The Power of Good Food

March Madness has begun and it’s definitely an exciting one this year. Our very own UC Davis men’s basketball team is in the Big Dance for the first time ever and beat out NC Central to take home a win in the first four round. Today, UC Davis plays the number one seed, Kansas. Although the odds seem to be in Kansas’s favor, UC Davis has something on their side that Kansas doesn’t: good nutrition.

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The men’s basketball team at UC Davis is spectacular. The coaches work hard to instill good values in their players and teach them how to succeed on the court, as well as off the court. From our nutrition department, the inspiring Dr. Liz Applegate works with their players to focus on sports nutrition and healthy habits. Through this connection, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the team over the past few years to teach effective study habits and general nutrition concepts.

Here are some soundproof tips for your inner athlete:

1. Hydrate: Drink when you’re thirsty, especially when you’re working out. It’s a fine balance between dehydration and overhydration, so your best bet is to pay attention to your thirst cues. For prolonged exercise (>1 hour) or extremely vigorous exercise (competitive basketball), alternate sips with a sports drink for some quick energy and minerals, like potassium.

2. Fuel up: Before working out, go for a bite that’s a mix of carbohydrates and protein with more emphasis on the carbs. Carbohydrates power your muscles and protein helps with muscle repair. Some ideas are a whole-wheat toast with nut butter or topped with an egg, half a serving of granola with yogurt, 1/4 cup whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce and chicken sausage, and more.

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3. Power down: After exercising, replenish your stores with carbohydrates and protein with more emphasis on the carbs. When you work out, tiny tears occur in your muscles, so it’s important to give your body time to heal and protein helps facilitate these repairs. Also, your stores of carbohydrate (for energy) can become depleted depending on the duration and intensity of exercise, so eating carbohydrates after helps your body re-fuel. Some ideas are chocolate milk (or chocolate soy milk), veggie stir-fry with brown rice and chicken breast (or tofu), veggies +pita + hummus, veggie omelet on whole-wheat toast, etc.

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With these tips in mind, UC Davis will be powered up and ready to take on the game today! Who’s watching later?!

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What are your sports nutrition tips?

Are you doing a March Madness bracket? Who are you rooting for today? (spoiler: there is a correct answer ;))

WTF Wednesday – The Sugar Detox

One item in our food supply has been under attack.

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Seemingly, this ingredient didn’t do anything wrong. It made cookies taste good, made bitter foods, like coffee, bearable, and sometimes just put a darn good smile on our face. So how did we end up here? For this week’s WTF Wednesday, we’re talking about the sugar detox your friends, relatives, and that neighbor down the street have embarked on.

Let’s start from the beginning. Sugar is the general name for a group of molecules that fall under the class of nutrients, called carbohydrates. The sugars that have been getting the bad rep lately are fructose, found in fruit, and sucrose, commonly known as “table sugar.” Oh, and High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which is a mix of two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose, and used widely by the food industry…we’ll go there later.

Sugar has been a common ingredient in our food supply for a long, long time. It’s what gives food that amazingly sweet taste! We are wired to enjoy foods with sugar because the taste is, well, delicious, aaaand the sweetness signals that this food is a source of energy (a.k.a. calories). Sugar can be pretty awesome because the monosaccharide, glucose, which is the major sugar found in our body and food supply, is the exclusive fuel for our brain (side bar: when we don’t eat enough carbohydrates, our body can make a limited amount of glucose from breaking down muscle and produce ketone bodies from fat stores to fuel our brain…but this is super not ideal). However, besides calories, sugar lacks other nutrients making it a nutrient-poor food.

Sugar can be found intrinsically in foods, like fruit and milk, or it can be added to foods, like baked goods, soda, yogurt, and all sorts of unsuspecting goods, like bread, tomato sauce, ketchup, etc. HFCS came into play when the the food industry started using a mix of glucose and fructose sugars to sweeten foods because it was cheaper than cane sugar (sucrose) and tasted sweeter. Sugars that have been added to foods were given the name “added sugars.” Due to studies showing that higher consumption of sugar may be linked to metabolism problems and weight gain, sugar, especially added sugars, have gotten a ton of buzz in the past couple years.

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Added sugars have been hit hard because they’re not found “naturally” in certain food items, so they’re seen as removable. Also, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the top sources of added sugars are sugar-sweetened beverages (I’m looking at you, soda and juice), as well as snacks and sweets. We can all agree that we feel less than optimal after eating too many nutrient-poor foods (candy) and not enough nutrient-dense foods (veggies and hummus).

The current recommendation for added sugars is to limit our intake to less than 10% of our total calories. So if you’re consuming a 2,500 kcal diet, you’re aiming for less than 250 kcal from sugar. There are 16 kcal in 1 teaspoon of sugar, so roughly you’re limited to about 15 teaspoons. Since carbohydrates provide 4 kcal per gram, you’re looking at ~60 grams. If you were to go for 2 glasses of sweetened iced tea, you’re done. Forget getting a cocktail. That’s way too easy to go overboard.

Hence, here we go with the sugar detox. People are attempting to completely remove sugar from their diet. Some are just removing added sugars (added sugar is sneaky and hides in foods, so this will be difficult), others are attempting to remove both intrinsic and added sugars (eek, bring on the low energy). The problem here is similar to my previous post. Banning foods is not a sustainable strategy to teach good nutrition.

Sure, we can all put more effort into choosing foods that provide more nutrients, instead of relying on sugary snacks for a quick energy source. But we also can’t forget that the sugar, glucose fuels our brain. Fruit is also a great source of different nutrients, including certain vitamins and minerals, water-soluble fiber, and phytochemicals (that have antioxidant properties). Plus, fruit tastes good, so it’s easier to adopt eating fruit into the diet.

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Eating is all about creating a pattern. Healthy eating is about creating a pattern centered around nutrient-dense foods, with the allowance for the occasional treat. Don’t bother with starting the New Year with a sugar detox. Instead, practice these sustainable nutrition strategies to lower your sugar intake:

1. Choose Carbohydrates Wisely: Go for whole-grains, like oats, brown rice, barley, buckwheat, and whole-wheat couscous. These whole-grains will provide fuel for your brain and body, while also giving you other nutrients. Plus, you cook all these yourself, so you avoid mystery sweeteners that appear in pre-packaged foods.

2. Sugar-Free Hydration: Make water your primary drink of choice. You can add citrus or cucumbers and mint for added flavor, or even go with seltzer for a pop! As for alcohol, your best bet is vodka with seltzer and lime wedges.

3. Calculate Your Energy Needs: Find out your estimated energy requirement using a tool, like the USDA SuperTracker, to figure out roughly your calorie recommendation for the day. From there, calculate your sugar allowance of 10% of total calories.

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Have you ever tried a sugar detox?

What are your food goals for the year?

 

Monday Reset.

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday weekend and got to eat delicious food and spend time with your loved ones <3.

 

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Now that the holidays are winding down, some of us, myself included, are feeling the aftermath of the festivities. Tired, happy, and maybe a little bloated…sound familiar? Luckily it’s all temporary :). Here are my go-to tricks for a little reset and some good ol’ TLC for the body:

Step 1: Don’t stress. Whether your pants feel a little tighter after the holiday dinner or after a weekend of a bit too many indulgences, this feeling will pass. A day, or two, of indulging will not cause your body to drastically change shape. The key is to not waste energy getting worked up about your eating “slip-ups.” Instead, acknowledge how your body feels and put the energy towards treating your body well.

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Step 2: Stock up. Grocery shopping for nutritious foods and stocking up your home with all these goodies is truly magical. Surrounding yourself with foods that power your body sets yourself up for nutrition success, since you’re more likely to eat and graze on foods that are easily accessible.

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Step 3: Make it easy on yourself. On the note of making foods easily accessible, chop and prep food when you get home from the store. By getting all the prep work out of the way, you’ll end up with a fridge full of wholesome goodies to easily eat when the hunger hits. My favorite meal to make is roasted veggies and salmon.* It’s packed with healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This meal always makes my body feel ready to take on the week. Plus, salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help boost brain health.

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Do it–>

Crispy Roasted Veggies:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking pan with tin foil.
  3. Chop veggies and pile on top of foil.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil, a dash of salt and pepper, and spices (garlic powder, basil, oregano)
  5. Bake for 20 minutes and broil on high the last 2 minutes.

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Oven-Baked Salmon:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking pan with tin foil.
  3. Place salmon on top of foil.
  4. Drizzle salmon with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with spices (red pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano).
  5. Bake for 18 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

fullsizerender-21*Serve veggies and salmon with a whole-grain, like whole-grain couscous, brown rice, or quinoa, or on a bed of greens. You can also definitely do both :).

Step 4: Walk it out. Have yourself a dance party, go for a walk/jog/run, hit up the gym, or take a fitness class. Getting some exercise in expends extra energy and produces endorphins, making you feel good. Bonus points for getting a good workout in with a buddy for the extra benefits of socializing.

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How do you “reset?”

Fast Tip Friday #1: Getting the Most Out of Your Sandwich

Happy Friday! This Friday is extra special, since it’s the beginning of the holiday weekend. I hope you all get some good relaxing in and eat delicious food this weekend! Bring on the holiday food.

Living a healthy lifestyle is all about simple tips and tricks. Small changes truly add up to great results. This Friday, we’re talking about getting the most out of your sandwich.

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Sandwiches are fantastic. They’re not only delicious, but can be jam-packed with nutrient power. Plus, they’re easy to make and don’t cost a whole lot of money. The trick is to build your best sandwich.

Step 1: Choose your base. Build your sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread for a nutrition boost. Whole-wheat bread comes with B vitamins, which give your body energy, and water-insoluble fiber, which helps keep things moving, if you catch my drift ;). Plus water-insoluble fiber helps lower your risk of colon cancer, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.

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Step 2: Make a choice. Decide whether you are feeling meat/fish or cheese. Choosing one over the other will slash calories and saturated fat. Plus, in my experience I’ve found I couldn’t really taste much of a difference in sandwiches with both meat/fish and cheese versus sandwiches with only one filling. If you go with meat/fish, choose turkey, chicken, salmon, tuna, or a white fish for lean protein. But, if you’re really feeling roast beef or steak, go for it! Just stick to a proper portion (about the size of a deck of cards).

Step 3: Slather wisely. Unless you are a die-hard mayonnaise person, go without. Choose mustard, honey mustard, pesto, avocado, or oil/vinegar instead. Mayonnaise is essentially all fat with no extra nutrients = empty calories. If you really have to have it, stick to the ones made of an avocado base and measure out only a spoonful. Usually I eye-ball portions, but when it comes to mayonnaise you gotta be careful.

Step 4: Bring on the veggies. Sandwiches are a perfect vehicle to carry all sorts of veggies. Pile on lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, peppers, olives, cucumbers, and more for a tasty way to eat your veggies.

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Nugget sandwiches are “out of this WORLD” amazing!

Step 5: Go to town! Enjoy that delicious sandwich, especially since it’s packed with nutrients to fuel your body. If you start getting full, save the other half for later.

With these steps, you’ll be able to enjoy that sandwich you’re craving, without feeling deprived. The best of both worlds :).

Have a great weekend and spend time with your loved ones!

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What is your favorite sandwich combination?

What are your holiday plans this weekend?

Holiday Eating 101

img_2567The holiday season is filled with treats galore and heaping plates of holiday goodness. Generally, people seem to feel two ways about the aftermath of holiday eating: 1. you can leave overstuffed and bloated, full of regret, or 2. you pass up your favorite holiday treats, so while your jeans still fit nicely, your heart is sad and you’re fixated on not eating that truffle while you had the chance.

Well, I got good news for you, the holidays don’t have to end this way. You can have your gingerbread man/woman/child (#politicallycorrect), and eat it too.

Do this to enjoy those special holiday treats and not have to buy new jeans:

1. Holiday eating is a marathon, not a sprint. When faced with the holiday buffet, take a lap to first gather intel on the available food. Did Aunt Patty make her famous sweet potato pie this year? What are the protein options? What kind of veggies are up for grabs? How many desserts are we talking about? Once you scan the foods, we can start talking strategy.

Put the veggies on your plate first. Like the MyPlate guidelines, make those veggies about half of your plate. Veggies are filled with nutrients and fiber, so choosing mainly veggies will ensure you’re still giving your body proper fuel, while the fiber helps take up stomach space to prevent overeating.

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Next, aim for 1 animal protein source (pick between the chicken, ham, steak, etc.) and serve yourself a portion about the size of a deck of cards. Choosing only 1 animal protein and sticking to a serving size will help lower the chance of eating too much saturated fat at the holiday feast.

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Give yourself 30 minutes before helping yourself to seconds. Holiday time is filled with lots of conversations, which can distract you from realizing when you’re full. Let yourself enjoy talking to the people around you before filling up on more food. Chances are, you’ll end up forgoing seconds, so you’ll be able to enjoy dessert more.

Before you know it, it’s time for the grand finale: the dessert bar. Similar to dinner, take an inventory of what’s available. If you’re more of a sampler, take a sliver of the different desserts to get a taste of each without going overboard. If you want a more substantial bite, pick one of your absolute favorites and serve yourself a portion. Or, if you want two desserts, serve yourself a half portion of each.

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2. Eat in slow-mo. Savor each bite of your food and take the time to notice the flavors in each dish. Eating slowly makes the dining experience more memorable, plus you begin to pick out seasonings and textures you may have missed if you had just shoveled food in your mouth. Slowing down your eating gives your body more time to send fullness cues to let you know when it’s time to stop eating. Best of all, you’ll have more time between bites to partake in conversation.

3. Drink responsibly. Holidays can certainly be boozy and alcohol is a sneaky one. Drinking can cause you to easily overeat, since your inhibitions are lowered and alcohol messes with your hunger cues. Plus, alcohol calories don’t come for free. Stick to 1 drink if you’re a lady and 2 drinks if you’re a fella. When it’s time for the main course, drink water between bites to let the food take center stage and to prevent over-drinking during mealtime. Also, taking a break to drink water helps prevent dehydration and can increase feelings of fullness.

4. Get moving. Propose a walk before the meal (or after) to get your body moving. Walking is an easy way to sneak in some activity without having to change into gym clothes and take a shower after. Taking a nature break gives you time to re-charge and prompts some of the best talks with those around you. Even more reason to get outside :).

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5. Enjoy! Laugh, chat, bond, and chill with those around you. The holidays come only once a year, and for many this is the one time to hang out with certain people. Let the focus be on those around you and not solely on your plate. Over-indulging on occasion is perfectly okay. One meal will not cause you to gain 10 pounds. Listen to your body and resume normal eating after the feast with some activity you love and you’ll be just fine :).

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Eat Responsibly!

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What is your favorite holiday food?

What are your holiday eating tips and tricks?

What does “moderation” look like?

When it comes to nutrition advice, by now you’ve probably heard the snazzy saying “eat a variety in moderation.” Or, my personal favorite version (curtesy of my high school teacher), “everything (legal) in moderation.”

But what does “moderation” mean?

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Okay, eating an entire plate of cookies in one sitting is probably not moderation…but one cookie is fine by me!

Giving nutrition advice is a double-edged sword. One, we want the advice to come off short and catchy in hopes that people will remember and abide by it. Unfortunately, simplifying can lead to misinterpretation.

In reality, the message would be something like, “eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains, and then choose lean protein, like chicken breast, eggs, beans, nuts, legumes, etc., and don’t forget you can also have some dairy products, like low-fat yogurt, milk, cheese, but life would suck without cake, so every once in awhile eat that piece of cake, just don’t eat cake every single day.”

Who would ever want to read that? That looks like a whole bunch of words.

So let’s break down what “moderation” means. Moderation looks different depending on who you are, making it tricky to define. The dictionary definition is something like “the avoidance of excess or extremes.”

When it comes to food, my definition of moderation is based off of a few key bullet points:

  • Eat what feels good: Veggies, fruits, whole-grains (brown rice, whole-wheat couscous/pasta), lean protein (eggs, salmon, chicken breast, beans) and yogurt power my body through the day and I feel nourished after eating these types of foods. These foods form the basis of what I eat. Depending on your personal preferences, choose a few foods you like to eat from these food groups and create meals around them. When a treat pops up that I really want, I’ll eat it and stick to a serving size.
  • Nothing is off-limits: Knowing that I can eat anything I want means there are no “special/untouchable” foods. When you hold a food on a pedestal and deprive yourself of eating it, chances are you will eventually succumb to your craving and overindulge on that food. Or, you may stick to your rules and not eat the sacred food and instead overeat other foods in place of what you truly want.

EX: Full-fat ice cream is off-limits. So, I purchase some reduced-fat version of ice cream/sorbet/diet food version instead and eat the entire container because it’s “better” for you than the full-fat version and I’m proud of myself for not buying the off-limits ice cream. But, then I just ate the entire container. Meanwhile, if I brought the full-fat version and served myself a serving size in a bowl (no eating out of the container), I would have satisfied my craving and not binged on something less satisfying.

  • Seconds are okay: When serving meals, portion out what a single serving looks like because if you’re still hungry you can go back for seconds. This will help preserve the basis of moderation, which means not too little and not too much of something.

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Moderation can be an intangible concept, but once you create your own version of what moderation looks like to you, it can be an enjoyable way of eating. Keeping the basis of what you eat grounded in nutritious foods, of course.

Eat Responsibly!

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What does “moderation” look like to you?

What are your key bullet points for “moderation?”

 

WTF Wednesday – Since When Did Everyone Become a Nutrition Expert?

It’s nearly impossible to scroll through your Facebook newsfeed or Instagram feed without encountering someone posting something about nutrition. It’s great that people are caring about what they eat these days…but sometimes it can do more harm than good. This brings me to the theme of this week’s WTF Wednesday: Since when did everyone become a nutrition expert?

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to form your own opinions about health issues and nutrition topics. To each their own. The pitfall is when these opinions are not grounded in science and are marketed to the mass public to seem like the truth.

We need to be wise consumers. We need to think critically. The age-old saying holds true, especially when it comes to nutrition:

“If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”

So what to do when people are posting about juice cleanses “detoxifying” their body or about some miracle ingredient that promises everlasting health?

  1. Hold your horses: Read the article, listen to the news story, read the Facebook post. Then do it again. Most nutrition stories are posted in a sensational way to deliberately hook you in. Break this appeal by re-reading the article multiple times. Now we can start dissecting the claims.
  2. Science the sh*t out of it! Probably the best line from “The Martian” movie and it certainly applies here. Does the article reference an original research study? If so, go to the actual study and read it. If not, Google search the nutrition topic to find the original research or search in a scientific database, like PubMed. Many journals are open access, which means you don’t need a subscription to read the articles. If you’re a student, most universities provide students with access to almost all journals and the librarians are great at helping you locate an article if you can’t find it.
  3. Think critically: Read the original research paper. Investigate the journal it was published in. Was the journal peer-reviewed? “Peer-reviewed” means the research paper was sent to multiple experts in the field to review and provide comments/feedback. This process decides if the paper is credible, adds to the scientific literature, and should be published. It’s a rigorous process that is lengthy and can make even the toughest scientist shed a tear. But, it makes the paper better and means the paper has been thoroughly reviewed before it’s published. If the research was published in a journal that was not peer-reviewed, then it’s not held to the same high, rigorous research standards and you need to take the conclusions with a grain of salt.
  4. Consult the expert: Does the source of the original post have a Masters/PhD in Nutrition from a reputable university and/or is a Registered Dietitian (RD)/Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)? The Masters/PhDs degrees mean the person has been through research training, so this person can provide feedback on the quality of the research design and interpret what the study concludes. The RD/RDN credential means the person has completed a dietetic internship approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, passed the Registration Examination for Dietitians, and renews this license annually. RDs/RDNs are able to provide nutrition advice and diet plans, so they are the people you want to consult with when trying to tune up your diet or have questions about a new diet trend.

The nutrition field is constantly growing and changing. New findings are released every day and the technology boom has given more people access to this information. It’s up to us to sort through what’s out there and make informed decisions.

Find credible sources. Reach out to faculty and researchers. The professor I work under creates Fact Sheets about many different topics in nutrition here.

We’re here to help bridge the gap between the lab bench and the community and we want to do this together.

Eat Responsibly!

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What’s the latest nutrition news story you heard? What did you think of it?