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


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?








Boba milk tea…healthy?


By Anna Bui, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Intern

Boba. Pearl milk tea. Bubble tea. Whatever you call this sweet, delectable, Taiwan based drink it has sure grown in popularity. The supposed origin of bubble tea was in Taiwan during the 1980’s. Since then boba shops are popping up everywhere. In our own little cowtown many UC Davis students are familiar with these shops: ManDro Teahouse, OnTap, T4, TeaBo Cafe, Lazi Cow, Gong Cha, The Old Teahouse, ShareTea, Honey D Cafe, i-Tea, and the newest addition, Akira Coffee & Tea. There certainly are plenty to choose from!

The rise in popularity of milk tea is projected to continue in the United States. According to a report by Allied Market Research, the global milk tea market was valued at $1.9 billion in 2016. By 2023 it is projected to reach $3.2 billion. Definitely beloved, but is milk tea good for us?

Healthy Misconception?

There are many benefits to the consumption of green/ black tea. To name a few, green tea is known to have antioxidants, which lower risk of cardiovascular disease, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure. Although milk tea contains green tea, it doesn’t ‘un-do’ the excessive amounts of added sugar. Just because milk tea has “tea”, is it healthier than other sugary drinks (eg soda)? Not hardly. Compare a 16 fl oz Coca Cola , 190 kcals and 52g of added sugar, to Kung Fu Tea, 16 fl oz Milk Tea, 180kcals and 25g of sugar.  Plus if you add the very popular Boba topping (272 kcal and 67.5 g carbohydrate (USDA)) you’ve just outdone Coca Cola.

Healthier Alternatives

If you are craving milk tea, you have some options!

  1. Adjust the sugar level – many milk tea shops allow you the option to adjust a drink’s sugar level. This can range from 100% to 0% sweetness. It may be difficult to completely transition to 0% if you typically drink milk tea at 100% sweetness. Start out with a small reduction first, like opting for 80% sugar; gradually decrease.
  2. Opt for a small size serving – enjoy just enough to satisfy your craving.
  3. Limit toppings – just opting out of boba is helpful; or ask for a half serving.
  4. Opt for regular tea! – using a simple tea bag can not only cut down calories and added sugar, but also is cheaper!

Boba milk tea is delicious. Limiting the amount of “boba trips” per week, reducing the amount of toppings, and adjusting the sugar level will help cut down excessive sugar intake over the long term.

Are you a boba fan?  Will you try something new?


Bubble Tea Market Expected to Reach $3,214 Million, Globally by 2023,

Kung Fu Tea | Fresh – Innovative – Fearless Leading Tea Brand,



5 Tips to Avoid Getting Sick In College

girl study

By:  Esther Garcia, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Intern            

As winter approaches, students are seen sneezing and coughing in class. There is no evidence on why students are more prone to get sick in the winter, compared to other seasons. We all tend to be inside more, where everyone comes in contact with the same things.  It may be simply because viruses peak in the wintertime. However you get it, we all know there are many struggles that come an illness of any kind: skipped classes, missed (or late) assignments, and even missed exams. To help avoid an illness and the consequent academic nightmare, there are five tips below to minimize your risk of getting sick.

Wash Your Hands! – Everything is full of germs. The pencil that you shared, the notebook your friend let you borrow to study, and your desk – all have various good and bad germs.  It is important to wash your hands each time you come in contact with an object. Make sure to wash your hands for at least 30 seconds:

  • Before eating
  • Before rubbing your eyes or nose
  • After using the restroom
  • After sneezing and coughing
  • After shaking hands

Rest – Sleep is the last thing on a student’s mind, however; “all-nighters” are not be effective for infection control! The body needs rest to regenerate and fight any viruses it came in contact with. Students who get an adequate amount of sleep tend to have a better immune system than those who don’t. So, having a consistent sleeping schedule not only gets the body ready for your school day, but also for a healthy day!.

Eat a Balanced Diet – Having plenty of fruits and vegetables strengthens our immune system. The vitamins and minerals we get from fruit and vegetables provides ammunition to fight illness. Many of us tend not to eat many fruits and veggies during the winter; however, having at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits can help our immune system utilize vitamins and minerals like Vit C and potassium work together to get the body stronger. Proteins like lean meats, legumes, and  dairy is also important because the amino acids help the body create strong components  of the immune system.

Physical Activity  Staying active during the winter is difficult because most students want to remain in doors where it is cozy and warm; nonetheless, evidence has demonstrated that people who exercise year round tend to get less sick. Similar to eating a balanced diet, exercise helps the body get stronger for any viruses. If it’s too cold to go for a run try:

  • Going to a gym
  • Finding an exercise video
  • Going for a walk around the library
  • Taking an indoor exercise class

Stay Hydrated – During the winter, most of us opt out from consuming water and prefer to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. As much as we enjoy the warm cup of liquids, theses type of beverages tend to dehydrate us. Water is important for staying hydrated and transporting all of the vitamins to the site of absorption.

Considering these tips will not only help you get through a healthy school year, it will help many others too! Always remember, clean hands and a healthy balanced lifestyle will help keep you free of infection by viruses and bacterial.


Healthy Late Night Snacking

late night snack

By Marisa Morales, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

In college, you will likely find yourself staying up late at night just to finish your paper that’s due at 11:59pm, or study for an exam you have the next day. Seems like it is just part of college life. You may also notice that the longer you stay up the hungrier you get-you may even find yourself eating as a response to the stress you’re feeling. Have you ever wondered what these late-night snacks might do to your health?

There have been numerous studies on the hypothesis that gaining weight occurs more easily with snacking past 8pm. A nutrition professor at Penn State University, Barbara Rolls, confirmed that this hypothesis is a myth. She states that of the studies and surveys conducted thus far, there has been no significant correlation between weight gain and snacking at night. There is, however, significant evidence showing a positive correlation between weight loss and eating breakfast. In general, we shouldn’t focus on when we eat but instead focus on what we eat. If you feel the urge to snack past 8pm try to opt for nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense foods are those that provide a high amount of nutrients for the calories. For instance, oranges are a nutrient dense food while cookies are low in nutrient density (provide few nutrients relative to the large amount of calories). Check out the list below for some nutrient dense late night snacks!

  • Apple slices with nut butter
  • Carrots with hummus
  • Greek yogurt
  • Walnuts
  • Plain popcorn
  • Banana and nut butter on wheat toast
  • Eggs
  • Crackers and cheese
  • Celery with nut butter
  • Frozen/unfrozen grapes
  • Protein smoothie

I have always believed that we should listen to our body’s signals. If your body is telling you it is hungry, feed it. Your body knows when it needs energy and it knows when to tell you. I, for one, find it very difficult to continue any task if my mind is focused on food. I know how difficult it can be to find the time to eat when you are running around campus going from classes, to office hours, to work, etc. What you must remember is that in order to get through the day you need to eat. Pack a lunch box with some of the snacks mentioned above (they make great mid-day snacks, too!). If you can try to avoid the hunger, I would highly encourage you to do so. I’m sure I am not the only one who feels like eating a full-on feast of pizza, burgers, and ice cream when I let myself get too hungry. I’ve found that if I have a morning snack, afternoon snack, and night snack in between my normal meals then I feel perfectly satisfied eating smaller, healthier portioned meals.

Recipe: Bedtime Smoothie

Total time: 5 minutes


1 cup kale leaves

1 cup vanilla yogurt

1 ripe banana

1 tbsp almond butter

2 tsp flax seeds

2 kiwis

½ cup almond milk


  1. Blend all the ingredients together, that’s it!

*take a look at this website for more information on the sleep benefits behind these tasty ingredients!

What is your favorite late night snack?  Let us know in the comments!



Intermittent Fasting – does it help Weight Loss?

timed eating

By Maggie Zeng, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

The concept of intermittent fasting continues to grow in popularity; people tout the effect of fasting on weight loss or even report it boosts their mood. There are many versions of intermittent fasting, including the “16/8 method”, “5:2 diet”, and “Eat-Stop-Eat”, among others.  Is there any evidence that fasting is advantageous?

What is Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a way of scheduling your meals into a restricted time frame. You are not necessarily changing the amount of food eaten, rather you’re changing when you eat.

There are three common ways of intermittent fasting:

16/8 method

This method splits a day (24 hours) into two blocks. One is 16 and the other 8 hours long. During the 8 hour block, you eat whatever you want (the amount of food you normally eat for a day). You may still eat 3 meals within the 8 hours or skip one meal. During the 16 hour block you fast, drinking only water.


5:2 Diet

The 5: 2 Diet is a weekly pattern during which five days a week you eat normally, and two days (recommended not consecutive) you limit your calorie intake to below 500-600 kcals.


This method involves a 24 hour-fasting period once or twice per week. During the fasting day, only water, black coffee and other non-caloric beverages are allowed.

Any benefits?

Potential benefits to intermittent fasting include possible weight loss due to decreased calorie consumption, possibly a positive effect on blood glucose control (more research needed) and enhanced brain health.  One study found that mice on a brief intermittent fasting diet had better learning and memory than mice with free access to food.  Further research, in animals, suggests that intermittent fasting can suppress inflammation in the brain, which has links to neurological conditions.

What about the down side?

Potential pitfalls include individual tolerance to fasting times – some people find it convenient to skip meals, others find it difficult. Overeating during non-fasting times can contribute to excessive calorie intake and weight gain. Finally, the lack of research on long term effects prevents these regimes from being a recommended practice.  Talk to your medical provider if you are considering any new eating pattern.


Harvard Health Publishing. “Not so Fast: Pros and Cons of the Newest Diet Trend.” Harvard Health,