What Is SPE, and Why Is It Important?

SPE_video_peppers

UC Davis Dining Services is proud to partner with SPE Certified to bring UC Davis Aggies a healthy and sustainable meal option at the Dining Commons. You can find SPE Certified meals at Segundo, Tercero, and Cuarto Dining Commons for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week. So what is SPE? Greg Deligdisch, VP Marketing of SPE Certified writes a guest post:

What is SPE?

SPE stands for Sanitas Per Escam, literally Health Through Food in Latin. It’s an apt “promise” for a unique third-party certification and consulting company that is defining a new way to eat. In essence, SPE Certified enhances the nutritional quality of meals without compromising taste, thereby ensuring that every dish is healthy, sustainable and most of all, delicious.

SPE Certified is the first of its kind, a revolutionary new brand providing a universal, trusted standard for food — similar to what LEED® is to buildings and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval® is to household products. So when students see the distinctive SPE logo (dubbed a “squiggly, red insignia” by The New York Times), they will know those dishes have been properly sourced, are nutritionally balanced and taste great.

Healthy food need not be boring

SPE was created by Emmanuel Verstraeten, Founder and CEO, to build a bridge between the culinary and scientific worlds and to ensure that for the first time, healthy food did not need to be boring. So in 2001, he brought together a chef and a dietitian (truly an odd couple!) and opened the first SPE restaurant in Brussels named Rouge Tomate, followed in 2008 by Rouge Tomate New York. From the beginning, though, the goal was to expand beyond, with the restaurants serving only as the “incubators”, real-life laboratories for this unique culinary philosophy. So in May 2012, he launched SPE Certified, through which all foodservice establishments — restaurants, cruise lines, school and university cafeterias, airlines, corporate cafeterias, hospitals, etc. – can now access the ultimate in nutritionally balanced, sustainable food.

Within months of launching, blue-chip brands such as Celebrity Cruises, UMass Amherst, Hotel Plaza-Athénée NY and Michelin-starred Danji and Seasonal restaurants jumped on the “health bandwagon” and became SPE-certified. SPE Certified is now proud to partner with UC Davis, the first school to become certified on the West Coast.

Why eat SPE?

The latest health, or rather un-health, numbers are staggering: in 2030, 42% of the US population will be obese, and it is getting worse every year. Increasing numbers of Americans are suffering from diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer – all contributing to skyrocketing health care costs. Verstraeten created SPE with a real desire not only to affect positive change, but also to reach as many men, women and children as possible. And what better place to showcase this compelling brand, indisputably at the center of the current (white-hot) health and nutrition conversation, than in the cutting-edge, sustainably-focused cafeterias of  UC Davis?

Tips to Remember Portion Sizes

tips-to-remember-portion-sizes

There was once a time when a standard cup of coffee was eight ounces and had only 45 calories from added milk and sugar. Today the average coffee is twice as large at 16 ounces and 350 calories from added milk and sugar.

Often times it is hard to discern what the size of a serving should be, especially with out-of-control portions like the “jumbo” and “super size” options available at restaurants.  It is easy to lose track of how much you should be consuming.  But just because today’s culture of “more is better” has invaded the food industry does not mean that you have to or should sacrifice eating healthy.

Keeping an eye on portion sizes is an excellent way to control how much food you consume in order to maintain a balanced diet. Luckily, many portion sizes match up to everyday objects. This provides visual cues that make it easy to remember the size of one serving.  Practice these cues and soon it will be easy to practice accurate portion control and keep your serving sizes in check!

Carbohydrates/Grains

  • Half a cup of cooked whole-grain pasta is about the same size as a hockey puck and equals one carbohydrate serving, or 70 calories. If you prefer rice or are looking for a gluten free option, 1/3 cup of cooked brown rice is also 70 calories.

Fruits and Vegetables

  • Half a cup of cooked carrots is about the same as half a baseball and equals one vegetable serving, or about 25 calories. When eating raw leafy green vegetables the serving will appear larger. Two cups of spinach, or two baseballs, are about 25 calories.
  • One small apple or medium orange is about the same size as a tennis ball and equals one fruit serving, or about 60 calories.

Dairy, Fat, and Protein

  • Two teaspoons of regular mayonnaise are about the same size as two dice and equal one fat serving, or about 45 calories.
  • Two ounces of low-fat hard cheddar cheese are about the same size as three to four dice and equal one protein/dairy serving, or about 110 calories.
  • One serving of meat equals the size of a deck of cards.

Other tips:

  • Use smaller plates and bowls to keep portions in check
  • Buy pre-portioned 100 calorie packs to use for snacks

Ask the Dietitian

linda professionalWith bicycling as the most popular form of transportation in Davis and so many healthy food options available through UC Davis Dining Services, it is already easy to live an active and healthy lifestyle in Davis. But wait, there’s more.

UC Davis Dining Services employs a team of nutrition students along with Registered Dietician Linda Adams (pictured right) to assist students with any questions or concerns they may have about health. During the school year Linda holds drop-in hours on Mondays at the Fitness & Wellness Center at the ARC. On Monday’s from 11am-1pm, stop in for a free 15-minute drop-in appointment and she will be delighted to answer any and every question you may have regarding nutrition! We decided to get a head start on healthy living this school year by asking her a few of our own:         

1. Seriously, is it worth paying more to buy organic milk? Isn’t the quality of milk already  regulated by the FDA?

According to the American Dietetic Association, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that organic food, including milk, is superior in regards to food safety or nutrition. Organic and regular milk both contain the same nine essential nutrients that make dairy products part of a healthy diet. So although it is generally advisable to buy locally grown and organic when possible, organic and regular milk provide the same health benefits. The benefit that comes from any organic product is the reassurance you get that it was raised under certain circumstances.  You can find information here. Pasture raised dairy and beef products contain more nutrients and a better fatty acid profile, whether or not they are certified organic.  Find more information here and here.

2. What about the almond milk trend? Is it supposed to be better for you than cow’s milk?

Almond milk is an increasingly popular milk substitute that is made by mixing finely-ground almonds with water. Almond milk and dairy milk are compared in the table below. While almond milk does provide calcium, it is lacking in protein and consequently doesn’t make a good substitute for dairy milk.

Product Calories Protein (g) Calcium (mg) Fat (g)
Milk, dairy non-fat 90 8.74 293 .61
Milk, dairy 2% fat (low-fat) 122 8 200 4.83
Almond milk, unsweetened 40 1 200 2.5
Almond milk, vanilla 90 1 315 3.0

3.  Are there any nutritional supplements that college students in specific could be taking to improve their health?

 Nutritional supplements are generally needed when someone is not able to ingest the appropriate amounts of healthy foods or for some reason is unable to absorb nutrients from food.   Active college students consuming a varied diet generally don’t need any supplementation.  An exception may be made for females with iron or calcium challenges.

 4. Is juicing fruits and vegetables a good way to get all of the servings that I need for that day?

Juicing is when a machine is used to grind fruits and vegetables into a pulp so that they can be consumed as a liquid. This technique is useful for people who do not like the texture of certain fruits and vegetables or people who want to mix a variety of flavors into one. While juicing is a convenient way to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, the juices of some fruits and vegetables such as carrots or beets contain a lot of sugar and the rate of ingestion increases when consuming juice as compared to the whole fruit or vegetable.  Keep an eye on the sugar content when you are juicing by including mostly vegetables and a small amount of fruit to enhance the taste. Another downside to juicing is that drinking juice will not cause you to feel full as long as if you were to consume whole fruits and vegetables, because it eliminates the period where you body is breaking the food down; liquids leave the stomach quicker than solids.  Therefore juicing should be used as a supplement to consuming whole fruits and vegetables.

Through the eyes of Michael Portillo

Michael-Portillo

My  name is Michael Portillo andI spent six weeks as an intern for UC Davis Dining services. During my week spent in the Sustainability and Nutrition Office (SNO), I was given the opportunity to explore and learn more about sustainable food and how it has grown over the years at UC Davis Dining Services. Before this experience I didn’t know much about this concept, so as you can imagine, everything from the selection of the produce to the preparation came as a surprise to me. Although, I did not know about how to be sustainable, the concept of maintaining a balance between the human needs to improve lifestyles and preservation of natural resources for our future was something I grew interest in immediately after hearing about it.

In order to understand more in-depth how UC Davis Dining Services has made such a positive impact on the students and community with regards to using and purchasing sustainable goods, I went to the primary source of all nutrients harvested from the earth – a farm – the Student Farm at UC Davis to be exact. There I gained a great deal of insight on the many day-to-day obstacles that farmers go through to harvest top notch organic produce. It was truly an amazing experience. The best part was eating some of the harvest; the grapes in particular were overflowing with mouth-watering nutrients that made my taste buds go crazy. It’s no wonder hundreds of gourmet chefs across the nation are choosing organic food to prepare.

Students are the primary driver of this relationship between Dining Services and the Student Farm.  Students grow the food, harvest the food and communicate with chefs what is available for them to order.

Shortly after harvesting the produce, we delivered it to the kitchens on campus. With the help of a group of students we sorted out the produce and cleaned it. We packaged and labeled the produce with its destination information. Once everything was ready for departure, it was loaded on the van.  I rode along as it was being delivered to various sites.

While at the Segundo Dinning Commons (DC) my experience took a slightly new direction. After just having picked and packaged the produce, I was now helping the kitchen staff prepare and cook the produce. The chef and his culinary staff showed me how they aim to make good use of every piece of the produce when possible;  right down to composting the pieces that cannot be used in other ways.   I learned that locally grown, organic food has superior taste and quality.

From the salad bar to the ingredients used for cooking of various dishes, I saw the processes used to take the food from farm to fork.  The last but best part of my experience was eating the food. I visited Segundo DC for lunch and feasted on the salad bar teeming with student farm veggies and an entrée that was amazing…Heirloom Tomato Stacker… Yummmm…

Student-Farm-Plate

Overall, the experience taught me to look at food in a much more positive, healthy way. The process that produce goods goes through to get from the farm to the dining commons has an impact on our environment. I have enjoyed learning how organic produces minimize these harmful effects that come from this process. I wee now how eating locally grown, organic, seasonal product is one of the ways to preserve the earth’s natural resources and ecosystems for future generations to come.

Build a Better Salad!

Congrats! You’ve made it through Summer’s hottest months. But if you are like me, you are probably denying that it is ever going to end and still trying to squeeze in that last bit of fun outdoors. As a result, spending time inside cooking is probably last on your list. But with a multitude of end-of-summer activities, you need to fuel your body somehow. So what’s the solution?

Salad! Salad is the perfect easy meal. It’s light, fresh, quick, and since salad leaves naturally contain water, it’s even hydrating. But with so many options for creating a salad, it can be tough to know what to choose. Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure your salad is not only healthy but also delicious.

Step 1

Start with lots of leafy greens. This is an easy way to fill out the bulk of your salad while adding a lot of nutritional value without adding calories. Find information on how to choose the best salad greens here.

  • Spinach is the number one salad green, packing over twice the daily value of Vitamin K along with high levels of potassium and calcium.
  • Romaine is a close second, beating out spinach only in Vitamin A content.
  • Other options are Swiss Chard and Kale, which both boast super high antioxidant content. These are not commonly available at salad bars, but can be found in the produce aisle.

Step 2

Now comes the fun part: adding fruits and vegetables to the mix. As a general rule, the colors of fruits and vegetables indicate which nutrients they contain. Focus on getting a little of each color in your salad to maximize their benefits. With so many options this is where you can get creative with your salad depending on your preferences.

  • Excellent veggies for salads include sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, onions, mushrooms, beets, and broccoli
  • Add fruits such as avocado, chopped apples, pears, grapes, cantaloupe or strawberries

Step 3

Add a lean protein. Lean protein will help you feel fuller longer as well as help build lean muscle mass.

  • White meat chicken or turkey
  • Fish is one of the healthiest sources of lean protein because it is lowest in saturated fat. A good choice for fish is salmon, because it contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (or good fats).
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Step 4

Add some extra crunch. Nuts and seeds are full of good-for-you fats and are high in fiber and antioxidants. Some great nuts for salads are almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Another way to add crunch without nuts is to use crushed pita chips.

 Step 5

It is smart to use discretion when adding dressing to your salad to avoid dousing your healthy salad with unnecessary calories. A good way to control the amount of dressing is to ask for it on the side. Stay away from creamy dressings, as just two tablespoons of the average ranch dressing contain about 14 grams of fat. Instead look for an olive oil-based dressing like this one,  which contains half the amount of fat but still adds flavor.

Looking to put your brand new salad building skills to work? Try the Hub at West Village’s Kitchen, which has a variety of tasty options at their salad bar. The Hub Kitchen is currently featuring seasonal vegetables grown at the UC Davis Student Farm, including Sungold tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, Basil, and Summer Squash. Don’t forget to ‘Like’ them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all of the Hub’s specials at https://www.facebook.com/HubWestVillage.

Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below. 

How to Bake Healthier

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We all have our weaknesses when it comes to food, what’s yours?

For someone who loves food, it’s truly hard to pick just one. Sushi, ice cream, Nutella sandwiches…basically most foods are weaknesses. But among all of my favorite foods to eat, there’s one that has made it to the top of the list. Freshly baked goods. Warm cobbler, gooey chocolate chip cookies, and don’t even get me started on bread. The smell of freshly baked bread should be an air freshener scent. Really.

When it comes to baking, it’s tempting to grab a box of cake, brownie, bread, you name it, mix from the grocery store. But consider why baking from scratch is better:

  • You have total control! You know exactly what is going into your food.
  • You decide on the type and amount of sugar, fat, and flour used the baked product.
  • Most mixes contain partially hydrogenated oil (yes, that’s trans fat!), food coloring, and preservatives.

While baked goods are often seen as diet splurges, you can still satisfy your cravings while still incorporating healthy fat, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. Here are some tips to modify any baking recipe to make it more nutritious! These tips can also be applied to baking mixes.

Oil or butter

Fat is used in baked goods to provide moistness, flavor, and texture. Fat is a necessary nutrient for our bodies; make healthy changes by reducing the amount of unhealthy or excessive fat consumed. Try substituting some or all of the fat in a recipe with:

  • Mashed ripened bananas
  • Pureed pumpkin
  • Pureed sweet potatoes
  • Fruit puree (prune, peaches, etc.)

For ideal texture, substitute half of the fat in the recipe with:

  • Plain yogurt
  • Applesauce

Sugar

Sugar plays an important role in baking because it contributes to moistness, browning, and sweetness.

Alternative sweeteners?  Some sweeteners are advertised as being healthy because they are “all natural”. For example, Agave syrup is from blue Agave plants native to Mexico, South America, and part of the United States. The syrup you see sold in stores is a processed product made from the natural sweet liquid that comes from the plant. Little evidence shows that Agave syrup is significantly healthier than sugar. When it comes to sweeteners the bottom line is to focus on the amount that is added rather than the type of sweetener.

  • Overripe bananas are sweeter so you can reduce the amount of sugar you add
  • Cut back on ¼ or 1/3 of the amount of sugar the recipe calls for
  • Top cake with sliced fruit and a light dusting of powdered sugar instead of using frosting
  • Use spices and extracts such as vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.
  • Choose a recipe that has less sugar

Flour

Typically white flour is used in baking but unfortunately much of its nutrients are stripped away during processing. The US Dietary Guidelines recommends half of the grains we consume each day to be whole grains and what better way to incorporate that than with baked goods! Instead of opting for the usual white flour, experiment with new flours by visiting the bin aisle of your local health foods store.

1 cup of all-purpose flour can be substituted with:

  • ½ cup whole wheat flour and ½ cup all purpose flour (note: whole wheat pastry flour will work better in cakes and muffins)
  • Buckwheat flour works well in bread recipes
  • Barley flour can be used in pancake recipes
  • Almond flour is high in vitamin E, copper, protein, and more! Read more about it here

If the recipe calls for 2 or more cups of flour you can substitute ¼ or ½ cup of it with flaxseed meal. Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignans, which have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Lastly, add nutrient dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to baked goods as a subtle way to increase the nutrition profile. Try these black bean brownies to satisfy your chocolate craving while consuming fiber-rich black beans!

Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below. 

Weird Foods Worth Trying

weird_food_banner

Is it just me or did your parents also make smoothies out of apple, banana, bitter melon, kumquat, and bell pepper growing up? Really, just me? Oh okay.

When I was in middle school my parents discovered something revolutionary, a Vitamix blender. Thus began their journey of blending every single fruit and vegetable in sight. To this day, my dad still prides himself on his homemade smoothies that contain 20 different fruits and vegetables. During the beginning of their blending obsession, I was introduced to odd fruits and vegetables that I surprisingly enjoyed (granted, I preferred eating them whole). That’s probably the reason why I get excited about trying unique produce that looks strange at first glance.

Although carrots and apples are great, I want to expose you to foods that aren’t well known but packed with nutrition! Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to throw it all into a blender… all I ask is for you to be open-minded and give these yummy foods a try.

Adzuki Beans

adzukibeans
photo by Oprah

Adzuki beans are small red beans that are traditionally used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Although we often associate beans with savory flavors, Adzuki beans are often sweetened and used in desserts. In traditional Chinese medicine, this legume is used to support kidney, reproductive, and bladder function. Adzuki beans are high in:

  • Iron
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese

Whew! These beans may be small but they’re definitely nutrition powerhouses.

Preparation:
Begin by washing your beans and soaking them overnight in water. If you don’t have time to soak the beans overnight, you can also use put them in a pressure cooker for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and simmer the beans in water for an hour. Again, you can also use a pressure cooker by cooking the soaked beans in 2 cups of water for 5-9 minutes under high pressure.

Storage:
Store the beans in a sealed container in a dark and cool environment. They will last 5 days refrigerated or 6 months in the freezer.

Use:

  • Add to soups and stews
  • Mash the beans and use for bean tacos with avocado, salsa, lettuce, etc.
  • Pair with other beans to make a bean salad

Dandelion Greens

DandelionGreens
photo by Nourished Kitchen

Dandelion greens are more than merely pesky weeds that have invaded your garden. It may surprise you to know that they help control inflammation in our bodies and have been shown to be beneficial as anti-cancer agents. On top of that, they are also high in:

  • Vitamin A, E, and K
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Fiber

Use the leaves by:

  • Tossing in salads along with your favorite leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.)
  • Blending with fruits to make a smoothie
  • Chopping and adding them to grains such as brown or wild rice

Feeling adventurous? Try using other parts of the plant as well because the flower, leaves and root are all edible!

Purple Yams

Purpleyams
photo by The Kitchn

If the beautiful violet hue hasn’t convinced you to try these yet then the flavor definitely will. Lightly sweet, smooth and starchy, you’ll feel like you’re indulging when you take a bite into a purple yam. The great news is that yams are full of:

  • Complex carbohydrates and fiber
  • Vitamin C and B6
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Magnesium

My favorite way to eat yams is to simply bake them. Wash thoroughly with water and pierce them a few times with a fork or knife. Place yams on a baking sheet or pan lined with foil. Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 1 hour, although the time will vary depending on the size of your yams. Remember to shake the pan occasionally while the yams are in the oven to ensure even cooking.

Baked yams make for a great snack, a quick breakfast on the go, or a healthy way to satisfy any sweet tooth!

Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi
photo by In Sonnet’s Kitchen

Can be eaten raw or cooked

  • Vitamin C and B6
  • Isothiocyanates, which are beneficial against certain cancers
  • Dietary fiber
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium

Try this! Revamp classic French fries by making kohlrabi fries. Begin by removing the stems and leaves from the bulb (you can save them and sauté it!). Next, peel the bulb and slice it into thick matchsticks. Drizzle the kohlrabi with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can also spice things up by adding chili powder or paprika. Spread out the fries on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.

Wheat berries

Wheatberries
photo by Food Network

Wheat berries are whole wheat kernels that are commonly ground into whole wheat flour for baking. Because the kernel is left intact, it contains all of the health benefits associated with the bran, which include:

  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Protein
  • Vitamin E

Preparation:
Add 1 cup of wheat berries and 3 cups of water to a pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and cover the pot. At around 30 minutes check the berries to see if they’re done. Look for a texture that is chewy! Continue to check every 5 minutes until they’re ready. You can store the berries in the refrigerator for about one week after they are cool.

Use:

  • Add to chili for a hearty texture
  • Stir into cooked oats
  • Toss with olive oil, corn, red onion, and arugula for a quick salad
  • Pair with roasted fennel and bell peppers

Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below. 

Five Herbs Worth Trying!

herbstotry

I think we can all agree that sometimes life feels a little “blah.”

There comes a time when we become tired with the monotonous day-to-day activities and need something different. Whether its going for a therapeutic run, seeing a favorite movie, or getting a scoop (or two) of your favorite ice cream (lemon cookie), we all need some spicing up in our lives from time to time.

When it comes to cooking, herbs are nature’s wonderful gifts to jazz up our food when it begins to feel a little boring. Sold at farmers markets and your local grocery stores, there are many varieties accessible to all of us! On top of that, they’re inexpensive, full of health benefits, and easy to use… need I say more? Follow this easy guide to understand more about herbs and how to incorporate them into your meals. Before you know it, your ordinary food will be popping with fresh flavors!

At the Store

When buying fresh herbs there are some key points to keep in mind.

Look for:

  • Vibrant color and aroma
  • Fresh appearance
  • Fragrant
  • Crisp stems

Avoid:

  • Limp or wilting leaves
  • Yellow or black spots
  • Damaged stems and leaves
  • Dry appearance

How to Store Herbs

Store in a damp paper towel in a sealed plastic bag filled with air. Most herbs will last refrigerated for up to five days, but some may lose their flavor after a couple of days. Wash with cool water right before using and pat dry!

You can also freeze herbs by rinsing, patting dry, and transferring to a sheet pan to freeze. After the herbs are frozen, transfer them to a freezer proof bag and freeze up to 1 month.

Basil

There are many varieties of basil but Sweet Basil is the most common; it gets its name from the sweet aroma the stem and leaves give off. Basil was traditionally used as a medicine for its antibacterial and antioxidant properties. This herb is a good source of:

  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin A
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium

Ways to use fresh basil:

  • Pesto
  • Paired with tomatoes used in tomato dishes, such as tomato sauces
  • Infused olive oil
  • Tossed with salads (tomatoes, cucumbers, mozzarella, etc.)

Dill

Did you know that dill was used in the Middle Ages to protect against witchcraft? Today it is used as a remedy for digestive problems and loss of appetite. It also contains:

  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Vitamin A and C
  • Iron

Pairs well with:

  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Fish
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

Add dill towards the end of the cooking process so that the heat doesn’t destroy the delicate flavor.

Peppermint

Take advantage of this seasoning by adding peppermint to drinks and food for a refreshing burst of flavor. Peppermint can be used whole, torn, or muddled. Try using this herb in:

  • Iced tea
  • Add torn leaves to sliced strawberries
  • Toss in a fruit salad
  • Freeze leaves inside ice cubes
  • Add one or two leaves to steamed vegetables and remove before serving

Health benefits:

  • Relieves abdominal discomfort (cramping, pain, and bloating)
  • Contains Rosmarinic acid, which has been shown to be beneficial in reducing asthma symptoms.
  • Reduces heartburn
  • Soothes headaches by applying peppermint oil topically

Cilantro

Cilantro has a bright flavor that will pop in any dish! I love using this herb but when I’m left with a large bundle  – what do I do with it?? Here are some fun ways to incorporate this herb into your cooking:

  • Stir chopped cilantro into cooked brown rice
  • Mix it into salsa and guacamole
  • For a quick sauce, blend it with a cup of Greek yogurt and a jalapeno
  • Make cilantro pesto

Use cilantro in a dish by chopping the leaves and stems or simply by using the leaves whole.

Health benefits include:

  • Reduces bad cholesterol
  • Good source of fiber
  • Leaves are rich in antioxidants
  • High in vitamin A and K

Chives

Chives belong to the same family as garlic, onions, and leeks. With a mild onion flavor, chives make a great substitute for those who are looking for an onion alternative. Here are some ways to use chives:

  • Mix chopped chives with Greek yogurt and dollop it on a baked potato
  • Use in scrambled eggs and frittatas
  • Used chives in homemade salad dressings (chives, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and olive oil)
  • Make a simple sauce with Greek yogurt, lemon, salt, pepper, and chives to serve over fish or chicken

Not only do chives provide a fresh and aromatic flavor, they also contain:

  • Contain Allicin, which reduces bad cholesterol and increased good cholesterol
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Folic Acid
  • Antioxidants that help protect against cancer

Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below. 

How to Build a Healthier Sandwich

build_healthier_sandwich

I have a theory.

My theory is that food tastes best when you take a big bite full of different textures and flavors all at one time. You see I’m not much of a nibbler, which probably explains why I love sandwiches so much. You get crunchy, creamy, sweet, and salty all in one epic bite. On top of that, there’s nothing complicated when it comes to sandwiches, except for maybe how difficult it was for me to spell the word growing up…sandwitches? sandwhiches? It took me a while to get that part right.

Even though building these beauties is simple, sometimes it can be tricky knowing how to build sandwiches that are healthy. Follow some of these tips and I guarantee you’ll want to make a sandwich your new simple go-to meal.

Step 1: The Bread

Like all great masterpieces, we must begin with the foundation. White breads spike blood sugar levels and lack protein, fiber, and essential B vitamins that give your body energy.  Try some of these whole grain options that are both nutritious and filling:

  • Whole wheat baguette
  • Whole wheat English muffins
  • Whole grain pita bread
  • Rye
  • Pumpernickle bread
  • Whole wheat Ciabatta

Quick tip! Scoop out the inside of thick crusty bread, such as a baguette and Ciabatta, to remove some calories. You can use the bread to make breadcrumbs by blending it in a food processor and baking it in the oven at 300°F until brown.

Step 2: The Moist Maker (aka Spreads)

Here’s where the calories can really start to sneak up on you! Many of us spread thick layers of oil-based spreads to add moistness to our sandwiches. What if I told you that the moist factor could be achieved without adding excessive calories?

Add a light layer of spreads like mayonnaise, Aioli, and creamy dressings on one side of your bread.  By adding a thin layer, you will experience the full flavor without piling on the calories. Keep in mind only one tablespoon of mayonnaise has 94 calories and 10g of fat!

Feel free to add more of your favorite low calorie spread. Try some of these delicious options:

  • Hummus
  • BBQ sauce
  • Mustard such as Dijon, honey, spicy, etc.
  • Avocado or guacamole

Don’t want to use spreads, but still want to add flavor? Toss your veggies in your favorite salad dressing and add it to your sandwich.

Step 3: Cheese

Look for your favorite cheese made from skim or part-skim milk, which has less calories and saturated fat. Use just one thin slice!

Step 4: Vegetables

This is where you can experiment with your favorite veggies! It’s also the perfect chance to try new vegetables you’ve seen at the farmers market. It’s more than just lettuce and tomatoes now…here are my personal favorites:

  • Spring mix
  • Arugula
  • Caramelized onions
  • Avocados
  • Roasted peppers
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Cucumbers
  • Beets
  • Pickled vegetables

Step 5: Protein

Some things to consider when looking for meat:

  • Look for meats naturally low in fat and saturated fat.
  • Aim for less than 500 mg of sodium per serving. Some processed meats are very salty.
  • Choose deli meats free of nitrates and nitrites, which are used as preservatives.

Try some of these:

  • Turkey
  • Roast Beef
  • Chicken breast
  • Chicken, tuna, or egg salad made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
  • Eggplant
  • Tofu: made from soybeans and is subtle in flavors so it will easily absorb any spices or marinades.
  • Tempeh: made from fermented soybeans and has a unique flavor different from tofu. It has a great chewy texture and it is packed with protein and fiber.

You can also make it without meat and pile on hummus and more veggies!

The last step is slicing it diagonally… it makes the sandwich infinitely better.

Ask a Dietitian! We are compiling a list of nutrition-related questions readers have for a special post in September. Simply fill out your name, email, and question in the feedback form below. 

What is Your Food Package Telling You?

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Growing up I loved reading mystery novels and playing mystery board games. Yes, I was a Nancy Drew and Clue type of girl. I was captivated by the thrill and challenge of solving crimes with just a few hints…Mrs. Peacock in the library with a candlestick. It was fun decoding things that didn’t always mean what they appeared to be on face value.

Now that I’m older, sometimes I feel like I’m playing a confusing mystery game whenever I shop for groceries. Food packages have a variety of health claims and what do they really mean anyways? Is multigrain better than whole grain? Are organic cookies better for me? And if it says no trans fat then I can eat as much of it as I want, right?

This post is going to walk you through some of the challenges of understanding food packages. So grab your detective gear and let’s get started!

Multigrain vs. Whole Wheat Bread

When shopping for bread, we often automatically assume brown is good and white is bad. This may not necessarily be true. The key to understanding the difference between types of bread is to remember the word whole, which means the bread contains the entire grain. The reason why we look for whole grain is because the outer layer of the grain, the bran, is high in nutrients and dietary fiber. Without the word “whole” listed on packages, you won’t be receiving the health benefits associated with the bran.

  • Whole grain bread includes any grain. Examples of grains include quinoa, bulgur, rye, oats, and wheat.
  • Whole wheat bread only contains wheat as the grain.
  • Multigrain bread simply means that different types of grain were used to make the bread but it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily more nutritious. Remember that the key is to look for the word “whole”!

Remember to look at the ingredients list. You want to see that the first ingredient contains the word whole, such as whole grain, whole wheat, etc.

No Trans Fat

When one serving of the product contains less than 0.5 g of trans fat, it can be labeled as 0g or no trans fat. However, if you see the words partially hydrogenated in the ingredients list, the food contains trans fat. Unlike saturated fat, trans fat is artificially created by the food industry and does not naturally occur in most foods. Try avoiding foods containing partially hydrogenated oils because trans fat has been associated with increased bad cholesterol, decreased good cholesterol, and increase risk of heart disease.

Lightly Sweetened

Products that are lightly sweetened don’t necessarily mean it’s low in sugar. It may surprise you to know that the FDA doesn’t regulate the term lightly sweetened. The FDA does regulate sugar-free and no added sugar, but what’s the difference?

  • Sugar-free: less than 0.5 g of sugar per serving
  • No added sugar: no sugar was added during processing

Organic

The term “organic” means plant foods are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals used for meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products aren’t given antibiotics or growth hormones. There are three categories for labeling organic foods:

  • 100% organic
  • Organic: made with at least 95% organic ingredients
  • Made with organic ingredients: made with at least 75% organic ingredients

Keep in mind that foods labeled as organic can still be in high in fat, sugar, salt, or calories. Don’t depend on the organic label to tell you if it’s nutritious, always read food labels carefully!

Natural

The FDA defines foods without added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances as natural. However, these requirements don’t make a huge impact on ensuring the nutritional value of the food. For example, salt and sugar are natural ingredients but it doesn’t mean we should consume them in excess. To avoid falling into the all-natural trap, steer away from products with ingredients you can’t pronounce, which contain preservatives and food additives.