Fuel Up With Back-to-School Nutrition



With the start of the new school year, most of us college students are pressed for time and can be under a lot stress balancing new class schedules with other commitments, such as work, internships and club organizations. With so much happening and so much to do, healthy eating may be hard to prioritize and many of us may resort to fast food options or end up skipping meals. It is important to be aware of the proper nutrition your body needs, especially when school is starting. A healthy diet can give you energy and keep you focused to put you on the right track for a successful new quarter!


Use these tips to help you make healthful choices and meet your fitness goals to kick-start your fall quarter eating well and feeling your best!


  1. Drink Water

Water is your best choice for hydration. It is important to replenish your body’s water supply for proper muscle and brain function to help you bike and walk around campus and focus in class! Bring a reusable water bottle and remember to hydrate often! Other factors can influence how much water you need, such as activity level, climate, and health status. The weather can be extremely hot and dry in Davis so be sure you modify your fluid intake to ensure you are well hydrated so you do not run the risk of dehydration.


  1. Know Your Options on Campus

UC Davis Dining Services is recognized as a top award winning dining program for its efforts in creating and serving delicious and nutritious foods! Take advantage of the variety of nutritious options they offer and look for the Happy, Healthy Apples labeled on our menu signage and simply-to-go food items. These are designed to help you make healthy choices!


Download our mobile app Aggie Dish to stay connected with UC Davis Dining Services and receive updates on our menu, nutrition information, dining locations, daily deals and upcoming events!


  1. Pack Some Snacks

Keep a well-portioned snack in your backpack! Juggling a new schedule can make it difficult to determine when you’re going to have your next meal.  When hunger sneaks up on you, satisfy your hunger with having snacks on hand, such as a small handful (about ¼ cup) of nuts or piece of fruit. Nuts, fruits and vegetables make for great convenient snacks and can also provide a quick source of energy as well as fiber to help you beat hunger until your next meal. They also require little to no preparation! You can find fresh fruit and pre-cut veggies in the simply-to-go section of our various on-campus dining locations.


  1. Call the Nutrition Hotline

Have a questions about nutrition and wellness? Struggling to eat well as a college student? Call the Nutrition Hotline and meet the dietitian of UC Davis Dining Services, Linda Adams. She can help you with your nutrition concerns and determine your dietary needs for optimal health!


For information and consultation, call the Nutrition Hotline at (530) 752-9604 or email linda.adams@sodexo.com.

Nutrition Tips for Traveling

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Summer is a time whenmany students leave campus to travel, whether it is for a weeklong trip or a whole summer abroad touring Europe. It can be difficult to stay healthy while traveling because your normal routine is disrupted. You may not have a gym nearby or a kitchen stocked with healthy food. Never fear- the key to staying healthy while traveling is to plan ahead and get creative with what you have available at your destination.

Be Prepared

Always bring your own healthy meal on the plane, don’t rely on the airline for healthy options. Also, bring your own snacks like almonds, cranberries, carrots, and celery with nut butter.

Stay Hydrated

Drink A LOT of water while traveling, your skin and hair will thank you later. The air inside the cabin of a plane usually has a humidity level of 10 to 20 percent — much lower than a comfortable typical indoor humidity of 30 to 65 percent. Many suggest drinking eight ounces of water for every hour in the air. Try bringing your own tea bag on the plane as a healthy alternative to water.

Ask for Alternatives

At the hotel don’t be afraid to ask for a customized meal, especially when ordering room service, most of the time they will be accommodating. Order something delicious, fresh and healthy rather than fried or processed food that may be on the menu.

Remember Moderation

It’s easy to lose track of your health while on vacation because you want to eat and drink as much as you want. Feel free to indulge but keep portion size in mind, you don’t always have to eat everything on the plate. Some strategies include ordering half-sized portions, sharing entrees, , and take home leftovers if you have access to a refridgerator for food-safe storage.

Explore your Options

Google organic and healthy restaurants in your area and go on an adventure. With the new health kick trend in large cities there are so many great restaurants opening up that won’t necessarily be near your hotel. If you’re stuck with what is close-by, look for menu items that include vegetables and other plant foods.

Get Moving!

Going sightseeing and finding ways to stay active during your travels can help offset any extra calories you might consume. So go ahead and take that stroll after dinner, swim in the hotel pool, sign up for kayaking or paddle boarding, or go on that early morning hike or walk on the beach! Another tip is to pack a travel yoga mat and a jump rope. Look up videos of yoga or bodyweight exercises that you can perform in your hotel room. You can still get a good workout in with equipment that fits easily in your suitcase.

Do your have any tips for staying healthy while traveling? Share below!

High Calcium Foods


Calcium is a mineral necessary for normal bodily functions. Apart from calcium’s primary role in bone health, lesser amounts are needed for cell signaling, muscle contractions, nerve transmission, and blood clotting.

Having consistently low amounts of dietary calcium can lead to adverse health conditions such as osteoporosis later in life. Characterized by weak and porous bones, osteoporosis contributes to the risk of bone fractures. This develops over a long period of time because the body takes the calcium it needs at any one time from bones when dietary intake is not sufficient to maintain normal biological functions. You can aid in preventing this chronic disease through regular physical activity and a healthy diet rich in calcium.

The recommendation for people from 19 to 50 years old is 1000 mg of calcium per day, as established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Below are some foods rich in calcium that can help meet this recommendation:


Milk is a great choice because of its high calcium content (30% DV) per one cup serving. It’s better to opt for low-fat or fat-free milk, rather than full-fat, as reducing the fat content has no effect on calcium content of the milk. Fat in dairy products is a saturated, animal fat. Guidelines are to limit saturated fat intake to mo greater than 10% of calories each day. Not only is dairy a good source of calcium, but is usually also a good source of protein. Milk provides a substantial 8g of protein per one cup serving.

For those who are lactose-intolerant or do not like the taste of milk, almond milk usually provides 20-45% DV calcium and soy milk provides 30-45% DV calcium, depending on the brand purchased.


Cheese is another great option, but be careful of its high saturated fat content – these are best consumed sparingly. Its wide range of flavors can be easily incorporated into many recipes, whether it’s used ina quiche,sprinkled on a salad or inside a sandwich. Cheeses that have no flavors added or are not processed are naturally gluten-free. According to the Natural Dairy Council, swiss, cheddar, ricotta, and Colby cheeses are higher in calcium than other kinds of cheese. A one ounce slice (28g) of swiss cheese provides 22% DV of calcium and 8g of protein. A one ounce slice (28g) of cheddar cheese provides 20%DV of calcium and 7g of protein. There is an interesting fact sheet here by the National Dairy Council.

Check out this light baked macaroni and cheese recipe. To make it even healthier, use whole wheat pasta opt for fat-free milk instead of 1%.


Tofu, which is made from soybeans, is also a good source of calcium, though the exact amount can vary widely according to the way it is produced. There are different “firmnesses” of tofu, ranging from silken to soft to firm to extra firm.. The difference in firmness is created during the manufacturing process when water is pressed out of the tofu. More water extracted from tofu leads to a harder and denser tofu, while less water extracted leads to a softer texture. Apart from personal preferences, different firmness of tofu should be used for different recipes. For instance, an extra firm tofu should be used for stir frys so the tofu does not break apart during cooking. Silken tofus can be used if the tofu needs to be blended.

Be versatile and try creating a chocolate tofu mousse with silken tofu here. Unconventional and quick, this recipe is a healthier alternative to traditional mousse because it has more protein and less fat.


Some vegetables also contain calcium. Kale, a leafy green, contains more calcium than other vegetables, with 9% DV of calcium and only 33 calories per one cup serving. Kale is also an excellent source of vitamin A (contains 206% DV) and vitamin C (contains 134% DV). Adequate amounts of vitamin A are necessary to prevent night blindness in individuals and vitamin C protects the body via antioxidant functions.

Though kale has a deep and sometimes bitter flavor, it can still be incorporated into any fruit smoothie by adding between a half to one cup (don’t forget to separate the “leaves” from the stem and ribs!) during the blending process. Another great idea is roasted kale chips, lightly seasoned with salt and grated cheese.

Other veggies containing smaller amounts of calcium that adds up over a days intake, include broccoli, dry beans, peas, and lentils.

By Esther Chen, Clinical Nutrition Student

Best Foods for Pre and Post Workout


Muscle strength is important for everyday activities, good posture, weight management, injury prevention, and can help prevent and improve chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol (LiveStrong). We tend to solely focus on exercise when we are tying to gain muscle, but proper nutrition is equally as important. Nutritious foods provide the energy and the building blocks for muscle building.

To reach maximum potential, specific foods should be eaten at specific times before and after exercising. The timing of the foods is significant since your body undergoes two stages during and after you exercise: a catabolic (break down) stage and an anabolic (build up) stage. In order to build muscle, your body must build more protein than it breaks down.


The catabolic stage occurs during your workout. Catabolism is the process of breaking down larger substances into smaller substances. During the catabolic stage, glycogen is broken down into glucose and, once your glycogen runs out, proteins are broken down into amino acids to be used as energy. Glycogen is stored glucose. Glucose is a sugar found in carbohydrates that provides the necessary energy for nearly all of your bodily functions. When you have excess glucose, your body releases insulin to store the glucose as glycogen in your muscles and liver. Amino acids are the small units that make up proteins.


The purpose of a pre-workout meal or snack is to give your body enough fuel to train as hard or as long as your body really can. You will have greater endurance and stamina if you are properly fueled. A meal should be consumed 1-2 hours before exercising or, if you get hungry, a light snack can be consumed 30-minutes to 1-hour prior. This meal or snack should always be low in fat; fat digests the slowest and can cause indigestion, nausea, or heartburn. A mixture of high carbohydrate and low protein is ideal – in either liquid or solid form. If you are consuming a shake, optional additions are: creatine, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and leucine.

Carbohydrates (whole grains, fruit, and vegetables) are key as they provide your body with glucose (energy).

Proteins (meat, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds) have been shown to be beneficial pre-workout, particularly for speeding up the synthesis (making) of protein (SF Gate).

Whey and soy protein powders have been shown to increase strength and lean body mass when compared to a placebo group, but the protein powders were consumed before and after the workouts so it is unclear which made the impact. (Candow)

Leucine is an amino acid that takes part in the synthesis of proteins. It has been shown to have the greatest effect on protein synthesis out of all of the amino acids (BodyBuilding).

Caffeine taken 1 hour before exercise has shown to reduce pain and improve endurance, both making the workout seem easier and thus allowing you to work harder and/or longer (Mercola). Be wary of consuming too much caffeine if you workout later in the day – it can interfere with your sleep, which then interferes with your muscle recovery, amongst other things. Caffeine is best for those who exercise in the mornings.

Creatine is made in the liver and kidney and helps supply energy to the body and promotes the formation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Creatine has been show to increase fat-free mass and strength. (Volek)

Water is often overlooked, but it is important to stay hydrated throughout your day, up until your workout. Drinking excess water during exercise can cause cramping, but if you are properly hydrated beforehand this will be less of an issue. Do drink whenever thirsty while exercising to prevent dehydration.





The anabolic stage occurs after your workout. Anabolism is the process of building larger substances from smaller substances, like proteins from amino acids. Your muscles are composed of proteins and thus need amino acids to be built. Your body cannot produce all twenty amino acids on its own; there are nine amino acids that must be obtained from external protein sources.


The purpose of the post-workout meal is to replenish the body with the proper nutrients to energize and rebuild proteins. The meal or snack must be consumed within 30-45 minutes post workout; evidence has shown that food consumed any later will not promote the same benefits (Chambers et al).

The foods and supplements for the anabolic stage are relatively similar to those for the catabolic stage, but more protein and less carbohydrate should be consumed post-workout than pre-workout. The nutrients from liquid meals are absorbed quicker than from solid foods, hence the popularity of post-workout shakes and smoothies. However, eating a balanced meal after you exercise should provide adequate nutrition.

Carbohydrates restock your glycogen stores and provide your muscles with enough energy to rebuild.

Protein replenishes your body with essential amino acids for protein synthesis.

Leucine has been to shown to be essential for protein synthesis (Koopman et al)

Whey protein is absorbed by your body the quickest and is therefore a common choice. However, whey, soy, and pea protein have all been proven to have a positive effect on muscle building (Candow ; Babault et al).

Creatine has been show to increase fat-free mass and strength. (Volek)

Water is crucial for preventing fatigue and muscle aches! Don’t forget to drink up.




Vegetarian Substitutes


Many people think twice about adopting a vegetarian diet because they believe it is inconvenient to eliminate meat from their everyday diets. Although meat and fish consumption is generally encouraged in moderate amounts, there are still a variety of plant-based alternatives that can be used as substitutes for those who do wish to eliminate or reduce meat consumption due to health or personal reasons.

Below are some commonly found foods that can substitute for popular meat items, like meatballs, burgers, and more:


While tofu is a popular product, it should not be confused with tempeh. While both are derived from soybeans and are excellent sources of protein (tofu provides 40%DV protein per one cup serving, while tempeh provides 62%DV), the two differ in how they are produced and both vary in taste – tempeh is less processed and carries a stronger flavor (see here for a more complete breakdown of the two).

Tempeh contains a significant amount of calcium and iron (18%DV and 25%DV, respectively), and is rich in minerals manganese and phosphorus. Studies have shown that low manganese intake may be linked with bone malformation and signs of manganese deficiency include poor eyesight, memory loss, and muscle tremors. Similarly, studies indicate that phosphorus (in conjunction with calcium) is necessary for optimal bone and teeth health. Tempeh’s dense texture makes it a perfect substitute for meats.

Check out these recipes for easy tempeh meatballs or an even simpler BBQ tempeh. Alternatively, the sweet and sour sauce from the tempeh meatball recipe can be omitted and the tempeh meatballs can be added to any pasta sauce for versatility.


Lentils, like peas, are part of the legume family and come in a variety of color (the most common are green, brown, and red). Due to their small size, lentils (unlike other legumes) do not to be pre-soaked before cooking – their small size allows them to be cooked quickly and with ease. Furthermore, because lentils are purchased dried, they are said to have an “indefinite” shelf life when properly stored in an air-tight container, away from heat and moisture.

One cup of cooked lentils provides 63%DV of fiber and 18 grams, or 36%DV, of protein. Lentils are also an excellent source of vitamins folate and thiamin, and minerals manganese, phosphorus, and iron. Folate is a form of vitamin B and is necessary for proper liver, skin, and eye health. Adequate folate intake may aid in the prevention of osteoporosis, age-related macular degeneration, depression, and sleep issues, among other conditions. Thiamin is also a form of vitamin B (there are 8 B vitamins total!) and thiamin deficiency has been linked with dementia in Wernicke-Korsakoff disorder, a brain disorder characterized by nerve damage and memory issues.

Craving burgers? Check out this lentil hamburger recipe here! While this recipe falls more on the challenging side, there are also commercial brands of lentil and bean-based patties that are frequently sold in stores.

Mock/Soy Meats

For the busy person or those who favor convenience above all, there are many brands of mock meats commonly found in grocery stores. The ingredients these mock meats consist of vary from brand to brand, although most are made from either soy or grains. A few of the more popular products include: Gardein Beefless Tips, MorningStar Farms Sausage Patties, Boca Burgers, and Garden Malibu Vegan Burgers.

Prep for these commercial “meats” are simple, as most are already cooked.

Although plant-based foods lack some of the essential nutrients that meats and seafood provide, plant-based alternatives are naturally void of cholesterol and saturated fat and may be a good substitute for those wishing to decrease cholesterol or saturated fat intake (some meats, like beef, are high in both).

What meat substitutes do you most commonly use? Feel free to comment below!

By Esther Chen, Clinical Nutrition Student

Decoding Sugar and Sweeteners


We need sugars from whole, unrefined foods like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables because they are actually essential as brain food. Unfortunately, much of the food found in stores and restaurants today contain added sugars from other sources. Let’s focus on understanding the sweeteners added to convenience foods. This is where you can make a positive change.

There are five categories: Modified Sugars, High-intensity Sweeteners, Sugar Alcohols, Natural Caloric Sweeteners, and Natural Zero Caloric Sweeteners. Within each we’ll look at appropriate uses and any cautions with overuse.


Uses: Found naturally in whole foods (whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables).

Benefits: Glucose is the body’s main source of energy. Glucose is vital! The digestion of carbohydrates produces glucose, which our bodies use to produce a form of energy called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is like the gas in our cars, it feeds our brains and runs nearly all of our bodily functions; without it we would be stuck motionless.

Warnings: Glucose is necessary for everyone, however some people do not properly metabolize glucose and must carefully track the foods they consume to avoid over-consumption of glucose. When carbohydrates are broken down in the digestive tract, glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream. We don’t want too much or too little sugar in our bloodstream, so to stabilize our blood sugar level we produce insulin. Insulin allows our cells to use the consumed glucose immediately if needed, to store the consumed glucose when we have too much sugar in our blood, or to use our stored glucose when our blood sugar levels are too low. People with impaired glucose metabolism may produce too much insulin, not enough, or may not respond to the insulin produced.


Uses: Found naturally in fruit and as an additive in processed and prepackaged foods.

Benefits: Low glycemic index – does not lead to a huge spike in one’s blood sugar level, which is beneficial for someone with impaired glucose metabolism like a diabetic.

Warnings: Fructose is metabolized in the liver and is stored as fat if not needed immediately for energy. According to Harvard Medical School, fructose puts strain on the liver when consumed in excess, increases the concentration of triglycerides (the fat in our blood), makes tissues insulin-resistant, increases blood pressure, and elevates the production of free radicals. Excess intake of fructose, as suggested by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, has also been linked to obesity, heart disease, and higher levels of uric acid (which can cause gout).


Also known as sugar, white sugar, table sugar, granulated sugar, Sugar in the Raw, Turbinado, evaporated cane juice

Uses: Baked and cooked foods, processed foods, beverages

Benefits: Provides quick joust of energy. Raw sucrose contains minimal nutrients, but most of the sugar consumed today is highly refined, effectively removing all nutritive value.

Warnings: Sucrose consists of from 50% glucose and 50% fructose. All of the concerns with fructose apply to sucrose as well. Excessive intake of refined sugar has been linked to many health problems like high blood sugar, obesity, type II diabetes, gallstones, osteoporosis, heart disease, tooth decay, and feelings of lethargy or fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and depression. Some scientists have even declared sucrose a drug, similar to that of cocaine (more on that here).


Sugar alcohols are a carbohydrate typically derived from berries or other fruits, corn, or seaweed that are changed in a chemical process.


Uses: Found in diet and “light” beverages, sugar-free chewing gum, diabetic candies, dried fruit, and toothpaste.

Benefits: Does not cause as great an insulin rush as sucrose; Commonly used in sugar free products marketed to people with impaired glucose metabolism or Diabetes. Does not cause tooth decay

Warnings: Sorbitol is known to have laxative effects, cause bloating, diarrhea, gas, and, sometimes, abdominal pain when consumed in large amounts. Not recommended for anyone with sensitive digestion and/or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Consume in moderation.


Also known as Miracle Sweet, Nature’s Provisions, XyloSweet, XyloPure

Uses: Found in most of the same products as sorbitol – sorbitol is more commonly used as it is cheaper. Xylitol is also used in some medicines.

Benefits: Low in calories; Does not cause tooth decay; Occurs naturally in very small amounts in birch wood, vegetables, and fruit.

Warnings: The same as those for sorbitol – should not be consumed in large quantities due to a laxative effect; consume in moderation.


Uses: Found in chocolate most commonly.

Benefits: Lower in calories than sucrose, by almost half (2.1 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram); Does not cause tooth decay.

Warnings: The same as for sorbitol and xylitol; it has been shown to cause abdominal pain, flatulence, and diarrhea when eaten in large amounts. Consume in moderation.


Also known as Zerose, ZSweet

Uses: Can be used for baking

Benefits: Low in calories; Low glycemic index; Does not cause tooth decay

Warnings: If consumed in large quantities, could have similar side effects as the other sugar alcohols. However, erythritol appears to be the safest of them all as it is not metabolized in the stomach but rather partially absorbed in the intestines after fermentation, leading to the lowest possibility of discomfort. Consume in moderation.


Uses: Found in chocolate, ice creams, pastries, chewing gum, and candies.

Benefits: Low in calories; Does not cause tooth decay.

Warnings: Lactitol can cause digestive discomfort like the other sugar alcohols, which include abdominal pain, flatulence, and diarrhea. Consume in moderation. 


Defined as a sugar that is produced from the modification of starch by the use of enzymes.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Also referred to as corn syrup or fructose on food labels

Uses: Produced from field corn through a chemical process and found in many processed and prepackaged foods and beverages.

Bonuses: None

Warnings: HFCS is made from modified corn starch and during its manufacturing it may be contaminated with mercury. HFCS has high levels of fructose. All of the concerns with fructose are of most concern in relation to HFCS since HFCS 55, found in soft drinks, contains 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Fruit contains a ratio of 50/50 of fructose and glucose and the balance, with fruits’ fiber and nutrients, eliminates any concerns of excess fructose when consumed from whole fruit. This cannot be said for HFCS.


Uses: Found in processed and prepackaged foods and beverages, including ice cream, desserts, salad dressings, and condiments. Used as a sweetener or for color or for both.

Benefits: None

Warnings: Caramel is made by heating table sugar to 170 degrees Celsius, therefore it holds the same warnings as sucrose.

Golden Syrup

Uses: Found in desserts.

Benefits: None

Warnings: It is a byproduct of refined sugar and therefore has the same cautions as sucrose.


Defined as an FDA-approved sugar substitute with a high level of sweetness but, typically, a low glycemic index. To imitate the sweetness of sucrose, high-intensity sweeteners are often used in very small amounts and sometimes mixed with dextrose or maltodextrin.


Also known as NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin

Uses: Found in soda, sugar-free chewing gum, mints, cereals, shake mixes, juices, tea, coffee, and many more. Sold under the names of NutraSweet® and Equal®.

Bonuses: Zero calories; Zero glycemic index

Warnings: Although studies have not been strictly “conclusive”, many studies were on the verge of proving a link between aspartame and brain and bladder cancer, birth defects, seizures and epilepsy, diabetes, and emotional disorders but studies were stopped due to issues with the data or severe reactions to the sweetener.

More on aspartame can be found here and there is a video on it here.


Also known as Sweet N’ Low, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet

Uses: Found in drinks, candies, cookies, medicines, and toothpaste.

Bonuses: Zero calories; Zero glycemic index; does not promote tooth decay.

Warnings: According to ScienceNews.org on a scientific report published by Jotham Suez et al in 2014, saccharine impairs “glucose metabolism, a warning sign for type 2 diabetes”. Glucose metabolism is also important just for our everyday energy supply, so this could be problematic. Saccharine has been found to cause cancer in lab rats. Under the Delaney Clause (provision in the Food Additives Amendment, 1958) which states that any chemical used in food that is found to cause cancer in humans or lab animals should not be approved by the FDA, saccharine should be declared as unsafe, however it is still in use today.


Also known as Splenda

Uses: Beverages

Benefits: Low glycemic index and caloric value

Warnings: One study by the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found that sucralose reduces the amount of good bacteria in our intestines by 50% and increases the pH level in our intestines, both of which could lead to an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, poor digestion, and a weak immune system. In 2013, the Center for Science in the Public Interest degraded sucralose from “Safe” to “Caution” once they reviewed an unpublished study that provided evidence against the safety of sucralose. The data showed a link between sucralose and leukemia in mice.


Natural caloric sweeteners are natural sweeteners that contain nutritional value.


Uses: Baked goods, tea, coffee, as a spread, etc.

Benefits: Does not contain any chemicals since it is produced by bees! Honey may have medicinal and antibacterial properties, soothes sore throats, and possibly promotes faster recovery from the flu. Local honey specifically is thought to relieve allergy symptoms.

Warnings: Honey can contain up to 50% fructose. If eaten in large amounts, the concerns are the same as those for table sugar. Consume in moderation.

NOTE: When buying honey, look for labels that read “natural honey” and check the ingredients. There is artificial honey made from heated refined sugar and some can have additional sweeteners.

Maple Syrup

Uses: Baked goods, ice cream, on top of pancakes or waffles, etc.

Benefits: Maple syrup is extracted from the sap of maple trees. Maple syrup contains zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, and antioxidants. It also causes a slower rise in blood sugar than sucrose. Does not contain any chemicals.

Warnings: Although maple syrup has some nutritional value, it has a very high sugar content. Therefore, consume in moderation to prevent the adverse effects linked to high intakes of sugar.

NOTE: When buying maple syrup, look for labels that read “Pure Maple Syrup” rather than “Maple-Flavored Syrup”. These are not the same. Maple-flavored syrup does not come from the sap of trees, but rather from other sweeteners, and does not contain the same nutritive value.

If you’re curious on how to make maple syrup, this is a neat video.

Agave Syrup

Also known as Agave Nectar

Uses: Similar to any syrup – used in beverages and in cooked and baked goods.

Benefits: Agave is made from the same plant as tequila. The nectar in its natural state has fructans, which the British Journal of Nutrition declared as having “promising effects on glucose metabolism, body weight, and fat mass development”.

Warnings: Agave nectar is turned into agave syrup through a refining process, during which the fructans break down into fructose. This increases the sugar content of the syrup. Agave syrup is 85% fructose, which makes it the most fructose rich of all the sweeteners. Therefore, the same caution taken with sucrose must be taken with agave syrup

Sorghum Syrup

Uses: Uses are similar to those of maple syrup.

Benefits: Sorghum syrup is made from the sap of sweet sorghum, originally from Africa. It contains calcium, protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and riboflavin.

Warnings: High in sugar and has a high glycemic index. The same concerns apply as those for         table sugar.

Coconut Palm Sugar

Also referred to as just coconut sugar

Uses: Baked goods, beverages, chocolate, etc.

Benefits: Coconut Palm Sugar is made from the sap of coconut palm trees and contains some levels of magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, polyphenols, and antioxidants. It also has a low glycemic index and does not contain any chemicals.

Warnings: Coconut palm sugar is 70-79% sucrose and since sucrose is half fructose, this means it is very high in fructose, which poses potential health issues like those of table sugar.

Palm Sugar

Uses: Used most often in southeast Asian recipes, but it is appearing in North America as a replacement for sucrose in cooking and baking.

Benefits: Palm sugar is made from the sap of a sugar palm tree. There have been some claims made on its medicinal effects, but nothing conclusive. Low glycemic index. Does not contain any chemicals.

Warnings: Palm sugar is not much different than the typical table sugar we use. The same concerns apply.


Natural zero caloric sweeteners are not carbohydrates and do not contain any calories.


Also known as SweetLeaf, Truvia, PureVia, Rebiana

Uses: Beverages, baked and cooked foods.

Benefits: Stevia is a plant grown in South America. It has a zero glycemic index.

Warnings: The sweetener itself is highly refined, which could cause concern for some. Some varieties of stevia have shown to have adverse effects in animals, but the varieties sold in the U.S. do not appear to be of any concern.

Monk Fruit

True name:  Luo Han Guo

Uses: Beverages and cooked foods.

Benefits: Luo Han Guo is a plant native to China and has been used there for its proposed medicinal properties for hundreds of years. It is used for respiratory ailments and sore throats.

Warnings: No known concerns.


Read ingredient lists! There are tons of different sweeteners, most of which should not be consumed in large amounts, especially artificial sweeteners and modified sugars. Even though most- but not all- of these sweeteners have only been shown to cause harmful effects if eaten in excess, why take the risk? It’s not worth it. Instead of buying processed foods full of additives, make your own version at home with whole foods. Fruits are amazing natural beauties that are both sweet and beneficial for the body and thus are the best sweeteners to use in baking or cooking. Try using bananas, plantains, apples, applesauce, or dates the next time you’re craving a sweet treat.

Here are some incredible recipes that give those refined foods a run for their money:

And if you really do need just a little something extra, use some honey or maple syrup in moderation since they do have more nutritional value than the other sweeteners. BUT remember that their nutritive value is minimal and does not mean you can eat crazy amounts – they’re still high in sugar and must be consumed in moderation!

Here are some creative ways to use honey or maple syrup:

If you are looking for a sweetener to cook and bake with that has a low glycemic index, experiment with one of the sugar alcohols or the natural zero caloric sweeteners. And although they are low in calories, be conscientious of how much you consume – moderation should still be applied.

Here are a few fun recipes:

You can replace sugar with Stevia in any of your favorite recipes with this conversion

Xylitol can replace sugar in a 1:1 ratio

In regards to all of the sweeteners: remember to be kind to your sweet self, nourish with nature, and exercise balance.

By Giulia Tondo, Clinical Nutrition Student

Fresh Spring Recipes

spring recipes

Spring is associated with more than just Kleenex, pollen, and runny noses. The season “spring” runs from March to May and is prime time for many fruits and vegetables due to the warmer and milder environmental conditions. Though the exact times of planting and harvesting can vary greatly due to the geography, precipitation, and average temperature of the location, spring months in California are especially good for these delicious foods below:



In California, strawberries are grown from January to November, with the prime of its harvest from April until June. Strawberries are a good choice since they contain more vitamin C than other berries and also contain folate and the minerals manganese, potassium, and magnesium, among others. Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is one of the B vitamins that assist the body in converting carbohydrates into glucose for energy and are essential for liver, skin, and eye health. There are some studies that indicate that folate may reduce the risk of heart disease, although this evidence is not yet conclusive. The vitamin C present in strawberries aids the body in battling infectious agents and harmful free radicals. Ripe strawberries will be a bright, ruby red – avoid strawberries that are too dark (overly ripe) in color if you wish to store them for more than two days.

Enjoy strawberries in a more natural form as frozen strawberry pops. This quick and hassle-free recipe is in perfect timing for Davis’s hot weather just around the corner. Add thin slices of strawberry to each popsicle for a nice aesthetic look. Alternatively, chunks of other fruits, like raspberries or blueberries, can be added as well.



Asparagus, though native to the eastern Mediterranean area, gained popularity among royalty in France and England in the 16th century and was later introduced to America by subsequent colonists. Coined the “Food of Kings”, a half cup of chopped asparagus contains 57% of the daily value of vitamin K, which aids in blood clotting to stop excessive bleeding. Vitamin K may also play a role bone health by promoting bone formation inside the body.

The same serving of asparagus also contains 18% of the daily value of vitamin A. There are two kinds of vitamin A – retinoids and carotenoids (the latter being found in plants). Beta-carotene, a carotenoid, is an antioxidant which reduces inflammatory action inside the body. Furthermore, some studies have indicated that obtaining vitamin A through dietary supplements may not have the same beneficial effects as obtaining it through natural food sources.

Asparagus can be included as part of a simple and healthy breakfast here.



Though artichokes can generally be found year-round, their peak season is also from March to May. Just one-half cup of artichoke hearts (the inside of the artichoke) contains seven grams of fiber and two grams of protein. The water-insoluble fiber in vegetables is beneficial in helping prevent constipation and promote health of the digestive tract, and is linked with decreasing risk of gastrointestinal diseases or cancers. The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume 25g of fiber daily, while men need 38g daily. Thus, just a half cup of artichoke hearts fulfills a substantial amount of this requirement. A half-cup also contains 19% of the daily value of folate and 16% of the daily value of vitamin K.

How do you know if an artichoke is ripe? The leaves of the artichoke should cling to each other and not be loose to touch – leaves that are loose can cause the artichoke to lose its flavor. Fresh artichokes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Don’t worry if you’ve never cooked with artichoke before- canned artichokes (which contain almost the same amount of nutrients as fresh ones) can work well also. Check out this artichoke dip recipe that can be paired with multigrain tortilla chips as a delicious snack.

For ingredients for these recipes and more, head to the UC Davis Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays from 11-1 on the quad!

What other fruits and vegetables do you love to eat in the spring? Comment below!

By Esther Chen, Clinical Nutrition Student