Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}


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How to Eat Healthy in the Dining Hall

College students often have some sort of complaint about the nearest dining hall. Either there isn’t “enough” food, there aren’t the specific foods they want, the food is “gross” or the classic “I promise they put laxatives in the food.” Well, coming from someone who ate at a college dining hall for 3 years during my undergrad, and now cooks for myself, here’s some advice for college students, “Take advantage of it!!!” Seriously. Particularly after working with the foodservice staff here at WVU for the past few weeks, they truly care about your dining experience. They want you to have healthy and delicious options!

Yesterday, Emily and I were able to give a presentation, by the same name as this blog post, to a group of students as part of a wellness program. We started off by distributing plates and cups from the dining hall, and a dry erase market to each student. Their assignment was to draw what proportion of their plates and cups should come from the five food groups: grain, vegetables, fruit, protein foods, and dairy. Here is one of the responses we got: So the student was pretty close, although she overestimated fruit and vegetables slightly. However- I’m not going to complain about that. You can hardly ever go wrong by adding more vegetables to your plate. Here’s what a plate ought to look like, according to the United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate initiative.

 

If you want to see the artwork of some of my younger students in a previous rotation, check out this post.

After this activity, we talked through each section of the cafeteria with the students. We listed healthier options at each station, and gave suggestions on spicing up cafeteria meals. Students also had the opportunity to draw on their plate what they typically get as a meal, and then we talked through some small changes they could make to improve the nutrient profile of what they are putting into their bodies. So, for example, on this plate, we suggested replacing the hash browns (which are high in fat) with another starch, preferably a whole grain. A slice of toast, a scoop of oatmeal, or a half a bagel would be a better choice than the high fat hash browns.

We also brought some food models and test tubes of fat and sugar content of foods to share with the group. The fact that the amount of fat in a cheeseburger fills up three test tubes is pretty startling. That doesn’t mean you can never eat a cheeseburger, it simply means that you shouldn’t have them every day.

One of my favorite models is the five pounds of fat and five pounds of muscle models. Both of them are the same weight, but the muscle is much more dense and compact. Think about what this means in your body. Plus, muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that if your body muscle composition is higher, you will burn more calories at your basal metabolic rate. The exact number of calories that muscle burns versus fat is hard to pinpoint, and there are differing numbers thrown around. In addition, there are many other factors affecting calorie burn, so working with exact numbers is not necessarily helpful.

Bottom line: healthy choices can be made anywhere- it just takes a bit of critical thinking and creativity!


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“Making Everyday Choices for a Healthy, Sustainable Diet”

I recently came across an excellent handout on a sustainable diet through the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group (HEN DPG), of which I am a member. HEN is a special interest group within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, formerly known as the American Dietetic Association.

This handout was compiled by Mary Meck Higgins, a Human Nutrition Specialist and Registered Dietitian working with the Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service. I think she does an excellent job of highlighting some of the principles helpful in promoting personal health as well as the health of the planet. She reminds us of the importance of personal choice- we can’t expect the government or big industry to solve the world’s sustainability problems. These entities are shaped primarily by consumer demands. So how are you, as a consumer, going to respond?

 Her suggestions are organized into seven categories:

  1. Choose nutrient-rich foods: Base meals on whole grains, fruits, legumes, and dark green, red, and orange vegetables. Choose fat-free or low fat dairy, lean red meats, and poultry without skin to reduce calories and saturated fat intake. Vary your protein- try non-animal sources. Choose water most of the time, and cook at home often. For more specific recommendations for your age, gender, and body size, visit myplate.gov.
  2. Eat locally produced foods when available: Choose foods that are in season. Visit a local farmers market or farmstand, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or try growing something of your own.
  3. Buy from businesses with sustainable practices when possible: This can affect not only the health of the environment, but local economic vitality. Support local restaurants who purchase from local producers. Choose certified sustainable seafood products. When you buy tea, coffee, or chocolate, choose at least some that is certified fair trade.
  4. Minimize avoidable food losses and waste: On average, households in the US throw away at least 14 percent of food purchases. Store perishable foods appropriately. [An example: since I shop for myself and I don’t eat a loaf of bread very quickly, I often store it in the freezer and simply pull out a slice or two and toast it to prevent waste]. Even excess milk can be frozen if you won’t drink it by the expiration date! Instead of peeling potatoes or apples, simply wash them well and eat the peels. Extra fiber, less scraps. Speaking of scraps, try composting them! For a variety of reasons, restaurants often generate a sizable amount of food waste- another reason to cook and eat at home.
  5. Limit energy use: Of the energy consumed in the U.S., nearly 20 percent is used for food production, transport, processing, packaging, distribution, storage, sales, and household food handling. Limit how often you drive to the grocery store. Better yet- walk or bike to get a bit of exercise at the same time! Wash with hot water, but rinse with cold water. Let your dishwasher air dry instead of using the heated dry cycle. 
  6. Limit water use: Conserve water when preparing food by keeping an empty pitcher to capture water from the faucet while waiting for it to heat up. Use this to water plants. Use water-efficient kitchen appliances. Turn off the faucet in between rinsing dishes.
  7. Minimize packaging and wrapper waste: Carry a reusable water bottle instead of buying packaged bottled water. Keep your reusable grocery bags in the car so you remember to actually take them with you to the grocery store! Eliminate packaging when possible: purchase whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Instead of buying small packages of food (i.e. individual yogurt cups), try buying a larger container and separating the amount you plan to eat out into smaller containers.


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Whole Grains

Today, we taught the kids about whole grains, and the energy they give us.

After explaining the 3 parts of a whole grain, the children classified grains by “Go” “Slow” and “Woah”. Then, they got to take a turn cranking a grain grinder, to turn a whole grain into flour.

The highlight of the class was probably snack time- where we got to watch an air popcorn maker transform tiny yellow orbs into large white clouds of popcorn. Each child got to choose a flavoring for their popcorn.

Check out the following book that Kaitlin and I created for the class:

4-H Day Camp 2012 Recipe Book


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High Schoolers and Whole Grains

On Tuesday morning, a group of gifted high school students came to the Extension office. They are at a camp at WVU for the week, and learning about metabolic syndrome- a group of risk factors that occur together and increase the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. So, they were using the kitchen at the office as a lab to whip up some recipes and compare calories and nutritional value. Even though I didn’t even know the program was going to occur before the event, I was able to step right in and guide the students through chopping up some fruit and making a delicious banana strawberry smoothie. Everything went well, except for accidentally leaving the spigot on the blender open and watching milk pour everywhere. But the mistake was recovered, and the healthier version of the smoothie won the taste test.  The youth also mixed up some brownies- both a regular recipe and Chef AJ’s black bean brownies. The black bean brownies won by a long shot in both taste and nutrient quality. They not necessarily lower in calories, but they tasted decadent and had more fiber- a great plus.

After spending time with the high schoolers, we went to speak with a group of adults about the importance of eating whole grains. It seems like I’ve talked with a lot of people about the concept of a whole grain- germ, bran, and endosperm over the past few days.