Plan the Perfect Picnic


Picture this: it’s a beautiful spring day, and you have finished all of your studying and assignments for the week. You’re ready to relax and enjoy a delicious picnic with friends in the arboretum, your favorite sunny spot on campus, or even just your backyard.

We’ve got just what you need to make sure your picnic consists of mouth-watering recipes that are not only sure to impress your friends, but packed full of the nutrients you need to keep your body healthy and happy.

Bon appétit!

Tomato Watermelon Salad with Feta and Toasted Almonds   watermelon                        Photo: Epicurious

Watermelon is a great source of vitamins A, C, B1, and B6. The antioxidants derived from the vitamin A help fight off inflammation. Tomatoes also contain a vitamin A and C. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which has been proven to halt the growth of cancer cells. This recipe is vibrant, flavorful, and only takes a few minutes to prepare. Add your choice of fresh herbs such as dill, basil, and mint.

Homemade Pesto walnut-pesto2                              Photo: Kiss My Spatula

Rather than buying premade pesto at the store, simply make your own! All you need is a food processor or blending tool of some kind. Basil, the main ingredient in pesto, contains beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A that protects epithelial cells (the cells that form the lining of numerous body structures including the blood vessels) from free radical damage. Basil is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health. This recipe calls for walnuts, which are cheaper than the traditional pine nuts used in pesto. Combine with whole-wheat pasta and your choice of veggies such as zucchini, yellow onion, and tomatoes.

Peach Crisp

Peach crisp picture              Photo: Big Girls Small Kitchen

Peaches are in season May though October, so now is the perfect time to enjoy them! According to a study from Texas A&M, stone fruits like peaches, plums and nectarines have been shown to ward off obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.Try to get them local at the Davis Farmers’ Market for best quality and taste. This recipe for peach crisp is simple, only takes 30 minutes to bake, and can even be used with other types of fruits. Once you have your crisp, top it with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

Mango and Mint Infused Tea iced tea                                            Photo: Katie’s Cucina

I’ll be honest I’m addicted to iced to of any kind, but this recipe really impressed me because of it’s great flavor without all of the sugar present in most tea drinks. The blend of mango and mint is unique as well as refreshing. Mangoes are a low-fat, low-calorie, cholesterol-free source of a variety of nutrients, especially vitamin A, vitamin C, dietary fiber and antioxidant compounds. Mint is a naturally soothing substance, so it can alleviate the inflammation and temperature rise that is often associated with headaches and migraines. Mint also promotes digestion and soothes the stomach in cases of indigestion or inflammation. 

Eat Your Way to a Better Sleep


We’ve all had those days when we feel like there is not enough time to get everything done. With school, work, and extracurriculars in college it can be difficult to balance it all. Often enough sleep is the first thing to go when life gets busy: we think that extra hour or two that we sacrifice won’t make much of a difference.

In fact, sleep is one of the most important aspects when it comes to staying healthy.

Cortisol is a hormone that regulates many body functions, and is a strong determinant in how rejuvenating sleep will be. Cortisol is produced in a cyclic fashion with the highest levels being released in the morning and the lowest at night. This 24-hour cycle is called the circadian rhythm, and an abnormal circadian rhythm can disrupt hormone levels and lead to inadequate sleep.

Exercise also affects sleep. A study published in the December 2011 Journal of Mental Health and Physical Activity found that 150 minutes of physical activity a week provided a 65% improvement in sleep quality.

Here are a few changes you can make to your diet to improve sleep quality:

Avoid Sugar and Processed Food

The glycemic index of a food reflects how our blood sugar level is affected by the particular food. Foods containing high sugar and low fiber have a high glycemic index and result in wider fluctuations in insulin levels than foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic index of a meal affects the cortisol level for approximately the upcoming five hours. High glycemic index foods, such as sugar and refined starches, cause cortisol levels to rise. The cortisol will likely remain elevated until night, making it difficult to get to sleep.

Maintain a Regular Meal Schedule

Having a high glycemic meal is worse than not having a meal at all. The cortisol level tends to rise whenever you do not eat within the first five hours of the previous meal or snack. A rise above the normal range during the day almost guarantees that the nighttime cortisol will be high, thus disrupting REM sleep.

A single late meal or skipped meal or high glycemic index meal during the day can result in a high cortisol during the early part of the night. A cortisol level higher than it should be during the night results in a disruption of REM sleep and with it non-refreshing sleep.

Eat Protein with Every Meal

Low glycemic index foods such as eggs, meats, poultry, fish, and most vegetables tend to lower the cortisol level. Try to eat foods from the low glycemic index category every five hours during the day to keep the cortisol on its normal downward track. The high glycemic index of sugar or starch, including whole grains, requires consumption of nearly an equal weight of animal protein to maintain glycemic balance. Vegetables usually balance themselves in terms of glycemic index, but vegetables are not of sufficiently low glycemic index to balance grains. To prevent the upward swing of cortisol, balance all sugars and grains, including whole grains, with animal protein.

Use Sprouted Whole Grains

According to the American Nutrition Association, grains have been hybridized to contain about half the protein that they contained in 1900. In addition, non-sprouted grains are now used in flour and many commercial bread products, so many people consume them on a daily basis. Non-sprouted grains result in an inflammatory response in the gut that causes the secretion of excess cortisol into the intestinal tract. Look for bread that contains sprouted whole grains in order to avoid these effects.

Drink Tea

Select a calming herb tea such as chamomile.. This herbal tea lacks the caffeine found in traditional teas, and it has a calming effect on the body. Also, a warm liquid before bed can make you sleepy by raising body heat. In the evening, as you wind down, drink 1-2 cups. Calming herbs can help clear clogged or damaged neurotransmitter receptor sites, and increase the production of healthy neurotransmitters.

Nutrition Secrets for Athletes


Last quarter I had the opportunity to work as a sports nutrition intern for Dr. Liz Applegate, Director of Sports Nutrition for Intercollegiate Athletics at UC Davis. I worked directly with both her and our Division 1 athletes, and learned a few things along the way. What I found was that if there is one thing that athletes need to know, it is how to eat. Athletes, especially at college and professional levels, are required to be very in tune with their bodies, spending years figuring out what method of nutrition works best. Whether you are a seasoned athlete or training to run your first 5k, use these tips to improve your performance.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

Dr. Applegate emphasized that one of the biggest mistakes athletes make is heading out for a run in the morning without eating anything first. Your blood sugar is already low when you wake up, so you should eat something rich in carbohydrates, like half a bagel or toast upon waking. That way, 30 to 45 minutes will have passed before you actually head out the door.

If you’re not used to eating in the morning, start small. Drink a glass of apple juice before your workout until your stomach adjusts, and then add in a piece of toast. Mixing in protein with cream cheese, peanut butter, or yogurt slows down your gastric emptying rate, so you’ll need more time between the time you eat and the time you hit the road.

Gwen Jorgenson, American professional triathlete and a member of the 2012 Olympic Team, likes to eat her favorite breakfast of oats with raisins, walnuts, bananas, peanut butter, honey and two poached eggs on top. Lauren Wenger, a current member of the USA Water Polo Women’s National Team and Olympic silver medalist says “Every single day, no matter where I am, I always eat one pack of instant oatmeal with a huge scoop of peanut butter for breakfast. It keeps me fueled and gives me enough energy for the morning practice.”

Stay Hydrated

Drinking water while you work out is great, but the fact that you are thirsty means you are already dehydrated. Athletes should be consuming .5 to 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight every day. To get enough water, try carrying around a water bottle with you throughout the day (see water bottle suggestions in previous post on Staying Hydrated).

Heather O’Reilly, a member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and two-time Olympic gold medalist, says “I wind up drinking more throughout the day when I carry around my water bottle, which keeps me going.” If you choose to consume sports drinks instead of water, avoid trying a new drink during competition. Sip on the same beverage you used during your training to stay hydrated, avoid any stomach issues, and  perform at your best.

Boost Your Immunity

One of the best things you can do to better your performance is to stay healthy, which means including antioxidant rich  superfoods in your diet. Incorporate whole-grain carbs, lean proteins, and colorful fruits and veggies into snacks and meals every day. The more color on your plate, the better. Another way to stay healthy is to eat Greek yogurt, which is high in probiotics. Sprinkle some walnuts and fruit or flax seeds on top for an extra antioxidant boost.

British snowboarder Zoe Gillings, who competed in Snowboard Cross at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, says her favorite snacks include: berries and nuts with Greek yogurt; turkey and avocado wholegrain wraps; tuna salad with basmati rice; oat bars and milk; homemade smoothies; and cottage cheese with Ryvita crackers.

Multivitamins are another weapon against sickness. Erin Hamlina two-time luge Olympian, says “I recently started taking a variety of vitamins like vitamin C, calcium and fish oil, because fresh, nutrient-rich foods are hard to come by in some places.”

Eat for Health

Dr. Applegate has said one of the biggest nutrition mistake she sees athletes, especially female athletes, make is reducing their caloric intake in an attempt to be lean. This causes reduced stores of carbohydrates in your body, which are essential for training and performing, and can then lead to muscle breakdown. This leads to your body using protein as an alternative fuel source.

Swimmer and 12-time Olympic Medalist Natalie Coughlin says, “I don’t have a ‘strict’ diet but eat very healthy. I prefer to eat healthy because it makes my body feel so much better. And healthy food doesn’t necessarily mean tasteless. Healthy food can be delicious when you take advantage of herbs, spices and seasonal food. I focus on what is in season, with a big emphasis on veggies and fruits. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but when I do I indulge with pastured, sustainably raised meats from local farmers.” Coughlin also maintains her own garden at her Lafayette, CA home that includes ten citrus trees, seven seasonal vegetable beds, and five chickens for eggs.

Recover the Right Way

Within 30 minutes after finishing a high-intensity and/or endurance activity, you should consume a mix of protein and carbohydrates, such as a glass of chocolate milk or a whey protein shake. This will help reduce muscle soreness and aid in your muscle recovery. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, the first NFL quarterback to win 23 games in his first two seasons, drinks a shake rich in protein and carbohydrates immediately after a game and a protein-rich meal two hours later. When recovering, avoid processed carbohydrates, which increase inflammation, and opt for anti-inflammatory foods, like cherries, walnuts, or kale instead.


Photo Credit: UC Davis

Grow Your Own Food!

grow-your-food-bannerNothing compares to the taste of a cucumber or tomato just picked from the vine from your own backyard. Gardening is a fun physical activity, providing you great tasting produce while saving you trips to the store. In addition, it’s a perfect way to learn about where food comes from and appreciate how much effort goes in to producing the foods we eat every day.

Here are a few easy steps to gardening and growing your own nutritious food:

Create your space. If you’re starting your garden on a patch of lawn, you can build up from the ground with raised beds, or plant directly in the ground. Building raised beds is a good idea if your soil is poor or doesn’t drain well. This approach is usually more expensive, however, and requires more initial work than planting in the ground. Before buying plants or seeds, calculate how much space you have (ground or container) that gets adequate sun. Most vegetable plants require at least six hours of light each day.

Know what grows. When buying your plants, ask what varieties will do best in the conditions you have to work with. For example, several compact tomato plants do particularly well in containers. If you are a novice gardener, consider buying seedlings. Doing so increases your chances of success, especially with crops such as eggplants, peppers and tomatoes which require a long growing season.

Check your soil quality. If you aren’t sure about the quality of soil in your backyard, use a testing kit to see if you need to reinforce it with any nutrients. After you’ve planted your plants, add some mulch. Just about any organic matter, such as straw or grass clippings, can be used as mulch. Mulch deters weeds, helps retain moisture, and adds organic matter to the soil as it decays

Start small. Your garden can be as simple as a potted tomato plant or a few herbs (see earlier post Five Herbs Worth Trying!). Here are some instructions on how to start an herb garden. All you need are some small pots, soil, seeds, and sunny spot in your house. Also practice patience when gardening. Rather than trying to plant your garden during one busy weekend, space your planting out over the course of several weeks by using short rows. Every time you harvest a row or pull one out that has stopped producing, try to plant a new one. This is known as “succession planting”.

Maintain your garden. Fruits and vegetables are made mostly of water, so you’ll need to make sure your plants are getting enough to drink. This is especially important for seedlings that haven’t developed a deep root structure. You’ll want to water them lightly every day or two. Once the crops are maturing, they need about an inch of water per week, and more in sandy soils or hot regions.

Learn more about growing you own food at the Resident Garden at Segundo: a space for all on-campus residents to learn about edible plants, how they are grown and cared for and how they can be prepared after harvesting.

Foods that Fight Sun Damage


It is understood that sun exposure is among the top causes of skin damage. But did you know that scientific evidence shows eating certain types of foods could help to prevent the damage that sun does to our skin and decrease the risk of sunburn? In most cases, you need to start eating those foods 8-10 weeks before you hit the beach in order to get the best results. This means that now is most probably the best time to get started! Don’t skimp on the sunscreen though, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends at least one ounce (two tablespoons) to cover the entire body surface applied a half-hour before going outside and reapplied at least every 2 hours outdoors.

Here is a list of foods you should be stocking up on:

1. Dark Chocolate

Believe it or not chocolate lovers, dark chocolate actually acts as a shield from the sun. It contains phenol compounds that help to decrease the risk of developing cancer, and antioxidants called flavonoids. Antioxidants help protect our skin from sunburn and skin cancer by canceling out the free radicals in the body that are created by prolonged sun exposure. Look for chocolate made of 65 percent or more raw cocoa, and aim to eat one square a day.

2. Tomatoes

According to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, 20 healthy women, ages 21 to 47, who ate a quarter cup (or four tablespoons) of tomato paste in olive oil every day for three months were more protected against sunburn than those who consumed olive oil alone. Side note: olive oil can help to reduce reddening from sun exposure by 35%, according to an article from World’s Healthiest Foods. Tomatoes and tomato-based products are a major source of an antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene helps to neutralize the damaging effects of UV light and eating lycopene-rich foods can help prevent your skin from aging. Add tomatoes to your salad or sandwich, or enjoy pizza with tomato sauce.

3. Green Tea

Green tea holds numerous health benefits for the immune system and metabolism, and it also helps to soothe sunburns. Drinking one to two cups of this antioxidant-rich tea a day helps to reduce the redness of sunburn. Green tea also contains EGCG, a natural chemical that fights free radicals, decreases inflammation from the inside out, and may ultimately prevent the development of skin cancer. Look for decaf tea, because caffeine is a dehydrating agent. Your skin stores fluid, and if your internal core is fluid-depleted the body will try to scavenge all the fluid it can from its surface which dries out the skin.

4. Red Peppers

Bell peppers contain an antioxidant called capsiate, which decreases skin damage caused by UVB rays. Peppers also help to reduce inflammation from sun exposure. Add red peppers to pizza, try some rep pepper hummus, or try this recipe for stuffed bell peppers.

5. Garlic

Not only does garlic detoxify and reduce bloating, it also can protect the skin from the aging effects of UV radiation. Garlic contains a natural compound called allicin, which has strong antioxidant and healing properties. Add garlic to your pasta for some extra flavor or saute some veggies with garlic.

6. Pomegranates

Pomegranate seeds have polyphenols, which protect skin from UVA and UVB rays. Scientists have discovered that nutrients in pomegranates can reduce the ability of UVB radiation to cause cancer-promoting damage in skin cells, including alteration of NF-kappa, a pre-cancerous biomarker. Pomegranates also have high antioxidant content, and have been found to offer anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin.

7. Carrots 
& Sweet Potatoes

These orange veggies have carotenoids (plant pigments that are rich antioxidants), which help to protect against sunburn because of their antioxidant properties. Both carrots and sweet potatoes are a major source of skin-protecting beta-carotene.

8. Watermelon

Watermelon contains lycopene—also found in tomatoes— that can decrease your chance of redness from sunburn. Enjoy a summer salad with these four ingredients: cubed seedless watermelon, crumbled or diced feta, whole mint leaves, and extra-virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

9. Strawberries, Kiwis, and Oranges

High in vitamin C, these fruits are great for killing off free radicals that your body produces in response to the cellular damage caused by exposure to sunlight. Kiwi packs more vitamin C per ounce than any other fruit. Citrus fruits like oranges contain large amounts of the skin-cell protective compound called limonene. These fruits also contain flavonoids, which improve the skin’s ability to recover from sun damage.

10. Almonds and Sunflower Seeds

Top off a salad, yogurt, or smoothie with slivered almonds or sunflower seeds—both contains vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant that protects against sun damage. This vitamin has also been proven to slow the aging of skin cells and diminish the appearance of scars


Find these foods and more at the UC Davis Dining Commons and look out for some exciting special events going on during the spring quarter!

The Best Foods for Your Mind


Did you know that some food can actually help you think better?

If you’re feeling forgetful, it could be due to a lack of sleep or a number of other reasons including genetics, level of physical activity, and lifestyle and environmental factors. However, there’s no doubt that diet plays a major role in brain health.

The best menu for boosting memory and brain function encourages good blood flow to the brain — much like what you’d eat to nourish and protect your heart. A recent study found that the Mediterranean Diet helps in keeping aging brains sharp: a growing body of evidence links foods like those in the Mediterranean Diet with better cognitive function, memory and alertness.

Here’s how to eat your way to success during this upcoming finals week.

Eat your veggies.

Getting adequate vegetables, especially cruciferous ones like broccoli, cabbage and dark leafy greens, may help improve memory. Try a raw kale salad or substitute collard greens for the tortilla in your next sandwich wrap.

Broccoli Stir Fry

This recipe for broccoli stir-fry is an excellent option for lunch or dinner.

Load up on berries and cherries.

Dark berries like blackberries, blueberries and cherries are a rich source of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that boost memory function. Enjoy a handful of berries for a snack, mixed into cereal or baked into an antioxidant-rich dessert. You can reap these benefits from fresh, frozen or dried berries and cherries.


Try this recipe for a delicious blackberry and blueberry smoothie.

Get enough essential omega-3 fatty acids.

Essential for good brain health, omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in particular, may help improve memory for healthy young adults. DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain, therefore increasing levels of DHA in the blood will help the brain operate more efficiently. Seafood, algae and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and herring are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Substitute fish for meat a couple of times each week to get a healthy dose. Grill, bake or broil fish for ultimate flavor and health.

Fish Tacos

Try this recipe to enjoy seared salmon tacos with sriracha ranch sauce, snack on sardines or enjoy seared tuna on salad greens for dinner. If you don’t eat fish, you can get DHA from fish oil supplements.

Work in walnuts.

Well known for a positive impact on heart health, walnuts also may improve working memory. Walnuts are also one of the best plant-based sources of alpha-linoleic acid, another omega-3 fatty acid. Snack on a handful of walnuts to satisfy midday hunger, add them to oatmeal or salad for crunch or mix them into a vegetable stir-fry for extra protein.

Oatmeal Bars

photo by Martha Stewart

Try this recipe for oatmeal bars with walnuts and dates and take them on-the-go to your tests and study sessions.

Remember, these foods are not just good for the brain! They also sustain a healthy heart and all parts of the body to support lifelong good health.

National Nutrition Month


National Nutrition Month is an annual nutrition education campaign sponsored annually by the American Dietetic Association. This month’s campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing healthy eating and physical activity habits. It also focuses on how to create meals that can be enjoyed and also promote good health. The 2014 National Nutrition Month theme is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” Research confirms that taste is the determining factor for the foods that consumers choose on a daily basis. Though social, emotional, and health factors also play a role, people are likely to choose foods based on what they enjoy the most. This means that nutritional considerations often fall by the wayside. This year’s National Nutrition Month focuses on how to create meals that can be enjoyed and also promote good health.

Looking for a way to practice choosing foods that are both healthy and enjoyable? Try this optional week-long healthy eating challenge. Alternatively, you can try just a few meals or snack ideas from the list as another option!

Healthy Aggies Challenge

 Day 1


  • 1 cup steel-cut oatmeal with ½ cup berries, 2 T chopped walnuts
  • 1 medium banana


  • 2 cups spring green salad with ½ garbanzo beans, ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, ½ cup cherry tomatoes, ½ cup diced cucumber, 2 T olive oil vinaigrette


  • 1 apple and 2 T peanut butter


  • 4 oz oven roasted pork with fennel
  • 1 roasted sweet potato
  • ¾ cup steamed chard with 2 T olive oil
  • 8 oz lowfat milk
  • 1 small brownie

Day 2


  • 2–egg spinach and mushroom omelet
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • 1 medium banana


  • 1 cup lentil soup
  • 1 cornbread muffin with 1 T honey


  • 3 whole wheat crackers with 1 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 1 apple


  • 4 oz grilled salmon
  • 8 asparagus spears with olive oil
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 small handful chocolate covered almonds

Day 3


  • 1 whole wheat English muffin with 2T almond butter
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt ½ of a grapefruit


  • 2 cups spinach tossed with 3 oz chicken, ½ cup shredded carrots, diced tomatoes, 1 T dressing


  • ½ cup trail mix (almonds, raisins, pumpkin seeds)
  • 8 oz low-fat milk


  • 3 oz. grilled tri–tip
  • 1 small baked potato topped with ½ cup sautéed mushrooms and onions
  • 2 cups spring greens with olive oil vinaigrette

Day 4


  • 1 cup raisin bran cereal
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • ¼ cup dried fruit
  • 1 orange


  • Quesadilla with 3 oz. shredded pork and 1½ oz. shredded jack cheese on 8″ whole wheat tortilla
  • ½ cup salsa
  • 1 cup cabbage slaw with 1 T. avocado salad dressing


  • ½ cup plain yogurt with herb seasoning as dip for 1 cup total baby carrots and celery


  • 4 oz. pan seared pork chop with 1 cup sautéed chard, shallots and mushrooms served over 3 small roasted red potatoes

Day 5


  • 1 whole wheat English muffin
  • 1 cup greek yogurt with ¼ cup almonds , drizzle of honey


  • 2 slices whole grain bread and 3 oz. canned tuna with fresh parsley, celery and scallions ½ cup sliced cucumber
  • 1 banana


  • 2 cups of popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese
  • 1 mandarin orange


  • 1 roasted chicken breast
  • 1 cup whole grain rice medley
  • 1 cup steamed green beans with sautéed shallots
  • 1 cup arugula and spinach with red onion and tomato slices and 1 T light dressing

 Day 6


  • 1 slice whole wheat toast with 1 T jam
  • 2 poached eggs
  • ½ grapefruit


  • 1½ cups chicken noodle soup
  • Celery and carrots dipped with 3 T hummus
  • Small handful chocolate–covered almonds


  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 T almond butter


  • 4 oz. grilled salmon
  • 1 cup steamed chard
  • 1 cup brown rice with fresh herbs and toasted pine nuts
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate and ½ cup strawberries

 Day 7


  • 2 poached eggs on 2 slices whole wheat toast
  • 1 chopped apple with cinnamon


  • 2 slices whole wheat bread and 3 oz. roasted turkey and 1 oz. cheddar cheese with greens and sliced tomato
  • 1 kiwi


  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with small handful trail mix and honey
  • 1 mandarin orange


  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta topped with lean ground beef–tomato sauce (fresh herbs, diced tomatoes, mushrooms)
  • 2 cups chopped kale salad with 1 T olive oil vinaigrette

Look for National Nutrition Month events going on at the UC Davis Dining Commons all month long!

Healthy Tips for Eating Out

eatinghealthyout-PROOFWhether you are eating out at a restaurant or at the UC Davis Dining Commons, there are many options for good tasting foods; often including foods you may never make at home and in quantities you would not usually prepare for yourself. Sometimes this can make it challenging to create a healthy meal. There are also positives to eating out. Visiting a new restaurant presents the exciting opportunity to try new meals that may even inspire you in your own kitchen. Keep these tips in mind to ensure that your restaurant meal will be both enjoyable and healthy.

Remember MyPlate to balance your choices:

  • If possible, try a taste of the meal first before choosing an entrée.
  • If your options are pasta, potatoes, rice, and bread, choose one from this group. The foods you didn’t choose today will most likely be offered again tomorrow.
  • Include a source of protein in every meal. Make a salad into a meal by adding beans, cottage cheese, or tofu. Consider pairing grilled chicken breast with some veggies or grains, or as a lean protein addition to a salad.
  • Opt for low-fat condiments such as mustard, tomato sauce, seasoned vinegar, low fat salad dressing, and fat free cream cheese. Use high fat condiments (like mayo, gravy, creamy sauces, salad dressing, and cream cheese) sparingly.
  • Balance is key! If you choose a high fat main dish, choose something light (like fruit) for dessert. If you choose a lighter entree (like grilled chicken breast salad with low fat dressing), enjoy a higher fat dessert. If you had dessert at lunch, skip it at dinner.

Ask the waiter or server how items are prepared or served. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions, the staff is happy to provide them for you.

  • Substitute egg whites into your omelet or scramble at breakfast and use plain yogurt instead of sour cream on breakfast potatoes. Top with salsa for added flavor.
  • Ask for light salad dressings such as lemon juice or olive oil and vinegar.
  • Ask the server to “hold the mayo” and ask to put sauces, salad dressings, and other extras on the side. If you choose to use them, apply sparingly or dip your fork in the dressing/sauce to get a tiny flavor boost with each bite.
  • Ask for a side green salad, steamed vegetable, or fruit cup in place of the cole slaw, potato salad, or fries that normally comes with it.

Most restaurant meals come in larger portions than you would normally eat if you made a meal at home. Ask for smaller portions, or take steps to control portions on your own.

  • Have a light snack before you go, such as a piece of fruit, a small carton of yogurt, or a small handful of nuts.
  • Remove your plate as soon as you feel full. Remember that it takes up to 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full.
  • Share a large entree or dessert, or consider putting half of the portion in a to-go box for later.
  • Drink a tall glass of water before you start eating and/or several glasses during your meal.
  • Enjoy a cup of herbal tea at the end of your meal as a substitute for dessert.

Do you have any strategies to improve the health of your meal when you eat at the dining commons, or visit your favorite restaurants? Share by leaving a reply below!

Healthy Snacks 101


Snacks can boost your energy between meals and supply essential vitamins and minerals. Think of snacks as mini-meals that contribute nutrient-rich foods. The key to delicious snacking is to be creative with what you make so that you are always coming up with new combinations. These recipes are high in nutrients while also being more imaginative than your standard snack.

Have a busy week ahead of you? Prepare and store your snacks on Sunday so that you have them ready to go during the week.

Greek Yogurt Bowl 


photo by 101 Cookbooks

Start with 1 cup of Greek yogurt and add in your choice of nuts, seeds, fruit, and a drizzle of honey for sweetness.

Benefits: Greek yogurt has double the protein of most regular yogurts. Greek yogurt contains probiotics that not only improve your digestive health and keep the bacteria in your gut healthy, they boost your immune system to keep you well. All nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps keep your skin healthy.

Vegetable Hummus


photo by Martha Stewart

Hummus is a great way to sneak veggies into your meal if you don’t enjoy eating them whole. Enjoy this recipe, which incorporates kale, as a dip for raw veggies or crackers, as a spread in a sandwich or wrap or use a dollop on top of a fresh salad.

Benefits:  Kale is high in Vitamin K, which can help protect against various cancers. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Chickpeas are high in protein and also known to be effective in preventing build up of cholesterol in the blood vessels.

Blueberry-Pecan Bars 


photo by Our Family Eats

This recipe is perfect for breakfast on the go or a snack between meals.

Benefits: Oats are a slow digesting carbohydrate that will keep you full for longer because of their high fiber content. Dried blueberries provide vitamins and antioxidants. Coconut oil provides some healthy fat: the medium chain fatty acids in coconut have been shown to improve cholesterol levels. Bananas supply potassium and B6. These bars earn even more points because they have no refined sugar, and can be made gluten free!

Pumpkin Protein Smoothie

Screen shot 2014-02-18 at 8.18.25 PM

photo by Fit Sugar

Make this smoothie for a quick breakfast on the go, or post workout to get protein to your muscles for recovery. Find the recipe here.

Benefits: Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. One half cup of pumpkin contains 400% of your daily needed vitamin A, as well as vitamin C and fiber. Cinnamon is one of the healthiest spices it is high in antioxidants, which play an important role in keeping the body healthy.

What are some of your favorite snacks? Do you like to get creative while snacking? Leave a reply below! 

10 Best Food Apps


It’s common knowledge that most college students are glued to their smart phones. I know I am guilty of using apps for just about everything. Recently, I have become aware of just how many great apps there are that concern food and nutrition. I decided to test a few and came up with this list of apps that are worth a try. Whether you are looking for new recipes, a vegetarian restaurant, or tips to make cooking easier, the solution may be just one click away!

1. Aggie Dish

Price: Free

Platform: Apple iOS (mobile web version on Android)

This app allows you to view a complete menu of what is offered daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night at Segundo, Cuarto, and Tercero Dining Commons at UC Davis. You are able to view a description of the dish as well as its nutrition facts for each meal item. In addition, the app tells you how many “happy healthy apples” a dish contains, which is an indicator of its nutrient density. A very nutritious dish has three apples, and apples are subtracted for negative aspects such as high sodium, high levels of saturated fat, and chemical additives. Common allergens that appear in dishes such as gluten, soy, and dairy are displayed, as  well as finding out if a dish is vegan or vegetarian. Aggie Dish also features a list of dining locations both on and off campus that accepts Aggie Cash. I highly recommend Aggie Dish for anyone who eats on campus regularly, or who wants to check out what the DC has to offer. To download, visit

2. Farmstand

Price: Free

Platform: Apple iOS

Farmstand makes eating local easy to do by making it simple to find farmers’ markets, community gardens, and restaurants and events that serve local food. This app supplies the location, distance, and hours for local markets and events (such as Food Day) taking place. Markets appear on a map and a list sorted by distance. Also provided is contact or website information for local markets. You can also share content, reviews and photos within the app and via Facebook and Twitter

3. Local Eats

Price: $0.99

Platform: Apple iOS

The Local Eats app is perfect when you are exploring a new city and want quality food, but are not sure where to go. This app shares my philosophy that although chain restaurants are one option, it’s not nearly the same as trying out a locally-owned dining establishment. The app uses the iPhone’s GPS receiver to identify your location and pull up restaurants that are nearby. You can also search restaurants alphabetically or by category. Choosing “Best in Category” allows you to find top-rated restaurants for each type of cuisine. The app provides links to restaurant descriptions, contact information, websites, directions and comments and reviews by other users.

4. Cook’s Companion

Price: Free

Platform: Apple iOS

Ever been uncertain about how to use a certain cooking tool, or unfamiliar with an ingredient that a recipe requires? Then this app is for you. This kitchen reference app provides cooking tools including a timer, ingredient dictionary, equipment list, measurement converter, and a glossary of kitchen terms. The glossary provides a complete description and image of the equipment and how to use, handle, clean and store it. The measurement converter makes it easy to go from ounces to grams, milliliters to tablespoons, Celsius to Fahrenheit and more. My favorite feature is the ingredient dictionary, which identifies obscure foods such as aduzki beans and includes tips on selection, cooking, and storage.

5. Delicion

Price: Free initial download, in app purchases begin at 1.99

Platform: Apple iPad only

Delicion is perfect for those seeking gluten, grain, and soy free recipes. With appetizing images and easy step-by-step instructions, this app makes eating with special diet easier and more fun. Delicion allows you to adapt recipes to meet additional dietary needs such as vegan and vegetarian, Paleo, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and low carbohydrate. Other features include the ability to add notes to each recipe to personalize the experience, and scale recipes for a small or large group. Shopping lists are available by recipe and can also be organized by grocery store aisle and shared via email.

6. Meal Makeover

Price: $1.99

Platform: Apple iOS

Meal Makeovers is a recipe app created by registered dieticians that features healthier, more nutrient-rich versions of family favorites. Familiar recipes are modified into healthy family recipes in categories from kid food to holiday classics, main entrees and sides as well as vegetarian options. The searchable database of over 50 recipes includes recipes such as Black Bean Enchiladas, Nutty Banana “Ice Cream” and tuna salad with raisins. Meal Makeover allows you to save favorites, rate and review recipes, and add ingredients from the recipes directly to your shopping list. 

7. Cooking PlanIt

Price: Free

Platform: Apple iOS

Cooking PlanIt simplifies the cooking process and saves time by helping home cooks prepare a complete meal with everything ready at the same time. Automatic timers alert you when each component is ready to move to the next step, and voice or visual commands prompt cooks to prep ingredients for immediate and later use. There is even the option to build in breaks to relax and cleanup. The app also features preplanned menus that come with a synchronized and preplanned shopping list. Search by ingredient, type of dish, occasion and an extensive list of diet restrictions including no onion, no pork, no nuts, gluten-free and more.

8. Real Simple Recipes: No Time to Cook?

Price: Free

Platform: Apple iOS

Real Simple Recipes makes it easy to create delicious recipes even on a busy night. The first screen of the app displays three time options: 40 minutes, 30 minutes and 20 minutes. It also displays a basic selection of food categories like poultry, beef, seafood and vegetarian. Picking a type of dish and a time frame then allows you to sort through the app’s collection of 850 recipes. Real Simple Recipes includes kitchen timers and how-to videos along with its cooking instructions. Favorite recipe and shopping list features are also offered.

9. Veggie Spots

Price: 2.99

Platform: Apple iOS

A vegetarian friend of mine recently had the experience of going to a restaurant where the only menu item she could order was a side of broccoli. Not exactly a complete meal, am I right? This app will make it so that never happens. The application accesses a database of restaurants that are vegan, vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly. You can search by your current location or enter a custom location, perfect if you’re visiting an unfamiliar city. Sort results by user ratings, alphabetical order, or on a map showing distance from your current location.

10. Epicurious

Price: Free

Platform: Apple iOS

This app, based off the epicurious website, divides recipes into categories like healthy lunches or decadent desserts. Select the category you want, browse the contents and choose your dish. The app will tell you the ingredients and kitchen tools you will need to prepare the meal. Use the app when browsing the aisles at your local grocery store to make sure you pick up everything you need. It even has an interactive shopping list that lets you check off items as you pick them up so you don’t forget a thing. Then it’s time to get cooking. Each recipe has clear instructions on how to go from raw ingredients to the final dish. Create a successful meal and you may want to flag the recipe as a favorite – that will make it easier to return to if you want to recreate the same dish later.

What are your favorite food apps? Will you be using any listed here? Share below!