Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

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.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Celebrating Cultural Diversity

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 | 10:31 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments

All of us belong to a cultural group and one’s culture most often influences daily food choices. Unfortunately, sometimes our favorite cultural dishes contain a great deal of fat and calories. One way to reduce fat and calories in these dishes is to swap out ingredients for ones that are lower in fat in calories. For example, if a recipe calls for cream or whole milk, choose low fat or skim milk instead. You can always use a little less of ingredients such as shredded cheese to cut back on calories and fat.

Foods from various cultures can be healthy or unhealthy. To balance things out, some cultures choose their large meal early in the day and have a light meal at night. Other cultures may include foods that are high in calories but were brought up practicing portion control and not overindulging on these foods. There are many cultural cuisines that contain lots of healthy foods including fiber-rich grains, protein-rich legumes along with a variety of vegetables.

When you make your favorite recipes at home, here are some ingredients you can choose instead to make them a little healthier:

Instead of this ingredient
Try this ingredient
Shortening or butter to coat pans
Vegetable spray
Butter or Margarine
Low/fat free margarine, canola, safflower, or olive oil
Whole milk
Skim milk or plain non-fat yogurt
Full fat cheese
Part-skim milk cheeses
Sour cream
Low-fat or fat-free sour cream
Baking chocolate
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder plus 2 tsp. of water for each ounce of chocolate
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
Meat with skin on it
Remove skin prior to cooking
Dark poultry meat
White meat
Frying food
Bake or broil them
Fatty ground meat
Lean ground meat (90-95% lean)
Stews and casseroles that are heavy on meat and light on vegetables
Increase vegetables and decrease meats
Regular Mayo and/or salad dressing
Low-fat mayo and/or salad dressing
Full portion of traditional food
Half portions
Canned foods
Fresh or frozen as an alternative
Red meats (bacon, sausage, luncheon meats)
Turkey, chicken, or fish

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Should breakfast be the new dinner?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 | 9:15 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

Have you heard that eating late at night is bad for you? While the bigger impact usually comes from the type of foods we tend to eat late at night more than when we eat them, there may be some benefits to adjusting when we eat.

Does meal time matter?
Many of us eat in a way that has our meals getting larger as the day goes on – lunch is bigger than breakfast and dinner is bigger than lunch. New research suggests that this may not be the best way to eat to maximize health. Our bodies seem to react better to larger meals eaten earlier in the day than ones eaten later. A few benefits to the earlier meals include better blood sugar control and better weight management. We may even burn more calories after meals eaten earlier in the day.

How does our body know what time it is?
Our internal clocks, influenced by external cues like sunlight or darkness, make up our circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms can influence when we sleep, our body temperature and other important bodily functions. Abnormal circadian rhythms have been connected to sleep problems and a variety of health issues including diabetes, obesity and depression. It also seems that circadian rhythms can help determine how we react to the food we eat.

Bottom Line
A larger breakfast and lunch, with a smaller dinner may be a better pattern for some people. Circadian rhythms have a genetic component, so we all likely react a little bit differently to meal times. If you find that you feel better, and are better able to achieve your health goals with swapping your larger meals to earlier in the day, it may be a good habit to adopt with almost no downside

1. Bo S, et al. Is the timing of caloric intake associated with variation in diet-induced thermogenesis and in the metabolic pattern? A randomized cross-over study. Int J Obes (Lond). 2015 Dec;39(12):1689-95
2. Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Available at:

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