Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Monday, February 1, 2016

Meeting on the Move

Monday, February 1, 2016 | 12:23 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments

Finding time in our busy days to stay active can be difficult. What if there was an easy way to fit in exercise and be more productive with your time? Walking meetings may be the solution.

Why a walking meeting?
Physical activity has long proven benefits including helping to control your weight, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, reduce your risk of some cancers, strengthen your bones and muscles and increase your chances of living longer overall. So what does this have to do with walking meetings? Physical activity can also help to improve your mental health and mood and can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp. Perfect for more productive meetings! Walking meetings are also less subject to distractions because it is hard to sneak in an email or text when you need to watch where you are going. Add in a little fresh air and change of scenery and walking meetings may even encourage more creative thought.

How to hold a walking meeting
Walking meetings will be new to a lot of people, so a little planning can go a long way. Give enough notice so that your participants can plan to have the right shoes. While walking is safe for most people, not everyone may be able to do a walking meeting. Giving notice allows people to express any concerns they may have. Consider walking the path you plan to take ahead of time to make sure there aren’t any unexpected surprises like missing or broken sidewalks or loud construction. Choose meetings where you don’t need to take or read a lot of notes and if you do, use the voice record function on your phone. Keep the group small or break into teams so people in the back or front aren’t left out. And of course, with weather being unpredictable, it is a good idea to have back up plan for bringing your walking meeting indoors.

Beyond work
The same benefits you get from taking your work meetings on the move can apply to almost any setting where you are chatting with someone. Want to catch up with a friend? Meet up and walk while you talk. Working on an event? Get the committee together and walk while you discuss ideas. Including people that you enjoy spending time with while you are being active can help to keep you on track, so give it a try in any setting.

1. Rizzo, Nico S. et al. Nutrient Profiles of Vegetarian and Nonvegetarian Dietary Patterns. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics , Volume 113 , Issue 12 , 1610 - 1619

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

Cutting the Salt!

Friday, January 29, 2016 | 9:59 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , No comments

Salt is found in more food products than you may realize. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that American's should consume fewer than 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day of salt (this is slightly less than 1 teaspoon of salt). Adults age 51 and older, African Americans of any age and people with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day. These new dietary guidelines emphasize the importance of making meals and snacks from scratch versus choosing processed foods too often.

The most common salts available are table salt, sea salt and kosher salt with the major differences among these being taste, texture, and processing. Kosher and sea salt have a larger course grain providing more air space, which in turn provides less sodium when used in place of table salt. The chefs in our kitchen across campus use kosher salt in their recipes to provide an overall reduced amount of sodium.

Using items like frozen vegetables, or pre-washed and packaged produce (minus any added sauces) can also be useful when trying to prepare healthy meals and snacks. The dining hall offers a number of scratch recipes to allow the opportunity for the chefs to use less salt in the cooking process and include more herbs and spices for flavor in their recipes. In order to really lower your salt intake, choose foods most often in their original form – fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, milk, yogurt and grains such as pasta and rice – that are naturally low in sodium.

Choose processed and ready-to-eat foods less often as these foods contain more sodium – particularly in foods such as pizza; cured meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli or luncheon meats; as well as ready-to eat foods, like canned chili, ravioli and soups.

Avoid using the salt shaker and use salt-free seasonings – such as herbs, spices, garlic, vinegar, black pepper, or lemon juice – to add flavor to your food. This can be done while you eat in the dining hall as the salt shakers have been moved from the tables in the dining halls to a spice station that provides a wide variety of spices to allow you to further season your foods.

Don't forget to read the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients list to find packaged and canned foods lower in sodium. Most often choose foods labeled low sodium, reduced sodium, or no salt added. The chefs preparing foods in the dining hall are also using this strategy when these items are available from the manufacturer (e.g. using reduced sodium beans and soup bases).

Be aware that many condiments, including soy sauce, ketchup, pickles, olives, and salad dressing, are high in sodium so try to use low-sodium soy sauce and ketchup when possible. Foods lower in sodium may taste different at first, but over time it is possible to get use to foods with less sodium!

  1. New U.S. Dietary Guidelines: Limit Sugar and Salt, Boost Fruit and Veggie Intake. Accessed January 14, 2016.
  2. Eat Right: Food, Nutrition and Health Tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Eat Right with Less Salt, 2014. Accessed January 2016.
  3. What's the difference between sea salt and table salt? Accessed January 15, 2016.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Build Flavors with Seasoning

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 | 9:30 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments

with Northeastern campus executive chef Tom Barton

Building flavors and making sure our foods are seasoned properly is a large part of what we as chefs and cooks do and part of that is using salt. Teaching someone how to season is not easy as all of our palates our different; what is enough salt for one might be too much for another. There is much in the news about our salt intake and how we must take steps to reduce it and if you are a label reader then you already know there is sodium in many of the foods that we eat, especially those that are processed or pre-prepared.

We definitely support the notion of using fresh herbs and spices to add flavor rather than increasing the amount of salt to most preparations; however, as a chef I have to say, when used properly, there is no substitute for salt. As a cook coming up through the ranks I learned that salt should be added throughout the cooking process, not all at the beginning or all at the end. Over-seasoning tends to occur when salt is added all at once then when tasting and re-tasting our palates become de-sensitized to salt and the flavor profile we are looking for becomes more difficult to judge. Seasoning throughout the process also encourages maximum flavor from the ingredients by helping to draw out their individual flavors. We also prefer to use salt that has a coarser grain such as kosher salt. The coarser grains make it easier to handle and see how much is being added. Learning how and when to season takes practice and is a learned skill.

Also worthy of mention is the difference between “seasoning” and “flavoring.” “Seasoning” is the addition of basic flavors, such as salt and pepper, to enhance the natural flavor of something while “flavoring” is adding flavors that will change the natural flavor. For example, I would add salt and pepper to enhance the natural flavor of a roasted chicken but if I added a barbecue rub to the chicken I have now changed the natural flavor of the chicken. Also, saltiness might come into a dish from other ingredients such as adding anchovies when making a Caesar dressing, capers to a piccata sauce, or olives into a salad.

Making the decision to use salt or not can be a personal one for sure. With the proper awareness of daily intake, salt can be useful asset to amateur and professional cooks alike.

Monday, January 4, 2016


Monday, January 4, 2016 | 12:16 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

If you follow food trends, you’ve surely noticed that plant-based foods, recipes and restaurants have been getting a larger share of the spotlight lately. Does this mean that more of us are becoming vegetarians? Should we be?

Why more plants?
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, nuts and seeds are key features of some of the healthiest diets in the world. Plant based foods are a common theme in the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH Diet and most dietary guidelines. The balance of health promoting nutrients with moderate calories and less of the stuff we should be limiting make plant based foods an easy fit for most people. Looking beyond personal health, to the health of our planet, plant based foods tend to more sustainable and less taxing on the environment.

What is a flexitarian? Or a pescatarian?
With the expansion of plant foods on our plates has come an expansion of how we refer to the way we eat. Vegetarian still refers to people who don’t eat meat, fish or poultry, but there are many other variations as well. Vegans are vegetarians who don’t eat any animal products at all, so they skip dairy, eggs and honey too. Pescatarians are typically vegetarians who include fish and seafood occasionally. Flexitarian has become a term associated with people who skip meat meals in favor of vegetarian ones periodically.

Bottom Line
If plant foods are so good for us, does this mean we should all become vegan? Not necessarily. We could, however, all benefit from incorporating more plant foods into our daily menus. Try to avoid seeing “meat eater” and “vegetarian” as the only two options. Plant foods can and should be a big part of all of our diets, with or without meat. Vegetarian meals have moved far beyond just a plate of steamed vegetables. Grilled cauliflower steaks, chick pea stews, mushroom Bolognese and other plant based dishes appeal to both vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

1. Rizzo, Nico S. et al. Nutrient Profiles of Vegetarian and Nonvegetarian Dietary Patterns. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics , Volume 113 , Issue 12 , 1610 - 1619

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Party Planning!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015 | 12:13 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

As the holidays approach, so do all of the holiday food traditions. From cookie exchanges to holiday parties, many of the season’s festivities focus on food. Despite the fact that we usually follow up the holidays with New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, many of us hold on to the extra pounds we pick up. Research suggests that prevention may be the best strategy. It appears that in an attempt to keep things consistent, our bodies may actually resist changes in our weight even when we eat less and exercise more. Unfortunately though, our bodies seem to be less resistant to weight gain than to weight loss. With this in mind, you may be more successful if you take a few small steps to maintain your weight instead of focusing on losing weight after the parties are over.

Choose Strategically.
Start your plate with nutrient-dense choices such as fruits and vegetables that can help fill you up on fewer calories. Stick with small portions for foods with added sugars and fats, which can quickly add extra calories. Choosing unsweetened drinks, lower fat dairy products, and baked instead of fried items more often can save enough calories to keep things in check…and make room for the occasional cookie exchange.

Find time to move.
Success in health needs to include both eating well and being more active. If you find yourself too busy to stop at the gym, move more by making activity part of your day. Try parking further away, taking the stairs or walking to a coworker’s office instead of calling or emailing.

Do well…most of the time.
It is important to remember that what you eat on most days is more important to your overall health than what you do occasionally. So, if you find that you may have overdone it a bit at a holiday party, remember that it is only one day and get right back on track!

1. Britten P , Cleveland LE , Koegel KL , Kuczynski KJ , Nickols-Richardson SM. Impact of Typical Rather than Nutrient-Dense Food Choices in the US Department of Agriculture Food
Patterns. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112(10):1560-1569.
2. Hill JO, Wyatt HR, Peters JC. Energy balance and obesity. Circulation. 2012;126:126-132.)

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
December 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Eat Seafood More Often

Thursday, December 3, 2015 | 9:58 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

The American Heart Association advises eating 2 servings of fish per week to maintain good health. Each serving should be 3.5 oz cooked, which is about the size of a deck of cards
  • Fish is a great source of high quality protein as well as many vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and some even contain vitamin D.
  • It may reduce the risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic conditions.
  • Fish consumption has also been linked to boosting memory and reducing stress hormones.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, herring, sardines and tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids and therefore provide the greatest benefit, but most types of seafood contain small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Depending on how the fish you choose to eat is cooked, will determine how healthy that choice turns out to be. For example, broiling or baking fish is a healthier option than deep-frying.

It is important to note that mercury is a toxin that accumulates and, for that reason, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that pregnant and lactating women and young children avoid eating certain fish: swordfish, shark, tilefish and king mackerel. The EPA has no health warning to limit seafood consumption for any other population group. Scientific studies have found that the benefits of eating seafood greatly outweigh the risks and that removing or reducing seafood from the diet can have negative effect on ones health.

  1. "Fish: Friend or Foe?"
  2. "Does mercury contamination outweigh the health benefits of eating fish?"
  3. Eating Seafood Sustainably. Sylvia Geiger, MS, RD
. Today’s Dietitian
 Vol. 14 No. 6 P. 38 (June 2012).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

To Juice or Not To Juice?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 | 4:06 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , No comments
Depending on who you talk to, juice is either part of the latest health trend or on the list of things to avoid. Understanding what juice does and doesn’t offer can help you decide if it is right for you.

The Up Side:
Fruits and vegetables offer a variety of health-promoting nutrients, many of which are still available in the juice squeezed from them. Juices can be a convenient and tasty way to get those nutrients. Juices also offer a way to get fruits and vegetables that you may not usually eat in the whole form. For example, cranberry juice is a popular alternative to whole cranberries and a great way to get some important antioxidants. People who don’t normally eat spinach may find that when juiced with other vegetables and fruit, they enjoy it.

The Down Side:
With about 50-115 calories per cup, fruit and vegetable juices are not low calorie drinks. For that reason, drinking a lot of juice could potentially make weight management more difficult. Research suggests that people who drink juice don’t necessarily have more trouble controlling their weight than people who skip juice, so moderation is likely important. Juicing leaves behind some important nutrients such as fiber, so it is important to also get fruits and vegetables in the whole form. If you are at risk for foodborne illness, the FDA suggests that you only drink pasteurized juices that have been treated to kill bacteria. If you choose to drink freshly squeezed juice that has not been pasteurized, it is important to drink it quickly after it is squeezed and make sure that good food safety practices are followed when handling the fruits, vegetables and juice.

The Bottom Line:
Juices offer a refreshing way to get more fruits and vegetables into your day. When choosing juices, look for pure juices that do not have added sugar or salt. True juices will list the amount of juice on the label as a percentage. “Drinks” and “Ades” don’t always contain juice and won’t offer the same benefits. Keep an eye on portion sizes as calories can add up quickly at about 100 calories per cup for some of the most popular juices. Don’t rely on juices alone to meet your fruit and vegetable requirements. Include whole fruits and vegetables too.

REFERENCES:1. DA Hyson. A Review and Critical Analysis of the Scientific Literature Related to 100% Fruit Juice and Human Health. American Society for Nutrition. Adv. Nutr. 6: 37–51, 2015. 2. Talking About Juice Safety: What You Need to Know. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available at by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
November 2015