Winter Recipes Worth Trying


There is nothing like warming up with a hot plate of delicious, nutritious food on a cold day.

My favorite winter nights are those spent curled up by the fireplace with a hot drink and a good book after having eaten satisfying meal. During winter it is common to crave rich comfort foods that are hearty and warm. The good news is that these foods, with the right ingredients, can also be healthy. Try some of these recipes next time you need your comfort food fix!

BLT Mac & Cheese

It is hard not to love the warm, cheesy goodness that is Mac & Cheese. This recipe combines the traditional Mac & Cheese taste with the components of a BLT sandwich. The bacon adds savory flavor and some crunch.  Spinach, squash, and tomato provide this dish a full serving of vegetables. Spinach also helps with digestion by protecting the mucous lining of the stomach and contains vitamins and minerals that can improve skin health.

BLT Mac and cheese

Photo: Parade

Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe takes a bit of time, but I promise you the end result is worth it. You can also refrigerate the extra enchiladas without the final layer of sauce to eat later. Chicken is an excellent source of protein. Substitute whole-wheat tortillas for the traditional corn and brown rice for long grained rice to increase the amount of complex carbohydrates. Pair with a side of green salad and you’ve got yourself a meal!

chicken enchiladas

Photo: Racheal Ray

Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Bread

Banana bread is one of my all time favorite things to bake. It is also a great way to make use of overripe bananas that you would just end up throwing away. It is so easy to prepare and will leave your kitchen smelling amazing. As if that’s not enough, bananas are also high in potassium, which helps the body eliminate excess salt and water. Check out this recipe on a blog written by a former UC Davis student!

banana breead

Photo: Tablespoon

Spiced Hot Chocolate

A flavorful version regular hot chocolate, this spiced hot chocolate recipe is extremely simple to make. The spicy flavor of the chili powder and cinnamon adds to the richness of the chocolate for a combination of spicy and sweet. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants and helps control blood sugar levels. This recipe also contains calcium, protein, and riboflavin (a B vitamin).  

Spiced Hot Chocolate WIDE

Photo: Core power yoga

Best Foods for Recovery


Being sick is the worst, especially in college when there are so many other things students would rather being doing. Although it is common to lose your appetite when you’re sick, good nutrition is actually an essential part of recovery! During illness the body uses nutrients faster than usual to repair the immune system. Sickness, fever, and infections increase your metabolism by about seven percent for each degree the body temperature rises above 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore if sick people do not eat enough, they end up using their own body fat and muscles for energy and nutrients. Without proper nutrition, the immune system becomes less effective and less able to fight infections. Here are suggestions for what to eat to get on a speedy road to recovery.

Common cold (runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough and/or mild fatigue):

  • Hydration is incredibly important with a cold. Water is an option, however it is not the only way to hydrate. Tea and broth are both excellent options. Juice with vitamin C will help your immune system, but should be diluted with water to cut down sugar content, which can hinder immunity.
  • A Mediterranean style diet, with small amounts of lean meat, plenty of vegetables and fruit of different types and colors as well as monounsaturated fats, can help the body clean up the chemicals that cause the inflammation
  • Vitamin A has an antioxidant effect, and helps boost your immune system. Vitamin B complex helps with the formation of antibodies (another boost to your immune system), iron prevents anemia and zinc helps with cell formation.

Flu-like symptoms (low-grade fever, achy or cramping muscles, nausea, and headache):

  • Prevent dehydration by drinking 8 to 12 cups of liquid a day. If drinking is difficult, take a teaspoon of liquid every minute or so. Water can be absorbed by the tissues of the mouth without entering the stomach.
  • Avoid dairy products, fatty and greasy foods, fried foods, highly seasoned food, caffeine, and alcohol until you have returned to normal. These can irritate the stomach easily.
  • Try having more frequent meals, or little snacks throughout the day, like a piece of toast, then some milk, and later on a piece of fruit. Chicken soup is also an excellent mini-meal. There are even some tests in recent literature that suggest that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties caused by viral infections.
  • To recover from an upset stomach, start with the Stage 1 foods below and slowly advance to Stage 2.

Stage 1

Stage 2

Broth (chicken, beef, vegetable)Club sodaSports drinks (low-sugar)Tea (without milk or cream)Honey


Hard candy

Fruit juice


Bread, bagels, rolls, tortillasCheeseCerealsCrackers (low fat and low fiber)Cereals (low fat and low fiber)


Fruits and vegetables (without skin)

Lean meats (unseasoned)

Muffins (low fat and low fiber)

Tofu and soy-based products

Pasta, noodles, and rice

Soup (chicken, beef and/or vegetable)

Tomato soup (water-based)


How to Beat the Winter Blues


It is common to feel down in the cold months following the holiday season. Days are shorter, the sun isn’t shining as much, and sickness is more common. These factors can drive you to feel sluggish and unmotivated. The good news: you can combat all that with the right diet! Having the winter weather blues is tough enough, but when you’re not getting all the right nutrients it can only get worse. Here’s how to find out if what you’re lacking this season is more than just warmth and sunshine.

  • Folate and vitamin B12 may influence mood by playing a role in the production of serotonin, production a neurotransmitter in your brain that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Add foods rich in folate and/or vitamin B12, such as fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, oatmeal, beets, shellfish, wild salmon, low-fat dairy and eggs., to boost your consumption of these two important nutrients.
  • Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, because it can be synthesized as a result of exposure of the skin to sunlight. During the darker winter months make sure your diet includes good sources of vitamin D such as low-fat milk, fortified soy milk and egg yolks. It may be beneficial to take a daily multivitamin.
  • Vitamin A is important primarily for good vision, the immune system, and cellular health. . Deficiency of vitamin A causes dry skin, night blindness, and poor immunity.  Therefore, it’s especially important for surviving the winter season whenever darkness, dry skin, and colds take over. Vitamin A rich foods include sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, cantaloupe, and apricots
  • Essential Fatty Acids are fats that our bodies need, but can’t create or use as fuel. EFAs affect the function of our cells as well as our moods and behavior. An EFA deficiency leads to dry skin, poor circulation, and mood swings, and we already suffer enough from those in winter. Foods with essential fatty acids include fish cantaloupe, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.
  • On another note, regular exercise can relieve depression and trigger physiological changes that make more energy available throughout the day. Try to keep your routine up, even when the weather gets chilly. Your body will thank you for it.

To get optimal nutrition this season at the Dining Commons, choose the SPE meal option found under the red TASTE banner. SPE meals are certified to have all the nutrients you need all on one tasty plate. Find out more about SPE meals at UC Davis here!

What Cravings Are Telling You



What Cravings Are Telling You

A craving—an intense desire for a certain food—is believed to be a signal sent by the body for specific food because of the nutrients that it provides. A craving for chocolate, for example, would signal a physiologic need for more antioxidants. However, a bowl of red beans, which are higher in antioxidants than chocolate, would better meet that supposed physiological need: however, red beans are low on the craving scale.  Despite their bad reputation in fad-diet culture, cravings can actually be a good sign. It is your body reminding you of what it needs. Eating every 3 to 4 hours can help to fuel a healthy metabolism, maintain muscle mass and prevent between-meal hunger that leads to unwise snacking. Eating just enough, but not too much, helps to curb cravings. Eating light will also prevent you from feeling sluggish. You will feel better and be more focused when you have the right amount of fuel in your system on a regular basis. For maximum energy, also make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water!

Here’s a guide for healthy ways to respond to your cravings this week during finals:

  • “I’m craving chocolate!”

What you need: Magnesium (nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit)

Study snack: A handful of almonds, a small amount of dark chocolate, and fruits high in antioxidants such as blueberries or blackberries

  • “I want sugary foods.”

What you need: Chromium (broccoli, grapes, cheese, chicken), Carbon (fresh fruit), Phosphorous (chicken, beef, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes, grains), Sulfur (cranberries, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage), and Tryptophan (cheese, raisins, sweet potato, spinach)

Study snack: Grapes and low fat cheese or a poached egg on top of a sweet potato pancake

  • “I need carbs! Bring on the bread and pasta.”

What you need:  Nitrogen (high protein foods such as meat, nuts, fish, and beans)

Study snack: Bean dip with cucumber, celery, or carrot sticks

  • “I’ve got to have oily, high fat foods.”

What you need: Calcium (milk, cheese, yogurt, legumes, broccoli, green leafy vegetables)

Study snack: V8 juice, Greek yogurt, or broccoli dipped in hummus

  • “Super salty food sounds perfect.”

What you need: Chloride (fish, goats milk)

Study snack: Smoked salmon and goat cheese on whole-wheat crackers

Healthier Holiday Favorites



Food is an essential part of how we celebrate the holidays. Most traditional holiday foods are rich and delicious, but don’t always satisfy our bodies’ needs. In order to stay active and immune to sickness during the holidays, we need quality fuel that will sustain our bodies. Here are some superfoods and recipes to help you stay balanced this holiday season:

  • Use healthier alternatives to vegetable oil. Coconut oil can be used in place of butter and is full of medium-chain triglycerides, which provide long, clean, sustained energy. Coconut oil also contain lauric acid, which helps fight off pathogens. Coconut oil can tolerate high temperatures and is perfect for frying and baking. Other alternatives are grapeseed oil and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Replace chocolate with raw chocolate, also known as cacao. Cacao beans are a good source of magnesium, and ounce of the raw nibs has six per cent of your recommended daily iron intake. Phenylethylamine is a chemical found in cacao that our bodies also make naturally when we’re excited. It causes the pulse to quicken, making us feel focused and alert.
  • Add dark, leafy greens such as spinach and swiss chard to recipes whenever possible. Greens are high in vitamins A, C, calcium and many others. Add them to other holiday side dishes, such as stuffing, casseroles, soups and stews.
  • This time of year squash is everywhere, especially butternut squash. This staple of the fall season contains fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A and C. Squash can be baked, steamed, served plain with a sprinkle of your favorite seasoning, or pureed and made into soup! Try the recipe here for homemade butternut squash apple soup.
  • Cranberries are one of my personal favorites when it comes to holiday foods. Half a cup of cranberries contains 11 % of the recommended daily value for vitamin C. They also boast antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits. The less processed and more whole the berries, the better. Find a healthy cranberry sauce recipe here.
  • Substitute applesauce for oil, margarine or butter in muffins and quick breads like banana bread. Try substituting a small amount at first, as the more you substitute the more the texture of the finished product changes.
  • Additional tips: For dips, sauces, and pie toppings, use low-fat greek yogurt in the place of sour cream. Use sliced almonds make a crunchy topping in place of fried onion rings.

Sustainable Eating


Before I started working for the Sustainability and Nutrition office at UC Davis Dining Services, it never occurred to me that there was such a thing as eating sustainably. I would eat based on my preferences and what I knew was good for me, not giving much thought to the environmental impact of my food choices. That all changed when I met the 2013-2014 Sustainability Coordinators, who opened my eyes to the idea that eating can be a sustainable practice.

Sustainable eating is about choosing foods that are healthy for our environment and our bodies. The benefits of sustainable eating practices are numerous and widespread. Eating sustainably reduces the depletion of limited natural resources such as fossil fuel and water.  It also protects the environment from chemicals and practices that harm farmer and consumer health. There are also health benefits to eating sustainably. Sustainable foods such as locally grown produce are naturally less processed and more nutrient-dense; so eating sustainably encourages optimal nutrition. Here is a guide to sustainable eating that will help you get started:

Shop locally

Buy food at local farmers markets. The Davis Farmers Market takes place in Central Park in downtown Davis Wednesday 2-6 pm and Saturday 8-1. The UC Davis Farmers Market takes place at the Silo Union Patio Wednesdays 11-1:30pm. The last UC Davis Farmers Market of Fall Quarter is next week, 11/13/13.

Grow something

Start your own vegetable garden at home. A $2 tomato plant can easily provide you with 10 pounds of fruit over the course of a season. Check out the Resident Garden at Segundo which is open to all students living on campus.

Initiate conversations about food

Simply bringing up the topic of food is a great way to learn more, find out tips, and discover new resources.

Eat seasonally

Focus on foods that are available in season where you live. Consult a seasonal produce chart here.

Drink from the tap

Invest in a reusable water bottle. UC Davis has hydration stations where you can fill up with filtered water at the Dining Commons, ARC, CoHo, and Student Community Center.

Rethink your grocery list

Buy more bulk foods, minimally processed foods, and plant-based food. These foods use less packaging and waste, require less energy to produce, and contain fewer artificial ingredients.

Vote with your fork!

Farmers grow what consumers will buy. Eating locally grown foods is the best way to ensure that local farms are able to stay in business. There is locally grown produce served in the salad bar at all three Dining Commons locations. Find it by looking for the “Aggie Grown” label.

Fun Fact:

UC Davis has been rated a top ten “Cool School” by Sierra Magazine the past two years for its sustainability practices. Find out more here!

Build A Better Breakfast


You’ve heard it since elementary school: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But when you wake up and hit the snooze button and are left with only twenty minutes to get ready for class, it is easy to skip breakfast altogether. In fact it is estimated that 12 to 34 percent of teens regularly miss their morning meal.

Eating breakfast can help you maintain a healthy weight and even perform better in school. Along with sleep and exercise, eating a healthy breakfast is the best way to recharge your batteries. Those who eat a morning meal tend to make healthier food choices throughout the day, which can positively impact weight and long-term health. In addition, breakfast supplies essential nutrients to the nervous system that rev up brain power. Studies suggest that eating a healthy breakfast improves brain function, particularly memory and recall. Eating a healthy breakfast before studying could be what earns you those few key points on the exam.

How do we know what ingredients add up to a healthy breakfast? Try to fit it to this equation:  Whole Grains + Fruits and Vegetables + Protein. Here are some examples from each category:

Whole grains:

  • Whole-wheat toast, English muffin, or tortilla: When you choose white flour over whole wheat, you are losing over half of the B vitamins, fiber, folic acid, calcium, zinc, phosphorous, copper, and iron.
  • Oats: Oats are complex carbohydrates, meaning they will not spike your blood sugar and are slow to digest. They also have a very high fiber content! Oats also contain potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium.

Fruits and vegetables:

  • Blueberries have one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants of all fruits and veggies. They can counteract free radicals, which damage cells and tissues. They also protect against all forms of cancer, especially colon and ovarian cancer.
  • Avocado contains vitamins A, B, C, E, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, zinc, and iron. Its greatest asset is their monounsaturated fat content, which is linked to lower cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease, weight loss, and alleviation of depression.
  • Apples: Three a day can help decrease cholesterol by 10 percent. They are also rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.
  • Tomatoes:  Contain vitamin A and C. Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, which has been proven to halt the growth of cancer cells.


  • Eggs: The yolk contains the nutrients tryptophan, selenium, iodine, B vitamins, and phosphorous. The egg white has 6 grams of complete protein.
  • Low-fat dairy products: High in both protein and calcium. Just a cup of light nonfat yogurt, for example, gives you a third of your daily recommended calcium intake.
  • Smoked salmon: Salmon is loaded with heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is also rich in vitamin D and vitamin B.

Looking for a healthy breakfast at the DC? Try the new SPE Oatmeal Bar! Great tasting oats with a variety of toppings to choose from. If you are looking for more try adding some nut butter or fresh fruit from the salad bar. Occasionally you will find spelt cereal there for a change of pace.  Enjoy!

Celebrating Food Day


Hello there Aggies, and happy Food Day! Food Day is an annual nation-wide event that celebrates healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. The goal of food day is to bring to the public’s attention some of the issues that are happening within our food system in America, and encourage people to realize that their personal choices and contributions matter to the whole. Food Day events will encourage people to think critically about their food, where it comes from, and what this means.

Food Day was created in order to help people to Eat Real (take the Eat Real pledge here). The American diet has evolved to include an abundance of sugary, salty, overly processed food that contributes little in the way of nutrition. To Eat Real means to consume less processed food in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein. Advocates of Food Day envision a envision a world where food is not only good for you, but also produced with respect to the people who are in charge of growing it and harvesting it.

Five specific food day priorities:

  • Promote safer, healthier diets
  • Support sustainable and organic farms
  • Reduce hunger
  • Reform factory farms to protect the environment and farm animals
  • Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers

These goals cannot possibly be reached on their own, and that is where you come in! Use this day think about how changing your own choices about food could help improve America’s food systems, and participate in food day events going on near you.

 UC Davis events on Thursday 10/24:

Check out the Food Day web site for more information:

Nutrition Myth Busters- Vegetarian Diet


This week I had the exciting opportunity to do a guest post on the SPE Certified Blog! I chose the topic of nutrition myths because there are so many that run rampant through our society and the media. I believe that it is important that these myths be proven or dis-proven with current, science-based information. For the post I decided to focus specifically on myths surrounding vegetarians. Though I am not personally a vegetarian, I still found it interesting to learn what goes in to making a meatless diet healthy.

Myth: “It is impossible to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet”


  •  Not only is it possible to get enough protein from plant sources, there are other nutritional benefits as well, including a greater intake of fiber, potassium, immune system-boosting phytonutrients, and a lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Plant-based protein sources generally have lower digestibility than animal protein. Therefore, vegetarians should consume more protein on average than their meat and dairy-eating counterparts. The RDA recommends .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Vegetarians should aim for .41 grams per pound.
  • Healthy plant-based sources of protein include legumes, soy products, whole grains, and nuts. Legumes, such as black beans and lentils, are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals and low in fat.
  • Soy products, such as tofu or tempeh, are some of the most versatile vegetarian protein sources. Tofu can be incorporated into soups or stir-fries, and tempeh can be marinated or grilled to be included in salad or sandwiches.

Myth: “You must eat dairy products to build strong bones”


  • The key nutrients for bone health are calcium, vitamin D, and protein. While these nutrients are present in dairy such as cow’s milk, they also exist in many plant-based foods.
  • Some studies show that the ratio of dietary calcium to protein is a better predictor of bone health than calcium intake alone. Vegetarians should try to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods such kale (1 cup=179 mg calcium), tofu (4 oz= 11 g protein, 200-300 mg calcium), and soymilk (1 cup= 7g protein, 200-300 mg calcium).
  • While spinach and rhubarb are good sources of calcium, they are also high in oxalates, which decrease calcium absorption in the body. Therefore it is advisable to favor other green vegetables more often.
  • Vegetarians may find it is easier to meet the 1000 mg daily requirement for calcium needs if calcium-fortified foods or dietary supplements are utilized.
  • Calcium absorption can be maximized by pairing calcium-rich foods with foods containing vitamin C.

Useful resources:

Food for Fuel

Reblog post for those participating in the UC Davis Heroes Run 2013. On Saturday, October 26, 2013, we will be hosting the first ever UC Davis Heroes Run, which we plan on hosting annually thereafter, in collaboration with Campus Police and Fire Department. Our purpose in hosting this run is to establish an educational fund for future in need students. Thus, proceeds from the event will benefit UC Davis students through the ASUCD Endowment Fund. This run will be a fun 5K and 100M run for adults and children to celebrate the every day heroes (i.e. teachers, doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, etc.) as well as their beloved super heroes while enjoying themselves at the same time.

At the end of the race, there will be a Valhalla Gala where participants will be able to relax with live music and nutritious food! All sidekicks (children ages 5 and under) will be given participatory ribbons.

Register today at! All participants are encouraged to show up in costume. Which hero will you attend the race as?

Healthy Aggies at UC Davis


It’s one of those days. One of those days when I’m running on CoHo coffee and four hours of sleep. I have midterms to study for, papers to write, yet I’ve miraculously put on my running shoes for a much needed work out.

I pop in my Insanity DVD and feel great as I begin to start my warm up with a slow jog and leisure jumping jacks. Midway through my workout, I start regretting my decision to not eat anything before starting the video. As I hear Shaun T yelling at me to “dig deeeeeeper”, my arms feel like they’re going to give out. Why is it so hard for me to do a sit up? Have my legs always been this heavy?

If you’re like me, sometimes we overlook the importance of fueling our brains and bodies before exercising. We jump from one activity to the next…

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