Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fall is Pumpkin Time!

Monday, November 5, 2018 | 10:30 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

Fall is one of my favorite times because everywhere you turn there are foods containing pumpkin. What I love about pumpkins is that they are a great nutrient-rich food. They are loaded with antioxidants such as beta-carotene, which is the plant carotenoid that converts to vitamin A (important for vision, immune system, bone health and an antioxidant). Pumpkins are also a great source of potassium and magnesium.

Pumpkin puree can be added to so many recipes to enhance flavor and boost nutritional value. Here are just a few ideas!
  • Add pumpkin to
    • Greek yogurt along with some granola to make a parfait
    • Hot oatmeal along with a sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin spice
    • Homemade pancakes, waffles, muffins or cookies
  • Try roasted pumpkin seeds as an afternoon snack, in a trail mix or on a salad
Pumpkin protein bites are a great on-the-go breakfast along with a cup of low fat milk

  • 3 cups dry, rolled oats
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup peanut butter, or Almond butter
    • If you have a nut allergy try using sun nut butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup ground flax meal
    • If you prefer more crunch use the ground flax seeds)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
    • Choose dark chocolate for added antioxidants
  • Can also add in: 1 cup small chopped walnuts, chopped almonds, chopped peanuts, coconut flakes, or any combination of mix-ins that equal 1 cup total.
  1. Combine all ingredients together in a medium bowl until very thoroughly mixed.
  2. Roll into balls of about 1″ in. Place bites on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. You can freeze them for one hour or just leave them in the refrigerator- either way they will set.
  3. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  • Pumpkin Nutrition. Pumpkins and more. Accessed October 29, 2018.
  • Recipe modified from- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Energy Balls Accessed October 29, 2018.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Thanksgiving Tips From The Pros

Thursday, November 1, 2018 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , No comments

November kicks off holiday season with one of the most food focused holidays of the year…Thanksgiving. We have gathered some tips from our pros on how to make your Thanksgiving a success.

The right tool really does make all of the difference. For a delicious turkey done right, use a thermometer. If you have typically relied on the plastic pop-up, take the plunge and buy yourself a meat thermometer. You will want to check the temperature of the turkey above the leg in the thickest part of the meat. When the temperature reaches 165°F, the turkey is done. Take it out and let it sit for a few minutes before carving. Once you see success with the turkey, you’ll want to use your thermometer on other meats and dishes you are cooking. You will have far fewer over or undercooked meals.

Food safety is such a top priority for chefs that it becomes an automatic part of what they do. Cooking for a crowd on Thanksgiving means we need to think like chefs for the day. Wash your hands and wash them often. Keep food out of the temperature danger zone of 40-140°F. This means thawing in the refrigerator, never on the counter. It also means putting leftovers in the refrigerator right after the meal. Anything out for more than 4 hours needs to be tossed.

Left overs are some people’s favorite part of Thanksgiving. To reduce waste, have a plan. Know how many people you are hosting and prepare accordingly. If you want extra for sandwiches, soup or other weekend favorites, include those amounts in your planning. Make sure you will have space in the refrigerator and containers to store it in. If you want to send your guests home with food, have them bring containers or pick up some extras that you don’t mind sharing. Any leftovers stored in the refrigerator should be used within a few days. If you won’t be able to use them in that time, put them straight into the freezer. When reheating, get out your thermometer and make sure everything gets back to 165°F.

Chef tips provided by Chris Aquilino, Corporate Executive Chef.Additional tips and recipes available at and

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD and Julia Jordan.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Championship Chili

Monday, October 15, 2018 | 4:38 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , No comments

with campus executive chef Tom Barton

Welcome to October, such a great time of year! I personally love this time of year when the weather starts to get a bit colder and I can start to prepare some of my favorite braises in the slow cooker and Instapot. I am inspired by the change in weather and the great local produce we are still able to get.

Another great seasonably appropriate dish is chili. What is your favorite kind? With or without beans? Spicy or mild? Meat or plant based? So many possibilities. Well we now have an award winning recipe, rightfully dubbed "Championship Chili", that I would like to share with you!

Our Championship Chili recipe won us first place in the Vegan Chili Beanpot competition at The Let’s Talk About Food festival last week. It was a competition among the “Beanpot” schools” of Harvard, Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern. As you may know these are called the Beanpot schools because the four schools compete in the much coveted annual Beanpot Hockey tournament in February. Northeastern's Men's Hockey team won the Beanpot this year and we had the trophy on full display on our table at the chili competition. The votes were cast by people who tasted each of the entries and I am happy to report that we were the overwhelming favorite! 

Our Championship Chili included four different beans, fresh char grilled corn, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and seasoned with toasted ground cumin, chili powder, garlic and finished with a bit of hot sauce. I do have to say that I think the piece de resistance was a cashew ranch dressing that was placed on top along with pickled jalapenos, more char grilled corn and a miniature pepper for garnish. Folding in the cashew ranch I think is a great way to bring all the flavors together and perhaps slightly mellow the heat along with accenting the umami flavors of the mushrooms.

Please join us Friday October 19th at Curry Dining from 12:00PM - 1:00PM to celebrate the victory and sample some of our Championship Chili!

- Tom 

Championship Chili Recipe
Ingredients — yields 6-8 portions

  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter (can sub vegetable oil)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 ears charred corn, removed from cob
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 14 ounce cans fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 11 ounces cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 11 ounces chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 11 ounces pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 11 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup cayenne pepper hot sauce (i.e. Frank's Red Hot)
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
Cashew Ranch Sauce

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4 to 8 hours
  • 1 cup unflavored soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives 

  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapenos
  • 1 tiny pepper
  • 1 ear charred corn, removed from cob 
Making Championship Chili
  1. Place the butter into a large pot and set over medium heat. Melt the butter, then add onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Saute until the veggies begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, cannellini beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans, charred corn, 1 cup of broth, cumin, chili powder, tamarind paste, and 1/4 cup of hot sauce to the pot. Stir to incorporate the ingredients. Raise heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 60 minutes. Add up to an additional cup of broth during cooking if the chili becomes too thick.
  3. Taste test and add up to an additional 1/4 cup of hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Making the Cashew Ranch Sauce 
  1. Place cashews, milk, lemon juice, garlic, and salt into a blender and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the pitcher as needed.
  2. Add parsley and chives, then pulse until finely chopped and incorporated into the mixture.
  1. Ladle chili into serving dish. Top with dollop of cashew ranch sauce.
  2. Garnish with pinch of charred corn and pickled jalapenos. Top with tiny pepper.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Trick or Treat?

Monday, October 8, 2018 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments

A balanced diet is a healthy diet.  Allowing yourself to enjoy a treat once and awhile really is okay!   

Halloween is once year, but the candy is around for many weeks before and after it has come and gone.  You can choose not to eat the candy, which is fine too.  However, if you do decided to indulge and have a few treats your best bet is to read the food labels for ingredients, calories and fat.  Choosing candy that contains the least amount of calories and fat can be a great choice, however that choice may not be satisfying for you. Choosing one that you would like and enjoy may be the better option in the long run. It is really about the amount of candy that you eat versus the one(s) you choose to eat. The fun size candy bars are really great, if you stick to the recommended serving amount! Most servings of these treats contain 150-200 calories or less. That is not a significant amount of calories when you consider that most individuals should be consuming close to 2,000 calories per day. 

Thinking about the calories and fat can take the fun out of the treats you choose. But, it is better to be aware of what you are choosing and then you can choose wisely! 

Some people over-indulge on Halloween and are done with the candy- while others will ration out their treats for a week or so. Either way is fine! However, if you continue to over-indulge for a week or so that is when you may start to realize that this holiday is adding some unwanted extra calories to your healthy eating plan.  

Halloween Candy can fit into a healthy eating plan if you practice moderation. Although, the fun size candies are great, eating a few at a time will add up to a full size candy bar. The table below can help you decide where you may want to spend or save calories.

Remember that Halloween is just the beginning of the holiday season so choose wisely!
Package Serving Size
Tootsie Rolls
6 small pieces
(40 g)
3 g
19 g
These little candies provide less fat and fewer calories than most in this table, However be aware that they are pretty sticky and may increase the risk for tooth decay.
Candy Corn (Brach’s)
21 pieces
(40 g)
0 g
37 g
Fat-free is a plus here. But because these candies are also packed with sugar and will stick to your teeth!
Kit Kat
3 (2 piece snack size bars)
(42 g)
11 g
21 g
The light wafer makes this bar less dense and therefore provides a lower in sugar amount per serving.
Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses
7 pieces
(32 g)
9 g
18 g
Note: Try to choose Special Dark version in order to add flavonoids/antioxidants
Hershey’s minatures
4 pieces
17 g
As mentioned above. Choosing the dark chocolate version is nice alternative.
M&M's Milk Chocolate Candies
fun size, 1 bag (27g)
5 g
17 g
If you choose peanut M & M’s you will get a few more calories and fat.
Milky Way
Fun size,
2 bars (34g)
4 g
20 g
Eat one or two, then freeze a few (a good idea for just about any candy bar).
Fun size,
2 bars ( 21g)
6 g
16 g
Stick to the fun size!
Fun size,
2 bar (34 g)
 8 g
18 g
This is another good one to freeze!
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
(snack size bats)
1 snack size (34g)
4 g
16 g
Just because it contains a little more peanut butter than chocolate doesn’t make it nutrient dense- still a candy bar!

Resources: The nutrition content found in the table above was obtained from food labels of the products

The table in this handout was adapted and updated from one found in the article Halloween Candy Nutrition: Calories, Fat - and Good News! by Carol M. Bareuther, RD. accessed October 1, 2018

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Meat Conundrum

Monday, October 1, 2018 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments

We all know we should eat less meat, right? It’s better for our health; it’s better for the planet, it’s better for the animals. We know that eating less meat is good for many reasons, but are we reducing our meat intake? For those that love meat but want to be mindful of their consumption, supermarkets and restaurants can be a tough place to navigate.

The conventional way of raising meat is burdensome to the environment and less than stellar for the animals. According to the CDC, pollutants from factory farms can have a negative impact on humans and animals. The animals that call these factory farms home are treated as commodities and often experience intense confinement and inadequate treatment. This method of raising animals is viewed as the solution to feeding our growing population but is this really the best way forward? If you’re omnivorous and want to embark on a more mindful way of eating, you don’t have to abandon your burger all together.

To improve animal welfare, reduce our carbon footprint and improve our health, we as eaters must vote with our forks. We should all be eating less but higher quality meat. To do so, we need to seek out animal proteins that have a higher standard of welfare. Finding a local supplier that you can develop a relationship with is great but perhaps not possible for everyone. It’s also important to familiarize yourself with food labels. Look for labels with a defined set of publicly available animal care standards that are third-party verified. In the café, look for dishes that blend meat with other ingredients like a mushroom blended burger.

There’s no question better meat can be expensive. If we think of meat as an indulgence and reduce the quantity that we consume, we can feel better about putting our hard earned dollars towards the good stuff. In countries around the world where meat is a luxury, it’s typically a garnish to the main dish of rice or noodles and lots of produce. Incorporating more dishes into your diet where meat plays a supporting role can reduce your meat intake without the feeling of deprivation.

Another way to reduce your meat intake is to take a break from it for a meal or two throughout the week. Customize this to fit your lifestyle. Pick a night of the week to make a meatless meal. Others might prefer to skip meat at breakfast and lunch and have a small amount of animal protein at dinner.

Written by Julia Jordan.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Manage Stress

Thursday, September 6, 2018 | 9:44 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

Stress and finding balance!
Stress – we all have experienced it – probably more often than we would like to admit!  Managing stress is possible, and when done properly, can be healthy and beneficial to our bodies.  When we experience stress, we automatically initiate our stress response, better known as the “fight or flight” reaction. This process is our body’s natural way of dealing with any stress that we face in our daily lives.

We can experience stress about negative events such as traffic or school deadlines…  as well as experience stress about positive, life changing events such as moving into a new place, completing a major project, starting classes….  Whether negative or positive, all events trigger stress, and the reality is, without it, life would be dull and boring!  How we handle stress is important.

Stress Eating
Many of us are guilty of it – emotional eating.  We love our favorite comfort foods and make sure they are available when we are feeling “stressed out.” During these stressful moments there is an actual hormonal reaction that can triggers emotional eating – cortisol is released, which is an appetite stimulant.  Therefore triggering our desire to overeat in the moment of stress.  Eating can also serve as a distraction, allowing us to put aside our worries for the time being.  Unfortunately, we often feel guilty after an episode of overeating to deal with stress.

Tips to Control Stress Eating
  • Learn to distinguish between true hunger and purely emotional hunger
  • Know your triggers and recognize consistent negative eating patterns
  • Try comfort in another form, such as walking, watching a movie or talking to a friend
  • Avoid making unhealthy treats readily available
  • When you decide to snack, indulge in healthy choices such as fruit, vegetables or low fat snacks
  • Exercise regularly and get enough sleep
  • If you do find yourself emotionally eating – start fresh the next day! 
Helping Yourself
Managing stress starts within – only we know our bodies and our own personal limitations. It is important to schedule time for yourself and set reasonable standards for yourself and others.

Tips and Tricks to Manage Stress
  • Exercise
  • Stretch
  • Get a massage
  • Listen to good music
  • Talk to family and friends about your feelings
  • Get help when you need it
  • Be realistic and learn to say NO if you may become overwhelmed
  • Meditate or take a yoga class
  • Indulge in a favorite hobby or activity
If you have tried self-help options but you still can't control emotional eating, consider therapy with a mental health professional. Therapy can help you understand why you eat emotionally and learn coping skills.

  1. Weight loss: Gain control of emotional eating: 
  2. Why stress causes people to overeat:

Saturday, September 1, 2018


Saturday, September 1, 2018 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , No comments
You’ve probably heard the term “good fats” used to describe foods like avocado, nuts, seeds and certain oils. These good fats have been connected to improved heart health and other benefits. With so many different oils available, how do you know which ones are the right ones for you?

Oils play a key role in some of the healthiest diets in the world. The Mediterranean Diet, for example, features olive oil prominently. Olive oil provides beneficial nutrients on its own and also helps make important nutrients in other foods more available. Lightly sautéing your vegetables in olive oil, for example, might actually be better for you than boiling or steaming them – and they will probably taste better.

While oils, like other fats, are high in calories, they also offer some health benefits. To promote good health, focus on oils that offer more unsaturated fats such as olive and canola oil. Reduce your use of oils that are high in saturated fats such as tropical oils. Avoid oils that are partially hydrogenated or foods that are prepared with partially hydrogenated oils. As of June 2018, the
FDA no longer allows the use of partially hydrogenated oils due to health reasons, but some products received an extension so you may still see it around for a few more years. For now,
avoid foods with partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.

Different oils will work better for different situations when cooking and preparing food. When sautéing, look for oils with higher smoke points like canola or peanut oil. Olive oil, with its lower smoke point is good for finishing a dish or in cold preparations like dressings and sauces because of the flavor and texture it adds. When baking, choose oils with neutral flavors. Regardless of which oil you use, remember to store it properly to prevent loss of quality. Keep oils away from heat and only buy as much as you will use in a couple months to reduce waste.

  1. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary Fatty Acids for Healthy Adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114:136-153.
  2. Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Removing Trans Fat). Available at:
Written by Julia Jordan and Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Local Produce

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy local produce because of the sheer variety of fruits and vegetables that are available. I’ve waited all winter for ripe berries, juicy tomatoes and sweet stone fruit. We get a few months of this bounty and when the season is over, we wait patiently for summer to come again so we can enjoy our favorites. Connecting and eating with the seasons can be rewarding but also a tough challenge as many of us now rely on grocery stores to provide year-round produce.

Did you know that the average food item has traveled 1,500 miles to get to your plate? Seeking out local food, understanding how it was grown and learning more about the people who grew it can be an empowering experience. Not everyone has the opportunity to shake hands with the person that grew their food but for those that do, it carries more weight than a certification.

Did you also know that how we eat can have as big an impact on climate change as transportation and energy? When produce is shipped, flown or trucked long distances, it must be harvested before it ripens so as to survive the journey. Many producers started developing and growing varieties that held up to transportation and overlooked flavor and nutrition as desirable qualities in their produce. As a result, it is often less nutritious and less tasty, uses a lot of fuel and causes pollution. In addition to being hard on the environment, American farms, owned and operated by family members as a primary income, are disappearing.

There is huge value in supporting our local farmers. It’s important for our food security, our health, and future generations that we support the local agriculture and preserve flavor. Our annual Eat Local promotion kicks off this month and celebrates local produce and the mid-sized American family farm.

Look for ways to support local farmers in your area by visiting farmers markets, participating in Community Support Agriculture (CSAs) or supporting local co-ops. is a great resource to find farmer’s markets and CSAs in your area.


Written by Julia Jordan and Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Calories on the menu

Sunday, July 1, 2018 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

You may have noticed that restaurant menus have a new look. Along with price and description, you’ll now see calories listed on menus at restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters and bakeries, among others.

Why put calories on menus?
Most of us eat about a third of our meals away from home. With that in mind, legislation was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act requiring calorie-posting on restaurant menus. The goal of the legislation was to make it easier for us to make informed choices about what and how much we eat while we are out.

Where you will and won’t see calories:
In general, we can expect to see calories on food and drinks that are served regularly at 20 or more locations under the same brand. This includes just about anywhere that serves food ready to eat, such as sports stadiums, coffee shops and restaurants. Chefs’ specials, seasonal dishes or items offered only for a limited time, however, will not be required to have calories listed. Independent restaurants with one or only a few locations and those that move from place to place (trains, planes and food trucks) will not be required to post calories for any of their menu items.

How to use calories on a menu:
Understanding how many calories we take in compared to how many we burn can be valuable in maintaining a healthy weight and an active lifestyle. For example, if your day will be very physically active, you will need more calories to keep your energy levels where you need them. On the other hand, if you are going to be sitting most of the day or are trying to lose weight, you will want to eat fewer calories. Comparing calorie levels for foods and drinks can help you make choices that most closely match your needs.


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

Friday, June 1, 2018

Plant Forward

A New Way of Eating
There’s a relatively new term buzzing around the food world that you may or may not have heard of, plant forward. What does that mean you ask? Plant forward focuses on more vegetable centric dishes with meat playing more of a supporting role. Think blended burgers, stir-fry’s or grain bowls where meat is almost like a condiment. Flavors are bold and it’s all about the dish’s deliciousness whether it happens to be vegan or vegetarian, or not. Diners aren’t interested in completely removing meat from their diets so embracing a diet that is mostly plants with some meat here and there provides a comfortable middle ground.

The Challenge with Red Meat
Conventional animal agriculture is resource intense and less than stellar for the environment. Ruminant animals release methane gas into the atmosphere which is about twenty five times more intense than carbon dioxide. Let’s face it, our country’s enormous appetite for beef is not so great for our health and the health of our planet. While most of us eat enough protein overall, they type of protein foods we are choosing could use some improvement. Shifting to legumes and other plant proteins can add important nutrients and reduce saturated fat. According to the NRDC, beef is approximately 34 times more carbon intensive than beans and legumes, pound for pound. You don’t have to completely cut meat from your diet to improve your health or your environmental footprint.

How to Eat More 'Plat Forward'
Chefs are not only swapping out red meat for other animal proteins but also creating insanely delicious plant forward menus that can be better for our waistlines and the environment. Load up your plate with more vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes. More plants on your plate tends to mean more nutrients and fewer calories…a win, win for health. There are also great options for diners that still want to include meat in their diets. The ‘Switch It Up’ campaign takes the basic burger and replaces it with healthier, delicious burgers that don’t include red meat, like grilled turkey burgers or blackened Portobello burgers. Want to reduce your meat intake but not sure how to get started? Start out slow and consider skipping meat in your meal every now and then. Our ‘Be a Flexitarian’ campaign encourages diners to skip meat once a week and offers flexibility and delicious plant forward dishes.

Written by Julia Jordan and Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
JUNE 2018

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Good for Mind & Body

Eating well can certainly improve our physical health, but what if it could improve our mental well-being as well? The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan has been tested, successfully by researchers since the late 1990s as a way to lower blood pressure. A recent study suggests that people who follow DASH may also have a lower risk for depression. DASH emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy and is low in meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and saturated fat making it an overall healthful way of eating for people with and without high blood pressure. Want to see if DASH is right for you? Get started with these key parts of the DASH eating plan.

Increase your fruits and vegetables
The DASH plan calls for 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which is substantially more than the average American currently gets. Increasing your intake provides key nutrients thought to play a role in DASH’s success – potassium, magnesium and fiber. When buying fruits and vegetables don’t discriminate if something isn’t “perfect”. Misshapen produce has the same nutrients as grade A produce, so don’t let it go to waste. DASH also presents a great opportunity to support local farms. Look for menu items featuring local produce or stop by a local farmers market.

Don’t skip the dairy
If you haven’t been getting your 2-3 servings of low fat dairy since you drank milk with lunch in school, it may be time to reconnect with this food group. Calcium is another nutrient thought to help with DASH’s beneficial effect on blood pressure. If cow’s milk products are not for you, look for replacements that offer similar amounts of calcium, protein and vitamin D.

Bring on the nuts and seeds
In addition to protein, fiber, and magnesium, nuts provide an antioxidant that may work to lower high blood pressure. Aim for 4-5 servings per week to take advantage of this benefit.

Ready to take on the full DASH plan? Head to for all the details.

1. Diet Shown to Reduce Stroke Risk May Also Reduce Risk of Depression.
2. DASH ranked Best Diet Overall for eighth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report.
3. Lin PH, Allen JD, Li YJ, Yu M, Lien LF, Svetkey LP. Blood Pressure-Lowering Mechanisms of the DASH Dietary Pattern. J Nutr Metab. 2012;2012:472396.

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
May 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Drink Healthy

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 | 10:13 AM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , No comments

With assistance from Northeastern graduate student Crystal (Sopher) Richardson

You are what you… DRINK?
The Healthier Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 included the addition of the USDA Smart Snacks in Schools which prescribed limitations on beverages offered for sale to students during the school day.1  These guidelines eliminated the sale of sodas, caffeinated beverages in some states, and restricted the size of non-caloric beverages, milk and juice for all grade levels.  Many would agree that this was a courageous and much needed step to ensure that children developed healthy eating and DRINKING habits. School systems across the United States must have portable water available, free of charge and available to all students. Many school districts encourage the consumption of plain water by allowing students to have water bottles in class. Great steps, great idea, only one problem… what about the adults?

In 2006, a group of researchers from Across the US gathered together to collaborate and develop beverage guidelines as the Beverage Guidance Council. Although, over a decade has passed since they were developed, their advice still rings true. The Panel developed a six-level pitcher (see below), much like the food pyramid of the time, offering recommendations for healthy beverage consumption.

Level 1: Water
Water provides everything that the body needs.  Although, individual needs for water will differ as to the amount needed each day based on diet, weather, and activity level- the Institute of Medicine (IOM) does recommend 125 ounces a day for women and 91 ounces per day for men.3

Level 2: Unsweetened Tea or Coffee
When consumed plain, they are calorie-free and contain antioxidants, flavonoids and other biologically active substances that are good for your health

Level 3: Low-Fat and Skim Milk and Soy Beverages
Adults should limit milk to 1-2 cups per day, less being fine due to calories, but be sure that you are choosing other calcium-rich foods or you may need to consider a supplement to meet your calcium needs.

Level 4: Non-calorically Sweetened Beverages
This level encompasses artificially sweetened sports drinks and diet sodas.  Remember, these are a reduced calorie alternative, but should be consumed as a “treat” and not a replacement for water.

Level 5: Calorically Sweetened Beverages
The Beverage Guidance Panel gives this level its “least recommended” designation.  They are not recommended as a daily beverages due to their high calorie content and the fact that they provide little to no nutritional value.

Level 6: Alcoholic Beverages
The Panel does not offer guidance regarding alcoholic beverages; however the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommends consuming alcohol in moderation and should be considered as part of your daily recommended calorie intake.4 The Guidelines also offer drink equivalents for all alcoholic beverages that should be considered as well ( And of course... only for those of the legal drinking age.

  1. Tools for Schools: Focusing on Smart Snacks.  USDA website. .  Accessed March 24, 2018.
  2. Healthy Beverage Guidelines.  The Nutrition Source: Harvard School of Public Health. . Published 2006. Accessed March 13, 2018.
  3. Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Accessed April 11, 2018
  4. Appendix 9. Alcohol. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020. Published 2015.  Accessed March 12, 2018.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Good for you, Good for the Earth

As we prepare to celebrate Earth Month in April and Stop Food Waste Day on April 27th, many of us will focus on making choices that improve the health of our planet. An added bonus is that several of the strategies that shrink our carbon footprint can also help improve our health.

Shrink (or Share) Your Portions Starting with smaller portions has been shown to decrease the amount we eat – saving us important calories. Smaller portions also tend to decrease the amount of food we end up throwing away. This strategy is a win-win for the planet that both reduces waste and reduces the demands of producing more food than we really need. When eating out, if smaller portions aren’t available, share dishes with friends. You’ll get to taste a variety of foods without the added calories or waste.

Choose More Plants
Plant foods like fruits, vegetables and grains require substantially less energy, land and water to produce than do animal foods like beef and eggs. Reducing how often you eat resource demanding animal products is a great way to contribute to a more sustainable food system. Replacing some of the animal foods in your diet with plant choices is also a great way to improve your health by increasing health promoting nutrients like fiber and reducing those associated with disease risk such as saturated fat.

Plan Ahead
Last minute food decisions often lead to the “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” result. Planning ahead can help ensure better choices for your well-being, and that of the planet. Meal planning for the week prevents waste and keeps your nutrition goals in check. Create a meal plan for the week, have a grocery list ready and only shop for the things you need. Some stores have apps with built in lists that automatically sort by area of the store.

Small changes add up to make a big difference in the fight against food waste! Ready to commit?
Take the pledge to make every day stop food waste day – visit

1. Freedman MR, Brochado C. Reducing portion size reduces food intake and plate waste. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Sep;18(9):1864-6.

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
April 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Focus on Whole, Minimally Processed Foods

With assistance from Northeastern graduate student Crystal (Sopher) Richardson

What’s the WHOLE story on Processed Foods?
Nutritionists and dietitians are often asked why processed foods are bad.  It’s not an easy question to answer.  Many refer to the fact that the “Diseases of Civilization” – heart disease, hypertension, tooth decay, diabetes and some cancers did not exist before the increased popularity of processed foods. Whole and minimally processed foods are prepared without copious amounts of added fat, salt or sugar, therefore maximizing the consumption of cancer-fighting nutrients and phytochemicals, that protect your body’s cells from damage. A 2017 study of 249 adolescents showed that the consumption of minimally processed foods was inversely associated with excess weight.1 Another study in 2016, published by Anthony Fardet showed a link between minimally processed foods and satiety versus ultra-processed foods.2

While most people know that eating a whole apple is much healthier than drinking apple juice or snacking on a fruit snack with apple juice added, can we really answer the question of why?  Processed foods are higher in sodium in most cases, leading to issues such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.   However, although the science can sometimes be confusing, highly processed foods can also have other effects on the body.

What we do know is that a healthy diet concentrates on consuming more whole and minimally processed foods.  The best rule of thumb? The closer the food is to its form found in nature, the healthier it will be.  These whole foods contain less fat, oil, salt and sugar and more fiber.    When choosing foods, refer to the following tips:
  • Don’t be fooled by your taste buds.  Although some processed foods may not taste salty, the majority of American’s daily sodium intake comes from grains and meat.  Beware of commercially made baked goods and breakfast cereals.
  • Use alternative seasonings such as vinegar, lemon juice and fresh herbs.
  • Avoid processed meat products such as ground beef, deli meats and sausages – as over-consumption has been linked to colon cancer.
  • Read nutrition labels on packaged foods to compare sodium and sugar.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.  Although canned and frozen alternatives are not bad, look for those with no added salt or sugar.
  • Limit your intake of fast food.
  • Buy your bread from a local bakery.
  • In addition to your bread choice, when selecting foods like pastas, cereals, rice, and crackers always go for the whole-grain option.
  • Fresh produce is less expensive and easier to find if you “eat seasonally”.  Visit your local farmers markets to buy your fruits and vegetables.
  • Remember, meats and dairy are processed to increase shelf life.  Find a store or vendor that offers fresh local meats and dairy.
  1. Melo ISV, Costa CACB, Santos JVLD, Santos AFD, Florêncio TMMT, Bueno NB. Consumption of minimally processed food is inversely associated with excess weight in adolescents living in an underdeveloped city. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(11):e0188401.
  2. Fardet A. Minimally processed foods are more satiating and less hyperglycemic than ultra-processed foods: a preliminary study with 98 ready-to-eat foods. Food & Function. 2016;7(5):2338-2346. doi:10.1039/c6fo00107f.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Recharge Your Resolutions

Did you start the year out with big resolutions to improve your health? Have some of them started to slip? March is National Nutrition Month® and a perfect time to recharge your resolutions.

Be Realistic
Setting big health related goals can be motivating, but if the goals are too lofty it can backfire. Instead of setting yourself up for failure with goals that are too hard to reach, consider breaking them into steps. For example, if you need to eat more vegetables, becoming a vegan may be too big of a first step. Instead, start with the flexitarian approach of choosing some meat-free meals each week. Need ideas for realistic goals? has a section on starting with small changes and celebrating them as “MyPlate, MyWins.”

Consistency vs Perfection
When it comes to your health, what you do most of the time is more important than the occasional slip. If you have been working on eating less sugar and indulged in a big dessert over the weekend, let it go and get back on track. One off day doesn’t change all of the good you accomplished on the other days. When it comes to eating and other health behaviors, aim for consistency instead of

Follow an Expert
Whether you need individualized strategies or motivation to stick to new habits, a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) may be able to help you. You can find one near you by searching on through the “Find an expert” link. This month, you’ll also find a lot of RDNs active on social media using #NationalNutritionMonth. You can also connect with RDNs affiliated with your café through, and @balanceity on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

  1. Start with small changes. Available at:
Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
March 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Limit Potatoes

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 12:00 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , , , No comments

with campus executive chef Tom Barton

Who doesn’t love a potato right? Especially here in New England where Maine is ranked 10th in potato production nationwide.

There are many varieties and colors to choose from, all having their own various health and nutritional benefits. So potatoes can definitely be good for you but sometimes we tend to eat too many which can leave us feeling a bit lethargic and overly full. I’m not suggesting we give up these tantalizing spuds but change how we think about our intake.

Perhaps putting a smaller portion of potatoes on our plates along with some fresh vegetables is something to consider with the warmer weather coming quickly. Or another idea might be to think of some alternatives to potatoes like chick pea fries!

Here’s a delicious recipe from one of my favorite websites Food52 These are so easy to make and so tasty! The optional cumin in this recipe really gives it a special flavor.

Still have a hankering for mashed potato but want to try something different? How about mashed cauliflower or mashed celery root? Celery root is delicious and a totally under-utilized vegetable. These both lend themselves nicely to adding any herbs and spices you may have.

So give any of these alternatives a try…I think you’ll be glad you did and if you just can’t give up a spud think about having a little less of it.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Go “good fat”

When you are thinking about fat consider healthy fats versus non-fat food items.  When it comes to healthy eating the type of fat is just as important if not more important than the amount of fat. 

With that in mind, you should consider eating less high fat foods containing saturated and trans fatty acids (which can be easily spotted on the food label under partially hydrogenated oils) that are know to raise LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in the body.  LDL is considered the "bad cholesterol" while HDL (high-density lipoprotein) appears to actually clear the "bad" types of cholesterol from the blood. You can help raise your HDL by incorporating exercise into your daily routine and consuming healthy fats.

To decrease your saturated fat intake you should consider eating less animal products, especially fatty parts of beef, pork, lamb and chicken and incorporate more plant protein options (soy, hummus, nuts, and seeds).  You can also decrease (not take away completely) your intake of cheese and whole fat milk products, along with other fats like butter and cream. You can replace these whole fat milk products with low fat milk and yogurts.

Healthy fats include both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have both been found to lower LDL cholesterol.  Include the following food items that contain healthy fats as part of your healthy lifestyle.
  • Canola and olive oil (use to make salad dressing or for making a stir fry)
  • Olives (add to salads, hummus, or just as a snack)
  • Avocados (add to a sandwich, salad, or as guacamole)
  • Tuna and salmon (for a meal along side vegetables and whole grains)
  • Tofu (in a stir fry or on a salad)
  • Eggs (for breakfast or added to a salad)
  • Sunflower seeds (as a snack or added to a salad)
  • Almonds, walnuts, etc. (as an on-the-go snack or with your cereal and/or oatmeal) 
  • Nut butters (dip an apple, banana, or pretzels)
  • Flax seeds and flax meal (added to oatmeal, yogurt, cereal or baked into muffins)
Always keep in mind that fats will add calories, but if you are conscious of your portions then this should not be a problem.  Healthy fats in moderation are the way to go!

Thursday, February 1, 2018


On February 2nd, the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health celebrate National Wear Red Day® to bring attention to the number one killer of women, heart disease. Despite the fact that heart disease kills more women than the next four causes of death combined, most women still think of it as a man’s disease. This misperception prevents many of us from taking the steps we need to keep ourselves healthy.

Celebrate Your Health:
When it comes to heart health, there are some changes that pack a big punch. Celebrate your
health and the health of the women in your life by making these strategies a priority.
  • Move more. The more active you are, the better you will feel and the lower your risk for heart disease will be. All activity counts, so don’t skip it if you are short on time. Ten minutes, three times a day is enough to make a difference.
  • Eat more of the good stuff. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are delicious foods that can help to lower your heart disease risk.
  • Eat less of the not so good stuff. Foods that are high in sodium (salt), trans or saturated fat and added sugar such as bacon or packaged snacks and desserts, increase your heart disease risk and should be limited or reduced. And of course, don’t smoke. If you do, February 2nd makes a great quit date!
Know Where You Stand:
Not all risk factors are obvious and most women developing heart disease have no symptoms at all. Check in with your doctor regularly to see what your personal heart disease risk is. Don’t assume that they will be the ones to start the discussion. Be proactive and have questions ready. Both the Go Red for Women and The Heart Truth websites have great tools to get you started.

2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Women and Heart Disease facts;

Written by Jennifer M. Roberts, MS, RD.
February 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Reduce Added Sugar

Currently, there are no federal guidelines regarding the amount of sugar you should consume.  However, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we consume less sugar overall as part of a healthy lifestyle- no more than 6 teaspoons (tsp.) or 100 calories a day of sugar for most women and no more than 9 teaspoons or 150 calories a day for most men.

Added sugar in foods such as desserts, candy, cookies, soda, and many cereals are providing empty calories.  Empty calories are calories that contain no nutritional value. Taking in these added/extra calories overtime can lead to unwanted weight gain and can also impact blood sugar levels for those diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Reducing your sugar intake may be easier than you think.  Here are some tips to get you started!
  • Cut down on adding sugar (table sugar, syrup, honey) to foods (cereal, cookies, pancakes) and beverages like coffee or tea. Try decreasing the amount you typically add and cut it in half and then continue to decrease from there.  
    • Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, try fresh fruit (bananas, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots).
  • Remove soda. Choose a seltzer that's naturally flavored or you can add a splash of 100% fruit juice (such as Pomegranate, orange, grape…) to flavor a plain seltzer or just choose plain water if you don’t like the bubbles. 
  • Avoid fruit canned in syrup, especially heavy syrup. Choose fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits that are in water or natural juice. 
  • When baking your favorite cookies, brownies or cakes, decrease the amount of sugar called for in the recipe. You can cut it by ½ the amount or slightly less and you will likely not even notice. 
Note: You do not need to count the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and milk toward your daily intake of added sugar.

Bottom line is that it is important to be aware of your sugar intake and reduce it if you find that you are taking in more added sugar than the AHA recommends.  Use the tips mentioned above and work toward consuming less sugar overall.
  • Tips for Cutting Down on Sugar. Accessed January 24, 2018