Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Eat Well, Be Happy

Saturday, October 1, 2016 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , No comments

Does the idea of improving your health 5-10 years from now seem too far away to motivate you to eat well? What if eating well could have more immediate results? A recent study suggests that just may be the case.

Eat Well, Be Happy?
Eating more fruits and vegetables is widely seen as a way to improve physical health, but now, there may be another reason hit the salad bar. Eating more fruits and vegetables might make us happier and more satisfied with life. A recent study found that people who increasingly ate more fruits and vegetables were happier and had improved overall well-being. The changes were quick – less than 2 years. The size of the result was pretty impressive too. According to the researchers, the increase in well-being is the equivalent to the decrease someone would see if they lost their job.

How does it work?
Most research on fruits and vegetables has looked at preventing chronic diseases like diabetes or cancer, or improving weight. The idea that fruits and vegetables can make us happier is a new, but exciting idea. It is possible that the vitamins and other nutrients in fruits and vegetables deserve the credit. It could also be the fiber. Whatever the cause, it seems that this could be one more reason to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Next Steps
Aim for a fruit or a vegetable at each meal or snack. It can be as small as a handful of raisins or as big as a salad for lunch. The researchers didn’t find that any particular fruit or vegetable worked better than another, so pick some that you enjoy and challenge yourself to try new ones. It all counts and can help increase your health overall and possibly your happiness now.

1. Redzo Mujcic and Andrew J.Oswald. Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. American Journal of Public Health: August 2016, Vol. 106, No. 8, pp. 1504-1510.
October 2016

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Save The Food

Thursday, September 1, 2016 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , No comments

Up to 40% of the food in the US is wasted and never eaten. Considering how many people don’t have enough to eat, the idea of so much food ending up in landfills is startling. Here are some tips on how you can do your part to reduce food waste:

Plan Ahead
There are two rules of shopping that can help you reduce food waste, save money and improve how well you eat – don’t shop when hungry and bring a list. A good shopping list is based on what you plan to eat for the next week or so. Remember though, that meal planning doesn’t mean you have to cook from scratch every night. Map out days for quick meals, new recipes and no-cook nights of leftovers or eating out. If your shopping includes the local famers’ market, go there first and then make any adjustments to your meal plan and shopping list to include any great finds you weren’t expecting.

Choose Wisely
Buy what you need. While bulk discounts can seem like too good a deal to pass up, if you end up buying more than you need, the deal may not actually be that good. Bulk bins, on the other hand, can be a way to purchase smaller amounts than what is typically found on the shelves to better match what you need. Embrace imperfection. When shopping for produce, look for fruits and vegetables that aren’t bruised, damaged or overripe. Do, however, give ugly produce a chance. Fruits and vegetables don’t always grow in the exact shape or size that we expect.

Use It:
Too often, we end up tossing food that could have been saved. Don’t be fooled by dates. Dates on foods are not always expiration dates. Sometimes they aren’t even dates, but codes used by the manufacturer. Unless the date specifically says “expiration” or “use by” it is most likely safe to use the food past that date if it has been stored properly. If you won’t use something before it goes bad, consider freezing it. Many foods can be frozen safely for use later. For more information on reducing food waste and food safety, check out and

REFERENCES:1. Gunders, Dana. Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. NRDC Issue Paper. August 2012. Available at: Home Food Safety. Available at Save the Food. Available at
Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
September 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

Eat To Compete

Monday, August 1, 2016 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , No comments

Recent studies focus on the benefits of whole grains in lowering risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic conditions. But what types of carbohydrates should you choose for workouts and for keeping your energy high throughout the day?

Incorporating grains into a healthy lifestyle
Carbohydrates act as the primary fuel for your brain and muscles. Remember those pasta nights before the big game? The reason for the “carb load” was to increase your glycogen, or your stored carbohydrates, to be available as energy while you exercise. Fast-acting energy sources, such as refined grains, can provide quick energy before, during and after a game or workout. But what about energy over the course of the day, while you are at work or taking care of the kids? Throughout the day, active men and women should consume 6-8 ounces or servings of grains.

What kind of grains should I look for?
According to the Dietary Guidelines, at least half of your grains should be whole grains. Whole grains contain the entire kernel and provide dietary fiber, iron, B vitamins and phytochemicals. When shopping, look for whole grains as the first ingredient on the package. When eating out, look for menu items with whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole wheat wraps, tortillas and other whole grains.

Bottom Line:
The health benefits of whole grains are more pronounced within the context of a healthy lifestyle. If you lead an active lifestyle, consider limiting refined grains to periods before, during or after a workout. The rest of your servings of carbohydrates should be focused on complex, whole grains.

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
2. Cho SS, Fahey GC, Klurfeld DM. Consumption of cereal fiber, mixtures of whole grains and bran, and whole grains and risk reduction in type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;98(2):594-619.
3. Zhang G, Hamaker BR. The Nutritional Property of Endosperm Starch and Its Contribution to the Health Benefits of Whole Grains. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Feb 6.

Written by Jana Wolff
August 2016

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.

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. 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.

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

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.

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.

  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)
  3. Mudryj AN, Yu N, Aukema HM. Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014; 39:1197-1204. doi:
  4. SELFNutrition Data. Know what you eat.