Sustaining Your New Year’s Resolution

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By Jackie Ahern

It’s a little over a week into 2018: a perfect time to reflect on the successes and struggles of those pesky New Year’s resolutions we all seem to make. For those of you that have stuck to your goal of going to the gym more often, or eating more leafy greens, congratulations! Research has shown it takes 21 days to make something a habit, so you’re halfway there! For those of you that haven’t been so successful, you’re absolutely not alone.

New Year’s resolutions are tough. For one, there are a lot of expectations and hype surrounding becoming a newer, better version of yourself, al starting on January 1st (or the 2nd if that NYE party was a real rager); however, in reality, time is relative. There’s no difference between starting a new habit on January 1st or June 1st, other than those 6 months. Granted you live for at least 20 more years (here’s hoping), 6 months is a pretty small fraction. What I’m trying to say is that January 1st isn’t the end-all-be-all for changing your life for the better. If you aren’t able to stick to your first resolution for whatever reason, whether it be that it’s too expensive, too time-consuming or just too difficult to keep up, that’s okay. You don’t have to abandon the resolution; just modify it. When an engineer designs a building but it gets painted the wrong color, they don’t tear down the whole building. They just repaint it.

A good New Year’s resolution, or any lifestyle change for that matter, needs to be something you can see yourself being able to continue for the rest, or most, of your life. For example, I know I cannot completely cut out desert forever (have you ever had ice cream?) but what I could do is cut down on my portion size, or only have it a couple times a week instead of every night. Additionally as a student, working out every day at 7am isn’t exactly sustainable, but working out after class 3 or 4 times a week could be. If down the line you find yourself suddenly hating ice cream, or craving more workouts, you can definitely switch some things up, but in the beginning, its best to start small with more attainable goals.

So what is a good way to assess an attainable, smart goal? Well, there’s a convenient acronym for that. It’s called SMART: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Specific refers to a clear definition of the goal, such as “I will take a 30-minute walk in the morning, 3 times a week” versus just, “I will get in shape.” Measurable means having a way to evaluate how thoroughly the goal has been met, such as marking exercise days on a calendar or keeping a food journal. Achievable means the goal must be within the realm of possibility; for example, “I will lose 1 pound a week” instead of, “I will lose 20 pounds this month.” Talking to a professional like a doctor, dietitian, or personal trainer can help to navigate how achievable a health-related goal is. Relevant refers to how much the goal fits in with your lifestyle and other pursuits. For example, while in school, a resolution such as “I will learn how to swim” may be more relevant than “I will learn how to scuba dive.” Lastly, timely means that the goal should have some defined checkpoint or endpoint, such as “I will eventually be able to meditate for 20 minutes by adding 5 minutes to my meditation every 2 weeks.” Of course, from there you can decide to modify the goal.

And finally… Think about where you were 3 months ago. If you had made just a small lifestyle change then, today could a very different day. With time flying by the way that it does, who knows where you could be in just a few months by taking a small step towards a healthier future, today.

Winter Recipes Worth Trying

Winter-Recipes

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

Soup-Cover

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

Pedialyte

Hard candy

Fruit juice

Popsicles

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

Eggs

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)

Yogurt

Healthier Holiday Favorites

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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.

Build a Better Salad!

Congrats! You’ve made it through Summer’s hottest months. But if you are like me, you are probably denying that it is ever going to end and still trying to squeeze in that last bit of fun outdoors. As a result, spending time inside cooking is probably last on your list. But with a multitude of end-of-summer activities, you need to fuel your body somehow. So what’s the solution?

Salad! Salad is the perfect easy meal. It’s light, fresh, quick, and since salad leaves naturally contain water, it’s even hydrating. But with so many options for creating a salad, it can be tough to know what to choose. Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure your salad is not only healthy but also delicious.

Step 1

Start with lots of leafy greens. This is an easy way to fill out the bulk of your salad while adding a lot of nutritional value without adding calories. Find information on how to choose the best salad greens here.

  • Spinach is the number one salad green, packing over twice the daily value of Vitamin K along with high levels of potassium and calcium.
  • Romaine is a close second, beating out spinach only in Vitamin A content.
  • Other options are Swiss Chard and Kale, which both boast super high antioxidant content. These are not commonly available at salad bars, but can be found in the produce aisle.

Step 2

Now comes the fun part: adding fruits and vegetables to the mix. As a general rule, the colors of fruits and vegetables indicate which nutrients they contain. Focus on getting a little of each color in your salad to maximize their benefits. With so many options this is where you can get creative with your salad depending on your preferences.

  • Excellent veggies for salads include sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, onions, mushrooms, beets, and broccoli
  • Add fruits such as avocado, chopped apples, pears, grapes, cantaloupe or strawberries

Step 3

Add a lean protein. Lean protein will help you feel fuller longer as well as help build lean muscle mass.

  • White meat chicken or turkey
  • Fish is one of the healthiest sources of lean protein because it is lowest in saturated fat. A good choice for fish is salmon, because it contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (or good fats).
  • Hard-boiled eggs

Step 4

Add some extra crunch. Nuts and seeds are full of good-for-you fats and are high in fiber and antioxidants. Some great nuts for salads are almonds, walnuts, and pecans. Another way to add crunch without nuts is to use crushed pita chips.

 Step 5

It is smart to use discretion when adding dressing to your salad to avoid dousing your healthy salad with unnecessary calories. A good way to control the amount of dressing is to ask for it on the side. Stay away from creamy dressings, as just two tablespoons of the average ranch dressing contain about 14 grams of fat. Instead look for an olive oil-based dressing like this one,  which contains half the amount of fat but still adds flavor.

Looking to put your brand new salad building skills to work? Try the Hub at West Village’s Kitchen, which has a variety of tasty options at their salad bar. The Hub Kitchen is currently featuring seasonal vegetables grown at the UC Davis Student Farm, including Sungold tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, Basil, and Summer Squash. Don’t forget to ‘Like’ them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all of the Hub’s specials at https://www.facebook.com/HubWestVillage.

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 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.