Be S.M.A.R.T. About Your Health


By:  Cecilia Chen, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

“I will eat a lot of fruit and vegetables…”

“I will exercise more…”

“I will never skip breakfast again…”

“I will go to bed before 12 am…”

“… but I never did.”

Do any of the above statements sound familiar to you? College life can be stressful when you need to balance your social life, academics, and health. Often times, students will compromise health because they do not have enough time for things like meal prep, working out and sleep. When a new quarter starts, do you find yourself vowing to eat healthy or exercise more. Maybe you have tried going to the gym for a week when the quarter first starts, but midterms come up, and you never go back. Then, you feel bad about yourself and not achieving your health goal. How could you set up lifestyle change goals differently?

Instead of setting long-term goals, break down the goal into little steps that are more manageable and trackable. We call this SMART goal setting. Building SMART goals about your health consists of five components: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.

  • Specific: Being specific about your goals means you need to consider who, what, where, why and how.
    • Who will make this change?
    • What do you want to change, and what is your plan?
    • Where will your plan be carried out?
    • Why do you want to make the change?
    • How often will you make the change?
  • Measurable: Your goals need to be measurable because it is easier to track how you are doing when it can be measured with a specific number. For example, your goal can be to cook dinner two times per week or meet with the nutrition peer counselors once a week.
  • Attainable: Attainable means realistic. Is your goal something within your capability and not out of your reach? Setting your goal to eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day is unrealistic if you barely eat any now!
  • Relevant: Is your goal related to what you value in life? Will achieving this goal make a meaningful change?
  • Timely: Set a specific timeline for your goals can be helpful. For example, if going to the gym for the next month seems a bit challenging, you can set your goal to go to the gym two times during the next week. See how it works; adjust as necessary. Again, be specific in how you’ll carry out the change.

Instead of saying, “I want to be healthy,” say, “I will eat an apple for breakfast this Friday,” or “I will go to the gym at least two times this week.” Setting up your SMART goals can not only help you actually achieve your goal but also improve your sense of confidence.

Now it is your turn. Work on a SMART goal today and let us know how it goes!



“10 ‘SMART’ Healthy Eating Goals.” 10 “SMART” Healthy Eating Goals – Unloc Food,

IU, Positive Outcomes for Women. “How to Make SMART Nutrition and Physical Activity          Goals for Your New Year’s Resolution.” POW IU, 2 Jan. 2018, pursuinghealthi

Save the green – healthy eating on a budget

save the green

By Marisa Morales, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Money is a powerful tool; it allows us to travel, have shelter, further our education, and most importantly to purchase food, an obvious necessity in life. How many times have you struggled with money and ended up skipping meals or eating a cup of noodles because it saved money? As a college student, I understand how difficult it can be to shop for healthier food items, such as produce and meat, when less healthy food items seem more affordable; things like frozen meals and boxed cereal. Fortunately, there are some tricks that will help you save on money while still eating healthy.

  1. Beans, beans, beans! Canned beans are often less than a dollar each which allows you to stock up on a variety of them for several meals, such as black beans for tacos, kidney and garbanzo beans for salads, etc. Beans are a great source of fiber and can be used as a source of protein, instead of meat, which can often be expensive for a college student.
  2. Bulk up! If you find that you are purchasing the same food items quite frequently, I would recommend buying them in bulk to 1) save money and 2) save time.  Plus, the larger amount is a great opportunity to meal prep for the week ahead. Check out the recipe below for my favorite meal prep!
  3. Freeze everything! If you find that a lot of your food is spoiling faster than you can eat it, store your leftovers in the freezer. Most foods can be stored in the freezer for a significant amount of time without losing any nutritional value. Speaking of which, purchasing frozen vegetables and fruit is a great idea when certain produce is out of season and if you don’t have time to cook/prep the produce. Also great for making smoothies!

If you are ever at UC Davis Memorial Union, I highly encourage you to stop by Aggie Compass located just past the Market on the first floor. Aggie Compass is a one-stop-shop for all your basic needs. They offer resources for housing, financial wellness, mental wellness, and food security. I spent the past year volunteering with Fruit and Veggie Up!, a program run by Aggie Compass. The goal of this program is to help reduce food insecurity amongst UC Davis students. We understand that not everyone lives close to a grocery store or has enough money to buy food. This program is great because it allows you to pick free produce two days a week as long as you have your student ID!

One Pan Italian Sausage and Veggies

Prep time: 15 minutes             Cook time: 30 minutes


  • 2 large carrots (~2 cups)
  • 2 red potatoes (~2 cups)
  • 1 small-medium zucchini (~2 ⅓ cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers (~2 cups)
  • 1 head of broccoli (~1 ½ cups)
  • 16 ounces Smoked Italian Turkey or Chicken Sausage


  • ½ tablespoon EACH: dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: onion powder, dried thyme
  • ⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 4 ½ tablespoons of olive oil

*this recipe is very easy to make and can be prepared with a variety of ingredients and seasonings, but I highly suggest that the veggies be prepared exactly as instructed in order to ensure they all cook at the same time*


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or foil to avoid messes. Set aside.
  2. Wash, peel and cut the carrots into thin slices (save the peel for a nutritious snack later   on!) Wash, peel the red potatoes (this is optional, I love the peel on) and cut into small wedges.
  3. Wash, halve the zucchini and cut 1 cm thick coins of zucchini. Chop the head of broccoli into florets. Wash and remove the stem and seeds from the red bell peppers, then cut into medium-sized slices. Chop the sausage into thick coins.
  4. Pour all the prepped veggies and sausage onto the lined sheet pan.
  5. Use a small bowl to combine the desired seasonings and olive oil, mix well.
  6. Drizzle all the seasoning and oil mixture on top of the veggies and sausage. Thoroughly toss to coat.
  7. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the pan and stir the veggies and sausage before placing it back into the oven for 10-20 more minutes, or until they are crisp tender.
  8. Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.
  9. Serve with rice or quinoa and enjoy the meal!

The great thing about this recipe is that there are many possible variations depending on vegetables and seasonings you prefer. I have made this dish so many times that I don’t even measure out my vegetables or seasonings anymore, I just add to the dish until it looks yummy!

Original recipe:

blog photo

Keep your strength up!

By: Tuchau Bui, Healthy Aggies intern

Summer is right around the corner and you know what that means! Time to hang out with friends and family at the beach while drinking ice cold lemonade and soaking up the warm sun. This is the perfect season to relax and unwind.

Unfortunately, after a few months of staying indoors during winter you find it difficult to become active again. During long periods of inactivity, our muscles are not being used which leads to a loss of muscle strength and endurance. But you needn’t rush to the gym. Start slowly and gradually add in more exercise along the way.

Here are three easy exercises you can begin with at home to help you prepare for a strong summer. Remember to stretch before starting and rest for 15-30 seconds in between sets. Also, keep a water bottle close by to stay hydrated!

  1. Squats

Muscles targeted: quadriceps, gluteus maximus, hamstring, hip abductors and adductors, gastrocnemius, soleus, tibias anterior, rectus abdominals, and erector spine



  • Increase leg and bone strength
  • Improve core stability and overall balance
  • Strengthen thighs and glutes

Workout: 10 reps, 3 sets

Start by standing with your feet at about shoulder width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward. Bend your knees while keeping your spine straight and looking straight ahead. Your body will bend forward a little as you squat. Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Finally lift yourself back up into a standing position.


  1. Walking lunges

Muscles targeted: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings



  • Strengthens leg muscles and glutes
  • Improves core strength and stability
  • Improves overall balance

Workout: 10 reps each leg, 3 sets

Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Step forward with one leg and bend your knee until it is at a 90-degree position while bending your rear knee until it nearly reaches the ground. Your back should remain straight. Then stand up again by stepping forward with your rear leg while straightening your front leg.

walking lunges

  1. Triceps dip

Muscles targeted: triceps, biceps, shoulder muscles of upper arms


  • Strengthen triceps and tones the back of your arms
  • Strengthen biceps
  • Improves core strength and stability

Workout: 10 reps, 3 sets

Start by sitting on the mat with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place hands behind you with fingertips pointing toward your feet. Lift hips above the mat. Then bend your elbows and lower your hips until they almost touch the ground. Straighten your arm to bring yourself back up.

Triceps dip

Repeat these exercises at least 3 times a week. As you progress, you can slowly increase your workouts to include more reps or mix in additional exercises. Eventually, your ideal amount of exercise should be about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week.

By engaging in regular exercise, you will be able to reap the multiple benefits it brings to your body. Your muscles and bones will be strengthened, you will burn more fat and calories, and your metabolism and immune function will improve. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get up and get our move on!  Let me know how it goes for you.

Fruit contains too much sugar. Or does it?


By: Clara Matsumoto, Healthy Aggies Intern

Up until recently, many people believed that the main dietary culprit of many of America’s most common chronic diseases was fat. People began to adopt low-fat diets while not paying attention to sugar intake; chronic disease continued to proliferate. The American Heart Association recommends that people consume less than 6 teaspoons or 25 g of sugar per day, but this advice was shadowed by the intense focus on fats. As time passed and more research was published, it became clear that there was a significant relationship between sugar and chronic disease. Using the research, the FDA proposed a change to the food labels in 2016 to reflect our current nutrition understanding, and soon, hopefully, the new label will be officially adapted.

Two significant changes will be the addition of added sugars underneath the sugars section and the deletion of calories from fat in foods. The goal is for people to be aware of added sugar and place focus on what types (vs how much) of fat are being consumed.  Although the updated food label is a great stepping stone to helping people make healthier choices, it’s also important that consumers have more detailed information about sugar in foods Many consumers do not know what “added sugar” technically is. The USDA defines it as sugars and syrups added to foods in processing or preparation. For example, if the product is honey, there is no added sugar in it; all the sugar is naturally occurring. White dairy milk contains lactose (milk sugar) but that is different than “added sugar”. However, if honey was an ingredient in a food, then the grams of honey added would be listed in the added sugar section of the food label.

What about fruits?  A medium apple contains 19g of “sugar”.   The difference is that it is naturally occurring sugar in a whole food.  If we compare soda, a 12 oz can of soda containing 39g “sugar” (USDA), it is all “added sugar”. Whole foods containing naturally occurring sugar also contain beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber is useful for controlling appetite since it slows down the rate of sugar absorption.  As long as you’re healthy and consuming foods from all the food groups daily, more fruit is better!

So the next time that you are reaching for that box of Oreos at the grocery store, take a look at the amount of added sugar and consider swapping those cookies for a healthier option such as dark chocolate covered blueberries instead. Not only will it help satisfy your sweet tooth, it will help you follow the recommendation for sugar intake. I hope this information helps clarify what an added sugar really is and shows that consuming fruit can be part of a healthy diet even with its sugar content.



Integrating Veggies (college edition!)


By:  Ines Cheng, Healthy Aggies Intern

As college students it is often difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The time and energy it takes to make healthy meals can sometimes seem burdensome. However, there are many different strategies to more easily integrate vegetables and fruits and other healthy foods into your everyday life!

  1. Smoothies!

It can be difficult to eat as many fruits as you would like throughout the day. One easy way to incorporate fruits is to make smoothies in the morning. Combine some of your favorite fruits and add some protein (like yogurt or soy milk) to make a smoothie for a quick and easy breakfast. An extra step is to add spinach! Spinach is great for your skin, hair, and bone health and provides protein, minerals, and vitamins.

  1. Pack Veggies as Snacks

A great way to incorporate veggies throughout the day is to pack them before you leave the house. This way if you are hungry throughout the day you won’t have to buy a snack; the one you have is healthier than the alternative you could buy at the store on campus. Some easy snacks to carry around are carrot sticks, tomatoes and celery; pack a little cup of hummus or a string cheese stick to round it out.

  1. Meal Prep

Everyone is constantly raving about meal prepping because it really helps! Setting aside a couple hours in one day is much more efficient than spending time each day making food. Create big batches of healthy meals that you will be able to eat throughout the week. You will be less likely to eat out if you know you have food all ready to eat.

  1. Side Orders

It can be difficult to choose the healthier option at a restaurant. However, by making a conscious effort to replace one side with a healthier alternative benefits you. An example is to choose a salad instead of fries. Or replace certain pieces of the meal with healthier choices, such as a lettuce wrap instead of bread with a burger. This is a fantastic way to incorporate vegetables in meals when you go out.

  1. Know Where To Eat Out

In Davis it can be difficult to find restaurants that have healthy options. However, most restaurants will have at least one healthier option or one that you can alter in some way. Whenever you can, look for that balanced plate in the meal your order – a serving of protein, a whole grain, if possible, and some fruits and veggies.  Ask for what you want!

Overall, living a healthy lifestyle can seem difficult but it is all about making small changes over time. Choosing healthy options over others (and doing it consistently) will alter your health for the better. Incorporating any of the above tips will help you eat in a more healthy manner without dramatically changing your life.



Milk alternatives – do you know the options?


By:  Rini Jablonski, Healthy Aggies intern

“Milk” is not the same as it was a mere five years ago. When perusing the milk section at any grocery store, you may notice that there is a whole lot more to choose from than your classic dairy milk. Some of these alternative milk forms include nut milks, hemp milk, coconut milk, oat milk, and the list goes on. So you may be wondering, what is the benefit of each particular milk? We are here to answer your burning questions about the rapidly expanding world of alternative milks with a list that highlights some of the most common ones and their benefits.

1) Almond milk:

Almond milk is made from mixing ground almonds and water, then straining that mixture. It is rich in Vitamins E and A and is often fortified with Calcium. On average, unsweetened almond milk offers the lowest amount of calories as far as alternative milks go, at 40 calories per 8 fluid ounces. It is also a common misconception that almond milk provides a sufficient amount of protein. While almonds contain around 6 grams of protein per serving, one 8-fluid ounce serving of almond milk only contains around 1 gram of protein. To put this into perspective, one serving of nonfat dairy milk contains around 9 grams of protein.

Almond milk takeaway: Lowest in calories and contains no saturated fat but also contains little protein.

2) Soy milk:

Soy milk is made from soybean flour and water. Compared to other milk alternatives it has the highest amount of protein, averaging around 7 grams per serving. In addition, soy milk provides good amounts of Calcium, Vitamins A and D, and iron. Its calorie count is on average 80 calories per 8 fluid ounce of unsweetened plain soy milk.

Soy milk takeaway: Provides more protein than any of the other alternative milks.

3) Coconut milk beverage:

The coconut milk beverage you see in the milk section of a store is very different from the coconut milk product you may see in a can elsewhere. It is much thinner, and is the product of straining coconut meat twice and mixing the remaining liquid with water. Coconut milk beverage does not naturally contain vitamins A, D, and calcium, but may be fortified with them. Per 8 fluid ounces, coconut milk offers around 50 calories. It does not offer much protein at less than one gram per serving. Lastly, although not scientifically confirmed, coconut milk beverage is thought by some to contain Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), a type of fat that may be helpful in overall health.

Coconut milk takeaway: Good for people with soy allergies; but not a good source of protein.

4) Hemp milk:

Hemp milk is made from soaking ground hemp seeds in water, and it is described as having a grassy flavor. It naturally provides a good source of Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, and Vitamins B and D. It averages around 60 calories for 8 fluid ounces. Hemp milk contains about 4 grams of protein per serving. All of the vitamins and minerals listed above are essential for bodily functions such as bone growth and muscle movement.

Hemp milk takeaway: Provides good amounts of vitamins and minerals essential for bone and muscle function.

5) Oat milk:

In a similar fashion as the milks above, oat milk is made by mixing ground oats with water and straining the mixture. Oat milk contains a naturally sweet flavor, and it is often enriched with vitamins B12, Riboflavin, A, and D. It contains about 3 grams of protein per serving. Oat milk is a great alternative for people who are either vegan, lactose-free, and allergic to either soy/nuts.

Oat milk takeaway: Provides best source of B vitamins, has naturally sweetened flavor; not a great source of protein.

Conclusion: There are even more options of milk out there, including and not limited to pea milk, lactose-free milk, and different nut milks. Finding your preferred milk depends on your own taste preferences and how your body reacts to each one. For sure, opt for the unsweetened version, as sweetened or flavored versions of these milks will often contain high amounts of added sugar. But overall, I find it fascinating that a whole market of milks exists to suit people’s nutritional needs, and it is exciting to explore the world of alternative milks.



Nutritional Antioxidants


By:  Anna Bui, Healthy Aggies intern

Nowadays many commercial packaged foods and drinks are advertised as a “good source of antioxidants.”  We see the word all the time but most of us aren’t able to explain why antioxidants are good or even which foods contain them. “Antioxidant” has become synonymous with “good health.” But, what are they and how are they beneficial?

Antioxidants are compounds produced by the body and often found in fruits and veggies that can inhibit oxidation or “fight against” free radicals. To understand what an antioxidant is we need to understand the oxidation process and how free radicals are produced.

In the chemical structure of all things, atoms are surrounded by electrons (negatively charged particles) that orbit around in a layer called a shell. Each shell needs to be filled by a set of electrons through various types of bonds with other molecules. Free radicals are unstable molecules that do not have a full outer shell.  The primary source of free radicals are the normal metabolic processes that occur in the body.  We are also exposed from X-rays, sunlight, air pollutants, or smoking. Free radicals are everywhere! They become reactive and can be very damaging to our bodies if we are unable to eradicate them.  They can react with our DNA, can cause cell mutations, oxidative stress, aging, and promote cancer.

Since we cannot remove free radicals from our lives, we’re lucky that, as human beings, we have adapted a mechanism to counteract their effects – through antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent oxidation by donating an electron to these free radicals to make them less reactive. Not only can antioxidants donate an electron, they don’t then become a free radical themselves!  It’s amazing!!  Our bodies make some types of antioxidants but we can boost the supply through consuming certain foods.

Good sources of antioxidants in food include almost all fruits and veggies, dark chocolate, green and black teas, and legumes.  As of now, more research needs to be conducted on how many antioxidants we need to consume for optimal health.


Finals snacking – fuel to power through!

By Ruth Vodonos, Healthy Aggies Intern

Make sure to eat carbohydrates, it’s what your brain uses for energy!  Find carbs in grains, fruits and starchy veggies.  Whole food is best – e.g. whole grain toast with peanut butter and strawberries is better than a strawberry poptart.

Combine a fruit with a source of protein so you don’t have to deal with a sugar crash (finals are bad enough as is).

Combo examples:peanut butter apple

  • Bananas & Peanut Butter 

(add whole-wheat bread and make it a sandwich!)

  • Apples & Almond Butter

(for those with peanut allergies, any sort of nut butter would work!)

  • Berries & Cottage Cheese

Cottage-Cheese-Berries-720(a good way to get berries when they aren’t in season is to buy them frozen)

  • Any fruit & Greek Yogurt



More ideas:

  • Hummus & Veggies (esp. cucumbers, low in calories and fun to munch on)
  • Roasted Chickpeas, seeds or nuts to chew on (just stay aware of the fat content and portion size)





When spending long amounts of time in the library studying for exams, make sure to keep yourself from going hungry by packing these snacks for yourself beforehand. Good luck on those finals Aggies! 🙂

Thoughts for Spring


By:  Zona Jin, Nutrition Peer Counselor

It’s almost spring break! If you’re planning on going to the beach, you may find yourself thinking about how you’ll look in a swimsuit. The fashion, fitness and media industries sell us a “thin ideal”. Although you know that many of the photos are edited, it is sometimes hard to stop comparing yourself to them. This blog is going to give you a few tips for body positivity.

Weight is just a number. Eating, exercising, and even drinking water affects the number. Our body is an amazing system that balances energy intake and expenditure, typically you won’t gain or lose significant weight in one meal or even one day.  It happens slowly over time when there is an energy surplus. Additionally, body composition plays a role in body weight. Muscles, bones and water are all heavy but are very important to our health and we want them to be strong and healthy.  If you inherited large bone structure or work out to maintain muscle structure, your weight may be higher.  Constantly checking the number on the scale isn’t a good thing to spend time on!

We are all unique. Appearance is attributed to genetics as well as environmental exposures. As we each develop into a unique person, our body develops into a unique body. Embrace your body the way it is, and appreciate what your body allows you to do in this wonderful life.

Body affirmation. We receive judgmental voices every day from the media and even the people around us. It is important to know that you are glamorous the way you are. You can choose to look in the mirror and tell yourself so, or put sticky notes with body affirmations on your bedroom door, notebook, or laptop to remind you.

Focus on the experience you had, not how you look on the pictures. Spring break is supposed to be a relaxing and fun time with the people you love (or yourself!) So be in each moment and just smile and be happy. When you act like a confident and happy person often that is who you become!

Try a new outfit without worrying how you look. We all have insecurities about our appearance, but don’t let that discourage you from trying new things. If the outfit makes you happy, wear it!

There are so many other commitments that need our attention, don’t let negative body image waste your precious time. Celebrate your body the way it is, and be the best version of yourself you can be!

Staying Motivated towards Health


By:  Haley Guadagni, Nutrition Peer Counselor

It is very common for anybody that is pursuing a healthier lifestyle to have ups and downs. However, if you’re someone that feels like you’re consistently falling off track, it might be time to rethink your source of motivation! According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, “there are two types of rewards: hedonia and eudaimonia.” In terms of healthy living, hedonia refers to the superficial kinds of things you might receive when doing well with your eating habits and exercise such as weight loss, looking better and feeling like you’re accepted by others more. Eudaimonia refers more to the feeling of overall well-being that you get from healthy living like having more energy, feeling productive and getting stronger.

Connecting your lifestyle goals to these “E-rewards” rather than “H-rewards” will motivate you much more to keep going on your mission to become healthier, and actually makes your brain less depressed! This is because receiving these rewards activates the ventral striatum, which is your brain’s reward region. It may be tough to switch over to this mindset when you’re not used to it, but here are my Top 5 Tips to Gaining a Better Mindset:

  1. Unfollow certain social media accounts. Or even better – limit social media! Constantly seeing pictures of other people’s bodies or even just lifestyles can keep us too focused on what a certain diet will make our bodies look like, or how many days a week we need to be going to the gym in order to look like someone else, which can leave us feeling discouraged and eventually give up on trying at all. If you do choose to use social media, try to follow athletes or people that inspire you with their perseverance or strength, not their abs.
  2. Surround yourself with encouragement. Having a gym or meal prep buddy can be an awesome thing! However, you want to make sure that the people in your life are encouraging you in a positive way and focusing on more holistic reasons for getting healthy, rather than just looks, as well.
  3. Think small, think sustainable. Making a lot of big changes at once may not be the best for sustainability of a healthy lifestyle. For example, many people decide that they’re going to go to the gym 5-6 days a week after being sedentary their whole lives, then wonder why it’s so easy for them to get off track. Of course this is going to be difficult! Setting goals that are realistic for you is key to sticking to them. When you start on a new goal, whether it’s eating differently or exercising more, think to yourself: “Will I be able to keep this up for the rest of my life?” If not, it may be time to rethink your goals.
  4. Make it fun! Eating healthy and exercising doesn’t have to be boring. Try out a new recipe, a new fruit or veggie you’ve never tried, pick up a new sport or active hobby! There are so many more options out there than you think – find what you like! This way you’re more likely to actually look forward to eating better and working out.
  5. Forgive yourself. If you “mess up” on your new healthy eating habits or miss a workout, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t give up! The faster you forgive yourself and accept that you can’t change the past, the faster you’ll get back on track. Plus, taking a little break can help you come back stronger. Remember, you’re only human!

Don’t know where to start in terms of living a healthier lifestyle? Come see a nutrition peer counselor any weekday – hours are listed on the Campus Recreation website!