So what’s the deal? You seem to hear and see these three letters at every grocery store or farmers market out there. But what does “GMO” even stand for? Or better yet, what do these three letters even mean?

And, oh my goodness! Why is everyone, especially those in this video, so hyped up about it?

 Well, let me lay it out for you all. First, “GMO” stands for:

 Genetically Modified Organisms

 *Side note: GMOs are also known as Biotech or Genetically Engineered


To some, this may sound pretty scary, huh?

But before we get into whatever pros and cons you may have heard from your friends, let’s also look at the definition of a GMO.

According to the FDA, GMO refers to the alteration of a plant’s “traits and characteristics… to enhance the growth and nutritional profile.”

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?


Here’s a quick list of why GMO foods are “good”:

  • Allows crops to be resistant to pests, herbicides, and disease
    • For example, Monsanto developed a type of soybean that is herbicide (weed killer) resistant. This way, farmers gain a larger crop yield.
  • Weather, such as drought, tolerance
    • Antifreeze genes from cold-water fish can now be implemented into crops to help them withstand colder temperatures that would normally kill them off.
  • Expanded food supply
    • As malnutrition continues to be an ongoing problem in third world countries, scientists behind GM crops have successfully added Vitamin A to rice, also known as “golden rice”.

Now here’s a list of why GMO foods are “bad”:

  • Present new allergens
    • Since the 1990s, when GMO crops were first introduced, the rate of Americans who developed chronic diseases and food allergies greatly increased.
  • Development of “super” weeds
    • GMO crops were developed to protect plants from herbicides. Over time, weeds become resistant to these herbicides, pushing farmers to spray more potent and more toxic herbicides on their crops.
  • Decrease in Antibiotic Effectiveness
    • Some GMO crops are engineered to have antibiotic characteristics. When consumed, this characteristic carries on in our bodies and can cause antibiotic medicine to become less effective.

With these pros & cons at hand (in addition to the many others out there), it is ultimately up to you as a consumer to choose what type of produce you want to buy.

If you are concerned about GMOs keep an eye out for Non-GMO Project’s special label (shown below) on products in your grocery market.

In addition, as non-GMO/ “organic” products tend to be a bit pricier, here are some helpful tips to buying such products.




Image: Documentary about the GMO Industry

by Janelle Marzano (Sustainability and Nutrition Intern)

Breakfast in Under 10 Minutes


Even if you’re short on time, it is possible to eat a tasty and healthy breakfast every morning. It takes just 10 minutes to prepare one of these breakfasts. There are plenty of options for wholesome breakfast foods in healthy food stores such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but sometimes it’s so much more fun to create your own combinations of food and come up with something that you will not find anywhere else but your own kitchen.  A healthy breakfast will help boost your metabolism and help avoid weight gain; people who eat a nutritious breakfast regularly are more likely to incorporate the recommended intake of vitamins and minerals to their diet and tend not to overeat later on during the day. When you’re planning to spend your day at school or work, there’s nothing better than filling your body with wonderful nutrients that will give you energy, better concentration and an overall good mood.

It takes just 10 minutes to prepare one of these tasty breakfasts:

Overnight oatmeal

Overnight Oatmeal: Overnight oats is a great option if you have limited time in the mornings. Simply combine oats, milk, and your choice of other ingredients to a bowl or a jar and cover and place in the fridge overnight. In the morning, give it a stir and enjoy it cold, or heat it up in the microwave if you prefer it warm. Try this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats, perfect for fall mornings.


Super-Fast Smoothies: The best part about smoothies is that they require zero cook time! Make smoothie packs for quick breakfasts: Split two 1-lb. bags of frozen fruit among six quart-size resealable plastic bags. Add half a peeled banana to each, seal, date, and freeze. On a busy morning you can just dump one into a blender with milk or juice. Add whey protein powder for an extra boost post workout.

Breakfast Polenta

Breakfast Polenta: A great alternative to oatmeal, this breakfast is also great for before and after a workout. This breakfast polenta is gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly, and the perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates. Top with slivered almonds and dried fruit.


Avocado Tartine: This is an easy way to dress up simple avocado and toast to make it more delicious. Slice a fresh avocado, place it on a piece of toast, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and enjoy! Other ingredients that could be added include hot sauce, an egg, or smoked salmon.

protein pancakes

Protein Pancakes: What better breakfast than delicious fluffy pancakes? This pancake recipe is a satisfying 350-calorie breakfast that contains 33 grams of protein to give you a jumpstart on the day. You can even make a large batch and store them in the freezer to heat up quickly in the morning.

breakfast boat

Tropical Breakfast Boat: Cut 1 ripe papaya half and discard the seeds. Fill the papaya half with a large scoop of plain Greek yogurt, raw oats, coconut flakes, goji berries, cacao nibs, mulberries, cinnamon, and chia seeds. Optional: squeeze some lime on top.

quinoa scramble

Quinoa Scramble: This satisfying, vitamin-packed quinoa spinach scramble is simple and quick to prepare. If you have cooked quinoa on hand, it takes less 10 minutes to cook, making it a great before-school breakfast.

Eating on campus? Check out the omelet bar at the UC Davis Dining Commons, which features an SPE Certified omelet option every day at breakfast.

Superfoods: Going Green 101


What’s so important about eating your leafy greens? First, they provide us with the most phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are natural chemicals that are found in plants. These chemicals guard plants from harm, such as pests and UV rays. But they do not just benefit the plant itself; they benefit those who eat the plant as well!

Greens whose leaves grow separately off a stalk, rather within a bunch, are much more phytonutrient-dense. This is because the leaves are more exposed to the environment and must develop an abundant amount of phytonutrients for survival.

Here are some of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens you should include to your diet!



Crazy for kale? Don’t worry. The rest of the world seems to be too. It is no surprise how popular this leafy green has gotten these past few years. What makes kale so super you may ask? Well, kale is very high in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that keeps your skin and eyes healthy. It also contains Vitamin K, which helps transport calcium throughout your body to enhance the strength of your bones.

You can toss them in your stir-fry meal/salad or add to your post-workout smoothie. As a study break snack, you can even munch on some delicious kale chips.

Dandelion Leaves

Dandelion Leaves

 We’ve all seen them before, the common weed with the yellow flowers and the fluffy seed balls. As the dandelion may be a large nuisance in the garden, it is an underrated, nutrient-rich leafy green in the kitchen.

Dandelion leaves are full of essential minerals such as potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous. Additionally, one cup of cooked dandelion provides you with 15% of your daily calcium value. (That’s more than spinach!).

I enjoy tossing dandelion leaves in my salads. But they are just as tasty in sandwiches and pastas. Note: The leaves have a strong flavor, use cautiously. Start with small amounts.


Chard Mm, chard. It’s probably my favorite leafy green out there. One reason? They come in a variety of beautiful colors that add vibrant life to any meal you add them to.

Another reason would be chard’s richness of Vitamin C; about 1 cup provides you with 33% of your daily value. In addition, chard contains syringic acid, a phytonutrient that helps regulate blood sugar. Other nutritional properties of chard include high amounts of Vitamin K (<500%) and A (<50%).

(*Note: another leaf that’s just as tasty and nutrient dense is Collard)

Here is a super simple, yet tasty chard recipe that only uses 4 ingredients!

For a more daring soul, this curry recipe is golden.




The last on our list of green superfoods does not take a leafy form. Instead, it is derived from a type of algae and is bought as a powder. The wonders of spirulina are endless.

First, it is about 65% complete protein, which makes it one of Earth’s most protein packed plant (Vegetarians, take note!). Second, it is rich in chlorophyll, a strong detoxifying agent. Lastly, spirulina is rich in beta-carotene, antioxidants, and many other important minerals.

The best way to benefit from this superfood is by adding a teaspoon to your smoothies. This smoothie includes kale, creating a delicious superfood duo!

-Janelle Marzano, Sustainability and Nutrition Intern

Finals Week Survival Guide



No sleep, caffeine overload, sweats and flip-flops. It’s that time of the quarter again.

Even though in a week we’ll be enjoying the sweet taste of summer vacation and, for some of us, graduation, there’s one last hurdle we all have to get over. You probably guessed it, the daunting week of finals! Many of us associate Finals Week with eating fast food and down energy drinks. Let’s take a step back, though, to see how food choices can affect how well we study.


During Finals Week we all need that boost of energy while we study, but it’s important to realize not all caffeinated drinks are created equal. Instead of grabbing an energy drink, which contains sugar and empty calories, try drinking Matcha green tea or brewed coffee instead. These beverages don’t have a lot of sugar and empty calories plus they may offer natural health benefits.  Keep in mind that 200-300 mg of caffeine is considered a healthy, moderate level.


  • 92mg caffeine per 8 fl oz
  • 100 calories per serving
  • 27g sugar per serving

Matcha Green Tea

  • 70mg caffeine in 8 fl oz
  • 12 calories in 1 tsp
    • Caffeine released into the body continuously over 6-8 hours
    • Slow release of caffeine prevents jitters and caffeine crash
    • Contains antioxidants and calming properties


  • 108 mg caffeine in 8 fl oz
  • 2 calories per cup
  • Shown to decrease risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and type 2 diabetes
  • Contains antioxidants


Our bodies convert food into fuel for energy by using folic acid, which is found in broccoli. Folic acid also prevents that feeling of sluggishness. As a quick side to your meal, drizzle olive oil over broccoli florets, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 425 degrees F for 15-18 minutes. By roasting broccoli on non-stick foil, you can study while it’s in the oven and the foil makes for easy clean up. It’s delicious!

Other sources of folic acid:

  • Black beans
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Beets

Trail Mix

Try trail mix instead of chips. You can easily make it by combining your favorite dried fruits, nuts, and even chocolate chips! Nuts, such as almonds and cashews, can help you feel energized while you are studying. They are high in magnesium, which produces and transports energy in the body.

Dark Chocolate

Sometimes when you’re stressed, all you need is a piece of chocolate. The good news? Dark chocolate has been shown to lower stress hormones in highly stressed individuals. Also chocolate has a number of antioxidants that are beneficial to our bodies.


Canned tuna is a great option because it’s inexpensive and can be used for a quick sandwich. Tuna contains 20g of protein in a 3 oz serving, which help you feel full longer. Also, it has high levels of vitamin E and K, potassium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain memory and performance.

Powerful Food Combos


Certain foods are meant to be eaten together to bring out their nutritional benefits in the best way possible. Bioavailability is a term that describes how easily a nutrient is broken down, absorbed and utilized by the body. Foods can work together to enhance bioavailability, and allow nutrients to become more powerful and efficient in our bodies.

Try these 10 food combinations that are better when eaten together.

Tomatoes + Avocados

Feel good about treating yourself to some guacamole. Tomatoes contain carotenoids, plant pigments that are powerful antioxidants that can help prevent some forms of cancer and heart disease, and act to enhance your immune response to infections. And healthy fats, like the ones found in avocados, are able to pick up carotenoids from the stomach and disperse them throughout the body. Enjoy this powerful combination on a salad or this delicious wrap.

Sweet Potato + Coconut Oil

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A, which plays a key role in maintaining healthy skin and hair. Vitamin A is absorbed more readily when paired with a fat source like coconut oil. Try this recipe for baked sweet potato fries that uses coconut oil.

Oatmeal + Peanut Butter

This combination of complex carbs and healthy fats is great for breakfast, or as fuel for an endurance workout. The complex carbs from the oatmeal keep you going, and the fats from peanut butter help stabilize blood sugar.

Raspberries + Chocolate

Raspberries and chocolate go so well together because they each contain flavonoids that, when combined, improve cardiovascular health. Next time you’re craving dessert, indulge in this raspberry chocolate tart.

Black Beans + Lime

Citrus fruits like lime provide high levels of vitamin C, which makes the plant-based iron in foods like black beans easier for your body to use. Try this recipe for black bean tacos with lime vinaigrette. Tasty and it will help sustain healthy cells and lungs.

Almonds + Yogurt

Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E are activated and absorbed when eaten with healthy fats, like the ones found in almonds. Yogurt is a great source of vitamin D, which helps repair and strengthen your bones. So tossing a few almonds in the next time you snack on yogurt will keep your bones strong and healthy.

Hard-Boiled Egg + Banana

This pairing is the perfect afternoon snack. The healthy sugars from the banana deliver a speedy energy boost, while the healthy fats and protein from the egg keep blood sugar levels from spiking.

Lemon + Kale

When you add a squeeze of lemon juice to leafy greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard, it causes a chemical reaction in your body that helps absorb iron in those leafy greens, which will in turn stave off muscle fatigue. The next time you’re craving a salad post-workout, be sure to add a squeeze of lemon to your greens.

Kombucha + Cashews

Snacking on cashews is a great way to get a boost of protein and of zinc, which functions as an immune booster. Studies show that fermented products like kombucha help improve the absorption of zinc in the gut. This immune boosting combination is an ideal snack on the go. Like to do it yourself? Make your own kombucha instead of buying it at the store.

Garlic + Fish

Cooking fish with garlic enhances the cholesterol-reducing properties in fish oils more than if it’s prepared sans spices. And when these two are combined, the garlic can act as an anti-inflammatory agent, as well. Try this recipe for lemon garlic tilapia.

For more healthy combinations, visit the SPE Certified TASTE platform at any of the three resident Dining Commons.


Plan the Perfect Picnic


Picture this: it’s a beautiful spring day, and you have finished all of your studying and assignments for the week. You’re ready to relax and enjoy a delicious picnic with friends in the arboretum, your favorite sunny spot on campus, or even just your backyard.

We’ve got just what you need to make sure your picnic consists of mouth-watering recipes that are not only sure to impress your friends, but packed full of the nutrients you need to keep your body healthy and happy.

Bon appétit!

Tomato Watermelon Salad with Feta and Toasted Almonds   watermelon                        Photo: Epicurious

Watermelon is a great source of vitamins A, C, B1, and B6. The antioxidants derived from the vitamin A help fight off inflammation. Tomatoes also contain a vitamin A and C. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has been proven to halt the growth of cancer cells. This recipe is vibrant, flavorful, and only takes a few minutes to prepare. Add your choice of fresh herbs such as dill, basil, and mint.

Homemade Pesto walnut-pesto2                              Photo: Kiss My Spatula

Rather than buying premade pesto at the store, simply make your own! All you need is a food processor or blending tool of some kind. Basil, the main ingredient in pesto, contains beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A that protects epithelial cells (the cells that form the lining of numerous body structures including the blood vessels) from free radical damage. Basil is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health. This recipe calls for walnuts, which are cheaper than the traditional pine nuts used in pesto. Combine with whole-wheat pasta and your choice of veggies such as zucchini, yellow onion, and tomatoes.

Peach Crisp

Peach crisp picture              Photo: Big Girls Small Kitchen

Peaches are in season May though October, so now is the perfect time to enjoy them! According to a study from Texas A&M, stone fruits like peaches, plums and nectarines have been shown to ward off obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.Try to get them local at the Davis Farmers’ Market for best quality and taste. This recipe for peach crisp is simple, only takes 30 minutes to bake, and can even be used with other types of fruits. Once you have your crisp, top it with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

Mango and Mint Infused Tea iced tea                                            Photo: Katie’s Cucina

I’ll be honest I’m addicted to iced to of any kind, but this recipe really impressed me because of it’s great flavor without all of the sugar present in most tea drinks. The blend of mango and mint is unique as well as refreshing. Mangoes are a low-fat, low-calorie, cholesterol-free source of a variety of nutrients, especially vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber and antioxidant compounds. Mint is a naturally soothing substance, so it can alleviate the inflammation and temperature rise that is often associated with headaches and migraines. Mint also promotes digestion and soothes the stomach in cases of indigestion or inflammation. 

Eat Your Way to a Better Sleep


We’ve all had those days when we feel like there is not enough time to get everything done. With school, work, and extracurriculars in college it can be difficult to balance it all. Often enough sleep is the first thing to go when life gets busy: we think that extra hour or two that we sacrifice won’t make much of a difference.

In fact, sleep is one of the most important aspects when it comes to staying healthy.

Cortisol is a hormone that regulates many body functions, and is a strong determinant in how rejuvenating sleep will be. Cortisol is produced in a cyclic fashion with the highest levels being released in the morning and the lowest at night. This 24-hour cycle is called the circadian rhythm, and an abnormal circadian rhythm can disrupt hormone levels and lead to inadequate sleep.

Exercise also affects sleep. A study published in the December 2011 Journal of Mental Health and Physical Activity found that 150 minutes of physical activity a week provided a 65% improvement in sleep quality.

Here are a few changes you can make to your diet to improve sleep quality:

Avoid Sugar and Processed Food

The glycemic index of a food reflects how our blood sugar level is affected by the particular food. Foods containing high sugar and low fiber have a high glycemic index and result in wider fluctuations in insulin levels than foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic index of a meal affects the cortisol level for approximately the upcoming five hours. High glycemic index foods, such as sugar and refined starches, cause cortisol levels to rise. The cortisol will likely remain elevated until night, making it difficult to get to sleep.

Maintain a Regular Meal Schedule

Having a high glycemic meal is worse than not having a meal at all. The cortisol level tends to rise whenever you do not eat within the first five hours of the previous meal or snack. A rise above the normal range during the day almost guarantees that the nighttime cortisol will be high, thus disrupting REM sleep.

A single late meal or skipped meal or high glycemic index meal during the day can result in a high cortisol during the early part of the night. A cortisol level higher than it should be during the night results in a disruption of REM sleep and with it non-refreshing sleep.

Eat Protein with Every Meal

Low glycemic index foods such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, and most vegetables tend to lower the cortisol level. Try to eat foods from the low glycemic index category every five hours during the day to keep the cortisol on its normal downward track. The high glycemic index of sugar or starch, including whole grains, requires consumption of nearly an equal weight of animal protein to maintain glycemic balance. Vegetables usually balance themselves in terms of glycemic index, but vegetables are not of sufficiently low glycemic index to balance grains. To prevent the upward swing of cortisol, balance all sugars and grains, including whole grains, with animal protein.

Use Sprouted Whole Grains

According to the American Nutrition Association, grains have been hybridized to contain about half the protein that they contained in 1900. In addition, non-sprouted grains are now used in flour and many commercial bread products, so many people consume them on a daily basis. Non-sprouted grains result in an inflammatory response in the gut that causes the secretion of excess cortisol into the intestinal tract. Look for bread that contains sprouted whole grains in order to avoid these effects.

Drink Tea

Select a calming herb tea such as chamomile.. This herbal tea lacks the caffeine found in traditional teas, and it has a calming effect on the body. Also, a warm liquid before bed can make you sleepy by raising body heat. In the evening, as you wind down, drink 1-2 cups. Calming herbs can help clear clogged or damaged neurotransmitter receptor sites, and increase the production of healthy neurotransmitters.