How to Bake Healthier

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

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

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

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

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

Oil or butter

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

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

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

  • Plain yogurt
  • Applesauce

Sugar

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

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

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

Flour

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weird Foods Worth Trying

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

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

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

Adzuki Beans

adzukibeans
photo by Oprah

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

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

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

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

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

Use:

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

Dandelion Greens

DandelionGreens
photo by Nourished Kitchen

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

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

Use the leaves by:

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

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

Purple Yams

Purpleyams
photo by The Kitchn

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

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

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

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

Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi
photo by In Sonnet’s Kitchen

Can be eaten raw or cooked

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

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

Wheat berries

Wheatberries
photo by Food Network

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

  • Fiber
  • Iron
  • Protein
  • Vitamin E

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

Use:

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

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

Five Herbs Worth Trying!

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

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

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

At the Store

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

Look for:

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

Avoid:

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

How to Store Herbs

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

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

Basil

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

  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin A
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium

Ways to use fresh basil:

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

Dill

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

  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Vitamin A and C
  • Iron

Pairs well with:

  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Fish
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

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

Peppermint

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

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

Health benefits:

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

Cilantro

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

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

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

Health benefits include:

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

Chives

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

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

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

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

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

How to Build a Healthier Sandwich

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I have a theory.

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

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

Step 1: The Bread

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

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

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

Step 2: The Moist Maker (aka Spreads)

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

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Cheese

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

Step 4: Vegetables

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

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

Step 5: Protein

Some things to consider when looking for meat:

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

Try some of these:

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

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

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

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

What is Your Food Package Telling You?

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

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

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

Multigrain vs. Whole Wheat Bread

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

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

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

No Trans Fat

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

Lightly Sweetened

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

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

Organic

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

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

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

Natural

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

Is Eating Late Bad For Your Health?

Open Late

As a recent college graduate, I often find myself reminiscing about the good old days.

Whenever I take a walk down memory lane, it’s always fun to remember freshman year in the dorms, including, of course, late night cramming. One of my favorite memories is venturing on late night food runs! It’s one of the many defining moments that make the college experience unique.

As most of you know, college students stay up until the wee hours studying (or attempting to do so). And let’s face it, when it hits midnight and you have an insatiable desire to munch on something salty, chewing on gum isn’t going to cut it.  At that point, trying to resist eating is pretty much a losing battle (instant noodles, anyone?)

For years, there has been a negative connotation associated with late night eating. The popular saying, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper” has become the popular mantra surrounding a healthy lifestyle. So the age-old question becomes, is eating late bad for your health?

Not necessarily.

Weight maintenance occurs when the caloric intake equals energy expenditure. This means that at the end of the day the total amount of calories you’re consuming is what matters the most for weight control. The common problem with late night eating is that we often opt for unhealthy foods or we tend to overeat. Here are some things to consider the next time those late night hunger cravings hit:

Are you really hungry?
Using food as a coping mechanism is common. When we feel anxious, happy, or even bored, we tend to turn to food. When you get the urge to snack, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or if you’re simply bored and want something to do. Try finding non-food mechanisms to cope with your emotions, such as going out for a walk or talking with a friend.

Choose smart options.
Yes, it may be tempting to drive to the nearest fast food restaurant but the overly processed food you’ll find there will leave you feeling bloated and sluggish.

What to look for:

  • Snacks and smaller meals that are easier to digest compared to large meals.
  • Low-fat cheese, yogurt, and lean meat all contain slow digesting protein that will allow you to feel full.
  • Fruits and vegetables are guilt-free snack options low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber, which will help fill you up.
  • Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, increase levels of serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin regulates mood and contributes to overall emotional well-being.

Curb late night hunger by trying:

  • Greek yogurt topped with your favorite fruit.
  • Whole grain crackers with low fat cheese and sliced turkey.
  • Whole wheat bread filled with hummus and veggies.
  • A sandwich on whole wheat bread, lean meat, and veggies.
  • Oatmeal topped with sliced bananas.

Be prepared!
Having fresh healthful ingredients on hand will make it easier to combat junk food temptations. Stock up on your favorite snack options when you go grocery shopping so you’ll always be ready when hunger hits. 

Healthy Summer BBQ

SummerBBQproof


Sometimes I forget why I like summer, especially with temperatures rising to 106 degrees.

But then I remember how much I like warm nights, barbeques, fireworks, outdoor activities, the beach, oh and did I mention barbeques? There’s no better way to enjoy summer than being able to grill up anything and everything. From fruits to steaks the possibilities are endless.

The good news is that there are health benefits to grilling. One example is that cooking vegetables on the grill is quick, allowing them to retain vitamins and minerals. Although grilling can be made healthy, many of us end up eating meats that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and carcinogens when charred. Instead of loading up on high fat meats, try some of these healthy recipes at your next barbeque!

Appetizer
Grilled Baby Artichokes
Did you know that artichokes are a good source of vitamin C? Vitamin C helps our bodies absorb iron and plays an important role in immune function. Artichokes are also high in folate, magnesium, and fiber!
Artichokes
This recipe includes a flavorful dipping sauce that’s made with light mayo and Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt’s thick and creamy consistency allows it to be a healthy substitute for mayonnaise in many recipes.

Salad
Grilled Green Bean Salad. 
I love how simple this recipe is! This salad is a good base to add any herbs or vegetables that will accompany your main meal. What’s even better is that green beans are high in calcium, which is important for building strong bones and teeth. 
GreenBeans

Main Dish
Thai Chicken Burgers. 
Burgers and barbeques go hand in hand. Instead of grilling the usual beef patty, try making your own patty with ground chicken! Compared to ground beef, ground chicken is lower in calories and saturated fat.

Turkey-Burger

You don’t have to sacrifice flavor by adding fresh ingredients like onion and garlic. This recipe takes creative spin on a burger by packing Asian flavors with sesame oil and garlic chili. The best part? Peanut sauce.

Tofu Lettuce Wraps. Grilling isn’t just about meat anymore. Venture out and try these tofu lettuce wraps that are perfect for a hot summer day. What’s tofu? Tofu, commonly used in Asian cuisine, is made from soybeans that are high in protein. Soy protein has been shown to lower bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
By Erin Gleeson

Sides
Grilled Asparagus and Cilantro Pepita Pesto. 
Asparagus is an easy vegetable to grill during the summer and what better way to serve them than with a cilantro pepita pesto. Pepita is another name for pumpkin seed and is packed with nutritional value from vitamins to amino acids. It also contains omega- 3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease.
Asparagus
Dessert
Red, White, and Blue Popsicles. There’s nothing quite as refreshing in 100 degree weather than a good popsicle. Homemade popsicles are a simple alternative to buying popsicles at the grocery store that are full of artificial coloring and added sugar. These popsicles look delicious with the balance between refreshing berries and creamy yogurt. You’ll feel guilt-free while eating one of these because berries are full of antioxidants.

Popsicles

Drink
Strawberry Lemonade. Only four ingredients? I’m sold. When a drink is this easy, there’s no reason to buy soda for your next summer barbeque. Fresh strawberries and lemons are the stars of this drink that balance each other nicely between sweet and tart. Not only do the lemons add a nice tang but they also contain antioxidants and are good sources of electrolytes that help maintain your body’s function.

Lemonade

Finals Week Survival Guide

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No sleep, caffeine overload, sweats and flip-flops. It’s that time of the quarter again.

Even though in a week we’ll be enjoying the sweet taste of summer vacation and, for some of us, graduation, there’s one last hurdle we all have to get over. You probably guessed it, the daunting week of finals! Many of us associate Finals Week with eating fast food and down energy drinks. Let’s take a step back, though, to see how food choices can affect how well we study.

Caffeine

During Finals Week we all need that boost of energy while we study, but it’s important to realize not all caffeinated drinks are created equal. Instead of grabbing an energy drink, which contains sugar and empty calories, try drinking Matcha green tea or brewed coffee instead. These beverages don’t have a lot of sugar and empty calories plus they may offer natural health benefits.  Keep in mind that 200-300 mg of caffeine is considered a healthy, moderate level.

Monster

  • 92mg caffeine per 8 fl oz
  • 100 calories per serving
  • 27g sugar per serving

Matcha Green Tea

  • 70mg caffeine in 8 fl oz
  • 12 calories in 1 tsp
    • Caffeine released into the body continuously over 6-8 hours
    • Slow release of caffeine prevents jitters and caffeine crash
    • Contains antioxidants and calming properties

Coffee

  • 108 mg caffeine in 8 fl oz
  • 2 calories per cup
  • Shown to decrease risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s, and type 2 diabetes
  • Contains antioxidants

Broccoli

Our bodies convert food into fuel for energy by using folic acid, which is found in broccoli. Folic acid also prevents that feeling of sluggishness. As a quick side to your meal, drizzle olive oil over broccoli florets, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 425 degrees F for 15-18 minutes. By roasting broccoli on non-stick foil, you can study while it’s in the oven and the foil makes for easy clean up. It’s delicious!

Other sources of folic acid:

  • Black beans
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Beets

Trail Mix

Try trail mix instead of chips. You can easily make it by combining your favorite dried fruits, nuts, and even chocolate chips! Nuts, such as almonds and cashews, can help you feel energized while you are studying. They are high in magnesium, which produces and transports energy in the body.

Dark Chocolate

Sometimes when you’re stressed, all you need is a piece of chocolate. The good news? Dark chocolate has been shown to lower stress hormones in highly stressed individuals. Also chocolate has a number of antioxidants that are beneficial to our bodies.

Tuna

Canned tuna is a great option because it’s inexpensive and can be used for a quick sandwich. Tuna contains 20g of protein in a 3 oz serving, which help you feel full longer. Also, it has high levels of vitamin E and K, potassium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain memory and performance.

Food Trends

foodtrendv2“Gatorade? Pass. Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion? Next.”

“I’ll have the coconut water with a side of kale chips, please.”

Have you noticed the shift of popular foods that has been sweeping through magazines, organic grocery stores, and devoted foodies? Of all the trendy foods that are on the shelves, I’ll admit that it’s hard to decide which one is worth the hype. I’ve compiled a list of myths and facts for the latest food trends to help you decide.

Coconut

Myth: Coconut water is better than water during and after a workout

Fact: Coconut water has been glorified as nature’s sports drink because of the amount of electrolytes it contains. However, for most individuals consuming well-balanced meals throughout the day, water can hydrate them just as well as coconut water does. Also, coconut water contains high amounts of potassium, but after a long high intensity workout what your body really needs is sodium.

Tea

Myth: Drinking green tea will cause weight loss

Fact: Although green tea temporarily boosts metabolism slightly, it’s not enough to cause weight loss. Tea is still beneficial to the body in other ways with its ability to:

  • reduce blood pressure
  • lower cholesterol
  • decrease risk of heart attack
  • promote eye health by reducing risk of cataracts

Grains

Myth: Grains are bad for you because they contain gluten

Fact: Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, rye and oats. Individuals with celiac disease will experience intestinal damage and discomfort when they consume gluten. However, for individuals without celiac disease, gluten is safe to eat and there’s no proven benefit of eating a gluten-free diet. Most grains are actually good for you, such as:

  • brown rice
  • wild rice
  • barley
  • oats
  • whole grain pasta and bread

Remember to look for 100% whole grain products

Sustainable and Local Products

Myth: Eating sustainable and local is too difficult

Fact: Sustainable farming results in nutritious food that supports farmers and local businesses that will help the economy.

What does it mean to eat locally?

  • Food is produced locally rather than nationally or internationally
  • Food is grown close to your home and distributed in short distances.

What is sustainable food?

Raising food that is

  • healthy for consumers and animals
  • doesn’t harm the environment
  • humane for workers

You can make easy changes by going to the Davis Farmer’s Market and purchasing products that are grown and made locally.

Asian Fusion

Myth: Chinese food is bad for you

Fact: Many people believe that Chinese food is nutritionally bad for you because of high levels of sodium and oil in the food. Although Chinese food is known for containing MSG, a salt added to enhance the flavor of food, you can ask for food without MSG! Also, ask for your food to be cooked with less oil to reduce the calories. There are many healthy options you can try, such as varieties of Asian vegetables and lean protein such as tofu, shrimp, and chicken. When you want to add Asian flavor to your dishes at home, try using ginger, garlic, green onion, or low sodium soy sauce, all of which add flavor without calories.

Alternate forms of protein

Myth: I need to eat meat to get enough protein in my diet

Fact: There are plenty of vegetarian or vegan sources of protein, such as nuts, grains, tofu, beans, eggs, and dairy products (low fat yogurt and milk)

It’s important to consume foods with amino acids that your body can’t make. These foods are considered “complete protein” sources. Combinations of vegetable foods creating complete proteins include:

  • corn and beans
  • brown rice and split peas
  • avocado, sprouts & almond butter on whole wheat bread
  • tofu

Smaller portion sizes

Myth: The Freshmen 15 happens to everyone

Fact: Weight gain can be easily avoided by being aware of the portion size you’re eating inside the dining commons. Try to grab one plate at a time and enjoy the food while you’re eating it. Here are some other tips for controlling portion size:

  • use smaller bowls, plates, and cups
  • when you eat out only eat half or split the meal with a friend

What are the correct portion sizes?

  • a teaspoon of margarine is the size of one dice
  • three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards
  • one cup of pasta is the size of a baseball
  • an ounce and a half of cheese is the size of four stacked dice
  • one-half cup of fresh fruit is the size of a tennis ball 

Staying Hydrated

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I have a secret for you.

For as long as I can remember, people have been looking for the magic food that can either improve their workout performance, help them lose weight, give them clear skin, or in the best case scenario, all of the above. Oh and it has to be inexpensive too. Well, what if I told you the search is over.

What is this magical thing I speak of? It’s water! Although it may not be a cure-all, it’s pretty close with all of its great benefits (and fits into the college student’s budget because it’s free). Water is important to our bodies and here’s why.

Why is water important?
Our body weight is 75% water! It plays amazingly diverse roles in our bodies. One of the most necessary functions water performs is bringing oxygen and nutrients to cells and taking waste away

Benefits
1. Weight loss:  Substituting sweetened beverages with water is a simple way to reduce the amount of empty calories in a person’s diet. Drinking water also helps you feel fuller, which prevents overeating.
2. Feeling energized: Dehydration will result in feeling sluggish and tired.  Combat this by drinking water to wake yourself up!
3. Enhancing performance: During exercise you lose water primarily through sweat. Drink adequate amounts of water can prevent dizziness, muscle cramps, and fatigue.
4. Gastrointestinal health: Water helps food flow through the intestine and can help alleviate constipation.

How much water do I need?
It is recommended for a total daily beverage intake of 13 cups for men and 9 cups for women. Keep in mind that there’s no exact formula so the amount you need changes depending on exercise, temperature, and food intake.  You also don’t need to drink this full amount of water because a lot of foods contain a high percentage of water.

Foods that have hidden sources of water:

  • Broccoli is 89% water and it is loaded with B vitamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and lots of fiber to help you feel full.
  • Crisp lettuce is 96% water and a great source of potassium and folate. With the temperatures rising, a hearty salad will not only be tasty but refreshing as well.
  • Watermelon is 91% water and a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene, which has been shown to prevent cancer.
  • Low fat milk is 89% water and is high in vitamin D, phosphorus, potassium, and it can add protein to your diet. Grab some low fat chocolate milk as an easy post- workout treat.
  • Apples are 84% water and is high in fiber, vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, among many other vitamins and minerals. It’s a portable snack that you can throw in your backpack and enjoy while you’re on the go.

Also, you can sip water throughout the day by bringing a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go! You can conveniently fill it up at any hydration stations located on campus.

Water Bottle Graphic

Now that you know the secret about water, share it with those around you!