua has offered nutrition counseling to summer guests, though Long is no stranger to life on the grounds. Her parents came to Chautauqua when they were kids, and Long has worked here since joining the beach staff as a lifeguard in 2005.

“I miss being on the beach, sitting in the sun and that kind of thing,” she said. “But it was time.”

Long earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics before pursuing a master’s in nutrition science from Ohio University. She is also a licensed athletic trainer and works at Alfred University, teaching in the school’s athletic training program.

But at Chautauqua, Long said her role is to help guests navigate the world of nutrition and talk to them if they are confused about certain things. For example, she can answer questions about the daily percentage of sugar in certain food products, which is not included on most nutritional labels.

“It didn’t used to be that they needed to have a limit for sugar. Now, we’re finding that we do need a limit,” Long said. “They’re actually going to put the grams of added sugar on the new food labels, which they didn’t have before.”

Long can also advise guests on how to eat right during their summer in Chautauqua County and where to find healthy food options in the area. She suggested visiting many of the farmers markets and stopping at roadside food stands which offer locally grown produce.

Nearby towns such as Westfield, Lakewood and Fredonia all have farmer markets which supply healthy food options, in addition to the daily farmers market on the grounds at Chautauqua.

Many restaurants in the area purchase that local produce and include it on their menus, Long said, which is one of the great things about trying to eat healthy in a rural county.

“A lot of it is stepping outside your comfort zone and maybe trying food that you’re not used to,” Long said. “I bought fennel last week, and beets. I roast them and then I do things with them so they don’t taste like dirt. It’s not like Dwight on ‘The Office’ where I just bite into a raw beet or something like that.”

For questions about nutrition or more advice on healthy eating in Chautauqua County, contact the Turner Community Center to set up an appointment with Long, who is available through Aug. 12.