The Slender Student

The Slender Student

Meet a Panera Bread fan who’s inspiring a new generation of taste-conscious food lovers to eat right.

When Claire Siegel spent her junior year of college in Barcelona, Spain, indulging in good food and wine helped her pack on 10 pounds. Not the souvenir she expected to take back to the University of Texas at Austin, where she’s now a senior. Thinking that she’d certainly be able to find an online resource for college students looking to lose weight and get back in shape, she started searching the Web—and came up empty.

That’s when she hit on the idea of starting a blog. And so The Slender Student was born, and Siegel began writing publicly about her efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “I was nervous to put myself out there,” says Siegel, who’s studying to be a registered dietitian. But the response has been positive: “I got a message from a girl I knew in middle school, who said I’d inspired her. It’s rewarding to find that what I’m doing is useful.” 

What she’s doing is sharing recipes—either ones she’s found tasty and healthful, or ones she’s created and tested herself, such as Slender Stir Fry and Dark Chocolate Energy Bites, slimmed-down versions of favorite foods. (Find her recipes at She also blogs about workout ideas and offers healthy-living tips in posts she calls Slender Sweet Nothings. 

Siegel’s always been interested in cooking, her favorite creative outlet. That and her experience as an overweight child—she was on Weight Watchers as a teenager and had met with dietitians—have definitely had a big impact on her chosen career. She hopes, after completing her degree and working clinically as a registered dietitian, to go back to the college life—this time helping students get and stay healthy. “Students need a health and nutrition resource they can trust,” she says. 

One thing college students do frequently, of course, is eat out, and Siegel has tips to keep her peers’ social lives from derailing efforts to eat healthfully and mindfully. Panera’s You Pick Two® menu is her own go-to choice when dining out (she consistently orders the Low-Fat All-Natural Chicken Noodle Soup and Asian Sesame Chicken Salad), and it reflects one of her favorite restaurant tips: find a place that has a preponderance of easy, options, and you’re good to go. 

Her other dine-out tips: 

  • Research first. There’s no reason to be blindsided by a menu; check out choices online, review items, and plan your order ahead.
  • Speak up. Request dressings on the side or ask that items be grilled rather than panfried. 
  • Pare portions. Obviously you’re not going to tote a scale to a restaurant, but you can eyeball items for ideal portion sizes; a piece of meat, for example, should be about the size of your palm. Ask to have extras wrapped up.