Ensalada de Nopales (cactus pad salad) 

By Veronica Gomez, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

I wrote an article last month about not abandoning culture in the pursuit of healthy-eating 

In that blog I mentioned Nopales— a staple ingredient in Mexico. I am happy to share an authentic but student-friendly recipe that utilizes this nutrient-packed food. This is Ensalada de Nopales, a salad that is refreshing and the perfect side to any meal:

List of Ingredients:

  • 1 jar of pre-cooked nopales (can be found in the Hispanic aisle in major grocery stores like Safeway )
  • 2 ripe roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 tbsp of the juice found in canned jalapeños 
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Salt to taste


  • Drain and rinse the nopales. Nopales release a moisture that can be thick and unappetizing to some. To mitigate this, simply drain and rinse with water until thinned down.
  • Place rinsed nopales in a mixing bowl (optional: dice the nopales)
  • Dice your tomatoes, onion, & jalapeno and add to mixing bowl
  • Open the canned jalapeños and collect some juice from the can. Add this to the mixture in order to get a unique citrus flavor (optional: dice up a pickled jalapeño & add to mixture for extra spice)
  • Add the juice of 1 lemon
  • Combine all the ingredients and add chopped cilantro and salt to taste
  • Enjoy with tortilla chips or as a topping on your favorite meals!
  • Store in an airtight container and place in fridge for up to two weeks


Cold weather workouts!

By Monzerrath Ramos Gonzalez, UC Davis Health Aggies Intern

With the temperatures dropping as the colder months approach, it is important to know how to keep yourself safe if you plan to exercise outside. If you are considering working out in the cold but have a history of asthma or heart problems, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor first to check if you need to take any extra precautions. This is because cold air can make breathing more difficult and can also increase your risk for a heart attack. Additionally, everyone should also always check the weather before deciding to exercise outside. If the temperature is below 0℉ or if there is extreme wind chill, you may want to consider an alternative form of exercise that day. If it is safe for you to exercise outside, the following are tips to help make sure you stay safe during your outing.

  1. Hydrate!

While it may be more difficult to notice during cold weather, you can still become dehydrated in the cold. You will still lose water as you are sweating, breathing or performing any other bodily functions so water is just as important during cold weather as during warm weather. If you notice your lips are chapped, you likely need more water!

  1. Dress in layers

You want to make sure you are warm if you are working out in the cold. Dressing in layers is especially helpful because you can add or remove layers as needed. The general recommendation is to have a lightweight synthetic material as your first layer so sweat can stay away from your body. The next layer should be something made out of wool or fleece to insulate your body heat. The last layer should be something light that is wind resistant and water repellent.

  1. Protect your extremities

In the cold, your blood flow will mostly be concentrated around your body core which unfortunately means your extremities (ie: hands, feet, head, nose, ears etc.) are more susceptible to frostbite. Make sure to wear gloves, thick socks and a headband for your ears to protect those areas. If necessary, you may want to also consider a scarf or ski mask to protect more of your face

  1. Be aware of the signs of frostbite and hypothermia

While ideally you want to avoid frostbite and hypothermia, it is still important to be aware of the signs of each in case you experience it. When someone is experiencing frostbite, they will often feel numbness, loss of feeling and a stinging sensation in a specific area of their body. As for hypothermia, you may notice intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. If you think you are experiencing any of these, try to move somewhere warm and call for help if needed.

What is your favorite cold weather exercise?

Thanksgiving Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Recipe

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and a popular dish to serve is mac and cheese. Why not take a healthy spin on it this year? Try this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, with easy prep time and easy results you will have you and your family not only eating well, but feeling good as well. Recipe by Meseidy Rivera!

Serving Size:

YIELDS: 8 serving(s)

PREP TIME: 15 mins

COOK TIME: 4 hrs

TOTAL TIME: 4 hrs 15 mins


  • 1 lb. Diced Butternut Squash, Peeled, And Seeded
  • 5 leaves Fresh Sage, Minced
  • 2 tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • 1 Small Onion, Chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 1/2 c. Vegetable Stock
  • 1 lb. Dry Elbow Macaroni, Cooked According To Package Directions
  • 1 tbsp. Salt
  • 8 oz. weight Shredded Cheddar
  • 4 oz. weight Cream Cheese


  • Place butternut squash, sage, thyme, onion, garlic, and vegetable stock in the slow cooker—cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours. Use an immersion blender or regular blender and puree the vegetables.

    Make sure the slow cooker is set to warm. Add puree, pasta, salt, and cheese to the slow cooker. Stir until well combined and the cheeses have melted. Season with salt to taste and serve.

Source: https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/recipes/a95674/slow-cooker-butternut-squash-mac-and-cheese/

Kimchi Avocado Quesadilla Recipe

Who loves kimchi and avocados? This recipe combines both kimchi and avocados in a tortilla. A kimchi-avocado quesadilla! This easy recipe could be made in just 15 minutes! The ingredients are simple. Here’s the recipe!


2 tbsp of butter

1 cup of cabbage kimchi (drained and chopped)

2 flour tortillas

1.5 cups of grated Monterey jack and/or cheddar cheese

Half of an avocado (peeled, pitted, and sliced)

A dash of lime juice

1 tbsp of chopped fresh parsley and/or cilantro 


  1. Melt 1.5 tbsp of the butter in a pan on medium heat. Add the kimchi to the pan and saute the kimchi. Spread the kimchi into a thin layer and cook it for 5-6 minutes, then remove it from the pan.
  2. Add the rest of the butter to the pan. Swirl it around, letting it coat the pan. Add one of the flour tortillas and flip it to have both sides be coated with butter. Heat the tortillas until you see slight air bubbles inside the tortilla.
  3. Add half of the cheese and half of the kimchi to the center of the tortilla.
  4. Flip the tortilla in half, like how you would fold an omelet. Press down on the tortilla using a spatula. Flip it to the other side 30 seconds later. The tortilla should have a nice, toasty brown color. Let the cheese melt all the way! Remove it from the pan and repeat the same steps with the other tortilla.  
  5. Open the tortilla and add the sliced avocado inside. Top it with lime juice and parsley and/or cilantro. Fold the tortilla over again. Cut the tortilla into wedges to serve. Enjoy!

Sources: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/kimchi_avocado_quesadilla/ 

Make room for the shrooms!!

By Lisa Aparicio, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Myth: Only hippies eat mushrooms.

✔️ Truth: Mushrooms have many health benefits for everyone!

Have you ever tried mushrooms? Yes, the brown/white earthy button looking fungi. 

I understand if you might feel a little uncertain about them or look at them in disgust. I was once there too! 

Surprisingly, it turns out mushrooms are unique fungi that have various health benefits. We know mushrooms come in both poisonous and nonpoisonous forms but of course this blog will focus on the non-toxic, edible shroomies that will positively impact your life!

What makes mushrooms so great!? 

Mushrooms contain a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which provides us with a wide range of benefits such as support for our immune system, contributes to brain health, and even aids in stress reduction. 

Mushrooms are low in fat, sodium, and are a good source of fiber. They are an excellent source of zinc, potassium, selenium, copper, B vitamins, and even vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Mushrooms are packed with antioxidants which help keep our cells healthy. 

General Benefits of Mushrooms: 

  • Supports memory & focus
  • Improves immune system response 
  • Boost energy
  • May reduce anxiety & stress
  • Anti-inflammatory power 
  • Protects against age-related cognitive decline  

Enough with the general information. Let’s talk about which mushrooms would be most beneficial for a college student:

  • Lion’s mane: A large white mushroom that resembles a lion’s mane. Helps increase Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) levels, which protects us against degenerative brain diseases. Lion’s mane is well known for improving memory and focus. It may also reduce irritability and anxiety. It also has immune-boosting benefits. 
  • Chaga: A rusty orange with a black charcoal covering. Boosts immunity by stimulating white blood cells. Chaga is rich in zinc which helps our immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. 
  • Reishi: a deep red, sometimes orange color. Supports a state of calmness. Contains active compounds shown to help reduce stress, improve sleep, boost mood, and mental focus. Also, enhances the immune system.  
  • Shiitake: Tastes great! A great source of B vitamins and have antiviral and antibacterial properties. Help boost immune function, improve cell function, gut immunity, and reduce inflammation. May help to lower cholesterol. 

The most commonly used mushrooms that you may already know of and have tried before are cremini or portobello mushrooms. These types of mushrooms contain selenium which help our body make antioxidant enzymes to prevent cell damage. 

I encourage you to try any natural mushroom that can be bought at your local grocery store. Mushrooms have a delicate flavor and a meaty texture. They work great as an added ingredient or even as the main component of a dish. Try them in a new recipe or add them to your favorite dish. 

Popular ways to add more mushrooms to your diet:

  • Pizza topping 
  • Salad toppings 
  • Use in pasta sauce 
  • Stir-fry with other vegetables and/or source of protein
  • In an omelet or egg scramble 

How could you include a mushroom into your favorite dish? 

My favorite is mushroom tacos with shiitake and portobellos! 

PSA: Remember to always do your research before trying any new supplements. 

5 Halloween Workouts

By Daniela Rodriguez, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Intern

With Halloween right around the corner, why not listen to some spooky music while having some active fun? Here is a Spotify playlist for your spookiness.

We have also rounded up some easy Halloween themed workouts on Youtube to do in the comfort of your own home or gym. Please remember to take everything at your own pace and drink plenty of water. Have fun and get pumped up.

1- Warmup

HALLOWEEN WARM UP Zumba. Sulu and DJBaddmixx’s simple 7-minute Zumba warmup will get us ready for our upcoming Halloween workouts.

2- For Our Pumpkin Lover 

25 Minute Pumpkin Workout Utilize the extra pumpkin you have by working out for 25 minutes with Kelsey Ellis, a BCRPA-certified trainer! With one to two minutes of recovery in between sets, you’ll perform three sets of 12 repetitions of each exercise, which includes compound maneuvers like the single-leg deadlift with a row and sumo squat with a bicep curl. (Take a pair of dumbbells instead of a pumpkin if you don’t have one!)

3-Hocus Pocus Lover  25 Min Hocus Pocus Cardio Dance Workout – This exercise is going to cast a “spell on you” if you enjoy the original Hocus Pocus. The peppy choreography, which is performed to the song “I Put a Spell on You,” is directed by dance and fitness teacher Joseph Corella and includes easy bodyweight techniques.

4- CATWOMAN Workout

Low-Impact, Catwoman-Inspired Total Body Workout – This bodyweight exercise program was developed by Pilates teacher and Pop Pilates creator Cassey Ho to target your arms, abs, and butt for a chic, low-impact practice that is inspired by Catwoman. 

5- Zombie Workout

30 Minute Aerobic Zombie Workout – Exercise The Demons! – This Halloween-themed 30-minute dancing exercise is ideal for getting you in the mood, from the makeup to the lighting to the costume! Group exercise teacher HyperBody®, a multimedia artist, guides you through basic yet powerful choreography to get your entire body moving.

Which is your favorite??

Balsamic roasted with new potatoes with asparagus


  • 1 lb of potatoes
  • 4.5 oz of asparagus tips
  • 1 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil (or olive oil and a few crushed garlic cloves)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • A pinch of ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 390F
  2. Mix all the ingredients and roast for 20 minutes
  3. After 20 minutes, add extra olive oil if needed, and toss the veggies before baking them for an additional 15 minutes
  4. Add more balsamic vinegar, salt or pepper if desired, and serve!


The Flavors of Fall

By Leanna Sanchez, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

“Breathe in folks. Smells like fall” (Taylor Doose). As we settle into cozy fall weather, many of us enjoy taking strolls outside, taking cute pictures at the pumpkin patch or cozying up with a good book. Of course, none of this is done without hot drinks like pumpkin spice lattes and the warm comforting smell of fall spices. The flavors of fall is what perfectly wraps up the season into something magical. Some of my favorite fall spices and herbs to incorporate this time of the year are cinnamon, ginger, and rosemary, all of which have amazing health benefits.


Cinnamon is packed with polyphenol antioxidants and antibacterial properties. It is shown to have some anti-inflammatory benefits and it may also improve blood sugar. One of my favorite uses for cinnamon is using 3-5 large cinnamon sticks to make cinnamon tea then adding honey and lemon juice to taste. Cinnamon powder is also easy to sprinkle into your coffee, oatmeal, pancakes, baked goods, and smoothies are just some examples. Here is an easy overnight oats recipe utilizing cinnamon.


Ginger is a very versatile spice that works well in sweet and savory foods. It gives many dishes a nice kick of flavor. It’s been proven to help with digestion issues such as bloating and nausea, it contains antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory effects. My favorite ways to use ginger is using ginger root to make ginger shots, adding it to ground chicken in Asian-inspired meals, fried rice, baked goods, and drinking Temple’s Ginger Snap Latte.  Try this easy apple ginger mocktail recipe.


Rosemary is an amazing aromatic herb that can be added to food. Studies have shown that rosemary may have some antioxidative and antimicrobial properties. In addition, rosemary oil, as an aromatherapy treatment, has even been shown to improve exam performance in some students. It is good to add to soups, breads, chicken, steak, potatoes, and popcorn for example. Below is a recipe for some tasty rosemary parmesan sweet potatoes.

Rosemary Parmesan Roasted Sweet Potatoes – Flavor the Moments

Leave a comment below about your favorite fall spice or your favorite recipe utilizing any of these spices. Happy fall y’all!

Abandon Culture for “health”?

By Veronica Gomez, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

We always hear about eating “healthy” in the context of the American diet.

When we think of changing our eating habits, the average student will envision a diet completely different than what they are accustomed to. Suddenly, this student has to cut out all cultural foods and abide by a diet that has been pushed by mainstream white media. While media refers to modern television, Tik Tok, Instagram etc., institutions such as hospitals and schools will perpetuate this way of thinking as well. College students born in America would have been raised with MyPyramid. This pyramid shaped the lunch programs a lot of students weren’t fond of, and it served as a guide for hospital meal plans as well. While the current dietary guidelines infographic, MyPlate, is more inclusive and immersive, a lot of college students today live on with the little nutrition education they were exposed to before college.

MyPyramid (left) and MyPlate (right)

What is a “healthy diet”?

The recurrence of quoting the word “healthy” is due to the ambiguity tied to what it means to eat healthy. This ambiguity should instead be viewed as flexibility, which is exactly what our diets should be— flexible.

Foods like sweet potatoes, cauliflower-anything (nuggets, wings, rice), rice crackers, and chicken breast are idealized as healthy food staples. Students are encouraged to add these foods into their diets, and are pressured to remove cultural foods such as naan, tortillas, rice, or any potato dishes. But the flexibility of “healthy” eating does not suggest foods should be cut out, but rather, students should optimize their current diets. This especially means, students should NOT swap their cultural diets for an unsatisfying palette. Students should be encouraged to maintain whatever diets work for them, with the goal of adding as many nutrient-packed foods as possible. Contrary to what we have been told, food from our culture can be, and often is, very nutritious—and good for the soul.

Below are 4 cultural foods that are nutrient-packed!

Mexican Food Staple: Nopales. High in Dietary Soluble Fiber which lowers glycemic response in people with diabetes.

Indian Food Staple: Lentils. Rich in protein and iron.

African-American Food Staple: Collard Greens. Rich in potassium (improves blood pressure) and zinc (for a strong immune system)

Mediterranean Food Staple: Bulgur. A tasty whole grain packed with dietary fiber (great for your hearty and bowel health)

Tell us what your favorite cultural food is in the comments!

5 ways Meditation can make you a MORE EFFICIENT student!

By Lisa Aparicio, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Welcome Back Aggies! Fall quarter 2022 has just begun and we are ready to start it off right by prioritizing our mental/physical health and wellness. Cheers to another year of progress towards our goals! We are back again this year providing you with information and tips surrounding lifestyle, nutrition, mental wellness, and fitness. Today’s topic is Meditation.

Meditation. Over the last few years there has been an increased awareness of meditation and the benefits it may bring. Meditation is nothing more than a simple mindfulness practice.

Can’t imagine sitting alone with your thoughts? Or even just sitting still? I completely understand! Our lives as college students are nonstop and with the fast pace and pressure of the quarter system any size task can seem too overbearing.

But, maybe after reviewing the 5 ways meditation can make you a more efficient student below, you’ll be willing to give it a 2-week trial run!

Here are 5 ways meditation can help make you a more efficient student:

  1. Stress Reduction. Stress is caused by the increased level of a stress hormone called Cortisol in our brain which leads to emotional dysregulation. Through mindfulness meditation our brain creates new neuropath ways, which activates a different part of our brain during stressful situations allowing us to regulate our emotions more efficiently and stay calm. This can look like remaining calm when your professor announces the date for your next midterm. Or not panicking when you remember you still have a club meeting to attend after a full day of class.
  • Improve memory and concentration Through the practice of mindfulness meditation you will begin to increase your focus by bringing your attention to the present moment. Focusing on your breath while meditating will allow you to concentration on the here and now essentially enhancing your attention span and memory. This would be extremely beneficial for in person lecture classes and for overall mental health as a student.
  • Increase empathy for peers. Having control of your emotions will allow interacting with unfamiliar peers more enjoyable because you are able to remain in a neutral less reactive state. In addition, some meditation practices are tailored to increase self-love and positive thinking patterns. This positive mindset and extension of love and kindness can then spread to family and peers.
  • Improves sleep Mindfulness meditation can help improve sleep quality by teaching the mind to be present in the now and allowing it to disconnect from the chaos of everyday life. It promotes a calm relax state after a long day of being overstimulated. Meditation can also help students with insomnia by helping you learn to control and redirect your racing mind, allowing you to fall to sleep faster and get the rest your body needs to function optimally.
  • Improve health. Meditation can help improve both mental and physiological health. Practicing mindfulness reduces anxiety and stress put on the body by our emotional mind. As a result, reducing anxiety and stress promotes a stronger immune system and reduces blood pressure. Meditation shifts us from using our sympathetic nervous system “fight-or-flight” to our parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest) which allows the body to relax, repair itself, and recharge. Reducing the amount of occurrences we get sick as a college student is very important to our academic success.

Will you be willing to take a short break for only 3-10 minutes a day (at anytime!) to try a mindfulness practice? To see in what ways meditation may positively impact your life? Here is a short, guided mindfulness video to get you started: https://youtu.be/ssss7V1_eyA

Share your experience in the comments!