Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Sunshine Vitamin

Friday, July 1, 2016 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments

Summer is here and the sun is shining, which is one of the best ways to get your vitamin D. But what if we do not get enough sunlight throughout the year? Is a vitamin D supplement necessary?


What the studies say:
Vitamin D may help to prevent a number of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. It also has a range of potential anti-cancer actions. But much of the information on vitamin D comes from studies that cannot be reproduced for the general public. Currently, a handful of trials are happening, in and outside of the U.S., which will likely tell us if supplementation is protective for our health.

What we already know:
Vitamin D helps to keep our bones and teeth healthy, and is associated with other aspects of health. According to the new Dietary Guidelines, we should get most of our vitamin D from foods. Fortified foods and dietary supplements may be helpful when we fall short of recommendations. Vitamin D is also called the sunshine vitamin because our bodies can make it when we are exposed to sun. Just 10-15 minutes per day is usually enough. Good food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines, as well as milk fortified with vitamin D. You can even find mushrooms that have been exposed to light to increase the amount of vitamin D they contain.

Bottom Line:
Getting enough vitamin D is important to our overall health, but there can also be risks with getting too much. Before you reach for a supplement, look at how much time you spend in the sun and how many foods with vitamin D you choose. If you think you may not be getting enough vitamin D, talk to your health care provider at your next visit.

REFERENCES:
1. Neale RD, Armstrong C, Baxter B et al. The D-Health Trial: A randomized trial of vitamin D for prevention of mortality and cancer. 10 April 2016. Contemporary Clinical Trials, doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2016.04.005
2. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#h3. Updated February 11, 2016. Visited April 14, 2016.

Written by Jana Wolff
July 2016

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fish For Your Heart?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , , No comments

Cutting back on red meat is a common recommendation for both health and sustainability. What’s less clear is what we should replace the meat with. A recent study looked at this and the results may surprise you.


If not red meat, what?
Red meat appears on many lists of foods to eat less of due mostly to its saturated fat and cholesterol content, and the fact that we tend to eat too much of it. A recent study looked at what we should consider substituting for red meat when we follow the advice to cut back. Of all of the substitutions the study looked at, one stood out as the best choice – fish high in omega-3s. The fatty fish showed more benefits for heart health than poultry, unprocessed meat and even lean fish.

Is fish safe to eat?
Fish, especially the kind that gives us omega-3s, has long been considered a healthy choice. Warnings related to contamination by mercury and other toxins has left many people wondering if fish is safe to eat. For most people, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risks. To keep those risks even lower, it is important to choose a variety of fish. Salmon, anchovies, herring, shad, sardines, Pacific oysters, trout, and Atlantic and Pacific mackerel are examples of fish that offer omega-3s and are lower in mercury making them good options for those meat-skipping meals.

Bottom Line
If you are looking to improve your health and that of our environment, replacing red meat with fatty fish occasionally seems like a step in the right direction. Choosing the fish carefully to avoid high levels of mercury, especially for pregnant women and young children is recommended. The Seafood Watch Guide (seafoodwatch.morg) can help make sure those fish choices are ocean-friendly too.

REFERENCES:
1. Würtz AM1, Hansen MD1, Tjønneland A2, Rimm EB3, Schmidt EB4, Overvad K1, Jakobsen MU1. Substitutions of red meat, poultry and fish and risk of myocardial infarction. Br J Nutr. 2016 Mar 7:1-8. [Epub ahead of print]
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 http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD
June 2016

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Are you a Healthy Shopper?

Sunday, May 1, 2016 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments

Does where you buy your food determine how healthy you are? A recent study suggests that there may be a link between the type of store where you do most of your food shopping and your weight and the health of your diet overall.


Which stores were better?
Some of the results were what you might expect. People who shopped often at convenience stores ate fewer fruits and vegetables. Convenience stores don’t tend to have large produce departments, so this makes sense. Fruits and vegetables were a bigger part of the diets of people who frequented supermarkets and specialty stores. Overall diet quality was highest in those who shopped at food co-ops. From a weight perspective, people who shopped at specialty stores and farmers markets tended to weigh less and people who shopped at food co-ops had smaller waists.

Which comes first?
Now the question is, do healthy people tend to shop at certain stores or do certain shopping habits make you healthier? This recent study isn’t able to say for sure, but it seems that it could be both. Someone who eats more fruits and vegetables is likely to seek out stores with more variety of high quality produce. On the other hand, in store marketing and promotions can influence the types of foods shoppers buy regardless of the reason they ended up at the store in the first place.

Bottom Line
Shifting your shopping habits may offer a way to improve your health. If you find yourself coming up short on fruits and vegetables, consider spending more of your shopping time and money at stores with better produce sections or at farmers’ markets. If stops at the local convenience store are a regular part of your routine, try giving a little more time to planning your big shopping trips to stock up on a variety of healthful foods. Having the right foods on hand is a great way to make better food choices the easy choices.

REFERENCES:
1. Leia M Minaker, Dana L Olstad, Mary E Thompson, Kim D Raine, Pat Fisher and Lawrence D Frank. Associations between frequency of food shopping at different store types and diet and weight outcomes: findings from the NEWPATH study. Public Health Nutrition, available on CJO2016. doi:10.1017/S1368980016000355.

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD
May 2016

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Moving Legumes to the Center of the Plate

Thursday, April 7, 2016 | 10:13 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments


With assistance from Northeastern graduate student Jennifer Chisam

What Are Legumes?
Legumes, specifically black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, black beans, cannellini beans, kidney beans, and lentils, are nutrient dense foods with many health benefits. These legumes are high in protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, as well as many vitamins and minerals. According to the USDA MyPlate dietary guidelines, legumes are even part of two food groups, the meat group and the vegetable group. While current legume consumption is low, garbanzo beans – in the form of hummus – are on the rise.

Are Legumes Healthy?
Research has indicated many health benefits associated with consuming legumes including a reduced risk in cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. Since legumes are high in complex carbohydrates, they have a low glycemic index making them a great choice for people with diabetes. Being high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, legumes provide a feeling of fullness known as satiety, which also aids in weight management. Black eyed peas are higher in soluble fiber which binds to cholesterol and aids in blood sugar regulation. Garbanzo beans are higher in insoluble fiber which helps with digestion, prevents constipation, and increases satiety. It is important to remember if using canned beans to reach for the low sodium options. Draining and rinsing is also recommended which removes about 41% of the sodium as well as reduces flatulence. Kidney beans are high in protein, low in carbohydrates, low in fat and calories, and are nutrient dense. Cannellini beans, or white kidney beans, are high in protein, high in soluble fiber, and nutrient dense. Legumes also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals including folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.

Making Legumes a Staple Choice
With the USDA recommends 2.5 to 3.5 cups of legumes per week, less than 13% of Americans actually meet these guidelines. Adding garbanzo beans or lentils to a salad will help provides some essential nutrients for a delicious and healthful meal. Also try using hummus as a spread instead of mayonnaise for a healthier more nutrient-dense option. Cannellini beans are a great addition to many soups including the traditional Italian minestrone. All can help you feel full while giving your body nutrients it needs to help reduce health risks and maintain a healthy weight.

References
  1. Azadbakht L, Haghighatdoost F, Esmaillzadeh A. Legumes: A component of a healthy diet. J Res Med Sci. 2011; 16(2):121-122.
  2. Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter. Add These Lesser-Known Legumes to Your Healthy Pantry. 2015; 32(11):6(1) http://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/10_13/current-articles/Add-These-Lesser-Known-Legumes-to-Your-Healthy-Pantry_1621-1.html.
  3. Mudryj AN, Yu N, Aukema HM. Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014; 39:1197-1204. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2013-0557.
  4. SELFNutrition Data. Know what you eat. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2324/2.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Embracing "Menus of Change" In Our Kitchens

Monday, April 4, 2016 | 4:50 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , No comments


with campus executive chef Tom Barton

As you may know by now, the Northeastern dining team has been heavily engaged in Menus of Change. Our latest initiatives include finding ways to move vegetables and legumes to the center of the plate as well as including more globally inspired plant based recipes.

Legumes are packed full of flavor, contain plant protein and fiber and, from an environmental perspective, produce an impressive amount of protein per acre. Some examples of current menu offerings include lentil bolognese, a healthier take on the classic dish made with traditional meat sauce, a delicious Cajun lentil stew, and a refreshing lentil couscous that is perfect for spring time. Many grains and legumes can also be found on the salad and vegetarian stations. Try "hacking" your meal by adding any of them to just about any soup to create a heartier version or try infusing them into some of the brown rice dishes!

We have also been applying some techniques and recipes that have traditionally been used with meat and applying them to vegetables such as slow braising turnips "osso bucco" and Vindaloo of sweet potatoes and spinach. Other plant-based strategies include offering a burger that is blended with mushrooms for added flavor and juiciness and our "Plantiful" grain and vegetable-based bowls. Growing plants for food generally have less of a negative impact on the environment.

We continue to embrace the principles of Menus of Change with the health and nutrition of our students, faculty and staff in the front of our minds as we continue our menu development.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Friday, April 1, 2016 | 11:00 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , No comments

A large body of evidence now shows that healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity can help people achieve and maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease throughout all stages of the lifespan. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reflects this evidence through its recommendations:

  1. Follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan. All food and beverage choices matter. Choose a healthy eating pattern at an appropriate calorie level to help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, support nutrient adequacy and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
  2. Focus on variety, nutrient density and amount. To meet nutrient needs within calorie limits, choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods across and within all food groups in recommended amounts.
  3. Limit calories from added sugars and saturated fats and reduce sodium intake. Consume an eating pattern low in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. Cut back on foods and beverages higher in these components to amounts that fit within healthy eating patterns.
  4. Shift to healthier food and beverage choices. Choose nutrient-dense foods and beverages across and within all food groups in place of less healthy choices. Consider cultural and personal preferences to make these shifts easier to accomplish and maintain.
  5. Support healthy eating patterns for all. Everyone has a role in helping to create and support healthy eating patterns in multiple settings nationwide, from home to school to work to communities.
For most individuals, achieving a healthy eating pattern will require changes in food and beverage choices. This edition of the Dietary Guidelines focuses on shifts to emphasize the need to make substitutions—that is, choosing nutrient-dense foods and beverages in place of less healthy choices—rather than increasing intake overall. Most individuals would benefit from shifting food choices both within and across food groups. Some needed shifts are minor and can be accomplished by making simple substitutions, while others will require greater effort to accomplish.

REFERENCES:
  1. 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 http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
April 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Enjoying Traditional Foods on Special Occasions

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 | 12:30 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , No comments


Many of you may have gotten some chocolates or yummy desserts for Valentine's Day. You might have a birthday coming up or a friend's or family's birthday celebration to attend, what about the cake? How about St. Patrick's Day around the corner with corned beef and hash?

With special occasions, come special treats and, sometimes, less healthy meal options. Consider this: most special occasions are not all that frequent and only come around but once a year. When celebrating friend and family birthdays this comes about more often so what to do!? Think moderation!

Making healthier choices, choosing smaller portions of less healthy food options and choosing desserts that are lower in fat and calories- that is a good idea. When you start to restrict and depriving yourself of foods that you want and enjoy you tend to want them even more. Again, think moderation when it comes to desserts in a healthy diet!

There is nothing wrong with occasionally enjoying a calorie dense piece of cake, pie, or cookie as part of a special occasion. It's a good idea to avoid keeping these types of desserts on hand regularly. Try to save these treats for special occasions or once in awhile.

Things to think about:
  • Consider the portion of the dessert or piece of cake – try to avoid overindulging.
    • Same goes for those less healthy special occasion dishes
  • If you got dark chocolates for Valentine's Day then you can take in some good antioxidants. Just don't forget all chocolate contains fat in calories. Choose portions wisely!
  • If you are making a dessert for a special occasion, use fruit as a base or add some to a treat to add sweetness instead sugar.