Eating Uglier with Imperfect Produce & the Public Health Nutrition Club

Did you know an estimated 30 to 40% of the U.S. food supply goes to waste? That’s approximately 133 billion pounds of food, worth about $161 billion in 2010 according to the USDA. On top of that, 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. never make it off the farm because they do not meet grocery store standards, causing them to go to waste.

The founders of Imperfect Produce decided to change this. The organization strives to reduce the waste of nutritious and delicious fruits and vegetables by delivering ‘ugly’ produce directly to customers’ homes. To date, Imperfect Produce has saved 11.5 million pounds of produce, 575 million gallons of water, and 39.3 million pounds of CO2. And compared to grocery store prices, purchasing through Imperfect Produce saves you about 30-50%!


On January 18th, the Public Health Nutrition Club (PHNC) hosted Imperfect Produce as part of their quarterly Colloquia Series, supported in part by the UCLA Partners of Excellence for Leadership in Maternal and Child Health Nutrition (MCH). PHNC is a graduate student group based in UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health (FSPH) that promotes nutrition education and food literacy through campus gardens, healthy cooking demonstrations, and other activities. Previous colloquia have included inspirational local organizations and speakers such as Food Forward, LA Food Policy Council, and Angie Tagtow from the USDA.

Alyssa Seibert, the Outreach Team Lead from Imperfect Produce LA, visited FSPH to educate 32 students on the history and philosophy of the organization, how to build a more sustainable and effective food system, and how to help fight food waste. She dispelled many of the myths around “ugly produce” – how the bruising or scarring on the exterior of an orange does not affect the taste or nutritional content of the fruit. Alyssa, along with outreach associate David Raffaelle, signed up a quarter of attending students for the subscription services of Imperfect Produce, spreading the message that eating uglier can make a huge impact!

Students found her presentation informative, engaging, and inspiring. Those in the room left with a sense of how significant of an issue food waste is in the United States, but also filled with hope that they can help make a difference by joining environmentally conscious companies in the fight to create a more sustainable and healthy world.


For PHNC’s next Colloquium, come join us for a Nutrition Advocacy Training with Frank Tamborello, the Executive Director of Hunger Action LA. Learn how Hunger Action LA is working to end hunger and promote healthy eating through advocacy, direct service, and organizing. The advocacy training will be held on Thursday, March 8th from 12 to 1 PM in FSPH Room 61-269. RSVP here.

Interested in nutrition policy? The MCH Nutrition Leadership Training Program presents 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: The Role of Science, Politics, and People. The policy seminar will be held on Wednesday, April 4th from 5 to 7 PM in the NRB Auditorium featuring Angie Tagtow, MS, RD, former Executive Director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and Lorrene Ritchie, PhD, RD, Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. RSVP here.

For upcoming events from the PHNC, join our Facebook group.

For more information about Imperfect Produce, visit their website.

About the Public Health Nutrition Club:

2.jpeg-2Supported by the UCLA Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition, the Public Health Nutrition Club at UCLA believes that good nutrition is the basis for a healthy life. Our purpose is to provide nutrition education to the public and volunteer opportunities for our members to network and develop leadership skills. With roots in Maternal and Child Health, we focus on pre- and post-natal nutrition as a fundamental right for all mothers and children. This program is supported in part by UCLA Partners in Excellence for Leadership in MCH Nutrition, a nutrition training program at the FSPH funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, DHHS and directed by Dr. Dena Herman.

Sakura Takahashi is pursuing her M.P.H. in the Department of Community Health Sciences at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. She is also a dietetic intern with the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System looking to become a registered dietitian. Sakura is a current MCH Nutrition Leadership trainee under Dr. Herman and is keen to gain exposure in interdisciplinary and collaborative methods for improving the health and well-being of maternal, infant, and child populations from a nutritional standpoint.

CalFresh Initiative

The CalFresh Initiative at UCLA Aims to End Food Insecurity for College Students

College students are hungry. For some time, the accepted explanation for student hunger has been “it’s just part of the typical, struggling college-student experience.” However, this narrative that college students are supposed to survive on the cup-of-noodles diet undermines the reality that many students do not have consistent access to nutritious food, go to bed hungry some nights, and/or have to choose between paying rent and buying groceries each month. According to the University of California’s 2017 Global Food Initiative report, 48% of UC undergraduate and 25% of graduate students “experience some level of food insecurity.” Given these alarming statistics, it is important that universities not only offer food security resources to students, but also increase awareness of and access to these resources in a destigmatized environment. So where are these resources at UCLA? And do students know about UCLA’s rich basic needs landscape? That’s where the CalFresh Initiative at UCLA comes in.

CalFresh 101

So what is CalFresh? CalFresh is California’s version of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), a federally-funded food assistance program, colloquially known as food stamps. Thanks to recent legislation, parts of CalFresh have been tailored to meet the specific needs and experiences of college students, allowing eligible students to receive up to $192/month for groceries. Most students qualify for CalFresh if they have work study, receive CalGrant A or B, have a child, or work over 20 hours per week outside of UCLA. After completing the application process with a Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) eligibility worker and receiving approval, students receive an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card, which is re-loaded monthly and functions as a debit card in participating grocery stores (Ralphs, Target, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods all accept EBT!). Given the benefits of CalFresh and the large percentage of students who are food insecure, it is problematic that only 2% of UCLA students who are eligible for CalFresh are enrolled (according to data provided by DPSS). The CalFresh Initiative at UCLA aims to increase awareness of and enrollment in CalFresh among students.  


The CalFresh Initiative at UCLA was brought to campus last year by UCLA’s Global Food Initiative Fellows in order to streamline the CalFresh application process for students. In addition to our daily outreach, the CalFresh Initiative at UCLA hosts quarterly CalFresh enrollment days, bringing several DPSS workers to campus in an effort to boost enrollment and make the application process more accessible for students. This quarter, we partnered with other organizations on campus to expand from just a CalFresh enrollment day to a broader Basic Needs Resource Fair, where students could learn about the landscape of on-campus resources — and pick up free food bundles! Some of the organizations tabling at the fair were SWC Bruin Necessities, BruinDine, Imperfect Produce, Financial Wellness Peers, California Lifeline with Cafe 580 (free cellphones and cellphone plans), Swipe Out Hunger, and the USAC External Vice President office who were phone banking for SB 900, which would grant more CalFresh dollars to fresh produce.

Over the past three enrollment fairs, about 300 UCLA students have enrolled in CalFresh. Since starting the CalFresh Initiative at UCLA last year, we have also helped about 400 students apply for CalFresh via email. We are thrilled to share that starting March 5th of this quarter, for the first time ever, we will have a CalFresh eligibility worker from DPSS on campus in the Student Activities Center (SAC) every first and third Monday of the month to enroll students in CalFresh through private appointments. Although anyone can apply for CalFresh anytime online, applying through an in-person appointment is a much simpler and more efficient process. Fill out this pre-screening tool to find out if you are eligible for CalFresh and to see what verification documents you need to apply. Then sign up here for an on-campus CalFresh enrollment appointment. Check out our infographics below for more details.

Beyond the basic needs infrastructure and resources that UCLA offers, CalFresh enrollment provides a sustainable solution for food insecure students that is not limited by university hours and buildings. CalFresh recipients can comfortably choose what they would like to eat from a grocery store, and are not limited to buying cheap, and often unhealthy, food.

Our team at the CalFresh Initiative is working towards the day when CalFresh is a destigmatized conversation, and when the most important worry on students’ minds is their next midterm and not their next meal.

Some important, readily available food security resources on or near campus are:

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Contact the CalFresh Initiative at UCLA at uclacalfresh@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook at UCLA CalFresh Initiative.

Shelly Dieu is the Global Food Initiative Fellow leading the CalFresh Initiative at UCLA. She conducts research with the School of Public Health and is a third-year Geography/Environmental Studies major and Geographic Information Systems and Food Studies minors.

Sienna Rohrer is the Outreach Coordinator at the CalFresh Initiative at UCLA. She is a second-year Geography/Environmental Studies major and likely Geographic Information Systems and Food Studies minors.

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Dining Adds More Fish for Sustainable, Delicious & Nutritious Dishes

Dining Adds More Fish for Sustainable, Delicious & Nutritious Dishes

UCLA Dining continually strives to provide delicious, nutritious, and sustainable dishes for students within its dining halls. As part of this effort, Dining has begun to incorporate “bycatch fish” caught in overpopulated areas in order to add a larger variety to the menu, and to help the environment as well.

Shrimp, salmon, and tuna are some of the most popular fish in the United States, which makes them the target population for many companies. As a result, most other types of fish that are caught while fishing will be released back into the ocean, often injured or dead, which results in a large waste of food both for humans and wildlife. These unwanted fish are referred to as “bycatch fish.”

Dining, recognizing this issue, has begun to work with their regular suppliers in order to use bycatch fish. Al Ferrone, the Senior Director of Dining says their goal is to “identify fish that are underutilized and caught unintentionally” in order to use them, rather than fishermen “throwing them back in the ocean and wasting them.”

Specifically, Ferrone says Dining is looking at fish like lionfish, which, due to overpopulation, have been eating all of the coral off of the Gulf Coast; as well as catfish which have, by a similar issue, been eating all of the crustaceans off the coast of Maryland. While Dining typically likes to source their ingredients locally, when it comes to ingredients like the fish above, they don’t mind getting food from around the United States as long as it’s helping the environment.

Adding a variety of fish to dishes isn’t just good news for the environment, but for students as well. Fish contain protein and fatty acids needed to keep your body healthy and are correlated with improved heart health and long-term overall health benefits.

To catch these fresh fish dishes, students should keep an eye out on the Dining menus. The fish will fluctuate depending on when they’re caught, but students can expect more fish in a larger variety within their Dining halls. In addition, UCLA can look forward to a growth in variety of dishes offered as Dining continues to look for delicious and healthy products that help the environment.

Photo: Depicted above is a lionfish, one of the many fish Dining plans to use in their new dishes.

Aurora Finley is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in English. Along with blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she is the Sexperts Executive Director for the 2017-18 academic year. She is also a regular volunteer for UCLA’s Habitat for Humanity chapter and blogs for the online UCLA Odyssey community.


Nutrition Resources at UCLA

This Fall UCLA hosted a variety of nutrition offerings for students to take advantage of. Provided by a variety of campus partners, these events and workshops helped to bring attention to nutrition not just on campus, but in the individual lives of students.

Students who live on the Hill could attend workshops to learn how to navigate the dining halls, including tips of when to eat and how to balance a meal amongst the variety of great food the halls offer. FITTED Eats, a program aimed at promoting holistic health through free fitness and nutrition workshops and services, also hosts meetings every Tuesday to discuss wellness tips centered around food and nutrition. Student groups can also request nutrition workshops through email.

Jui Sarwate, an undergraduate who regularly takes part in FITTED events, said: “Participating in FITTED Eats has made it possible for me to have access to nutritional education which I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.”

Some of the workshops and events offered focused more on body image and food, such as a screening of Killing Us Softly, a film about women’s bodies in the media, hosted by the Student Wellness Commission’s Body Image Task Force. There were also multi-week workshops including “Make Peace with Fitness and Food” and “Body Image and the Media.”

One undergraduate, Alyssa Tabula, went to the “Body Image and Media” workshop series and said the workshop “taught [her] how to encourage those around [her] to be sensitive to the use of fat talk, or language that encourages the thin ideal.” Rather, she says that it’s important to promote a healthy ideal, which “begins with educating yourself with workshops like these and changing the conversation with yourself and those around you.”

Continuing resources being offered are the Dietitian Office Hours, where students can ask Kaitlin Reid, MPH, RDN, CLEC and Eve Lahijani, MS, RD any non-clinical questions about nutrition, or even just general well-being. These office hours are meant to be a casual way for students to get information from experts on nutrition, body image, and well-being.

“Any time I can help a student better understand nutrition and their relationship with food and their body, I consider that a success- whether it be one student or 50 at a time,” said Reid, a dietitian dedicated to furthering the nutrition offerings at UCLA.

All of these resources will be offered again in during Winter Quarter. While dates have yet to be determined, the information will be posted on instagram once it’s decided.

Any students interested in learning more about food and nutrition can apply to the Food Studies Undergraduate Minor or the Food Studies Graduate Certificate. You can also join the Healthy Campus Initiative for the next EatWell pod meeting on January 18th, from 10-11am in TLSB 5100. Or, consider joining a variety of student groups who focus on nutrition, like the Public Health Nutrition Club, and body image, like the Body Image Task Force.

Aurora Finley is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in English. Along with blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she is the Sexperts Executive Director for the 2017-18 academic year. She is also a regular volunteer for UCLA’s Habitat for Humanity chapter and blogs for the online UCLA Odyssey community.

Kleiman supervising event attendees at What’s on the Plate? The Sustainability of Social Enterprises. This was the last event in the ten-week Off the Table series.

Serving up Praxis: Reflecting on Off the Table at UCLA

“All right, let’s start cooking.” Our metal stools scraped back all at once and we began forming small groups.  “We need 3-4 people at each ricotta station, and some more at the vegetable station!”

Evan Kleiman, host of KCRW’s Good Food, was trying to direct us above all the clatter. Over 30 participants had come together that Thursday night in the industrial workspace at LA Kitchen for a panel about food-focused social enterprises in Los Angeles. Kleiman moderated discussion between Anar Joshi from Everytable, Kaitlin Mogentale from Pulp Pantry, Nick Panepinto from LA Kitchen, and Karla T. Vasquez from SalviSoul. The cooking class afterword was a bonus.

Over the past ten weeks UCLA’s Graduate Food Studies Certificate program has worked with several UCLA departments and initiatives (including the Luskin School of Public Affairs, the Healthy Campus Initiative, the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, the Center for the Study of Women, the Chicano Studies Research Center, the Department of Gender Studies, and off campus groups LA Kitchen and the Hammer Museum), to collectively produce Off the Table, a series of events that brought together advocates, policy-makers, business people, and students to think about food in complex ways. Each event built on another. It began with a troupe of Luskin students volunteering at Wattles Farm Community Garden in Hollywood, where participants got their hands dirty helping out with daily chores. Community gardens were the subject again when the Student Veterans Resource Center hosted a panel discussing the benefits of farming and gardening for veterans. A screening of the biopic Dolores followed by a talk from Dolores Huerta’s daughter, Maria Elena Chavez, from the  Dolores Huerta Foundation, built upon ideas of advocacy and the importance of community partnerships in a panel discussion entitled Harvesting ChangeA classroom lecture by Meyer Luskin about his own food waste recycling business set the tone for the conversations around socially responsible food enterprises at our last panel and cooking class at LA Kitchen.

Food is a complicated beast. From the science of agriculture to the artistry of cooking and the many cultural meanings we put on food itself, there is no doubt that how we grow, distribute, access, and throw away our food will pose significant challenges in rapidly changing political and ecological climates. Off the Table demonstrated how UCLA plans to meet this challenge. Practitioners, thinkers, and advocates from diverse disciplines must come together to share knowledge and collaborate on solutions. That’s why the Graduate Food Studies Certificate is offered to all graduate students on campus. Students from disciplines as disparate as anthropology, history, public health, and urban planning learn to communicate with each other about food. They then take those skills with them into the world, where they can successfully work together.

The event at LA Kitchen was just a small sampling of that ethos. Hardly anywhere else could there be such a quick turnaround between theory and practice. One moment we were discussing triple bottom lines and the next we were three-deep around a saucepan watching milk slowly transform into ricotta. While we were cooking, we had a chance to keep sharing our thoughts about the panel in between admiring each other’s knife skills. The entire event was an incredibly nuanced way of learning about a complex issue. We left that night knowing each other a little better, with new knowledge about food-focused enterprises in LA, with food. Lots and lots of food.

Jessa Orluk is the Project Assistant for the Graduate Food Studies Certificate Program and a student in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program.

UCLA Teaching Kitchen Class

More than Cooking: UCLA Teaching Kitchen Offers Students the Chance to Learn, Connect, and Get Comfortable with Food

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”Anne Isabella Ritchie

These words perfectly encapsulate the UCLA Teaching Kitchen. Having recently completed the second iteration of a new pilot program with a group of health professional graduate students from Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, the UCLA Teaching Kitchen has now taught nearly 50 students “how to fish.”

UCLA Teaching Kitchen Program for Health Professional Students

Launched in Spring 2017, with support from the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and David Geffen School of Medicine, the UCLA Teaching Kitchen is part of the national Teaching Kitchen Collaborative, which promotes teaching kitchens as “catalysts of enhanced personal and public health across medical, corporate, school, and community settings.”  

At UCLA, the program was developed for our unique mix of health professional students. Modeled after classes developed by dietitian Dolores Hernandez of UCLA Dining, two UCLA dietitians, Janet Leader of the Fielding School of Public Health, and Kaitlin Reid of UCLA Student Health Education & Promotion, adapted and further developed the original curriculum with help from medical student Stephanie Gall. This collaboration resulted in a three-class series: Egg-cellent breakfast, Healthy Lunches on the Go, and Freshly Bowled —which aim to help students gain knowledge and skills in the following areas: cooking on a budget; creating quick, easy, and healthy meals/snacks; stocking a kitchen; preventing chronic disease and promoting healthy lifestyles/weight maintenance; kitchen and food safety; and knife skills.

The hands-on, experiential classes are held at Sur La Table in Westwood and led by a chef, alongside dietitians Leader and Reid. Under their guidance, students work in interdisciplinary groups to create recipes from scratch—chopping, stirring, tasting, salting, and building as they go. Between recipes and while enjoying their creations, students learn from Leader and Reid about the nutrient composition of various foods, healthy fats, building healthy meals, reducing sodium, eating mindfully, creating a healthier relationship with food, reading nutrition labels, benefits of fiber, and more.

Program Impact

With support from EatWell’s Hannah Malan and Miranda Westfall, both doctoral students in the Fielding School of Public Health, the program is undergoing an IRB-approved evaluation to assess its effectiveness in achieving desired changes in participants’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. So far, preliminary findings show positive results, with students reporting improved nutrition knowledge and confidence in knife skills, incorporating fruits and vegetables into meals, preparing meals on a budget, and advising clients about food and cooking. In addition, students report enjoying the social connectedness that comes from cooking together.

Food is communal and cooking can be therapeutic. During classes, students connect to peers, laugh, eat, and learn together. It’s a chance for them to escape the academic rigor of their respective graduate programs. Research done right here on campus suggests cooking classes are a possible solution to address the stress and challenges around food that many students experience. This kind of practical training offers an opportunity for students to develop skills they can use in both their personal and professional lives. In fact, between classes many students report they tried to make at least one of the class recipes at home and some students already used what they learned to educate patients in community settings.  

Cooking Classes Growing on Campus

Cooking classes and demonstrations on campus, while few in numbers, are not new. Just last January, UCLA Dining offered weekend cooking classes in one of the dining hall kitchens and had over 600 students sign up. The UCLA Teaching Kitchen has seen similar numbers, with over 400 health professional graduate students signing up to take part in the pilot program. And while the program can’t support that amount of interest yet, the program leaders have every intention to one day support that number.  

UCLA faculty and staff from all over campus have also come out to observe class. The dean from each health professional school, in addition to David Baron, the Senior Executive Director of the Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, and Wendy Slusser, the Associate Vice Provost of the Healthy Campus Initiative, along with physicians from the UCLA Department of Integrative Medicine have been among the guests.

Following the completion of this successful pilot program, the UCLA Teaching Kitchen leadership is exploring ways to expand the program to serve students throughout the campus community. We have applied for additional funding to give more students the opportunity to take a basic nutrition and cooking classes during their time at UCLA and hope to eventually reach all who are interested. One day, you may be among those who learned “how to fish.” In the meantime, if you’re interested in having a go in the kitchen yourself, try this simple recipe from class or take a look at this website to explore numerous ways to become more comfortable with food preparation.  

Breakfast Burrito

Serves 4

  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ small red onion, cut into a ¼ inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into a ¼ inch dice
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and strained
  • ¼ cup salsa
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 (10-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded Jack cheese

Place the eggs and milk in a medium bowl and whisk until completely combined. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and sauté onions and bell peppers until soft, then add the beans and eggs. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula. Place the tortillas in the microwave and cook on high for 10-20 seconds or warm in a separate sauté pan.

Place a tortilla in the center of each plate and spoon the eggs down the middle of each tortilla. Sprinkle the cheese over the eggs and fold the sides of the tortillas over the eggs to close. Turn the burritos seam side down and add your favorite toppings.  

By: Kaitlin Reid, MPH, RDN, CHES; Nutrition Health Educator, UCLA Student Health Education & Promotion


How To (Not) Stress Eat During Exam Season

Whether it’s midterms or finals, exam season can be overwhelming. During these times, it can be difficult to keep up with a healthy eating schedule, especially with nutritious foods that will keep your brain and body energized and prepared for your exams. Stress can cause some students to eat excessively and others to not eat enough. Fortunately, there are some ways you can help ensure you’re eating a healthy amount.

This article provides helpful tips to make sure you get the nutrients you need during finals week, whether you’re snacking through a night-time study session or rolling out of bed early for an 8 a.m. test.

1. Eat on a schedule

Yes, between attending review sessions and office hours and hiding away in Powell it can get a little difficult to eat regular meals every day. However, sitting down to some yummy food is a great way to not only recharge your body, but give your mind a nice break from studying as well.

If you’re someone who eats a lot during stressful times, eating regular meals will help your body get the proper nutrients it needs so you will naturally get full and stay full. This can help to prevent overeating later.

If you’re someone who eats less during stressful times, eating regular meals will help your body recognize when you need to eat, even if your body isn’t sending you its regular cues.

These meals should consist of a whole plate, with various types of nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and vitamins) to ensure that your body has everything it needs to carry you through your long study sessions.

2. Pack healthy snacks

When sitting in Powell, YRL, or wherever you like to study, it’s important to have good food on hand. Your brain is doing a lot of work, so your body may get more drained than usual, and require more sustenance than just your regular daily meals.

Fortunately, healthy snacks don’t have to be bland, there’s a variety of snacks full of flavor to keep your taste buds and intellect alive. Here are a few healthy snacks you can try:

  • A handful of nuts and blueberries: Nuts offer a variety of health benefits, whether you’re into almonds, cashews, or walnuts. Blueberries help to provide your body with fiber, natural sugars, and antioxidants that can help to keep you focused and are even said to improve memory).
  • Dark chocolate and peanut butter: Dark chocolate is not only delicious, but studies show it can help memory and thinking skills. Peanut butter offers protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. Plus, it may satisfy that crunchy, salty craving that might usually drive you to potato chips.
  • Carrots and hummus: The beta-carotene in carrots can not only improve memory, but will keep your vision sharp as well. Pair that with hummus full of nutrients to keep your energy up, and you’ll be ready to take on your exams.

3. Hydrate

Hydration is one of the most important aspects to keep your brain alert, your body energized and your appetite under control. Caffeine-fueled late night study sessions can cause your body to become more dehydrated than usual, so it’s especially important during these times to make sure you’re drinking enough water.

Drinks such as coffee and tea are shown to not cause dehydration when consumed in healthy amounts. However, energy drinks can not only cause issues with dehydration, but also make it difficult to focus.

Dehydration can often be mistaken by your body as hunger. This can cause your body to crave food even when it’s not hungry. Making sure to stay hydrated is another great way to keep your body’s cravings in check.

Make sure to keep your body and brain energized with healthy and nutritional foods during exam season so you can bring your A-game!

Aurora Finley is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in English. Along with blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she is the Sexperts Executive Director for the 2017-18 academic year. She is also a regular volunteer for UCLA’s Habitat for Humanity chapter and blogs for the online UCLA Odyssey community.


Tips on Creating Quick, Well-Rounded Meals

A new school year means new challenges, and, for many upperclassmen this includes figuring out how to create your own food in your apartment kitchen. Spoiled by the amazing dining hall food we all had the pleasure of eating in the dorms, it’s a hard transition into making food for yourself, especially well-rounded meals on a busy schedule.

As finals week approaches, this article aims to give students tips on how to create quick, nutritious meals in your apartments. In doing so, it will hopefully dissuade the overwhelming urge to order take out all nights of the week, and promote a more nutrient-filled diet for the end of a busy quarter.

Plan before you shop

We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t shop hungry,” but we should add on “don’t shop unprepared.” Planning meals for the week, even if it’s just a general sketch, helps your grocery shopping big time. Knowing what you’ll need for the week will ensure you get all of the ingredients you need, and it will prevent you from overbuying, decreasing waste of expired or rotten foods.

UCLA Nutritionist Eve Lahijani recommends you buy a few food items from each food group, so you can mix and match meals throughout the week. A great way to know what falls under each food group is by using Choose MyPlate before you shop. Using this resource for shopping will not only help you get what you need, but will make your meals more variable and tasty.

Having a plan also helps you to only buy what you need, which is not just a big help to your budget, but also to your snacking. If you’re an avid snacker, planning this portion of your diet out can ensure you eat nutrient-rich foods throughout the day.

Keep it simple

Well-rounded dishes do not need to be complicated. Something as simple as whole-grain pasta with vegetables and some parmesan cheese can be a perfectly balanced dish. Of course making extravagant dishes can be fun, but on a college schedule it can be more time-consuming than you would like.

An infographic by Dr. John Berardi gives a step-by-step guide on how to make well-rounded meals, including not only the various food groups and portions you should aim to include in each meal, but also how to make each meal more flavorful. The infographic suggests taking one food from each food group and mixing and matching as you like in order to create a variety of well-rounded dishes.

A few suggestions for keeping it simple:

  • Start with one item from each food group. This ensures you’re getting all of the nutrients you need.
  • Use a variety of cooking methods. Maybe you’re someone who relies on the stove top, but switching it out to the oven for one meal can give you a new variety of tastes and textures.
  • Don’t forget the spice! Spices can up any bland dish to something amazing, and they only require a few more seconds of your time.

Meal Prep

While most days might be hectic, sometimes pockets of time will help alleviate the stress of making your own food. Meal prepping can help expedite the cooking process, ensure the meals you’re eating are well-balanced, and provide a huge convenience when you don’t feel like working especially hard.

Meal prepping can be done in multiple ways, one of which is to gather ingredients and spices beforehand so they’re ready to cook later. Chopping vegetables, seasoning meats, and cooking grains are all ways to prep for meals you plan to make later. The more time you save on the prep, the more time you have to enjoy your meal.

Another way to meal prep is to cook a large quantity of food all at once and store it for later. To do this method, simply cook your food and store it in separate portions in your fridge or freezer. Later, you can easily just place the container in the microwave for a meal, or take it with you to campus if you’re on the go. Either way, you’re ensuring you get the nutrients you need on a tight schedule.

Aurora Finley is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in English. Along with blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she is the Sexperts Executive Director for the 2017-18 academic year. She is also a regular volunteer for UCLA’s Habitat for Humanity chapter and blogs for the online UCLA Odyssey community.


Fuel Up: Foods to Maximize Your Workout


As busy college students, it seems hard enough to squeeze in time at the Wooden Center. That’s why it’s good to make sure you’re consuming the fuel you need, before and after your workout, to make sure you’re getting the maximum benefits from your physical activity.

College schedules are weird, and sometimes you have to work out before breakfast, right after lunch, or even late at night. However, whatever your quirky workout time may be, there’s a snack for that.

I would also like to note that this are guidelines for a partial cardio/partial weight workout. If your workouts are extensive weight training, or cardiovascular training (or last for longer than an hour), what to consume before/after may need to be changed. Also, if you find certain foods that work better for your body that is fine too; what’s important is finding what gives your body the fuel and energy you need. This guide, however, will serve as a good example for a majority of workouts.

Before a Workout

It is recommended to eat food 1 to 3 hours before you workout. This is because while you’re working out, your body will be mostly focused on your muscles, not your digestion. Eating too close to a workout could even cause problems with your digestive system.

Good foods to eat 1 to 3 hours before a workout include complex carbohydrates (i.e. whole grains, lentils, or vegetables). Carbohydrates serve as the energy for your body, and they are stored primarily in your muscles and liver. So, in order for there to be the correct fuel for your workout, carbohydrates need to be present so they can be converted into energy. However, try to avoid simple carbohydrates during this time, because they will not give you sustainable energy, and do not provide the right nutrients for a thorough workout.

If you have to work out just after waking up, there is a chance you won’t be able to eat 1 to 3 hours before. In this case, it’s best to eat easily digestible foods right before.

Some examples of easily digestible foods include:

  • Bananas
  • Crackers
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Spinach
  • Yogurt

An important note: While protein heavily assists in muscle building, it is not the most important thing to consume before a workout. Eating foods high in carbs with a low level of protein is probably best, since carbohydrates will be your main fuel source. Protein also tends to slow down your digestive process, depriving your body of oxygen and slowing down the delivery of blood to your muscles. Similarly, it is also not recommended to eat fatty foods before working out, because it can also slow down your digestive process.

During a Workout

For most workouts that last an hour or less, there is not a need for snacks during exercise. However, an essential part of working out is drinking water. Staying hydrated can help the effectiveness of your workout, and shorten recovery time.

If you do happen to do a longer workout (i.e. running a marathon, or even playing a game of soccer) there is a chance you will need to eat some carbohydrates every thirty-minutes or so. This could include a sports drink, some pretzels, nuts, or granola.

After a Workout

After a workout your body’s glycogen (stored in muscles and the liver) depletes, so it’s important to replenish within (if you can) 15 minutes of your workout. Like pre-workout fuel, post-workout energy will mostly come from carbohydrates. However, there should be a little more emphasis on protein to help repair your muscles.

By “emphasis” on protein I do not mean downing a large protein shake or protein bar right after you finish exercising. Some research suggests that eating 1 gram of protein for every kilogram of your body weight would suffice daily. Contrary to popular belief, stocking up on protein will not rapidly increase muscle growth, but instead can lead to kidney damage, an imbalance in the acidity of your blood, or to the weakening of bones.

So, what are the best snacks to eat after a workout?

  • A chicken sandwich
  • Apples with nut butter
  • Yogurt with granola and fruit
  • Chocolate milk and some pretzels
  • A banana smoothie (with maybe some protein powder or spinach)

All of the above mentioned snacks incorporate carbohydrates and protein, do not only help your body grow and recover, but to give you the sustainable energy you need for your day.

Everyone’s body is different, and hopefully this article will serve as a guideline to find your favorite pre/post-workout snack. Even different exercises require different snacks, depending on the intensity or the length. Either way, the body requires carbohydrates, protein, and nutrients to allow it to work as well as it can. The important thing to remember: Your body cannot function when it is empty, so fuel may be the most important part of a good workout.

Aurora Finley is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in English. Along with blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she is the upcoming Sexperts Director for the 2017-18 academic year. She is also an active member of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force and a regular volunteer for UCLA’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.


The Carb Taboo

With summer approaching, diets and weight-loss guides are beginning to peak in popularity yet again. As people are becoming more concerned with their “swimsuit bodies”, they are also starting to become more concerned with what’s on their plate, often focusing on eliminating one macronutrient in particular: carbohydrates.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates (or carbs) are macronutrients that supply the body with glucose. While we typically think of carbs as breads, pastas, and sugars, the food group also contains legumes, quinoa, fruit and even fruits and vegetables. Carbs are actually present in the majority of foods we eat!

But if the majority of the foods we eat contain carbs, why are dieters so eager to get rid of them? One reason is because, once broken down, carbs are turned into glucose, a form of sugar. Since sugar has a reputation of being “unhealthy” (which we will debunk shortly) people feel the need to steer clear of anything containing it. Along with that, certain diets such as the Atkins Diet and the South Beach diet drastically changed the way we look at carbs. These diets, centered around removing carbs completely from your diet, and also labeled certain carbohydrates into “good” and “bad”. By deeming some as unhealthy, it seemed to give the entire macronutrient a bad name, similarly to how the popularity of protein was heightened once the same diets promoted protein for healthy living. Unfortunately, this stigma has stayed connected to carbohydrates throughout the years, which is why many chose to eliminate them when they diet.

How do they work?

It’s important to understand how carbohydrates work within the body. Once consumed, carbohydrates break down into glucose, which is the sugar your body uses for energy. This energy can help you run, focus better while studying, and live your healthy day-to-day life. Once these sugars are broken down, they enter your bloodstream.

The two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex, differ by how easily they can be broken down. Simple carbs (e.g. processed grains, sodas, candy and fruit) are broken down easier and faster in the body. As a result, the sugar from the glucose enters into the bloodstream faster, creating a spike in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates take longer for your body to break down, so the sugar is slowly released into the bloodstream instead of all at once.

Simple vs Complex Carbohydrates

Simple carbs are almost always the first to go when it comes to a diet, but that’s not necessarily the best for your body. Since simple carbohydrates are so easy to break down, it can cause a spike in blood sugar, resulting in a crash later on if that’s the only food you have consumed. Also, there have been reports that the high glucose levels resulting from the easily broken down carbs can lead to Type 2 Diabetes. However, foods that contain simple carbs can be eaten in moderation, or with other foods that will give more sustainable energy; this will allow for a balance with the high glucose levels and hopefully not cause a crash or premature hunger later.

The body takes longer to break down foods that contain complex carbohydrates. These foods, most commonly whole grains, allow for more sustainable energy since the sugar is released into the bloodstream slower. Foods containing complex carbohydrates also contain more protein, fiber, and vitamins for your body. These are the more important forms of carbohydrates when it comes to your health, because the foods that contain them include necessary nutrients for your body to remain strong and functioning.

Some carbohydrates (e.g. whole fruits, brown rice, vegetables and beans) contain fiber, which helps the passage of sugar within the body, to assist in keeping hunger and blood pressure regular. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and nutrients necessary for your body, such as folate (folic acid which helps to form red blood cells) and Vitamin C (which helps to heal the body and aid in iron absorption).

How to eat carbs

Perhaps the most difficult part to breaking down when to eat what is understanding which foods contain complex carbohydrates and which foods contain simple carbohydrates. Luckily, there is a scale that ranges foods to help people be more aware of what types of carbohydrates they are consuming. Failing to eat enough carbohydrates can actually lead to malnutrition, so it’s more necessary to eat them than to not. A diet lacking in carbs will also leave you tired and prevent you from building muscle.

Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are not bad for your body. It is more important to eat carbohydrates than it is to attempt a risky diet that eliminates necessary nutrients for your body. The best thing to do if you are concerned about your carbohydrate intake is to pay attention to what types of carbohydrates you are eating and what kind of nutrients the foods you consume contain. In doing so, you will be able to eat in moderation and with your personal health and well-being in mind.

Aurora Finley is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in English. Along with blogging for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, she is the upcoming Sexperts Director for the 2017-18 academic year. She is also an active member of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force and a regular volunteer for UCLA’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.