Heart Healthy Food Guide

heart-healthybannerWhen it comes to diet, you’ve probably heard the term “heart-healthy” before; but what does that mean exactly? Heart-healthy foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy, lean protein, and good-for-you unsaturated fats. As an added bonus, high-fiber heart healthy foods keep you fuller for longer.

Here’s the low down on how to keep your heart strong and healthy:

Saturated vs. Unsaturated Fat

The amount and kind of fat you eat makes a difference. Fat should make up 20 percent to 35 percent of your total calories, but only 10 percent of those fat calories should come from saturated fat. Research shows that eating too much saturated fat is not good for the heart. To limit saturated fat, select lean cuts of beef and pork and cut back on processed meats.

Unsaturated fat is a different story. This type of fat is beneficial for cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health. Foods like olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fat.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These fatty acids, a type of unsaturated fat, are  helpful in preventing heart attacks. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are both sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The recommended intake for omega-3 fatty acids is 500 milligrams per day;that’s basically two 6-ounce servings of fatty fish per week.

A plant based omega-3-fat known alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found in flaxseeds and walnuts. Consume two tablespoons of ground flaxseed or one ounce of walnuts each day for optimizing heart health. Another option is cooking with flaxseed or walnut oils, or using them as salad dressing.

Fruits and Vegetables

According to MyPlate, fruit and vegetables should make up about half of a balanced meal. Not only are they low in calories and high in fiber and antioxidants, they also help regulate blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with potassium, a mineral that has been shown to lower blood pressure in clinical studies. Aim for 4,700 milligrams of potassium every day for blood pressure control. That’s at least two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables daily.

Reduce Sodium

Prepare foods at home so you can control the amount of salt in your meals, and use as little salt in cooking as possible. You can cut at least half the salt from most recipes.

Select reduced-sodium or no-salt-added canned soups and vegetables.

Season foods with herbs, spices, garlic, onions, peppers and lemon or lime juice to add flavor.

February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to learning how you can lead a healthier lifestyle, keep your heart healthy and protect your loved ones from heart disease. Visit the TASTE Platform at the Dining Commons, which serves SPE Certified and heart healthy meals all year!

Nutrition Myth Busters: Fad Diets


It is hard to watch TV or read the news without hearing about the latest fad diet.

Commercials and advertisements make claims that seem incredible, making these diets seem like the perfect quick fix. However, the truth is simple: If a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No foods or supplements are magic, no matter what companies may claim in order to sell them. In fact, some of these diets, as well as ingredients in supplements and herbal products, can actually be detrimental to health.

Here are the real facts behind the fads:

Q: I’ve heard a lot about “juice cleanses” recently. Is this method really effective, or even safe to do?

A: A short-term juice cleanse is not harmful if you are an otherwise healthy person, but it is not beneficial either. A juice cleanse may lead to rapid weight loss, but steady weight loss is much healthier and more likely to last than sudden dramatic changes. Many cleanses also claim to be detoxifying, but your body already has organs whose purpose is to help the body detoxify itself. The kidney and liver function to clear out the body by breaking down substances such as alcohol, neutralizing and excreting the ammonia that results from protein metabolism, and preventing harmful carcinogens from being absorbed into the bloodstream.  There is no evidence yet that any ingredient in these juices is by itself able to eliminate toxins from the body.

Here are a few things you can do instead of a cleanse that will help your body’s detoxifying system run smoothly:

  • The digestive system needs a steady flow of fiber to work properly to eliminate toxins. Find a list of high fiber foods here.
  • To support the liver’s ability to maintain an abundant supply of the potent detoxifier glutathione, eat lots of sulfur-containing vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Q; What about other diets, such as ones that instruct you to eat a lot of one food, (the “grapefruit diet” or “acai berry diet”)?

A: Your body needs a wide range of nutrients, and it is hard to get that from eating just one food. Not to mention it becomes boring to eat the same food day after day and you may end up feeling deprived.  Also avoid any diet that severely restricts one or more food groups. The best way to eat is to get the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. With any new diet, always ask yourself: “Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?” If the answer to that question is no, then the plan is probably not for you. The best kind of program is one that you can understand and sustain.

Q: What are ways to stay healthy that don’t involve a supplement or a specific diet plan?

A: You might try “clean” eating that focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein — basically, whole foods without a lot of processing. Relying on whole foods is the best way to get a good combination of micronutrients, keeping you satisfied for longer. Regular physical activity is also essential for good health; plus it makes you feel great! The key to success is to find physical activities that you enjoy and then to aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity on most days of the week.

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: http://www.foodday.org/