Serving Sizes: a visual guide

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant 

When’s the last time you measured out half a cup of ice cream, ate exactly 15 chips, or leveled out two tablespoons of peanut butter? You may be surprised about what a serving of these common foods actually looks like.  While using measuring utensils and counting calories isn’t necessary to maintain a healthy diet, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the recommended serving sizes for the foods you’re eating on a daily basis, particularly if they’re calorie dense.

Below are some visual representations to think about the next time you reach for a pint of ice cream, a bag of trail mix, or a jar of peanut butter.

Peanut Butter

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Serving size = 2 Tablespoons

Pasta

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Serving size: ½ cup, or a tennis ball

Ice Cream

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Serving size = ½ cup, or a tennis ball

*This means that there are 4 servings per pint!

Trail mix

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Serving size: ¼ cup, or a golf ball, or a small handful

Almonds

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Servings size: 1 oz or 24 nuts

Potato Chips

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Serving size: 1 oz or 15 chips

Granola

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Serving size: ¼ cup or an egg

Oreos

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Serving size: 2 cookies

Salad dressing

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Serving size: 2 Tablespoons

Did any of these surprise you? It’s unnecessary to obsess over exact measurements, but being mindful of your portions can help you reach your health goals. As you can see, many “healthy” foods are higher in calories, fat, and/or sugar than you may think. Furthermore, eating smaller portions leaves room for a larger variety of foods within your daily intake, which can help you reach your macro- and micro- nutrient requirements.

 

Are you a supertaster?

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by Jessica Bonilla, Dietitian Assistant

It has been demonstrated that there are different ways in which people perceive the intensity of food. A supertaster is someone that can perceive the intensity of a flavor stronger than the average person. Supertasters tend to taste certain foods, such as vegetables and black coffee, very bitter.  Actually, it’s believed that only 25% of the population are supertasters, (the majority of them being women) and that their preferences for sweet and bitter foods is highly reduced. Non-tasters, on the other hand, have a reduced palatability and sensitivity compared to the average person. Lastly, regular tasters, which comprise around 50% of the population, are in between supertasters and non-tasters and have average sensitivity.

Sensitivity is determined by the number of taste buds on the tongue: the more taste buds you have, the stronger the perception of the flavor. Supertasters have a high amount of taste buds while non-tasters have only a few. These taste buds, which are small bumps that are located in the surface of the tongue, allow us to perceive five different elements: salty, sweet, umami, sour and bitter.

It’s still not known why exactly why women are more likely than men to fall into the category of supertaster. One theory suggests that this is because women, when pregnant, may prevent possible toxins going into the baby and protect it by being more sensitive to bitter and acidic flavors.

Supertasters tend to be described as “picky eaters” and usually don’t consume a wide variety food. A way to increase veggie consumption among them is by combining them with other foods in purees and smoothies. It is believed that supertasters are thinner and to have a lower body mass index (BMI) compared to normal tasters and non-tasters because they tend to eat less, however, there is still not enough evidence to support the idea taste intensity is related to weight gain.

To determine if you are supertaster, you can make this easy test at home by counting the number of the papillae on your tongue HERE.

 

Veggie Burgers: Plant-based never tasted so good!

 

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant

A little bit about me: I’ve been vegan my entire life…and have tried pretty much every vegan product out there.  Over the course of my journey, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in the quality of these products, veggie burgers being one of them. No longer do vegan “meats” and “cheeses” deserve the bland and dissatisfying reputation they’ve acquired back from when veganism wasn’t so common.  This overview on veggie burgers is a reflection of my personal preferences after trying almost every plant-based product the market has to offer.

Veggie burgers are great meat alternatives for vegans/vegetarians, anyone trying to cut back on meat consumption, or for the average consumer who wants to switch things up.  In 2018, there are so many options out there on the market, as well as recipes for homemade veggie patties.  Most traditional veggie burgers are made from some combination of beans, tofu, grains, seeds, and vegetables.  However, there is now an increasing demand for “mock-meat” burgers, which tend to be higher in protein and contain soy, wheat gluten, or pea protein as the main ingredient.  The more traditional grain-based patties do not necessarily aim to mimic a meat patty, but can still be enjoyed as a nutrient-dense and flavorful plant-based option.

Here is a break down of my personal favorite plant-based burgers on the market:

Most realistic “meat” patty: The Beyond Burger

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This new plant-based burger has been blowing up in the media due to its almost identical appearance, taste, and texture to a real beef burger (it even bleeds!).  This burger is a great choice for fooling meat lovers and is inarguably the most realistically mock-meat on the market.  It has a whopping 20 grams of protein, but is also high in fat and calories (which resembles a real beef patty…minus the cholesterol).  If you’re switching to veggie burgers for nutritional reasons alone, I’d aim for one of the other version listed below. But if you’re really in the mood for an authentic beef burger, this revolutionary product is a great option.

Less expensive/caloric “meat” burger: Boca Original Vegan Veggie Burgers

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Boca burgers are one of my favorite mock-meat options at the grocery store.  At only 70 calories per patty, it has 13 grams of protein, almost no fat, and 16% of your daily fiber intake.  Although they aren’t as realistic as the Beyond Burger, this is a less expensive, readily available, and high protein options on the market.

Grain-Based: Hilary’s “World’s Best Veggie Burger”

 

This brand claims to be the “world’s best veggie burger”…and as far as ingredients goes, this burger is definitely one of the healthiest out there.  With lots of whole grains and vegetables, this burger packs in the nutrients, fiber, and flavor (although with less protein at only 4 grams).   In my personal experience, I’ve found that this burger tends to lose it’s integrity easily (aka crumble), so I’d recommend crumbling it over a salad, or being particularly careful when transferring it onto a hamburger bun.  However, as far as flavor goes, this burger is definitely 10/10.

Grain-based: Amy’s California Veggie Burger

 

Amy’s brand veggie burgers are simple yet delicious, and easily accessible at most grocery stores.   The bulgur wheat and mushrooms give these burgers an amazing meaty and hearty texture.  I wouldn’t say they’re able to mimic a beef patty, but I love these burgers as a healthy, plant-based protein source.  These burgers are only 150 calories and contain 16% of your daily fiber intake along with 6 grams of protein.  Its one downfall is the high level of sodium, but just be mindful of your sodium intake for the rest of the day.

Homemade: Vegan Black Bean Burgers

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Recipe from https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/222247/vegan-black-bean-burgers/

This is a simple and quick recipe for homemade black bean burgers.  The main ingredients are black beans, bread crumbs, flour, vegetables, and spices.  You can simply combine all ingredients, form them into patties, and bake them in the oven.  This recipe is easily adaptable, so feel free to change up the vegetables and spices as you see fit.  Homemade burger patties are a great option for students because they’re cheap to make and freeze well for quick and healthy meals!

My favorite ways to eat veggie burgers are crumbled up on a salad, sliced inside of a wrap, or placed inside of a sandwich.

 

 

Veggie burgers can be used to substitute or mimic meat, but are also enjoyable as a nutrient dense, flavorful addition to any meal.  Brands such as Beyond Meat are revolutionizing the plant-based meat industry, which is much needed as vegan and vegetarian diets increase in popularity.  If you’re in a pinch, veggie burgers are great for quick lunches and dinners.  They aren’t just for vegans either; anyone will benefit from incorporating plant-based burgers into their diet.

Meal Prep Tips

 

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By Jessica Bonilla,  Dietitian Assistant

Meal prepping can be very practical and beneficial, especially when you are in a rush and don’t have time to be cooking every time you go home. By meal prepping you can avoid the temptation of buying fast food or low-nutrient snacks and stop compulsive eating behaviors when you’re hungry. In addition, it’s easier to control the number of portions you eat, and therefore, to control the number of calories you consume as well.

Try to include a variety of foods such as protein, whole grain, vegetables, fruits, and fats with all your meals in order to feel satisfied. Don’t forget to vary the texture, color and flavors to make your meals more appealing and delicious. Also, leftovers can be a great way to save up time and to avoid wasting food.

Below are four tips for meal prepping:

  • Plan ahead. Before you even go to the grocery store to buy food, make a list of the ingredients that you are going to use in your meals. Make an estimation on how much money you are willing to spend at the beginning or end of each week and make a plan. That way when you go to the store you won’t be wasting time deciding and will know exactly what to get.
  • Choose a day to cook. Choose a day during the week when you are not very busy and dedicate a couple hours to cook. Most people find it easier on the weekends because they have more time to go grocery shopping and to plan their meals, but it can be whatever day is easier to you.
  • Make a big batch. In order to save time during the week, you can cook big batches of food and freeze them. You can place your meals in tupperware/containers to make it more convenient and on-the-go.
  • Be creative. Try to use different ingredients and add color to your meals. This is a good opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and to try new things. You can challenge yourself each week to make it more interesting. For example, you can try cooking only plant-based meals or to only cook with seasonal fruits and veggies.

 

Check We Love Clean Food and Meal Prep Mondays for some inspiration!

Assorted fresh fruit at an outdoor farmer's market

Energy Drinks: What are the health risks?

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant

Energy drinks are commonly used by busy college students as an easy source of caffeine. While they can help you to stay alert and focused throughout the day and night, it is important to understand the safe dosage and health effects of energy drink consumption.

Next to multivitamins, energy drinks are the most popular dietary supplement consumed by American teens and young adults.  Because of their compact and convenient design, it is important for consumers to pay attention to the caffeine and sugar content, as well as the ingredients, of these beverages.  A 24 oz energy drink may contain as much as 500 mg of caffeine, while the median sugar content of sugar-sweetened energy drinks is 25 grams per 8-oz serving (comparable to that of sodas and fruit drinks).   Other ingredients that are often found in energy drinks include glucuronolactone, B vitamins, ginseng, gingko biloba, antioxidants, and trace minerals.

Caffeine Content

According to Mayo Clinic, up to 400 mg of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults.  If we assume the average amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee is 100 mg, you could consume up to four cups of coffee a day without adverse side effects.  For energy drinks or energy shots, you need to check the caffeine content on the nutrition label to keep track of your caffeine consumption.  Beverages and supplements are not legally required to disclose the caffeine content of their product, so aim for brands which do disclose this information (Monster and Rock Star Energy began disclosing this information in 2013).

Brand Comparisons

 

Here is the nutrition label for a can of Monster Energy Drink, one of the most common energy drinks.  One 8 oz can has 28 grams of added sugar and 83 mg of caffeine.  The main ingredients are sugar, glucose, citric acid, natural flavors, and taurine, along with seventeen other ingredients, including the artificial sweetener sucralose, B vitamins, and added color.  Taurine is an amino acid known to influence various physiological functions and is generally recognized as safe as a food additive.  However, the European Commission has been inconclusive on establishing an upper safe intake level and the health effects of taurine when combined with caffeine.

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Here is the nutrition label for a can of Guayaki brand Yerba Mate tea in the flavor “Bluephoria”. This can contains 14 grams of sugar (per 8 oz serving) as well as 150 mg caffeine (more than the Monster’s 83 mg).  Yerba mate is described as having “the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate”.  This beverage tends to deliver a more balanced energy boost compared to coffee, and contains many naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. In contrast to Monster, this beverage contains only natural, recognizable ingredients, such as organic cane sugar and blueberry juice concentrate.

 

 

This third energy drink variety is by the brand RUNA, and contains 0 calories, 0 grams of sugar, and 120 mg of caffeine.  Notice there are only four ingredients (all of which are natural) in this beverage.  While it may not be as widely available, or as flavorful, these natural energy drinks are on the rise as consumers look for healthier alternatives to popular, more artificial and sugar-rich brands.

The lesser evil?

While having a Red Bull in moderation will most likely have negligible health effects, students who want a quick and easy energy boost can gravitate towards the healthier, more natural energy drink options when they are available.  In general, consumers should focus on reading nutritional labels and being mindful of sugar content, caffeine content, and list of ingredients.  For a healthier energy boost, aim for minimal added sugars, and more natural ingredients in your energy drink.

It is also important to keep in mind that every individual responds to caffeine differently. Some people may be able to drink over 400 mg of caffeine with minimal effects, while others will experience jitters and heartburn from one energy drink alone.  With caffeine available in compact, sugar-rich cans, it is important to be mindful of how many of these beverages you are consuming in a day, and avoid consuming over 400 mg of caffeine in a day.  Energy drinks can be a quick fix for fatigue, but nourishing your body through calories from real food with naturally occurring sugars, vitamins, and minerals, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, will also help to boost your energy.

 

Earth Day- Let’s make a better place for all of us

By Jessica Bonilla, Dietitian Assistant

We are only four days away from Earth day, which makes it a perfect time to think about our actions for the past years. According to the ASCE, Americans generate around 258 million tons of material solid waste every year, only about 35% of the waste is recycled and 53% goes into landfills. What have we done so far to solve the problem about pollution and solid waste? The best way to help is to start with ourselves by making more sustainable decisions.

This year, Earth Day is dedicated to raise awareness about plastics and how to reduce them. Here are four ways to reduce our overall carbon footprint and waste:

  • Meatless Mondays

Meatless Mondays is a movement around the world that consists in cutting meat once a week. The purpose of this movement is to decrease the carbon and water footprint generated by the production in meat, which is generally larger than crop products. Actually, it’s estimated that one pound of meat requires more than 2,000 gallons of water for its production.

By making this shift and decreasing the amount of meat in our diet, we are not only helping the planet, but we may also reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.

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  • Eat local

Buying local is a great strategy to support sustainability. This is because we will be buying food that hasn’t traveled very far distances and therefore hasn’t emitted lots of greenhouse gases during the trip. Our food will be fresher, and we will be supporting local businesses and economy. In addition, we can also buy food cheaper because there is a high supply in the seasonal fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies out of season can have a higher price due to the distance and the number of people involved in the process.

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  • Reduce, reuse, recycle

The three R’s reduce, reuse and recycle are three actions that we all should include in our daily basis in order to decrease our overall waste and to conserve natural resources

The first R, reduce, has the purpose decrease the amount of waste that we produce in a day-to-day basis. Implement this action to your routine by avoiding disposable items, printing in both sides of paper, drinking from reusable water bottles instead of plastic bottles, switching to cloth napkins for paper napkins and by decreasing consumption of products with lots of wrapping.

The second R, reuse, consists in using again older things that we have or finding them other usages than what they are intended for originally. Some examples are: using old envelopes as note pads, using old jars to store kitchen stuff, using paper that is printed already on one side, donating books and old clothes.

The last but not least is recycle, which means collecting and transforming into new products materials that would otherwise be considered as trash. Some materials that can be recycle are plastic bottles, cardboard, metal (tin, aluminum, steel), and glass.

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  • Bike more and drive less.

Riding a bike is beneficial to the environment by the simple fact that no pollution is excreted. Riding a bike will also increase your strength, endurance, cardiovascular fitness and can help as a stress reliever. In addition, you will save money because no oil is required. Skip traffic and try to use your bike to get from point A to point B. Luckily for us, Davis is a very bike friendly town!

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Did you know that UC Davis is planning to meet the goal of zero waste by 2020? Help to reach the goal by making sustainable choices and reducing your waste!

UC Davis Farmers Market back for spring!

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant

Attention all Aggies: the UC Davis Farmers Market is back on campus for Spring Quarter! Here you will find tons of fresh produce, raw honey, bread and baked goods, UC Davis made olive oil, and much more.  The market aims to be a destination in itself, not just something students stumble upon during their commute across campus.  The Farmers Market will be at the North Quad every Wednesday from 11 am to 1:30 pm for Spring Quarter.

Here are the vendors you will find for the Spring 2018 season:

  • PURE honey
  • Ahmad Farms: fruit
  • Toledo Farms: assorted organic veggies and fruits, potatoes
  • Fruit Factory: fruits
  • Williamson Farms: Strawberries
  • Shoup Farms: avocado
  • UC Davis Student Farm: flowers, veggies
  • Gotelli Farms: cherries in May
  • Upper Crust Bakery: breads, cookies, apple tarts

Visiting the UC Davis Farmers Market is a great way to promote health and wellness in all aspects of your life.  Here are some of the benefits of taking some time out of your day to visit the market:

 

Education

In addition to buying food at the market, you can learn more about health and wellness through visiting the Student Health and Counseling Services and Healthy Aggies booths.  These organizations seek to educate individuals on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle as a busy college student.  Be sure to visit these booths to hear about campus resources, play fun games, get some free swag, and learn more about various nutrition and wellness topics.

 

Nutrition

The accessibility of a Farmers Market on campus makes getting your fresh fruits and vegetables even easier! Here you don’t have to worry about your produce containing pesticides, waxes, or genetic modification. Additionally, fruits and vegetables contain lots of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber to keep you full, energized, and nourished throughout your day.

You can find easy recipes using ingredients found at the farmers market on our website at:

https://healthy.ucdavis.edu/food-nutrition/farmers-market/recipes

 

Self-Care

The Farmers Market is able to bring the community together and create a calming environment for everyone to enjoy.  At the market you will find picnic blankets strewn across the grass where students can take a break from their busy day to relax and enjoy the sunshine.  Taking time out of your day to unwind, spend time with friends, and get some vitamin D are extremely beneficial for mental wellbeing.  These study breaks will help you retain information and focus more effectively for the rest of the day.

 

Supporting Local Business

As large agribusiness is increasingly dominating U.S. food production, a great benefit of the Farmers Market is the ability to directly support local growers and businesses.  Instead of buying produce harvested before ripeness halfway across the globe, your money is directly supporting family farms in the Yolo County area.  This also benefits the environment through reducing the amount of fossil fuels used to transport produce from farm to consumer.

 

 

In summary, visiting the UC Davis Farmers Market is a quick and easy way to support a healthy lifestyle.  Be sure to head to the North Quad on Wednesdays between 11 am and 1:30 pm to buy fresh produce and take a break from your busy day.

 

Healthy Aggies Promotion:   the market will be giving away $10 bundles in market dollars to the first 10 people who visit the Market Information Booth on April 11 and say “I read about $10 in free vouchers on the Healthy Aggies blog”! While supplies last!

 

You can find up-to-date information on the UC Davis Farmers Market and subscribe to their weekly newsletter at: https://healthy.ucdavis.edu/food-nutrition/farmers-market