Q: I know I should eat salads to be healthier, but I get bored of always eating the same ingredients from the salad bar. What can I do to add variety to my salads?

Salads are healthy because they provide fiber, minerals, phytochemicals, and vitamins. Salads offer the opportunity to eat a variety of colors, flavors, and textures. The different colors of produce represent a different mix of nutrients.

Most salad bars have set line items as well as seasonal and rotated items. The line-up of beans/legumes, dairy, fruit, grain, and vegetables allow you to build a super salad. You can add items from other food stations such as the deli or grill.

Building a super salad is as easy as 1-2-3.

Step 1:   Choose a base

  • Beans/legumes
  • Grain (corn, pasta, rice)
  • Vegetable (beet, broccoli, carrot, cucumber, greens, potato, tomato)
  • Tuna

Step 2:   Add variety with multiple colors, textures and temperatures

  • Chewy (dried fruit)
  • Crunchy (carrots, croutons, seeds)
  • Hot (baked or grilled chicken or hamburger, roasted veggies, stir-fry tofu)
  • Smooth (cottage cheese, hummus, soft tofu, yogurt)

Step 3:   Dress it up

  • Dried Herbs (basil, cinnamon, cumin, onion powder, Italian seasoning)
  • Spicy (chili/hot sauce, onions, peppers)
  • Sweet (fruit, honey)
  • Tangy (lemon, steak sauce, vinegar)

Ask what herbs, spices, sauces & seasonings are available.

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Salad ideas:

  • Black Bean & Corn Salad with black beans, corn, red onion, dressed with olive oil, hot sauce, pepper and salt.
  • Chick Pea Salad with chick peas, corn, red onion, tomato, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and salt
  • Cucumber Salad with sliced cucumbers, red onion and salt, dressed with vinegar mixed with Dijon mustard.
  • Mixed Bean Salad with chick peas, black beans, kidney beans, corn, red onion, black olives, tomato, carrots, dressed with olive oil, vinegar and salt.
  • Spinach and Chicken Salad with leaf spinach, red onion, corn, tomato and grilled chicken, dressed with vinegar mixed with Dijon mustard.

Q: I have Type 2 Diabetes. Will Mindful by Sodexo help me with weight and blood sugar control?

Answer courtesy of Susan Hurd, RDN, LDN, Regional Nutrition Manager, Sodexo Education
We know that eating well to treat a chronic condition like Type 2 Diabetes can be challenging but it is the key to keeping your weight and blood sugars in check. Foods found in Mindful by Sodexo may help you take a step in the right direction. Keep in mind, though, the Mindful program is not a substitute for medications or medical advice. Rather it is a way to incorporate nutritious food into your daily quest for health and blood sugar control. Based on the latest science and leading health organizations recommendations, Mindful by Sodexo helps you understand what is in the foods you choose while providing you all of the taste, nutrition and goodness from whole food ingredients. Mindful foods are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates while being moderate in sodium and healthy fats–all important to someone managing Type 2 Diabetes. Whether you are monitoring calories, carbohydrates, fat, sodium or fiber, Mindful’s ingredient listings and nutrition facts are tools that can help guide your meal choices.

Q: Is grilling a healthy cooking method?

Answer courtesy of Beth Winthrop, RD, National Development Director for Wellness, Campus Services
Like any cooking method where fat drips away from food rather than being eaten, grilling can produce a lower fat and healthier meal. When grilling, avoid blackening or charring meats by trimming visible fat, and keeping a close eye on the grill. Charred meats may increase cancer risk. Food safety is an important part of all cooking methods. When grilling, judge whether meat is done by using a food thermometer. Heat chicken to 73.9°C. Always remove cooked meats from the grill on a clean plate, and never return cooked food to a marinade that’s held raw meat. Grilling isn’t just for burgers and dogs. Many vegetables such as Summer squashes are fantastic on the grill, as are fruits such as pineapple. Also try grilling tofu, fish or shrimp on skewers or racks. Remember to keep those side salads on ice for safety and better flavor.

Q: Any suggestions for trying to eat more whole grains?

Answer courtesy of Beth Winthrop, RD, National Development Director for Wellness, Campus Services
That’s a great goal. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making “half your grains whole.” Whole grains have not had the bran and germ removed by milling. Whole grains are higher in fiber, and many vitamins and minerals. They also keep us feeling full, and help our gastrointestinal tract stay healthy. There are plenty of reasonably priced, delicious, and nutritious whole grains for you to try. Consider kasha, bulgar, millet, wheat berries, quinoa, millet, barley, and the many kinds of whole grain rice. Enjoy them as a hot or cold cereal, in muffins, salads, soups, side dishes, and even desserts. Enjoy!

Q: Is a gluten-free diet healthy for me?

Answer courtesy of Beth Winthrop, RD, National Development Director for Wellness, Campus Services
For people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is the only way to maintain good health. If you have a family history of celiac disease, gastrointestinal complaints, and/or other autoimmune disorders, read more at www.gluten.net, and consult your doctor before starting a gluten-free diet. Many people can benefit from reducing refined carbohydrates in their diets (white bread, cookies, white pasta) without necessarily eliminating gluten. If you do medically require a gluten-free diet, you’ll also need to avoid cross-contact with gluten-containing foods, learn to shop and cook differently, and learn to advocate for yourself in restaurants. With planning, a gluten-free diet can be healthy and delicious.

Q: How can I make my dessert recipes healthier?

Answer courtesy of Beth Winthrop, RD, National Development Director for Wellness, Campus Services
Well, you might want to stay away from recipes that start “first cream 2 sticks of butter with a cup of sugar.” Grain-based desserts (basically anything made with flour such as cookies and cakes) are the #1 source of solid fat in the American diet, and the #2 source of added sugars. The healthiest desserts take advantage of the natural sweetness of fruit, accompanied perhaps by low-fat dairy products or a light “crisp” or “crunch” topping. Try caramelized bananas topped with honey yogurt, fresh raspberries with a little low-fat chocolate mousse, or pears poached in spiced red wine. Rice and bread pudding can be made with low-fat milk and whole grains for a low-fat, high-fiber treat. For cookies, make crisp low-fat biscotti sweetened with dried cherries, apricots and cranberries. To satisfy your sweet tooth and warm up on a cold night, make your own hot chocolate with unsweetened cocoa powder, nonfat milk and just 2 teaspoons of sugar per cup. When the weather warms up, make your own fruit sorbets in an ice cream maker with pureed fruit, juices, berries and even tea! Artificial sweeteners probably won’t harm you, but they don’t help you outgrow your sweet tooth and learn to appreciate the delicious natural sweetness of fruit.

Q: Help! I feel like my stomach has been hurting every day since I started at college. What’s going on?

Answer courtesy of Lawson, MS, RDN, CD, Dietitian for Dining Services at the University of Vermont
We know that eating well to treat a chronic condition like Type 2 Diabetes can be challenging but it is key to keeping weight and blood sugars in check. Foods found in Mindful by Sodexo may help you take a step in the right direction. Keep in mind, though, the Mindful program is not a substitute for medications or medical advice. Rather it is a way to incorporate nutritious food into your daily quest for health and blood sugar control. Based on the latest science and leading health organizations recommendations, Mindful by Sodexo helps you understand what is in the foods you choose while providing you all of the taste, nutrition and goodness from whole food ingredients. Mindful foods are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates while being moderate in sodium and healthy fats–all important to someone managing Type 2 Diabetes. Whether you are monitoring calories, carbohydrates, fat, sodium or fiber, Mindful’s ingredient listings and nutrition facts are tools that can help guide your meal choices.

Q: I heard that snacks that combine protein and carbs are best. Since I’m always on the go, what are some good combinations to travel well?

Answer courtesy of Sarah Nicklay, MS, RD, Sodexo dining services at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Smart snacking can be an important strategy to keep your energy high when your schedule is hectic. It is important to keep healthy snacks on hand to avoid reaching for a convenient sugary or salty treat. Snacking throughout the day can help stave off hunger in between meals and prevent you from feeling tired, sluggish and irritable. Getting too hungry in between meals can lead to overeating when you do get to your next meal. Combining healthy protein with complex carbohydrates with fiber, like whole grains, will keep you feeling full for a longer period of time. If you’re looking for on-the-go snacks that contain both protein and fiber, nuts and nut butters combined with fruits, vegetables and whole grains are the perfect solution. Watch your portion sizes as calories from nuts and nut butters can add up quickly. The portion size for nut butters is 2 tablespoons, the size of a ping pong ball, and the portion size for nuts is 1/4 cup, the size of an egg. Spread peanut butter or your favorite nut butter on whole grain crackers, bread, bagels, English muffins or rice cakes. Top with cut fruit, dried fruit, seeds or granola for a little extra pizza. Fruit like apples and bananas also go well with nuts butters and pack a nutritional punch. Try making “ants on a log” (peanut butter and raisins on celery) or make a nut butter dip for vegetables like a Thai peanut dip. Make your own snack mix with whole grain cereal, granola or light popcorn, and nuts, seeds and dried fruit. The combinations of healthy munch mixes are endless! Also look for snack bars that contain at least 2 grams of protein and fiber, or make your own. Spiced and dried edamame and chickpeas also make great snacks that are packed with protein and fiber. If you can pack a lunch box with a freezer pack or will be eating your snack within two hours, there are even more possibilities. Try fat-free yogurt with fruit, granola or whole grain cereal or low-fat cottage cheese, string cheese or cheese wedges with whole-grain crackers or a rice cake. Half of a turkey sandwich or wrap is also a satisfying snack. Try hummus with vegetables, whole-grain crackers or pita wedges. Bean salads or dips with vegetables are a tasty source of vegetable protein. A hard-boiled egg or chocolate milk with your favorite whole-grain is another option. Lastly, tuna salad with whole-grain crackers is not only full or protein and fiber, but the tuna also contains healthy fats. Remember to snack consciously and practice moderation to incorporate snacks into your healthy lifestyle without overdoing it.

Q: What’s the one modification I can make to my diet that will give me the most benefit to my overall health?

Answer courtesy of Jacqueline Nester RD, LD, Sodexo Campus Services – Lehigh University
One of the most effective changes you can make to a diet is to downsize your portions. You can enjoy a variety of foods without feeling deprived by decreasing your portion size. Eating smaller portion sizes does not have to include measuring everything using measuring cups and spoons. An easy way to portion items is to use your hand! Use the following tips as accurate portion size tools: • The palm of your hand is about the size of a protein portion (poultry, fish, meat, etc.) • Your thumbprint is about 1 tablespoon, which is good for portioning sauces and/or salad dressings • A fist is about the size of a cup, which is a serving of carbohydrates (pasta, rice, oatmeal, cereal, etc.)

Q: What fruits and vegetables pack the most health benefits?

Answer courtesy of Justin Heaton, RD, LDN, Sodexo Campus Dietitian, Northwestern University
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is shown to provide us with many health benefits. It may reduce risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. Dark green veggies, like Brussels sprouts, are low in calorie and high in dietary fiber, vitamin C and vitamin D. Sweet potatoes contain a high level of vitamin A which is great for vision and skin health. Fruits like blueberries are high in antioxidants that work to neutralize free radicals. This may help to lower the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Dried fruits, like figs, are excellent sources of potassium, calcium, iron and fiber. There is no magic fruit or vegetable that will provide all the health benefits our bodies need. So, my advice is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables – all colors of the rainbow!

Q: Is corn a healthy vegetable to eat?

Answer courtesy of Beth Winthrop, RD, National Development Director for Wellness, Campus Services
Like all vegetables, corn is a healthy addition to your diet. Eat corn (and other vegetables) without added fats like butter, cheese and creamy sauces. Fresh corn on the cob is a delicious treat without butter. Fresh plain air-popped popcorn is a crunchy treat that is much healthier than most chips. Because corn is higher in calories and carbohydrates than most other vegetables, portions can add up. However, corn is also high in filling fiber and can replace higher fat meat in dishes such as chilies, soups and stews. Corn is also gluten-free. For 10 great ways to enjoy corn, check out Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Corn.

Q: How much fiber do I need and what are the best sources for it?

Answer courtesy of Jeanne Molloy, RD, Sodexo Education, Fordham University
Dietary fiber that occurs naturally in foods may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. That’s reason enough to get the recommended amount of dietary fiber daily – 14 grams per 1,000 kcal, or 25 g for adult women and 38 g for adult men. To meet the recommendation for fiber, Americans should increase their consumption of beans and peas, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts with naturally occurring fiber. Whole grains vary in fiber content so check the Nutrition Facts label to compare whole-grain products and find choices that are higher in dietary fiber. Always be mindful to hydrate properly, but especially when following a higher fiber diet.

Q: What are the best sources for lean protein?

Answer courtesy of Justin Heaton, RD, LDN, Sodexo Campus Dietitian, Northwestern University
Protein plays an important role in every essential function of the body. It helps to build new cells, maintain tissues and create new proteins. It’s important for building and protecting our muscles. We find protein in a variety of food sources, both animal and plant-based. The best sources of lean protein are low in saturated fat and calories. Fish, like salmon, is a low-fat, high-quality lean protein that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help maintain a healthy heart. Poultry meat also makes an excellent source of protein. However, eating the skin doubles the amount of saturated fat – so go for the skinless, white meat for your best option. Eggs also make an excellent low-calorie, low fat source of lean protein. For animal-free sources, try beans, nuts, seeds and other whole grains. Team black beans up with brown rice for a complete protein source that is low in fat, and high in fiber and iron. Even beef can have its place in an overall healthy diet. Just go for the lean versions, like sirloin or top round. Lean proteins can easily become “unhealthy” proteins, so avoid frying, high-fat sauces and toppings, and aim for the baked, grilled or boiled varieties that will keep your food healthier!