Five Sources of Protein for Vegetarians

By Cecilia Chen, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

tofu

A vegetarian refrains from eating meat, poultry, and sometimes, fish.  These are all significant sources of protein. A common question asked by those eating vegetarian is “How can I get enough protein?” Some plant-based food and dairy products are excellent protein sources for a vegetarian diet. Here we list five major categories of such foods.

  1. Soybean products including tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and edamame

Have you seen contradictory comments online regarding whether or not it is safe for both men and women to eat soy products ?  The primary concern is the estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effect on our body. According to recent studies, soy, as one of the nutrient-dense sources of plant protein, has a beneficial or neutral effect on health. Soybeans are a common species of edible beans in Southeast Asia. Many products such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and edamame are derivatives of soybeans. Edamame is the immature form of soybeans in the pod, easily prepared by steaming and boiling. An excellent source of protein, one cup of shelled edamame contains 17 grams.  Soybeans are processed to create soy milk and tofu. Soy milk contains a similar amount of protein as cow’s milk. Tofu is the bean curd leftover from the production of soy milk, and it absorbs the flavor in other ingredients well making it easy to cook with. It is available in a variety of textures, ranging from soft to extra firm. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and has a texture similar to meat. Like tofu, it also absorbs the flavor from other foods well, yet it holds shape better than tofu; it makes a great meat substitute. Eating soy products several times a week instead of processed meat may have health benefits.

  1. Dairy products such as cow milk, Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese

Dairy products are an excellent protein source, and the primary source of calcium in the typical western diet, an essential nutrient that builds strong bones. Cow milk, yogurt, and cheese contain lactose, a naturally occurring milk sugar. Some populations may not be able to digest lactose properly, so after eating these products, they feel bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea to various degrees. This condition is termed lactose intolerance. If this applies to you, you may consider drinking soy milk instead.

  1. Legumes such as Lentils

Lentils, edible seeds, are part of the legume family; all of which is highly nutritious. In addition to being an excellent source of protein, these foods are high in fiber, folate, and iron. There are many types of lentils: brown, green and red lentils, French lentils, and black lentils. Most become a mush-like texture after 20 to 30 minutes of cooking. French lentils tend to hold their shape better.  Using lentils, whether in a soup, salad, or curry, adds protein and other nutrients to your meal without the saturated fat found in animal products.

  1. Beans such as chickpeas and black beans

Chickpeas and black beans also contain significant amounts of protein. In 1/2 cup serving, black beans contain 7 grams of protein, and chickpeas contain around 19 grams of protein. Many cooks prefer to soak (~8 hours in clear water) beans before cooking, although it is not necessary.  They then require simmering 2-3 hours to become tender. Ideal for a slow cooker, beans can be flavored many ways and used as an ingredient in many dishes.  About 1 cup of dried beans makes 3 cups of cooked beans.

  1. Seitan

Seitan is made from wheat gluten, which is protein-dense. One third cup of seitan contains about 20 grams of protein. If you are gluten sensitive or have Celiac disease this is not a good option.  It is cooked similar to tofu and substitutes for meat in many dishes.

If you try any of these vegetarian options, let us know what you think! Do you have special, creative ways you cook them?

Make 2020 the Year of Gratitude

open arms

By Brandy Carrillo, Healthy Aggies intern

The resolution mentality is still alive as we adjust to the ins and outs of the new decade. Many of us took the time to reflect on the good and bad of 2019 and develop a set of resolutions for 2020. A new year is the perfect opportunity to start focusing on the good!

If you’re waiting for disaster to happen, it is hard to wrap your head around the idea of gratitude.  A pessimistic outlook makes it difficult to pinpoint and pick out the positive from the negative. So here are some tips and on how to spot that silver lining with ease and adopt an attitude of gratitude.

  1. Celebrate the little things

It is difficult to recognize when things are going the way we want them to if we’re busy looking for anything to go awry. By celebrating even the little successes, we start to subconsciously adopt a more optimistic way of thinking, allowing us to welcome gratitude with open arms. These celebrations can be as small as, “I’m thankful for the penny I found on the ground” or as big as “I’m thankful that I got an A on my midterm.”

  1. Start a gratitude journal

It is easy to forget to consciously be thankful daily. We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life that we don’t even realize the day is already gone; we jump into preparing for the next without expressing gratitude for the one just past. Writing down at least 5 things you are grateful for every day can help you take on a more positive perspective and notice all the good in your life. Consider a gratitude jar or journal.

  1. Don’t completely forget about the “bad”

To be grateful for what you have, it’s good to momentarily reflect on previous hardships to help you see what was once bad is now good.

Gratitude is an awesome way for us to truly appreciate what we have instead of trying to change with hopes that it will make us happier. By remembering to do these three simple tasks every day, your perspective will slowly begin to shift and you’ll be living more gratefully in no time.

How do you celebrate with gratitude?

Canned + Frozen: A Convenient Combination

canned

By:  Haley Adel, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Nutrition Peer Counselor

As midterm season is around the corner, the transition from winter break to winter quarter is official. With energy redirected from relaxing to cramming for tests, most of us find ourselves short on time. We begin sacrificing things that take up precious study time, like food prep. Don’t despair! Here are some tips on how to use frozen and canned foods that you can stock up on, so dinner will only be a few minutes away.

 Canned Foods

Canned meats, especially fish, are a friend to turn to when the clock is ticking. They are shelf stable, so they don’t go bad if stored awhile, unlike fresh meat. The texture is a little different, but you barely notice when it is added to a salad or combined dish. Canned meats are also cheaper than fresh. Not only will you save time on cooking and shopping, but you’ll save money. A double bonus!

Let’s start with canned fish. Fish including salmon, anchovies, and tuna all have omega-3 fatty acids, shown to have anti-inflammatory effects that help decrease the risk of heart and other chronic diseases. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends about 8 oz per week of seafood. You can reach your recommended amount of seafood and save time with canned!

Canned chicken is another great way to squeeze in healthy food quickly. Each serving has about 13 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat. And that is only 1/3 of the container, so there are a lot of nutrients in that little can. Whether added to a sandwich or salad, canned chicken is a great tool to help power you through midterms.

 Frozen Veggies

Frozen vegetables are a quick option for any meal. They are cheaper than fresh and keep longer. Also, a greater variety is available year-round than fresh seasonal veggies. The nutrients in fresh veggies begin to diminish during storage; frozen veggies are frozen close to being picked, thereby preserving those nutrients. An important factor too, with busy schedules, is that frozen vegetables are easy to cook. Simply reheat them in the microwave or with a quick sauté for a healthy side dish in just minutes. Frozen vegetables are an essential tool to fill half your plate with vegetables.

Recipes

All of this is great, but how to apply it? Well, here are some quick recipes incorporating canned foods and frozen veggies.

5 ingred chicken fried rice

Chicken Fried Rice Recipe – Only 5 Ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups canned chicken, shredded or cubed
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 4 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Add olive oil to a large pan and heat on medium heat.
  2. Add chicken and vegetables and cook until vegetables are tender. It helps if you pre-cook (steam) the vegetables to lessen the cooking time of your chicken fried rice.
  3. Add rice and soy sauce. Stir well and cook about 5 minutes until all ingredients are mixed and rice is heated.

https://www.modernmami.com/recipes/chicken-fried-rice-recipe/

15 min tuna and rice

15-Minute Tuna and Rice Primavera

Ingredients

  • 1 can (10 fl oz/284 mL) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, green beans, peas), thawed, drained
  • 1 can (170 g) tuna, drained, flaked
  • 1-1/3 cups instant white rice, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup Kraft 100% Parmesan Grated Cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring soup and water to boil in large skillet on medium-high heat.
  2. Add vegetables and tuna; mix well. Return to boil, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in rice and cheese; cover. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 min. Fluff with fork

http://www.kraftcanada.com/recipes/15-minute-tuna-rice-primavera-178544

How do you lean on canned and frozen foods in your meal prep?  Let us know in the comments!

Nutrition Tips to Power Through Winter Quarter!

Shields_09_girl_reading

By Maggie Zeng, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Happy New Year Aggies. Welcome to 2020!!!

We are all excited about the new year and new quarter and making time for a few healthy habits can help keep you from getting the winter sniffles. Keeping a healthy lifestyle and getting plenty of nutrients from a variety of foods are important to staying healthy and energetic. As college students, though, it can be hard to accomplish due to packed schedules and the stress of rigorous academics.

Here are a few quick tips that will help you establish some small healthy habits

  1. Eat vegetables.

Nutritionists recommend consuming around 50% of the total volume of food from vegetables and fruits each meal. Dark-green, orange, red, purple and yellow vegetables and fruits contain numerous antioxidants, vitamins such as vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene. These nutrients help the immune system stay nourished to fight off infections. Try keeping a container of baby carrots and other cut veggies in your pack for midday snacking or to make up where a meal is short.

  1. Exercise regularly.

Regular exercise helps build a stronger immune system. Running/walking and biking are all great ways to get exercise and boost your body’s ability to fight the many winter viruses. Some studies show that “moderate-intensity” exercise may cut down the number of colds you get; this includes walking briskly and bicycling to school. Take an extra loop around campus while biking home after class!

  1. Get plenty of sleep.

Sleep is crucial to staying healthy. Many college students sacrifice sleep to stay up late for schoolwork. Most adults need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Adequate and high-quality sleep can keep students energetic throughout the day and help them build a strong immune system to prevent illness.  Do you need to rethink your sleep routine to hit that 7 – 8 hours?

Do any of these three habits need your attention now to help prevent illness later? If so, take a moment to strategize strengthening them.  Let us know in the comments and stay healthy this quarter!

 

 

Is there a single secret to a healthy diet?

balanced diet

By Haley Adel, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Unfortunately, there is no one miracle food that creates a healthy diet. There is technically not even one “correct” healthy diet. A diet is simply the composition of foods consumed in a regular pattern. Each person has a style of eating that is appropriate for them. What is good for one person may not be as satisfying or effective for another. Therefore, typical word associations with diet including restriction should be placed aside. Instead the word diet should be associated with simply a pattern of eating. Even though people may have different diets, there are types of foods to include to create a healthy pattern of eating. So, there is no single secret!  Rather, there many options to optimize diet.

Growing up, many kids lament over the consumption of fruits and vegetables, but if your parents “encouraged” you to eat them, they were helping you in ways you may not know. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are published every 5 years to provide “recommendations about the components of a healthy and nutritionally adequate diet based upon scientific evidence.” And the guidelines stress what we were told as children: eat more fruits and veggies! A variety of both is preferred. From red to orange to dark green, beans and peas, and other vegetables; the rainbow is the goal. Eat fruits, especially in whole fruit form, of a variety of colors. Whether fresh, dried, or canned, fruits and veggies as a backbone to the diet will provide great health benefits.

Carbohydrate plays a significant role in the healthy eating pattern and tastes pretty too! A nutritious diet contains grains, which are composed primarily of carbohydrate. About half of the grains consumed should be whole grains. From whole wheat bread to brown rice, the vitamin and fiber benefits help to boost nutrient content.

And, of course, no meal is complete without protein. Again, think variety. Alternate lean means, beans, dairy products, nuts, seeds, seafood and soy, to mention a few. Even if you prefer one type of protein, try to mix it up occasionally to diversify nutrients.  Protein requirements for a healthy individual are around 0.8g protein/kg body weight.

As important as it is to get in the fruits and grains and all the rest, portion sizes are significant as well. A balanced plate demonstrates the proportion of carbs, protein, fruits/veggies, and fats that is most ideal for a healthy person. Look at the graphic. What grade does your plate get?  Do you come close to the balance recommended?

Finally, it’s important to remember that a diet is a food pattern. It is fine to have a slice of pizza or a cupcake for dessert. It is overall intake that is important in the long run. Be sure to include vegetables with meals when possible, and aim for whole grain options when available. Enjoying the process and what you are eating is important.  Do what you can to balance it out and remember there is no miracle answer.

balanced plate

Nutrition Myth Busters

nutrition myths

By Marisa Morales, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Studying nutrition, I get asked a load of nutrition questions. Most questions are based on what people read or see online. In this blog I’ll help clear up some of the most common myths!

Myth #1: Some types of sugars are worse for you than others

Fact: Sugars such as honey, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), table sugar, and agave have a similar chemical structure allowing them to be metabolized in similar ways. That being said, there is no significant evidence any one is better than the others. We do know, though, that there is a positive relationship between consumption of added sugars and risk for chronic disease. It is more important to limit consumption of added sugars to <10% of your daily calories, than worry about type of sugar.  Remember an added sugar is not naturally found in the food. For example, HFCS in fruit juice is not naturally occurring, it was added to the drink during processing. But fruit and 100% natural fruit juices contain no added sugar.  The current recommendation is less than 25 gm added sugar per day for women and 37 gm for men.

Myth #2: Coffee is bad for you

Fact: In research conducted thus far, it seems as though coffee is more likely to be beneficial than harmful. Coffee is a great source of phytochemicals, non-nutritive compounds known for their disease preventive properties. More specifically, the phytochemicals found in coffee have antioxidant properties. If you are looking to follow a healthy eating pattern, the 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines suggest that moderate black coffee consumption is about 4 – 5 cups per day. Of course, what you add to it may change the nutritional content significantly!

Myth #3: All fats are bad and should not be eaten

Fact: False, false, FALSE! Dietary fat is essential for membrane structure, synthesizing vitamins, and providing energy. Now, there are different categories of fat, some of which are healthier than others. Healthy fats are found in fish, nuts, avocados, and liquid vegetable oils as unsaturated fats. Less healthy saturated fats are found in red meat, butter, and high-fat dairy.  Trans fats, extra harmful, are largely being eliminated as we change food processing methods.  Partially hydrogenated oils are a source of trans fat in processed foods. The 2015-2020 USDA Dietary Guidelines recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of your daily calories, which is about 15 gms/day for women and 25 gms/day for men.  Limit/avoid trans fats as much as possible.

Myth #4: Diabetes is caused by excess sugar intake

Fact: There are two types of diabetes; Type 1 and Type 2, and neither are caused by eating too much sugar. Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is a chronic disease that is the result of one’s pancreas failing to produce sufficient concentrations of insulin or none at all. The underlying cause of T1D is still being researched, but it is known that genes play a role. Like Type 1, Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is a chronic disease, but unlike T1D it is the result of insulin resistance; the body’s cells do not use insulin as efficiently as they should. Research shows that overweight and inactive individuals have a higher risk of T2D than those of a healthy weight. Being overweight is the result of multiple factors, not just  consumption of sugar. It should be noted that T2D can be due to genetics, which is why we sometimes see lean individuals with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Myth #5: Egg whites are healthier than egg yolks

Fact: Eggs whites are not necessarily healthier than egg yolks. Egg whites do have a lower calorie count and contain no fat as compared with the yolk. However, the yolk contains nutrients that are not found in egg whites; vitamin D and choline. Vitamin D functions in bone health and immune system. Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient that aids in liver function. On a similar note, there is no longer a recommendation for limiting intake of cholesterol. This is because research has shown blood cholesterol levels to be minimally influenced by dietary cholesterol.

If you have a nutrition question, ask us in the comments!

Subtle ways to add more veggies into your Thanksgiving!

By Ruth Vodonos, Healthy Aggies Intern

crudite

Thanksgiving is a holiday built around coming together to overeat. For most, their plate this holiday will be overfilled with turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, corn, dinner rolls – all finished off with a slice of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. There is no need to avoid any of the food you love and have been looking forward to, but for a nutritious and still equally filling dinner consider sneaking some more vegetables onto your plate!

For a snack/appetizer – offer a veggie platter! Include all your favorite vegetables, like slices of bell peppers and celery sticks, all around a dip such as hummus.

For a side dish green beans are the obvious choice, but consider adding some other greens such as mustard greens, peas, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, broccoli or asparagus to your dinner as well. Sheet pan cooking is an easy way to prepare vegetables and save more time in your day for cooking the main entrees. Mixing up a salad, even from a purchased pre-made mix, is another time saving idea!

For an entree – Sneak some vegetables into the usual entrees you serve, add kale to the stuffing, mushrooms to the gravy, etc. Think about serving even one vegetable-centric entree, not only will this contribute to the overall vegetable content on your plate, but anyone at your table who may be abstaining from eating meat will appreciate this too! Consider making stuffed squashes, there’s an endless list of things you can stuff them with – tailor them to your own crowd! There’s also plenty of vegetable casserole recipes, find one you can pre-make and just pop in the oven the day of!

 For a dessert – Even include some vegetables in your dessert by serving carrot cake or zucchini brownies!

You may not be the one cooking Thanksgiving dinner and thus not in control of what will be served, but a host will usually be alright with you bringing a dish or two – especially something small and simple like a vegetable platter for an appetizer or a vegetable side dish!  What will you bring?