Serving Sizes: a visual guide

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant 

When’s the last time you measured out half a cup of ice cream, ate exactly 15 chips, or leveled out two tablespoons of peanut butter? You may be surprised about what a serving of these common foods actually looks like.  While using measuring utensils and counting calories isn’t necessary to maintain a healthy diet, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the recommended serving sizes for the foods you’re eating on a daily basis, particularly if they’re calorie dense.

Below are some visual representations to think about the next time you reach for a pint of ice cream, a bag of trail mix, or a jar of peanut butter.

Peanut Butter

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Serving size = 2 Tablespoons

Pasta

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Serving size: ½ cup, or a tennis ball

Ice Cream

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Serving size = ½ cup, or a tennis ball

*This means that there are 4 servings per pint!

Trail mix

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Serving size: ¼ cup, or a golf ball, or a small handful

Almonds

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Servings size: 1 oz or 24 nuts

Potato Chips

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Serving size: 1 oz or 15 chips

Granola

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Serving size: ¼ cup or an egg

Oreos

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Serving size: 2 cookies

Salad dressing

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Serving size: 2 Tablespoons

Did any of these surprise you? It’s unnecessary to obsess over exact measurements, but being mindful of your portions can help you reach your health goals. As you can see, many “healthy” foods are higher in calories, fat, and/or sugar than you may think. Furthermore, eating smaller portions leaves room for a larger variety of foods within your daily intake, which can help you reach your macro- and micro- nutrient requirements.

 

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.

Healthy Snacks 101

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Snacks can boost your energy between meals and supply essential vitamins and minerals. Think of snacks as mini-meals that contribute nutrient-rich foods. The key to delicious snacking is to be creative with what you make so that you are always coming up with new combinations. These recipes are high in nutrients while also being more imaginative than your standard snack.

Have a busy week ahead of you? Prepare and store your snacks on Sunday so that you have them ready to go during the week.

Greek Yogurt Bowl 

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photo by 101 Cookbooks

Start with 1 cup of Greek yogurt and add in your choice of nuts, seeds, fruit, and a drizzle of honey for sweetness.

Benefits: Greek yogurt has double the protein of most regular yogurts. Greek yogurt contains probiotics that not only improve your digestive health and keep the bacteria in your gut healthy, they boost your immune system to keep you well. All nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps keep your skin healthy.

Vegetable Hummus

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photo by Martha Stewart

Hummus is a great way to sneak veggies into your meal if you don’t enjoy eating them whole. Enjoy this recipe, which incorporates kale, as a dip for raw veggies or crackers, as a spread in a sandwich or wrap or use a dollop on top of a fresh salad.

Benefits:  Kale is high in Vitamin K, which can help protect against various cancers. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Chickpeas are high in protein and also known to be effective in preventing build up of cholesterol in the blood vessels.

Blueberry-Pecan Bars 

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photo by Our Family Eats

This recipe is perfect for breakfast on the go or a snack between meals.

Benefits: Oats are a slow digesting carbohydrate that will keep you full for longer because of their high fiber content. Dried blueberries provide vitamins and antioxidants. Coconut oil provides some healthy fat: the medium chain fatty acids in coconut have been shown to improve cholesterol levels. Bananas supply potassium and B6. These bars earn even more points because they have no refined sugar, and can be made gluten free!

Pumpkin Protein Smoothie

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photo by Fit Sugar

Make this smoothie for a quick breakfast on the go, or post workout to get protein to your muscles for recovery. Find the recipe here.

Benefits: Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. One half cup of pumpkin contains 400% of your daily needed vitamin A, as well as vitamin C and fiber. Cinnamon is one of the healthiest spices it is high in antioxidants, which play an important role in keeping the body healthy.

What are some of your favorite snacks? Do you like to get creative while snacking? Leave a reply below! 

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!

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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!

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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).  

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Photo: Core power yoga

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.

Nutrition Myth Busters- Vegetarian Diet

Myth-busters

This week I had the exciting opportunity to do a guest post on the SPE Certified Blog! I chose the topic of nutrition myths because there are so many that run rampant through our society and the media. I believe that it is important that these myths be proven or dis-proven with current, science-based information. For the post I decided to focus specifically on myths surrounding vegetarians. Though I am not personally a vegetarian, I still found it interesting to learn what goes in to making a meatless diet healthy.

Myth: “It is impossible to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet”

Facts:

  •  Not only is it possible to get enough protein from plant sources, there are other nutritional benefits as well, including a greater intake of fiber, potassium, immune system-boosting phytonutrients, and a lower intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Plant-based protein sources generally have lower digestibility than animal protein. Therefore, vegetarians should consume more protein on average than their meat and dairy-eating counterparts. The RDA recommends .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Vegetarians should aim for .41 grams per pound.
  • Healthy plant-based sources of protein include legumes, soy products, whole grains, and nuts. Legumes, such as black beans and lentils, are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals and low in fat.
  • Soy products, such as tofu or tempeh, are some of the most versatile vegetarian protein sources. Tofu can be incorporated into soups or stir-fries, and tempeh can be marinated or grilled to be included in salad or sandwiches.

Myth: “You must eat dairy products to build strong bones”

Facts:

  • The key nutrients for bone health are calcium, vitamin D, and protein. While these nutrients are present in dairy such as cow’s milk, they also exist in many plant-based foods.
  • Some studies show that the ratio of dietary calcium to protein is a better predictor of bone health than calcium intake alone. Vegetarians should try to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods such kale (1 cup=179 mg calcium), tofu (4 oz= 11 g protein, 200-300 mg calcium), and soymilk (1 cup= 7g protein, 200-300 mg calcium).
  • While spinach and rhubarb are good sources of calcium, they are also high in oxalates, which decrease calcium absorption in the body. Therefore it is advisable to favor other green vegetables more often.
  • Vegetarians may find it is easier to meet the 1000 mg daily requirement for calcium needs if calcium-fortified foods or dietary supplements are utilized.
  • Calcium absorption can be maximized by pairing calcium-rich foods with foods containing vitamin C.

Useful resources:

http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php

http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/calcium.php

What Is SPE, and Why Is It Important?

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UC Davis Dining Services is proud to partner with SPE Certified to bring UC Davis Aggies a healthy and sustainable meal option at the Dining Commons. You can find SPE Certified meals at Segundo, Tercero, and Cuarto Dining Commons for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day of the week. So what is SPE? Greg Deligdisch, VP Marketing of SPE Certified writes a guest post:

What is SPE?

SPE stands for Sanitas Per Escam, literally Health Through Food in Latin. It’s an apt “promise” for a unique third-party certification and consulting company that is defining a new way to eat. In essence, SPE Certified enhances the nutritional quality of meals without compromising taste, thereby ensuring that every dish is healthy, sustainable and most of all, delicious.

SPE Certified is the first of its kind, a revolutionary new brand providing a universal, trusted standard for food — similar to what LEED® is to buildings and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval® is to household products. So when students see the distinctive SPE logo (dubbed a “squiggly, red insignia” by The New York Times), they will know those dishes have been properly sourced, are nutritionally balanced and taste great.

Healthy food need not be boring

SPE was created by Emmanuel Verstraeten, Founder and CEO, to build a bridge between the culinary and scientific worlds and to ensure that for the first time, healthy food did not need to be boring. So in 2001, he brought together a chef and a dietitian (truly an odd couple!) and opened the first SPE restaurant in Brussels named Rouge Tomate, followed in 2008 by Rouge Tomate New York. From the beginning, though, the goal was to expand beyond, with the restaurants serving only as the “incubators”, real-life laboratories for this unique culinary philosophy. So in May 2012, he launched SPE Certified, through which all foodservice establishments — restaurants, cruise lines, school and university cafeterias, airlines, corporate cafeterias, hospitals, etc. – can now access the ultimate in nutritionally balanced, sustainable food.

Within months of launching, blue-chip brands such as Celebrity Cruises, UMass Amherst, Hotel Plaza-Athénée NY and Michelin-starred Danji and Seasonal restaurants jumped on the “health bandwagon” and became SPE-certified. SPE Certified is now proud to partner with UC Davis, the first school to become certified on the West Coast.

Why eat SPE?

The latest health, or rather un-health, numbers are staggering: in 2030, 42% of the US population will be obese, and it is getting worse every year. Increasing numbers of Americans are suffering from diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer – all contributing to skyrocketing health care costs. Verstraeten created SPE with a real desire not only to affect positive change, but also to reach as many men, women and children as possible. And what better place to showcase this compelling brand, indisputably at the center of the current (white-hot) health and nutrition conversation, than in the cutting-edge, sustainably-focused cafeterias of  UC Davis?