National Nutrition Month 2018!

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By: Johanna Yao, Healthy Aggies intern

“I am going to eat healthier starting tomorrow,” I say for the hundredth time this quarter after I feel sick indulging in a bunch of Girl Scouts Cookies. We tend to have these bursts of motivation to become healthier after days of bad eating, however motivation is often lost once the next meal comes around. Eating healthy is challenging, especially as a college student. Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? Now is the perfect time to re-evaluate goals towards developing healthier eating habits! Here are 5 tips I follow to be healthier:

 

  • Swap unhealthy snacks for something better

 

Instead of opting to eat junk food such as cookies, candy and chips,  pack some fruit or veggies instead. Examples of fruit that can be tossed in your lunchbag include apples, tangerines or bananas; and as for veggie snacks, go for celery and peanut butter or baby carrots with hummus. These choices not only provide vitamins and minerals but also help you fulfill the daily MyPlate portions!

 

  • Practice portion control!

 

We have all experienced the “shock” after we eat half a bag of chips without even realizing it. Eating from a bag promotes mindless eating, and you end up consuming massive amount of calories without even thinking.  Alternatively, place one serving of chips in a bowl. Now you are in control of your portion size, and will be less tempted to overeat.

 

  • Bring your reusable water bottle everywhere you go!

 

Carrying your reusable water bottle around with you is not only a reminder to stay hydrated, it will also help curb your cravings for sugary drinks! Instead of buying bottles of sugar heavy drinks, choose to refill your water bottle and carry on with your day!

 

  • Meal Prep!

 

Though it can be hassle to cook (since we could be using that time to study), setting aside 1-2 hours during the weekend to make meals for the rest of the week is not only more time efficient but often healthier and cheaper. This way, you know exactly what is going on your plate and you can alter proportions and taste to your to your liking. Additionally, planning ahead is more budget friendly than buying food for each meal.

 

  • Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach!

 

You’ve heard this before, but research has shown that being hungry can have an effect on the way we shop.  When hungry, a hormone is produced that enhances your impulsiveness and hinders your ability to make rational decisions. If you go into a grocery store hungry, you are more likely to buy foods that you crave at the moment, but wouldn’t buy normally. Eating something before shopping can help prevent you from impulsively buying foods that are not on your list.

Becoming healthy can seem like a long and never ending journey, but making small changes in your everyday habits can make a big difference in the long run. By implementing these small but attainable goals, taking care of your body is a lot easier!

Spaghetti Squash Salad

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Ingredients

  • 4 Cups Cooked Spaghetti Squash (one large squash)

  • 6 Sliced Jumbo Black Olives (add more to taste)

  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Green Pepper

  • 3 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Chives

  • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

  • 1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinaigrette

Preparation:

Chop peppers and chives and slice olives. When squash is cooled, remove from shell and mix everything together. Salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Makes four 1 cup servings.

 

Tomato and Herbed Cream Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread

  • 4 slices tomato (more or less depending on preference)

  • 2 Tbs cream cheese, plain

  • 1 garlic clove, chopped

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • 1 Tbs Basil, finely chopped

  • 1 handful of arugula

Preparation:

Combine cream cheese, olive oil, basil, and garlic in a small bowl to make the herbed cream cheese spread; mix well. To assemble sandwich: spread herbed cream cheese on each slice of bread, then top one slice with tomatoes and arugula. Combine the two halves and enjoy!

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. 

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.