Integrating Veggies (college edition!)

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By:  Ines Cheng, Healthy Aggies Intern

As college students it is often difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The time and energy it takes to make healthy meals can sometimes seem burdensome. However, there are many different strategies to more easily integrate vegetables and fruits and other healthy foods into your everyday life!

  1. Smoothies!

It can be difficult to eat as many fruits as you would like throughout the day. One easy way to incorporate fruits is to make smoothies in the morning. Combine some of your favorite fruits and add some protein (like yogurt or soy milk) to make a smoothie for a quick and easy breakfast. An extra step is to add spinach! Spinach is great for your skin, hair, and bone health and provides protein, minerals, and vitamins.

  1. Pack Veggies as Snacks

A great way to incorporate veggies throughout the day is to pack them before you leave the house. This way if you are hungry throughout the day you won’t have to buy a snack; the one you have is healthier than the alternative you could buy at the store on campus. Some easy snacks to carry around are carrot sticks, tomatoes and celery; pack a little cup of hummus or a string cheese stick to round it out.

  1. Meal Prep

Everyone is constantly raving about meal prepping because it really helps! Setting aside a couple hours in one day is much more efficient than spending time each day making food. Create big batches of healthy meals that you will be able to eat throughout the week. You will be less likely to eat out if you know you have food all ready to eat.

  1. Side Orders

It can be difficult to choose the healthier option at a restaurant. However, by making a conscious effort to replace one side with a healthier alternative benefits you. An example is to choose a salad instead of fries. Or replace certain pieces of the meal with healthier choices, such as a lettuce wrap instead of bread with a burger. This is a fantastic way to incorporate vegetables in meals when you go out.

  1. Know Where To Eat Out

In Davis it can be difficult to find restaurants that have healthy options. However, most restaurants will have at least one healthier option or one that you can alter in some way. Whenever you can, look for that balanced plate in the meal your order – a serving of protein, a whole grain, if possible, and some fruits and veggies.  Ask for what you want!

Overall, living a healthy lifestyle can seem difficult but it is all about making small changes over time. Choosing healthy options over others (and doing it consistently) will alter your health for the better. Incorporating any of the above tips will help you eat in a more healthy manner without dramatically changing your life.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270609.php

 

 

My Chocolatey Valentine’s Day!

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By Clara Matsumoto, Healthy Aggies Intern

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate loved ones and often includes an iconic romantic gift: chocolate. In fact, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day. Though chocolate is thought to be unhealthy since it is a “dessert”, some chocolate possesses health supporting qualities. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about candy bars like Kit Kat since the amount of processed, added sugar in those do more harm than good. I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate which should be 72% cacao or more, and is not processed with added fats and loads of sugar. Dark chocolate not only has a much more complex and rich flavor, it has a multitude of health benefits!

Dark chocolate contains beneficial nutrients. These include polyphenols and flavanols, plant pigments that protect the heart by supporting the production of nitric oxide in the vessel endothelium which helps them relax and improves blood flow, lowering blood pressure. Flavanols also boost brain health by increasing the cerebral blood flow to gray matter. Chocolate contains an abundance of antioxidants which help fight against free radicals, highly reactive molecules that can damage our DNA, and make our skin age faster. It is rich in minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. These minerals help aid in the production of red blood cells, boost the immune system and energy levels, aid in calcium absorption, and keep our bones strong.

Though dark chocolate offers benefits, it’s important to keep the portion small because it is calorie dense!  A recommended portion of chocolate is about an ounce. One ounce of dark chocolate with 70-85% cacao contains about 168 calories, mostly contributed by fat since fat contributes 9 kcal per gram. The good news is that the fat in cacao has a good amount of unsaturated fat in it and the saturated fat (stearic acid) has been shown to have a neutral effect on serum cholesterol.  Palmitic acid, the other type of saturated fat in dark chocolate, does effect blood cholesterol levels, further enforcing that it should be eaten in moderation.

So when you are trying to figure out what to eat for dessert on Valentine’s Day, consider eating some dark chocolate. In small amounts it helps boost cardiovascular and brain health, fights free radicals, and contains beneficial micronutrients. After all, you deserve a sweet indulgent treat that not only tastes great and satisfies your sweet tooth, but also packs a punch in optimizing your health!

Sources:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263176.php
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288165.php
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286839.php
  4. 4. https://www.thespruceeats.com/fun-valentine-candy-facts-521446
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/dark-chocolate/
  6.  https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16774-heart-healthy-benefits-of-chocolate

2 Easy Recipes with Pumpkin!

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Photo by Umberto Cancedda on Pexels.com

 

           Happy Fall everyone! As the weather begins to cool down and the leaves change into an array of colors, we are reminded that fall is among us. In addition to this temporal change, new seasonal fruits and vegetables pop up into our local grocery stores and farmers market. In this spirit, we are using the classic autumn fruit, pumpkin, in two different ways! Pumpkin is not only an amazing fall flavor, but it is also filled with nutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamin C which are important for healthy skin and immunity. Pumpkin is a powerhouse source for antioxidants, and it contains fiber which can help satisfy hunger due to its ability to slow down the rate of sugar absorption into the blood.

     With school already in week 5, it’s hard to balance maintaining grades, do extracurricular activities, self-care, and eating healthy. This first recipe is given in the hopes that eating healthy is easy and delicious. It’s especially great since granola is so versatile since it can be used as a topping for yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, or just as is in between classes. Happy snacking!         

Recipe: Pumpkin spice granola 

*Recipe adapted from simplyquinoa

  • 4 cup of rolled oats (make sure they aren’t quick cooking)
  • 2 cups rice cereal
  • 1-1.5 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tspn pink himalayan salt
  • ½ c maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ c coconut oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoon fave nut/seed butter
  • 1 cup of favorite raw unsalted nuts/seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, Mix the oats, cereal, salt, and spices.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the maple syrup, coconut oil, pumpkin puree and nut/seed butter. When melted completely, pour entire mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10–15 minutes so the granola doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven and stir in nuts/seeds. Put it back in the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the nuts are golden brown.
  5. When browned, remove from the oven and let cool completely before storing.

     Additionally, with any leftover pumpkin puree, you can use it as an opportunity to create your own DIY face mask. If you haven’t FALLen into the autumn spirit yet, this can  hopefully get you into the spirit of this new season, help you feel more relaxed, and allow you to take care of yourself!

Recipe: 

Pumpkin Face mask

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon ground oats
  • 1 teaspoon milk

Mix all of the ingredients together and then put it on a clean face. Wait 5-10 minutes then rinse it off with warm water and make sure to moisturize afterwards!

Sources:

LD, Megan Ware RDN. “Pumpkins: Health Benefits and Nutritional Breakdown.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 5 Jan. 2018, ww.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279610.php.

 

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.

A bag full of carrots on the soil in Dambulla

  • 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.

 

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