Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Does Processed = bad? Not Always

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

Processed food tends to be viewed in a negative light, but the bad press isn’t always deserved. While some processed foods contain items that we should be limiting for better health, some are actually very good choices.

What does processed mean?
According to recent survey, many of us have different views on what processed means. Processing is a huge category that includes everything from washing to canning. Basically anything done to a raw food before it gets to us is considered processing. Washing and bagging spinach leaves, drying lentils and roasting coffee beans are all forms of processing. With the exception of the very small number of us who live on farms that produce a variety of foods year round, we all need some processed foods.

When is processing good?
It isn’t always so easy to get enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains into our days. Choosing minimally processed foods in this category can help. Buying frozen vegetables in the winter can help when fresh is harder to find. Dried fruit is often easier to pack for a quick snack than fresh that may need peeling or chopping. Quick-cooking whole grains can make balanced weeknight dinners easier to fit into a busy night. Milling allows us to bake delicious breads with whole grain flour. So, while many of us could use more fresh foods in our day, that doesn’t mean we need to eliminate all processed foods.

How to Choose?
Which processed foods we choose makes a big difference in our nutrient balance. Some processed foods are high in sodium making them a less healthful choice than their fresh counterparts. For example, a cup of canned carrots can have over 400% of the sodium found in a cup of fresh carrots. When it comes to choosing processed foods, the nutrition facts panel can help. Sodium and sugar are two to pay attention to as they can be higher in processed foods. Some examples of processed foods that can make good additions to your day include peanut butter, dried or canned beans, whole grain crackers, hummus and yogurt.


  1. 2017 Food and Health Survey: “A Healthy Perspective: Understanding American Food Values” May 2017.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
August 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Are You Sabotaging Your Sleep?

Saturday, July 1, 2017 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , , No comments

We all know how important getting a good night’s sleep is, but sometimes it isn’t so easy to do. It’s possible that you may be unknowingly sabotaging your sleep with what you are eating and drinking.

Foods that hurt sleep:
For all the reasons that we drink coffee in the morning, we should do our best to limit it at night or switch to decaf. Caffeine’s stimulant effects can make it hard to fall asleep. Don’t stop at coffee when looking for caffeine. With the increase in “energy” products, caffeine can be found in a variety of other foods and drinks including tea, soda, bars, chocolate, gum and other candies. It is best to avoid them within a few hours of bedtime. Heartburn and other types of indigestion can also disrupt sleep and tend to get worse when we lie down. Large meals and specific triggers, like spicy or high fat foods, can increase indigestion and make it hard to sleep.

Foods that help sleep:
You’ve probably heard that turkey makes you sleepy, but it is really true? Sadly, no. Even though turkey contains tryptophan, which in our bodies helps with relaxation, eating it won’t help us sleep. The sleepiness we sometimes feel after Thanksgiving dinner is more likely due to overeating – it takes a lot of energy to digest that big meal! What about a warm cup of milk? No real science behind this one either. What may help with sleep, however, is a relaxing bedtime routine. If enjoying a warm cup of milk or a cup of caffeine-free tea helps you to relax, then that could help with sleep, even if it is just the placebo effect.

Other tips for better sleep:
According to the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, some of these other tips are worth trying. Stick to a sleep schedule—Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid caffeine and nicotine. Don’t exercise too late in the day. Avoid alcoholic drinks before bed. Don’t take a nap after 3 p.m. Relax before bed—for example, take a hot bath. Create a good sleeping environment. Get rid of distractions such as noises, bright lights, an uncomfortable bed, or a TV or computer in the bedroom. And finally, see a doctor if you have continued trouble sleeping.

1. The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
July 2017

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Calories On the Menu

Thursday, June 1, 2017 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

You may have noticed that restaurant menus have a new look. Along with price and description, you’ll now see calories listed on menus at restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters and bakeries, among others.

Why put calories on menus?
Most of us eat about a third of our meals away from home. With that in mind, legislation was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act requiring calorie-posting on restaurant menus. The goal of the legislation was to make it easier for us to make informed choices about what and how much we eat while we are out.

Where you will and won’t see calories:
In general, we can expect to see calories on food and drinks that are served regularly at 20 or more locations under the same brand. This includes just about anywhere that serves food ready to eat, such as sports stadiums, coffee shops and restaurants. Chefs’ specials, seasonal dishes or items offered only for a limited time, however, will not be required to have calories listed. Independent restaurants with one or only a few locations and those that move from place to place (trains, planes and food trucks) will not be required to post calories for any of their menu items.

How to use calories on a menu:
Understanding how many calories we take in compared to how many we burn can be valuable in maintaining a healthy weight and an active lifestyle. For example, if your day will be very physically active, you will need more calories to keep your energy levels where you need them. On the other hand, if you are going to be sitting most of the day or are trying to lose weight, you will want to eat fewer calories. Comparing calorie levels for foods and drinks can help you make choices that most closely match your needs.


Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
June 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017

Be a Food Allergy Friend

Monday, May 1, 2017 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , No comments

Do you know someone who has food allergies? With as many as 15 million people living with food allergies (or 1 in 25 Americans), chances are you do. Have you ever wondered what you could do when eating with someone who has food allergies to help them stay safe?

Dining Out
The key to dining out with friends is to plan ahead. Ask them if they have preferred restaurants. Most restaurants now regularly accommodate customers with food allergies. If you are eating at a buffet-style facility, consider people with food allergies who may come after you. Don’t use the same serving utensils for multiple food items. If you see someone else making a mess, say something to your server.

Dining at Your Home
If you are inviting someone to your house, ask if they have any food allergies or dietary preferences. Your guest with food allergies will know their condition better than you, so when in doubt just ask them for help. Be sure to check ingredient labels carefully for the allergen(s) and confirm with your friend how foods are being cooked. If you are hosting a child with food allergies, don’t feel offended if their parents decide to bring their own food. If you are reheating anything, be sure the food is reheated in its own sealed container or according to the parent’s instructions.

Dining at Their House
Have you been invited to dine with someone who has food allergies at their home? Plan ahead and ask about what you can bring over. Let them know how you are preparing foods and the exact ingredients and brands used. A small gift or flowers are always a great alternative if your host politely declines your offer.

1. Food Allergy Facts and Statistics for the U.S.:
2. FARE Dining Out Guide:
3. Be a PAL:

Written by Lily Leung, MPH, RDN
May 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tips to Consider as you Study for Finals

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 | 12:09 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , No comments

Keep in mind that during finals, it is so very important to get enough sleep, fit in some form of physical activity, and make healthy food choices most of the time.

Many people find that when they are stressed they eat more than planned. Well there might be a reason for that- based on a study from the University of Michigan- when levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) increase, people tend to eat more snack foods (specifically carbohydrate based foods).

Something to consider: A healthy lifestyle can improve your focus and concentration, which can help you to be more efficient and can actually result in you completing your work in less time.

Take breaks when you think you need them
Too much stress can disrupt your efforts of being organized. Take a break when you think you need one! Even if it is taking a 10-minute walk or making a quick phone call to a friend.

Avoid too much caffeine
Caffeine may give you a quick boost- but don’t overdo it! If you drink too many caffeinated beverages it may increase dehydration as these beverages may end up taking the place of water or other hydrating beverages.  Avoid caffeinated beverages in the late afternoon as this could disrupt your sleep at night.

Eat small frequent meals throughout the day
Avoid long stretches between meals and snacks. If you go longer than 4 hours without eating you will begin to feel fatigued, which may result in decreased concentration.

Pre-plan meals and snacks
When you plan ahead it can help you cut down on making impulsive less healthy choices.

Limit consumption of high-fat and high sugar snacks
These foods can zap your energy level. It is important to keep your energy level up by choosing healthy snacks as often as possible.

High-energy snack options
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Apple or banana with peanut butter
  • Low-fat yogurt with fruit or whole grain crackers
  • Carrots and hummus
  • Low-fat pudding
  • Vegetable soup
  • A handful of trail mix 
  • A handful of nuts
  • A bowl of cereal
  • Oatmeal made with milk
  • A piece of fruit and a cheese stick
  • Tortilla chips and guacamole
  1. Stress Management: Stress Basics. Accessed April 18, 2017.
  2. Learn to Manage Stress.  Accessed April 18, 2017
  3. Emotional vs. Mindful Eating. Accessed April 17, 2017.
  4. Cortisol: The Stress Hormone. Accessed April 17, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Limiting Your Sugar Intake

Monday, April 10, 2017 | 10:00 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

Choosing beverages that contain lots of added sugar are not the best choice! Sugar-sweetened beverages contain a lot of extra calories and almost no nutrients. If you are consuming high-sugar drinks (e.g. soda, juice, etc.) regularly, over time it can lead to weight gain, which in turn will increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease as well as other medical issues.

As of now, there are no federal guidelines regarding the amount of sugar you should consume. However, the American Heart Association recommends that we consume less sugar- no more than 6 teaspoons (tsp.) or 100 calories a day of sugar for most women and no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for most men.

There is no nutritional need or benefit that comes from sugar that is added to beverages. Something to consider: a can of regular soda contains about 9-10 tsp. of sugar and a 12 oz. bottle of apple or cranberry juice contains about 10-11 tsp. of sugar, which provides about 150 calories (~40 gm. of sugar). Something to keep in mind is that you do not need to cut out all sugar, but limiting your intake is the key.
  • Try to limit your intake of flavored coffee. The calories from sugar added to these beverages will add up quickly.
  • Read food labels. Sometimes a bottled beverage will contain more than one serving
  • Choose a diet or low-calorie beverage, but take in to consideration that these beverages contain artificial sweeteners
Choose water for hydration
  • Water does not contain nutrients or calories
  • If you don’t like plain water try adding a very small amount of juice for flavor or add fruit to infuse the water with flavor
Choose milk as a nutrient dense option.
  • Low-fat milk (skim milk, 1% low-fat milk)
  • Milk provides important nutrients: protein, calcium and vitamin D
  • Choose a low-fat version to supply fewer calories and less fat
  • Flavored milk will provide about 5-6 tsp. of added sugar (per 8 oz. serving)
Choose beverages (and foods) that contain natural sugars:
  • Low-fat milk (skim or 1%)
  • Fresh and/or frozen fruits
  • Fresh and/or frozen vegetables
Note: you do not need to count the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and milk toward your daily intake of added sugar!

For more information on this topic check out the resources (listed below) that were also used as references for this blog.
  1. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health Newsletter, Healthy Drinks. Accessed April 4, 2017.
  2. Sugar 101. Accessed April 5, 2017.
  3. Water: How much should you drink every day? Accessed April 4, 2017.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Fun with Food

Thursday, April 6, 2017 | 10:00 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

with campus executive chef Tom Barton

Have you been to Xhibition Kitchen lately? Or have you ever been? Whenever I ask I am always amazed that there are many students who still do not know about the amazing Xhibition Kitchen, or "XK" as we like to call it. The XK is located at 11 Speare Place inside Stetson West Eatery and is a state of the art demonstration kitchen - which is currently in full swing!

We host many cookbook authors, and local and nationally acclaimed chefs. Sometimes our guests stop by because they are in the area and they have heard about what an amazing space it is. Inside the kitchen itself we can seat approximately 60 people with additional seating in the outside room. How cool is it to be watching a demonstration up close and personal to many of the areas most recognized chefs?

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to meet these chefs and authors as we prepare their mise en place (all their prep). I cannot even begin to tell you how many wonderful people I have been able to meet and not to mention the education I have received by seeing all of their demonstrations. Many cool tips and tricks.

I particularly enjoy the planning process of these event. It is very interesting to learn how each guest like their mise en place organized. Often times the planning process begins months in advance. Our marketing team is responsible for programming the space and then from there the entire team meets to discuss all of the details. I almost forgot to mention that we also prepare samples of what is being demonstrated so you can not only watch but taste as well! I am also lucky enough to conduct some demonstrations in the XK myself. No two events are the same so it is always fun to see what will be next. None of these events would be possible without the help and expertise of our Marketing team and team at Stetson Dining.

I encourage you all of you to stop by to catch an event or two before the end of the semester. We all really enjoy bringing these events to you and look forward to seeing you there!