Tips for Staying Cool this Summer

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant

Summer is finally here! Whether you’re staying in Davis or traveling elsewhere, these tips on how to stay cool in the summer heat may come in handy over the next couple months, especially if you don’t have AC.  Here are seven quick tips to beat the heat and stay hydrated this summer.

1. Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator to use as a quick refreshing spray after being outdoors.

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2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these will promote dehydration

3. Instead of large, hot meals, try lighter, more frequent cold meals or snacks.  Choose salads, fresh raw food, vegetables and fruit.  Avoid eating meat and protein-heavy foods , which can increase metabolic heat production.  Large meals will also produce more heat for your body to process.  Here are a few cooling summer recipes to try out:

Easy three ingredient popsicles

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Berry Watermelon Fruit Salad

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Easy Gazpacho Recipe

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4. Keep blinds and curtains closed during the day to keep hot air outside. Open windows at night to enjoy the cool evening air.

5. Rinse your wrists and/or feet with cold water before you go to sleep, which has a full-body cooling effect.

6. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  Monitor your urine color to ensure that you’re staying hydrated.

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7. Wear sunscreen when you’re exposed to the sun; SPF 15 at the minimum, but preferably SPF 30 or higher.

In addition to staying cool this summer, don’t forget to relax and de-stress from finals madness!  Have a great summer, Aggies!

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Why should I eat locally?

By Jessica Bonilla, Dietitian Assistant

Have you ever wonder why we can eat certain fruits, such as bananas and pineapples, that don’t grow in the area naturally? Or how are we able to get certain vegetables all year round even when they’re not in season? Surprisingly, the food industry has been taking care of this issue for decades, and the seasons and distance are no longer an obstacle to get the food we want at any point of the year. However, not all of us are aware of the implications that these actions may have in the long run because we don’t see it directly.

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Clearly, there are fruits and vegetables that are not produced in the US due to the environment and soil conditions (for example tropical fruits, such as mango and papaya) which only grow in very specific areas. This type of produce is usually imported from other countries, which implies huge expenses in transport, conservation techniques, and huge carbon monoxide emissions.

By consuming locally, we can avoid this mass production, which is not based in seasons, natural cycles and biodiversity and that encourages cultivating only a few types of fruits and vegetables. Here are five reasons why you should buy locally:

  • Fresh fruit and veggies

Seasonally fresh fruits are picked up when they are at their peak and therefore will have a more optimal flavor versus the fruits that have traveled thousands of miles and got harvested way before they were ripped.

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  • Reduces carbon footprint

Local produce doesn’t have to travel long distances, which will result in a reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gases. Also, it will be cheaper because transport charges are not added.

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  • Support local businesses

Money invested locally will help farmers and the money will stay at our local community, which will benefit all of us directly.

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  • Increase your creativity

By having a wide variety fruits and veggies every season, you will be able to challenge yourself to cook differently and to use your creativity.

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  • Increases education and makes you more aware about where your food comes from

We are usually disconnected from the food process. We don’t know how and where our food is produced, and this perception can affect the agricultural process and the way we consume foods.

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!

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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.