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.

 

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.

 

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

Does Eating really fix the problem?

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Source: OcusFocus/Getty Images

By: Vivian Siu, Healthy Aggies Nutrition Intern

Why do we eat? Besides the obvious reason that we need fuel to keep us healthy and moving, we eat because food is yummy. There’s a form of happiness that comes from eating a warm, fudgy brownie. Eating is also important during celebrations, reunions, or simply hanging out. With so much cultural diversity in this town, there are so many food choices available that make it that much harder to find an excuse to not go eat. However, there’s another reason why some of us eat. We refer to it as ‘snacking’ but sometimes it is a coping mechanism – then it is stress or emotional eating.

Reasons we eat outside of hunger

  1. We relate ‘Food’ to ‘pleasure’.

At the end of a tiring, long day what is one thing you can look forward to? A plate of fries or maybe a bowl of ice cream? Both can give you a temporary feeling of happiness, and if you’re like me, those types of comfort food are often associated with feelings of bliss, at least at first.  

But, instead of associating food that sense of pleasure and then suffering the consequences of too much junk, not enough nutrients, or just eating more food than you need, try using different activities to accomplish the bliss goal. What about that painting class you always wanted to take or learning how to play the guitar to serenade your cat and enjoy some music when you arrive home after a hard day?   This will feel especially doable if you’ve been practicing good, adequate eating habits throughout your day and are not famished! Having other activities besides eating to look forward to can cause you feel that same bliss.

  1. To avoid difficult situations and/or feelings.

During time of hardships and challenges, for many of us – including myself, we tend to avoid feelings. Avoiding feelings makes us more likely to seek out temporary fixes such as eating that feel good during the moment, but are very temporary, in fact may make things worse.  

One important fact to remember is that it’s okay to feel sad, mad, and frustrated. If it wasn’t for these feelings, would we know what happiness really is? Learning how to talk about your feelings, whether it be in the form of journaling, calling a hotline, or talking to a friend, can help you realize the deeper rooted problem that is causing you to want to turn to food for comfort.

  1.     Physiological Response.

One thing I’ve learned from my 2 ½ years of college so far is that there are days where I can be swamped with work, class, assignments, studying, you get the idea, right? If I don’t take the time to feed myself, lovingly throughout the day, I find myself more irritable and more susceptible to my cravings/eating more junk food because I’m “hangry” when I finally get home.

Having a regular and nutritious meal schedule is important to staying healthy and lessening the likelihood of emotional eating.

  1.     Self-Image.

Society has led most to believe that beautiful means thin and skinny, with flat tummies.

Our lives are filled with some of the most innovative and connected technology, it can be hard to avoid societal influences of what beauty is. In reality, beauty is something that cannot be defined, at least not by society. Beauty is more than just appearances. It can be seen through the actions of taking care of yourself, being true to who you are, being kind to friends, family, and strangers, taking care of the earth, and the list could go on. If taking care of yourself means indulging in some sweets once in a while, that’s perfectly fine. Just remember that eating as a temporary fix for whatever challenge you may be facing is okay, but it’s important to remember that addressing the problem can pave the way to a more permanent solution.

Vitamins for College Students

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Vitamins are a group of organic compounds with regulatory functions. Vitamins cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by the body; therefore we must obtain them in adequate amounts from food. There are 13 universally recognized vitamins: 9 water-soluble vitamins and 4 fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in body (except Vitamin B12), and mostly are non-toxic when we intake them excessively. On the contrary, fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in body, and most of them are toxic at excessive doses. Generally it is not recommended for people without malabsorption issues to take vitamin supplements, because we can get enough through a healthy diet! While every vitamin is essential,today our emphasis is on vitamins that are beneficial to college students.

Vitamins D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and has many functions that help people stay healthy. Vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin from the sun, and helps the body absorb calcium. Along with calcium, vitamin D helps to keep our bones healthy and strong. Vitamin D also plays an important role in our immune system, which protects us from illness and infections. Good food sources of vitamin D include: liver, beef, veal, eggs, dairy, some saltwater fish, and foods fortified with vitamin D. College students have large amounts of physical activities, so intaking enough vitamin D can help students have healthy bones to do daily activities.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is another fat-soluble vitamin, and it is stored in the liver. Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy eyes, keeping the immune system strong and helping cells function properly. There two forms of vitamin A: retinoids and provitamin A, also known as carotenoids. Retinoids are found in animal products such as liver, dairy, eggs, fish oils, tuna, and sardines. Carotenoids are found in plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables that are bright colors to yellow, orange and red. Since we have stressful academic works everyday, it is really important to take adequate vitamin A to protect our vision.

B Vitamins

B vitamins include a group of 8 water-soluble vitamins called the vitamin B-complex. Vitamin B-complex has a very important role in energy releasing. One or more B vitamins are involved in every aspect of catabolic process, and provide energy to us by breaking down molecules through process. Vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins in this process. Vitamin B12 also has functions in the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. Good food sources of vitamin B12 are meat and dairy products. We also can choose foods that are fortified with vitamin B12.

All 13 vitamins are essential for our health, so it is important to follow the “My Plate” template and choose a wide range of foods to get enough vitamins, as long as they are not in any serious diseases or conditions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15050-vitamin-d–vitamin-d-deficiency-

 

Sustaining Your New Year’s Resolution

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By Jackie Ahern

It’s a little over a week into 2018: a perfect time to reflect on the successes and struggles of those pesky New Year’s resolutions we all seem to make. For those of you that have stuck to your goal of going to the gym more often, or eating more leafy greens, congratulations! Research has shown it takes 21 days to make something a habit, so you’re halfway there! For those of you that haven’t been so successful, you’re absolutely not alone.

New Year’s resolutions are tough. For one, there are a lot of expectations and hype surrounding becoming a newer, better version of yourself, al starting on January 1st (or the 2nd if that NYE party was a real rager); however, in reality, time is relative. There’s no difference between starting a new habit on January 1st or June 1st, other than those 6 months. Granted you live for at least 20 more years (here’s hoping), 6 months is a pretty small fraction. What I’m trying to say is that January 1st isn’t the end-all-be-all for changing your life for the better. If you aren’t able to stick to your first resolution for whatever reason, whether it be that it’s too expensive, too time-consuming or just too difficult to keep up, that’s okay. You don’t have to abandon the resolution; just modify it. When an engineer designs a building but it gets painted the wrong color, they don’t tear down the whole building. They just repaint it.

A good New Year’s resolution, or any lifestyle change for that matter, needs to be something you can see yourself being able to continue for the rest, or most, of your life. For example, I know I cannot completely cut out desert forever (have you ever had ice cream?) but what I could do is cut down on my portion size, or only have it a couple times a week instead of every night. Additionally as a student, working out every day at 7am isn’t exactly sustainable, but working out after class 3 or 4 times a week could be. If down the line you find yourself suddenly hating ice cream, or craving more workouts, you can definitely switch some things up, but in the beginning, its best to start small with more attainable goals.

So what is a good way to assess an attainable, smart goal? Well, there’s a convenient acronym for that. It’s called SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Specific refers to a clear definition of the goal, such as “I will take a 30-minute walk in the morning, 3 times a week” versus just, “I will get in shape.” Measurable means having a way to evaluate how thoroughly the goal has been met, such as marking exercise days on a calendar or keeping a food journal. Achievable means the goal must be within the realm of possibility; for example, “I will lose 1 pound a week” instead of, “I will lose 20 pounds this month.” Talking to a professional like a doctor, dietitian, or personal trainer can help to navigate how achievable a health-related goal is. Relevant refers to how much the goal fits in with your lifestyle and other pursuits. For example, while in school, a resolution such as “I will learn how to swim” may be more relevant than “I will learn how to scuba dive.” Lastly, timely means that the goal should have some defined checkpoint or endpoint, such as “I will eventually be able to meditate for 20 minutes by adding 5 minutes to my meditation every 2 weeks.” Of course, from there you can decide to modify the goal.

And finally… Think about where you were 3 months ago. If you had made just a small lifestyle change then, today could a very different day. With time flying by the way that it does, who knows where you could be in just a few months by taking a small step towards a healthier future, today.

I don’t have time…

 

 

you always have time

By:  Jackie Ahern, Nutrition Peer Counselor, Fitness and Wellness, UC Davis

“I don’t have time to…” fill in the blank with whatever old New Year’s resolution or healthy habit you’ve been wanting to implement in your life. Think: exercise, meal prep, take baths, or catch up with a friend. I find myself saying this a lot, meanwhile I somehow always find the time to binge watch Friends until 1 am, when really I should have taken the extra minute to floss. We’ve all been there.

So what does it mean to not have time? Is it that there really isn’t enough hours in the day to take a 30 minute walk, or cut up some extra vegetables for the week? When you do the math, there’s 1440 minutes in a day and 30 minutes is only 2% of that. This calls for a change in perspective.

Let’s talk about priorities. I’d like to challenge you to shift your way of thinking from, “I don’t have the time” to, “It’s not a priority for me right now.”

“I don’t have the time” is an absolute negative, where there is no possible way you could achieve this task and it is out of your control. It also removes yourself from the issue, ridding yourself from the responsibility of your own choices. It seems like an innocent enough mindset, but it is not a good strategy to live with intention.

Meanwhile, “It’s not a priority for me right now” is an acknowledgement of your own decision, that whatever you’re not doing (me personally: flossing) is a result of your own choices. This isn’t a negative thing, it’s an opportunity for self-reflection. You are in control of your priorities. Shifting your mindset in regards to your choices gives you the power to question if your current habits are your true priority. Ask yourself, is watching Netflix a priority over exercise? Is scrolling through social media a priority over cooking a balanced meal? If it is, great! If it isn’t, reflect on that and make a change.

With finals around the corner, studying will definitely be a high priority item for myself and other students; however don’t forget to make self-care a high priority as well. Take study breaks, fuel your body with good foods, and practice deep breathing if you feel stressed out. Good luck Healthy Aggies!