Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Picnic Safety

Saturday, August 1, 2015 | 9:00 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , No comments
Getting outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather is one of the perks of this time of year. If picnics are part of your plans, take caution with time and temperature to make sure nothing spoils your fun. Eating outdoors can be a great way to get some fresh air during your lunch break. Unfortunately, many of us tend to forget some of the basics of food safety when it comes to eating outdoors. To make sure that foodborne illness doesn’t spoil your outdoor eating, follow these simple rules.

Wash your hands
This effective step isn’t always so easy when you are outside. Consider washing your hands right before you head out or bring some hand wipes with you.

Maintain food temperature
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The bacteria that can make us sick enjoy the warm weather as much as we do. To keep your food safe from unwanted bacteria, keep food below 40°F or above 140°F. Consider ice packs or hot food containers if you don’t plan to eat your food right away. If you can’t do this, remember that anything left out for more than two hours, or one hour if it is really hot out, should be thrown away.

Handle leftovers carefully
If you bring your lunch outside and have some leftover, put it in the refrigerator as soon as you get back. If you can’t get it into a refrigerator or cooler with ice, toss it. As good as it might have been, the risk is not worth keeping it around.

More food safety tips can be found at

REFERENCES:Written by Jennifer M. Ignacio, MS, RD Compass Group, North America
August 2015

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Who determines what is healthy?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015 | 9:00 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments
If news that the FDA recently asked KIND to stop referring to their bars as “healthy” has you confused, you are not alone. With ingredients like nuts and fruit that nutrition experts consistently encourage, it may seem odd that they wouldn’t be healthy. So, what is the FDA saying?

Why is the FDA involved?
The FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring that foods (except for meat from livestock, poultry and some egg products which are regulated by the USDA) are safe, wholesome, sanitary and properly labeled. Under its role to ensure that foods are properly labeled, FDA regulates the use of health claims on foods, including the term “healthy.”

What does “healthy” mean to the FDA?
Most nutrition experts will tell you that being healthy is about eating a variety of good foods. Defining one food as healthy or not within the context of an overall diet can be complicated. To make sure that the term is applied to foods consistently, the FDA has a very specific definition of “healthy” that includes limits on total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium as well as a requirement that a certain amount of beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals or fiber be present. If a food does not meet these requirements, it is not legally allowed to be called “healthy.”

Bottom Line
In the case of KIND, the FDA determined that some of their bars did not meet the requirements for use of the term “healthy.” They also found additional misbranding issues as they relate to nutrient content and other health claims. KIND has stated that they will correct their labeling issues and stands behind the quality and safety of their products. Does any of this mean that KIND bars, or other foods that don’t meet the FDA definition of “healthy” cannot be part of a healthful diet? Absolutely not. Consistency in labeling is important, but so is eating a variety of nutrient rich foods, including fruit and nuts.

1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
2. FDA Warning letter to KIND, LLC 3/17/15.
3. KIND Blog: A note to our community.

Written by Jennifer M. Ignacio, MS, RD.
July 2015

Monday, June 1, 2015

DGA: 2015 New Nutrition Guidelines

Monday, June 1, 2015 | 9:00 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments
Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated to reflect the latest in nutrition research. With the 2015 guidelines expected later this year, will we see any big changes?

What are the Dietary Guidelines?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) include advice about nutrition and physical activity for Americans ages 2 years and over. Recommendations from the DGAs are based on a review of the current science and provide the basis for federal food and nutrition policy and education initiatives. The DGAs are updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Will we see anything new?
The expert committee selected to review the latest research and make recommendations for this year’s guidelines recently submitted their report. Many of the committee’s recommendations are ones we have heard before – eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts; eat less red and processed meat, sugar-sweetened foods and refined grains. Some new areas addressed included topics in food safety, sustainability and individual nutrients. The committee reported potential benefit from moderate coffee drinking for healthy adults. They also expressed safety concerns with consumption of high caffeine food or drinks by children as well as the risks of combining high-caffeine beverages and alcohol. Eating styles that meet both goals of improved health and environmental sustainability were recommended. For heart health, the committee suggested a focus on limiting saturated fat and sodium and not necessarily on the amount of cholesterol in a food.

What’s next?
After the public comments are considered, HHS and USDA will release the official Dietary Guidelines for Americans sometime late in 2015. The new DGAs will be used to update many federal programs including MyPlate, the Nutrition Facts label, school breakfast and lunch as well as other nutrition assistance and public health programs.

1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Available at
Written by Jennifer M. Ignacio, MS, RD.
June 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

Coffee: More than caffeine

Friday, May 1, 2015 | 9:00 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments
Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world, so it seems logical to ask – Is coffee good for us? Some studies show benefit and others don’t. So what is the bottom line with coffee?

Coffee Benefits:
Studies have found evidence that coffee can help protect us from a variety of illnesses. Aside from the obvious caffeine boost, which we like for the pick-me-up, coffee contains other beneficial compounds. A recent study found that people who drank four or more cups of coffee per day may lower their risk of melanoma as much as 20%, possibly due to protection from sun damage. Other studies have found that coffee drinkers have lower risk for other cancers, heart disease and even live longer overall.

Coffee Risks:
While the overall research suggests that coffee has benefits, not everyone responds to coffee or the caffeine it contains in the same way. People with high blood pressure and pregnant women should consider limiting their overall caffeine intake and children should not consume highly caffeinated beverages due to safety concerns. If you tend to get heartburn or migraines it is worth looking at whether coffee (or caffeine in general) could be a trigger.

Bottom Line:
Feel free to enjoy that morning (and afternoon) cup of coffee. Unless you have a specific medical reason to limit coffee or caffeine in general, it seems the potential benefits currently outweigh the risks. To get the most from your coffee, limit the add ins like sugars and syrups that can make the extra calories add up quickly. If you’re not a coffee drinker, you probably don’t need to start for health reasons, but if you do, take it slowly. Caffeine can make you feel a little jittery if you aren’t used to it.

1.E Loftfield, ND Freedman,BI Graubard, AR Hollenbeck, FM Shebl, ST Mayne, and R Sinha. Coffee Drinking and Cutaneous Melanoma Risk in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, J Natl Cancer Inst. 2015; 107 (2).
2.Je Y, Giovannucci E. Coffee consumption and total mortality: a meta-analysis of twenty prospective cohort studies. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 14;111(7):1162-73
Written by Jennifer M. Ignacio, MS, RD.
May 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Save The Date! Educate Your Palate 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015 | 5:11 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments
It is almost that time of year again. Educate Your Palate, our end-of-the-year culinary extravaganza, is now less than one week away!

On Thursday, April 23 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, International Village Dining will be transformed into a completely redesigned dining space for a culinary adventure circling the globe! We can't divulge too many details – we wouldn't want to ruin the surprise after all – but we hope that you'll be able to take some time on your reading day to join us for a dinner that you won't soon forget.

If you weren't able to come to last year's Educate Your Palate, dubbed A Spoonful of Spring (or just want to relive the event again), take a look at our photos from the event and check out the menu that was served, including locally harvested oysters, freshly pan-fried kimchi and tofu dumplings, and a carving station with grilled leg of lamb.

We hope to see you there!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Don't Just Sit There!

Friday, April 10, 2015 | 9:17 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments
We all know that getting more exercise is good for us, but that may not be enough. While moving more is good, being sedentary less often is also important. Some health experts are even calling sitting the new smoking. So, if you went to the gym this morning, don't use that as an excuse to sit around the rest of the day.

What's wrong with sitting?
New evidence suggests that too much sitting, such as working at a desk, watching television and  other low energy activities, is a risk factor by itself for poor health. While the research is still in the early phases and the exact reasons why sitting isn't good for us aren't fully known yet, there is almost no downside to moving more. So for now, even if the only benefit you get from sitting less is feeling less stiffness at the end of the day, it is worth giving it a try.

How much do we need to move?
Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Spending even more time being active can offer additional benefits. While 150 minutes may sound like a long time, you don’t have to do it all at once. Breaking it up over five days, you are only looking at 30 minutes per day. If that seems like too much at one time, you can break that down into smaller 10 minute time blocks.

Tricks to sitting less
Standing desks or workstations have become popular and are even available in adjustable versions that allow you to do some of your work seated and then pop the desk up for some standing time. Instead of sitting around a conference table, consider standing or walking meetings. They can get your whole team moving and may even spark some creativity. If you need to be reminded to get up and move, there are apps and activity trackers that will alert you when you have been still for too long. Or, you can keep it simple and set daily alarms to remind you to get up and move a little. Whichever option you choose, remember that a check in with your healthcare provider is always a good first step.

1. Dunstan DW, Howard B, Healy GN, Owen N. Too much sitting--a health hazard. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2012 Sep;97(3):368-76.
2. van der Ploeg HP, Chey T, Korda RJ, Banks E, Bauman A. Sitting time and all-cause mortality risk in 222 497 Australian adults. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Mar 26;172(6):494-500.

3. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 2008. Available at
Written by Jennifer M. Ignacio, MS, RD.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Salt Controversy?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | 9:00 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments
If you've heard the recommendation that we should eat less salt, then you've also probably heard the counter-argument that salt is not a problem. With conflicting reports, it may be hard to decide what you should do with the salt shaker.

Salt or Sodium
Salt and sodium are often used interchangeably, but they do in fact mean different things. When it comes to health, sodium is what we are concerned with. What we typically refer to as salt, is actually a mix of sodium and chloride. Sodium is found in a variety of the foods we eat, and even in some drinks both as part of the food’s natural make up or from salt that is added during preparation or processing.

How much is too much?
Despite the appearance of a controversy about sodium intake and health, there is strong evidence, with widespread agreement, that most of us are taking in too much sodium. The average American takes in about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. The recommended limit for healthy adults is 2,300 mg per day. There is evidence to suggest that we may actually need to go lower, to 1,500 mg per day, but this is where it starts to get somewhat controversial. Some feel 1,500 is too low. Even if this is the case, it is important to remember that we have a lot of work to do to get to 2,300 before we should even start to worry if 1,500 is too low.

How to be salt smart:
Lowering sodium can be as simple as making a few small changes. A big chunk of the sodium we get comes from processed foods, so comparing labels and choosing products with lower sodium levels can help. When cooking at home or eating out, choosing foods flavored with herbs and spices instead of salt and other high sodium ingredients can also make a dent. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your drinks too. Sports drinks designed to replace electrolytes during exercise contain more sodium than you need if you aren't heavily sweating. While you are working on your sodium levels, don’t forget about another important mineral – potassium. Unlike sodium, this one we tend not to get enough of. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of potassium and naturally low in sodium – a win-win for your mineral balance!

1. Aaron KJ, Sanders PW. Role of Dietary Salt and Potassium Intake in Cardiovascular Health and Disease: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clinic proceedings. Mayo Clinic 2013;88(9).
2. Institute of Medicine. 2013. “Sodium intake in populations: assessment of evidence.” Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2013.
Written by Jennifer M. Ignacio, MS, RD. April 2015