Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Desktop Dining

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , No comments

Do you eat at your desk? If so, you are not alone. 83% of us eat both meals and snacks at our desks. While common, this may not be the best way to enjoy a meal.

Is it safe to eat at your desk?
Our desks are full of things that we touch often, but probably don’t clean often – keyboard, phone and mouse, among others. Germs that make us sick can live on these surfaces. The flu virus, for example, can survive on your desk for up to 48 hours! Eating at your desk gives these germs a quick and easy ride into your body on your food and hands, increasing your chances of getting sick. Crumbs left on your desk can also introduce new germs and possibly unwanted pests.

Is it healthy to eat at your desk?
Limiting distractions and avoiding screens during meal time are good strategies for mindful eating. Not only do distractions take away from the enjoyment of the meal, but they also keep us from listening to our internal signals that let us know we are full, making it easier to overeat. The time saved by multi-tasking at lunch may cost your health in the long run.

Tips for a better meal
Invite a co-worker to lunch. Research suggests that eating together can improve productivity and cooperation. Take advantage of your onsite cafeteria or other common space. The change of scenery as well as the movement it takes to get there will both offer benefits. If your desk is your only option for eating, make sure you clean it regularly and wash your hands often. Give yourself a technology break while you eat to allow your focus to be on enjoying your food and recognizing your hunger cues.

References: 1. Desktop Dining Survey. Available at Accessed December 1, 2016. 2. KM Kniffin, Eating Together at the Firehouse: How Workplace Commensality Relates to the Performance of Firefighters. Human Performance Vol. 28, Iss. 4,2015.

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Be Active Your Way!

Sunday, January 1, 2017 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , , No comments

Staying active is a key way to stay healthy and energized. But what if going to the gym isn’t your thing? Sitting too long is said to be as bad for you as smoking. What if your job requires you to sit? The good news is you can be active your way and still be healthy.

Move a little, more often
Do you have some flexibility in what you do during the day? A good approach to moving more could be to add a little activity throughout your day. Take short walks a few times each day. Get up and do some quick exercises every hour. The key is to avoid sitting for long periods of time. If you need a reminder, consider setting an alarm or a pop up on your computer.

Move a lot, less often
Sitting is bad, but your job doesn’t allow enough flexibility to avoid it – what do you do? A recent review suggests that you can reverse the down side of all that sitting with an hour or more of moderate exercise each day. Moderate means it will be an actual workout with sweat. Think of a jog instead of a leisurely walk. The only exception is for TV watching. If you spend a lot of time sitting in front of a TV (more than 5 hours a day), exercise won’t help enough to see health benefits.

Bottom Line
Don’t worry if the latest recommendation around exercise doesn’t work for you. The key is to move more. If the gym works for you, great! If a treadmill desk is your thing, go for it. Not sure if you are moving enough? Consider tracking it with an app, wearable or both.

RESOURCE:1. Ek elund, Ulf et al. Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women. The Lancet , Volume 388 , Issue 10051 , 1302 – 1310 

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

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Serving Less Red Meat, Less Often

Thursday, December 8, 2016 | 10:57 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments

Red meat—beef, pork, and lamb—can be enjoyed occasionally, in small portions. The serving recommendation for red meat is two, 3-ounce servings per week. Keep in mind that a 3 oz. portion is the size of a deck of cards.

When replacing red meat in a meal, add poultry or fish (3-6 oz./day) and/or beans and nuts whenever possible. Another great strategy is to think of meat as a side dish verses the main dish or try having meatless meals a few times a week. This can not only offer health benefits, but it can also help save you money!

A plant-based diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes and nuts provides a great source of fiber as well as lots of vitamins and minerals. Individuals who eat only plant-based foods, such as vegetarians tend to eat less calories and fat overall, which in turn will likely result in a lower body weight. Another benefit of a vegetarian diet is a decreased risk of heart disease.

If you enjoy meat you do not need to become a vegetarian to gain health benefits. You can still enjoy meat, but just less often. Those who eat mostly plant-based foods, but still includes meat, poultry and fish occasionally are considered "flexible-vegetarians" or "flexitarians." This type of healthy eating is similar to the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.

When your meals do include meat, choose lean cuts and watch your portions! Remember that a serving of meat should be no more than 3 ounces/meal. Your protein/meat source should take up a ¼ of your plate. Vegetables and fruits should cover ½ of your plate and whole grains should make up the rest.


  1. Meatless Meals Once or Twice a Week. Accessed on December 5, 2016.
  2. The flexitarian Diet. Accessed on December 5, 2016.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Superfood Sides

Whether planning quick mid-week dinners or elaborate weekend parties, side dishes are often an afterthought. With the growing trend towards plant-forward eating, it’s time to take a fresh look at side dishes.

What are Superfoods?
The term Superfood is used often, but not always with the same meaning. The simplest way to think of Superfoods is that they offer benefits above and beyond their basic nutrient content. For example, antioxidants make berries super, while nuts and avocados have good fats. We focus on Superfoods that are naturally super, but there are also foods that are called super or functional because of ingredients that have been added to them.

Why sides?
Years of nutrition research has consistently shown that eating more plant foods is a good thing. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are part of every well-balanced diet – often in the form of side dishes! Putting a little effort into the flavor and presentation of your side dishes can help these health promoting food groups become a bigger part of what you eat every day.

How to get started:
Follow the seasons. Choosing Superfoods while they are in season means fresher, tastier meals at the best prices. Eat like a vegetarian. Have you ever noticed what vegetarians do when there isn’t a vegetarian option? They eat the sides! You can make a really good meal of side dishes if you plan well. Turn your plate inside out. Make the sides your main feature and use meat and other traditional center-of-the-plate items as the smaller, accent items. Need some recipe inspiration? Check out where there is a feature on Superfood Sides with recipes to try at home.

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Implementing Menus of Change this December

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 | 10:06 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , No comments

with campus executive chef Tom Barton

As you may have already seen or heard, Northeastern is actively participating in something called Menus of Change. This initiative is a collaboration between the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America.

Menus of Change is built on twenty-four principles that revolve around sustainable eating and education about making healthier food and drink choices. Northeastern Dining has been involved with Menus of Change – and its companion educational initiative, the Menus of Change Research Collaborative – for well over a year. We typically focus on two principles a month. This month we are focusing on "Leverage globally inspired, plant-based culinary strategies" as well as "Serve less red meat, less often."

One of the exciting and unique things about all of the principles is that the schools participating in the initiative each interpret them slightly differently. A dish that we have on our menus that I think exemplifies these globally inspired plant-based culinary strategies is a turnip osso bucco. Osso bucco is traditionally a meat dish made with either veal or lamb shanks and slowly braised with wine, tomato, vegetables and stock. We have taken this same technique and applied it to certain vegetables, namely turnips and carrots. We like to use purple top turnips and leave the skin on for flavor and nutritional benefit. The turnips are first seared to give a nice golden brown color and, like the more traditional dish, slowly braised with vegetables, tomatoes, and vegetable stock until tender. We also do this dish with carrots and I have to say the results are stunning. Even those who don't like turnips (me included) have gone back for seconds!

Another example on the menus of actually both principles we are featuring is some of our "blended" dishes. Our version of blending involves reducing the amount of meat in something and replacing it with ground mushrooms. For instance, our meatloaf is a blend of 60% beef and 40% ground mushrooms. We are currently using this blending technique in many other dishes as well, including chili and meatballs.

More information on Menus of Change can be found on our website at and

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Local Apple Sauce and Transparency in Sourcing

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 | 4:10 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

with campus executive chef Tom Barton

As you may have seen – or already tasted! – we are now featuring an awesome, delicious, and locally sourced apple sauce. The sauce is made with apples grown in local Massachusetts orchards. And if that wasn't enough, there is only one ingredient: apples. That's right, just apples. No sweeteners or additives, just 100% locally sourced apples. Currently, it is being made with Macintosh apples but changes with the seasonal offerings.

The sauce is made by Karl Dias – commonly referred to in our kitchens as "the apple sauce guy." Karl reports that he has a steady supply of various varieties of apples and will continue to make sauce throughout the winter. Karl sent me a note over the weekend letting me know that he just finished a batch using macoun apples and thought it just might top his current batch of Macintosh sauce!

Because of the outstanding flavor, clean label, and local regionality of the product, we wanted to feature it as quickly as possible. However, not knowing how well it would be received we started with just a few cases and within a day had to order more. I think the first week Karl delivered to us three times just to make sure we had enough!

The apple sauce is currently being featured in a few different places around campus. It is available in both Stetson East and International Village at the yogurt stations for lunch and dinner. Additionally, we are making "apple sauce parfaits" with apple sauce and either raisins or dried cranberries. These grab-and-go items are available at On The Go, Outtakes, and café716.

Karl also stopped by to talk with and educate students about his product at our recent "Culinary Chat" table at International Village last week (photo above).

These are the types of local, seasonal items we at Northeastern Dining continue to search for and serve on a year round basis.

Produce First!

Choosing vegetables and fruits at each meal, will help add color and texture to your plate! If you include all different fruits and vegetables as a part of a healthy eating plan you will end up taking in lots of important nutrients (potassium, fiber, folic acid, and vitamins A, E, and C). Keep in mind the more colorful, the more nutrients!

Pick your vegetables and fruits first
Then add on your protein (beans, chicken, beef, etc.) and grains/starch (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole grain breads, etc.).

Make half of your plate vegetables
Lots of the produce offered in the Northeastern dining halls is from local farmers, which is really great! Be sure to check out the apple sauce in the dining halls made by a local company with just whole apples (no additives or preservatives). Fruits and vegetables are also:
  • A great source of fiber that helps fill you up and keeps your digestive 
system regular.
  • Naturally a low calorie/low fat food.
  • A great on-the-go snack. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables may also help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and digestive problems.
  1. Top 10 Reasons to Eat more Fruits and Vegetables. Accessed on November 20, 2016
  2. The Nutrition Source: Vegetable and Fruits. Accessed on November 20, 2016