The Urban Gardening Certificate Program: Another Way to Get Involved with the Garden!

In a recent survey of participants at the jane b semel HCI Community Garden, 55.6% of participants agreed that the garden increased their sense of community at UCLA.  More than 50% agreed that the garden had inspired an increase in their consumption of fresh produce and 83% agreed or strongly agreed that participation increased their overall health. Gardening is known to not only encourage healthier eating habits and increase food security, but also provide a variety of surprising health benefits, including decreased risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s, and depression, as detailed in this article by Robin Jacobs. 

In 2015, the student club Dig: The Campus Garden Coalition at UCLA was inspired by these benefits and joys of gardening. Supported by the Semel HCI Center and its founder and visionary Jane B. Semel, Dig students designed the jane b semel HCI Community Garden at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. Dig has existed since long before the creation of the garden as the main student-led collaboration behind the expanding food growing and gardening program on UCLA’s campus. Now, the garden’s 31 beds are used for academic courses, by student organizations, and by small groups of students, staff, and faculty. For anyone interested in applying for a plot, all that is needed is a group of at least five UCLA affiliates with a shared desire to grow your own produce, then head to the garden’s website and select the “How to Join” tab.


The jane b semel HCI Community Garden.

Tangible Credit for Gardening at UCLA

In alignment with one of the garden’s original goals to educate UCLA students, staff, and faculty, the garden began to hold workshops and general workdays in 2016. At the beginning of the program, workdays were casual, but they became more structured as the garden expanded. The Urban Gardening Certificate Program (UGCP) was later created due to astounding demand for the academic course CHS (Community Health Sciences) 131: Healthy Food Access in Los Angeles. 

The UGCP is a free, flexible program recognizing a participant’s commitment to attending a series of workshops and events geared towards building fundamental knowledge of gardening. A collection of 5 workshops are held throughout the quarter, on topics such as growing methods, orchard culture, integrative pest management, soil health, and processing. Participants are awarded the certificate upon attending one workshop of each category and completing a few additional requirements detailed in the image below. For the program pilot, these five workshops are offered during both each winter and spring quarter, so if you’re unable to attend one in winter quarter, you can attend during the spring instead!


More information on the UGCP.

Examining the carbonation and SCOBY at a recent workshop on fermentation.

Making sauerkraut at a recent fermentation workshop.

To learn more about the jane b semel HCI Community Garden:


Instagram: @HCIgardens


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See the Winter 2019 Newsletter below:


Patience Olsen is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Civil Engineering. In addition to blogging for the EatWell Pod, she volunteers at the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden on campus, and is a member of the ASCE Environmental Design project.

healthy vending

The Road to Healthy Vending at UCLA

Have you noticed a transition in the snacks and beverages offered in vending machines on campus? What about those “healthier choices made easy” stickers on the outside of the machine and “EatWell” stickers on individual snacks? Did you know that healthier snacks have been strategically placed closer to eye-level? Each of these changes has been deliberately implemented over the past few years by the UC Healthy Vending Working Group (UC HVWG).

Some background on the UC HVWG: The Global Food Initiative (GFI), launched in 2014, utilizes the University of California’s power of research and extension in an effort to create and execute solutions for food security, health and sustainability. The UC HVWG was established as a GFI Project to ensure that all UC campuses provide access to nutritious snacks and beverages. To achieve this objective, the UC HVWG created a set of guidelines that outline the minimum requirements for healthy vending machines. One guideline, for example, dictates that all healthy food items must “have a fruit, vegetable, low-fat dairy, protein (including nuts and seeds), or whole grain as its first ingredient.”


A comparison of a traditional vending machine and a healthier vending machine at UCLA. Located at the Mathematical Sciences Building and the mailroom on the Hill, respectively.

According to these guidelines, all healthy beverages such as water, juice, milk, non-dairy milk, protein drinks, and tea/coffee must contain no added caloric sweeteners. “Low-calorie” beverages are permitted to contain added sugar if they contain fewer than 40 calories per 12 fluid ounces. Healthy snacks must contain no more than 250 calories, no trans fat, no more than 10 grams of fat, no more than 3 grams of saturated fat, no more than 360 milligrams of sodium, and no more than 20 grams of total sugar.

There are a few exceptions to these rules, including nuts, legumes, eggs, cheese, fruits/vegetables, and combinations of these items (e.g., a fruit and nut mix). Notice that all of these exceptions are whole foods, meaning foods that have undergone minimal processing and look as close as possible to the way they look when growing in nature. In general, whole foods are exempt from all requirements except the calorie and sodium requirements, as long as they don’t contain added sweeteners or fat!

Research reveals that “the adult population in the United States as a whole is deficient in certain micronutrients as a result of the availability and overconsumption of high-calorie, low-nutrient processed foods.” (Astrup and Bugle, 2019) In general, highly processed foods contain empty calories and have a much poorer nutrient profile than their unprocessed counterparts. The UC HVWG therefore targets these nutrient deficiencies and the consumption of empty calories by encouraging the consumption of whole foods instead.

98% Healthy Vending on Campus

At UCLA, the Semel HCI Center ensures that 50% of snacks in healthier vending machines follow UC Healthy Vending Working Group guidelines. But many machines go above and beyond! UCLA Dining Services currently operates a total of 105 snack vending machines, 100 of which follow the 50% healthy rule, and 14 of which are filled 100% with healthy snacks.

The UCLA campus is also home to 215 beverage vending machines, of which 107 beverage machines are “zero sugar”. The remaining 108 are “reduced sugar”. Zero sugar machines are located at Housing on the Hill, the Ronald Reagan Medical Center, and the Santa Monica Medical Center.

As Charles Wilcots, Associate Director of UCLA Dining Services reports, “We anticipate to increase more vending selections to offer healthier options in the near future as we get more available products. Our overall goal is for all vending machines in our inventory to comply with the GFI criteria.” With a total of 320 vending machines, and only 5 snack machines left to make the switch to the healthy vending guidelines, UCLA Dining Services is already 98% compliant with UC HVWG criteria!

Subtly Influencing Choice

There is inevitably much more to encouraging healthy choices than simply providing healthy options. Within the 50% healthy vending machines, the challenge then becomes ensuring that consumers choose from the healthier 50%.  The UC HVWG employs a few key psychological tactics: placing healthy products at eye level, advertising healthy beverages on beautiful vending machine wraps featuring a background of green grass and blue skies, and decreasing the price of healthier products, while increasing the price of unhealthy products. In a study by French and colleagues (2010), the proportion of healthy to unhealthy items in vending machines was increased to 50% healthy items and 50% unhealthy items. When prices of healthy items were lowered by an average of 31%, sales of healthy items increased by up to 42%. Because who wouldn’t rather choose the cheaper (and healthier!) snack?


Six sample plans for UCLA vending machines. Snacks in yellow are designated “healthy snacks”, and stocked at eye-level.

It’s fair to ask whether any of this is actually profitable. Healthier snacks at grocery stores are generally more expensive than highly-processed, large-scale manufactured snacks. Wouldn’t it follow that reducing the prices of expensive healthy snacks in vending machines decreases profit? A study by Viana and colleagues (2017) at UCLA found this assumption to be false.

In their research,  two types of machines were compared: “intervention machines”, with 50% healthy options, and “comparison machines”, with a usual assortment of snacks (see pictures above). Viana and colleagues found that 21.3% of snacks purchased from intervention machines were healthy, whereas only 1.3% of snacks purchased from comparison machines were healthy. Since cost per item was increased from approximately $0.99 to $1.08 between 2012 and 2013, revenue was able to remain consistent. These findings suggest that “health-promoting interventions can influence vending machine consumers without compromising revenue or profit.” (Viana et al., 2017)

By strategically encouraging healthier snacking, the UC HVWG and the UCLA Semel HCI Center aims to “make the healthy choice the easy choice.” Unfortunately, supermarkets and food manufacturers may not always share this goal, so keep a careful eye out for foods marketed as healthy that are potentially not so great for you.


Viana, J; Leonard, S. A; Kitay, B; Ansel, D; Angelis, P; Slusser, W. (2017) “Healthier vending machines in a university setting: Effective and financially sustainable.” Appetite Vol. 121: 263-267. DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.11.094

French, S.A; Hannan, P.J; Harnack, L.J; Mitchell, N.R; Toomey, T.L; Gerlach, A. (2010) “Pricing and availability intervention in vending machines at four bus garages.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Vol. 52: S29-S33.

Astrup, A; Bugel, S. (2019) “Overfed but undernourished: recognizing nutritional inadequacies/deficiencies in patients with overweight or obesity” International Journal of Obesity Vol. 43, Iss. 2: 219-232 DOI: 10.1038/s41366-018-0143-9



Patience Olsen is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Civil Engineering. In addition to blogging for the EatWell Pod, she volunteers at the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden on campus, and is a member of the ASCE Environmental Design project.

grapes in sun

Did You Know: Versatile Grapes

As we ring in the New Year, I can’t help but think of sparkling wine and its progenitor: the grape. In fact, while we are on the subject of Champagne and sparkling wines, here are a few “did you know” facts you may find interesting. First, you can make sparkling wines from any grape or fermentable fruit. However, real Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. The two major gapes used in making Champagne are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while everything else is a sparkling wine. Also, 25% of all sparkling wine sales occur in December, so if you want a good deal, February is a great time to buy!

But enough about Champagne and wine. Let’s move on to grapes and some other “did you know” facts:

  • The average person eats eight pounds of grapes a year.
  • The Red Globe grape, which is the size of a small plum, is peeled with considerable ceremony and eaten with a fork and knife in Japan.
  • Grapes do not continue to ripen after they have been harvested.
  • Grape juice was first made by Dr. Thomas Welch, a prohibitionist who offered it as an alternative to communion wine.

grapes in sun


Have you ever wondered how many varieties of grapes exists? The answer might surprise you, as no one knows (and while researching, I found several different answers). The number is somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 varieties of grapes in the world. Many of these varieties are new hybrids developed through grafting and other methods. Often, certain types of grapes are popular in certain countries.

Grapes are among the oldest cultivated fruits. Fossil evidence indicates grapes were consumed and possibly cultivated as early as 8,000 years ago near the Black and Caspian Seas.  There are two major categories of grapes: Old World European (Vitis vinifera), mostly used for making wine, and New World, (Vitis labrusca), which are native to America and mostly used for eating. While we know Spanish settlers brought Old World grapes to California, we don’t know how the New World grapes got here. Grapes have a history in every country and in every civilization from the Egyptians to the Romans and Greeks. In fact, both the Romans and the
Greeks worshiped their own God of Wine, Bacchus in Rome and Dionysus in Greece.

Grapes are one of the most versatile fruits on the planet.  They are great when fermented into adult beverages or made into a juice for kids. They can also be used as a natural sweetener and are a great substitute for refined sugar. A lesser known use is that grapes can substitute yeast as a natural starter for bread production. Grapes are delicious in jellies and jams or included in desserts. They enhance savory dishes, are excellent paired with cheese, and are refreshing when blended in a drink. Grapes can be frozen and eaten as a satisfying, healthy snack or just eaten in their fresh, natural state. Even the leaves can be eaten. If you feel adventurous, look up a few recipes for stuffed grape leaves, which are popular in the Middle East and Greece.

Most people go to a supermarket and buy either green or red grapes.  BORING!Especially for those of us who live in California where 97% of the US table grapes are grown. Did I mention there are thousands of varieties? Please go explore new varieties and break the green-and-red-grape-only buying habit. Stop picking grapes by color and instead choose them by name, or go out to local farms and explore different varieties. Just to name a few types of grapes there are Perlette, Thompson Seedless (which are found everywhere), Exotic, Flame Seedless, Ribier, Superior Seedless, Ruby Seedless, Emperor, Red Globe, Christmas Rose, Calmeria, and Concord. Every wine grape variety you can think of, from Chardonnay to Zinfandel, are all delicious to eat fresh as well.

Fresh grapes are not just delicious but also very healthy, containing natural sugars and essential nutrients. The most important nutrient in grapes is Vitamin C. Depending on the variety, ten grapes have approximately 5 mgs of Vitamin C.  Also, grape skins, pulp, and seeds contain the antioxidant flavonoid resveratrol, one of the naturally occurring compounds in wines appears to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Purple grape juice contains more of this antioxidant than red grape juice, which in turn contains more than white grape juice.

To put it simply, let’s celebrate grapes– either in a glass, by the handful, or from a box of raisins.  Here is a recipe to get you started!

Spicy Grape Chutney

– Serves 4-6 –

(Great served with chicken or fish.)


1 Cup Green Seedless Grapes (sliced)

1 Cup Red Grapes (sliced)

1 Cup Black Seedless Grapes (sliced)

1 TBSP Vegetable Oil

1 Dried Chili Pepper

1/8 TSP Cumin Seeds

1/8 TSP Mustard Seeds

1/8 TSP Fennel Seeds

1/8 TSP Caraway Seeds

1/8 TSP Fresh Medium Ground Pepper

1 TSP Finely Minced Ginger

2 TBSP Lemon Juice

1 Cup Water

¼ Cup Agave

½ TSP Salt


  1. In a nonstick sauce pan on medium heat, add vegetable oil.
  2. Add all the dry spices and the ginger to the pan and sauté for about one minute, stirring continuously so that the spices do not burn.
  3. Add all other ingredients, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens.
  4. Set aside to cool and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.



Al Ferrone is the senior director of Food & Beverage at UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services. With extensive years of food and beverage/hotel experience, Al Ferrone manages all areas of F&B for UCLA including Dining Services, Lake Arrowhead Conference Center, the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center, and UCLA Catering.  Prior to UCLA as the Vice President of Food & Beverage, he played a significant role in the guidance of hotel and F&B strategies at Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Hilton, and Interstate Hotels Corporation. He has worked with a wide-ranging family of hotel and casino brands.  He also developed and independently managed the Hilton Restaurant Group, which consisted of freestanding restaurants with over eight concepts.

BPlate 1

Bruin Plate Dining in the Comfort of your own Home

Any person who eats at Bruin Plate for the first time is immediately aware that this is no regular college dining hall. The menu reads like one you might find at a 5-star restaurant, with dishes like “Rosemary, Gorgonzola, & Roasted Grape Flatbread”, and a variety of ingredients completely foreign to typical dining hall cuisine, from wheat berry, to jicama, to seitan. The aptly named residential restaurant sets itself apart from other college dining options and represents potentially the first dining hall in the country in which all menu items are made from scratch, with a focus on health, sustainability, and flavor.

BPlate 1

Fresh Fig, Feta, and Jalapeño Salad, page 19, Bruin Plate Cookbook

At just under five years old, Bruin Plate has already established itself as a distinguished dining hall, with awards including the FM Best Concept Award for Best Menu in 2012 and a four-star Certified Green Restaurant designation in 2017, making it the third dining hall in the nation to receive the highest award given by the Green Restaurant Association. It also boasts a rating of five stars on Yelp, and contributes to the rating of UCLA dining halls as best in the nation for the past two consecutive years.

Maddie Cashel, a sophomore, endorses the restaurant,  “I love healthy options right at your fingertips. I love eating healthy food that’s not just salad, and [Bruin Plate] has so many vegetable options with protein that you don’t find at other dining halls.” Those who often choose Bruin Plate over other dining halls share this sentiment that healthy eating should be both easy and interesting– there exists more nutritious food than uninspired salads and flavorless steamed vegetables.

Limited Time at Bruin Plate

Students savor the taste of Bruin Plate for as long as they live on the Hill, but the difficulty lies in the fact that this usually lasts only a year or two. Students tend to move into apartments off-campus for their third or fourth years as undergraduate students, where they must either begin to cook for themselves, or rack up charges by ordering take-out for every meal. In both cases, these meals are often much less nutritious and less sustainable than their Bruin Plate counterparts. One student planning to live off the Hill next year laments, “What am I going to do without the salad bar and the chocolate peanut butter?”  Other Bruin Plate fans, such as staff and faculty, may hear much about the award-winning cuisine but comprise a miniscule percentage of people who actually eat at the dining hall on a regular basis.

The Bruin Plate Cookbook, released only a few weeks ago, aims to solve these problems. Pete Angelis, Assistant Vice Chancellor of UCLA Housing & Hospitality Services, endorses the motive behind the cookbook, “the Bruin Plate cookbook is the culmination of Housing & Hospitality Services’ efforts to make the healthy choice, the easy choice, for our students, staff and faculty. We are pleased to be able to share these nutritious AND delicious recipes with others through the publication of the Bruin Plate recipes in the cookbook.”The message is clear: anyone who enjoys healthy, delicious cooking with a side of environmental stewardship can benefit from the cookbook.

Over 200 Pages of Recipes

BPlate 2

Aromatic Spiced Chicken with Snap Peas and Forbidden Rice, page 146

The cookbook highlights not only dishes actually served at Bruin Plate, but also dishes inspired by the residential restaurant that don’t often make it onto the menu, such as Fresh Fig, Feta, and Jalapeño Salad1 and Aromatic Spiced Chicken with Snap Peas and Forbidden Rice2. Each recipe was scaled down by Bruin Plate chefs, from portions to feed hundreds to portions to feed only one or two hungry mouths. Each recipe also includes nutritional information per serving.

Two sample recipes, taken directly from the cookbook, are pictured below.

BPlate 4
BPlate 3

The cookbook is now sold at the UCLA Store for $34.95, with an additional 30% discount for UCLA students, staff and faculty when UCLA ID is shown. With this discount, the cost reduces to less than $0.20 per recipe.

All proceeds from the book sales support the elimination of food insecurity for UCLA students and for the Los Angeles community through the Semel HCI Center at UCLA and the UCLA Basic Needs Committee. Here’s to Bruin Plate dining, now accessible to anyone! For more information about how to support food insecure students at UCLA and/or to access resources please click here.

Those seeking cheaper ways to eat nutritiously off campus can find resources in other EatWell blog posts:

To register for Imperfect Produce deliveries:




Patience Olsen is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Civil Engineering. In addition to blogging for the EatWell Pod, she volunteers at the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden on campus, and is a member of the ASCE Environmental Design project.


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.


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.


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.

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Answers to your Food Week questions on food, health, and climate

In fall, the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative hosted a Food Day panel discussion with three experts to help us better understand the environmental footprint of our food—our “foodprint.” We followed up with the panelists to answer some outstanding questions from our audience.

Meet the experts:

Dr. Jennifer (Jenny) Jay, PhD – Professor, UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability

Dr. Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD – Senior Dietitian, UCLA Medical Center and Assistant Adjunct Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Elliot Mermel – CEO and Cofounder, Coalo Valley (Cricket) Farm

1. Are there alternative options (better than beef) that are meat-based?

Beef and lamb are the most resource-intensive meats, with production resulting in 26 and 23 kg CO2-eq per kg, respectively. This includes methane emissions that occur during ruminant respiration along with the carbon footprint of the feed and maintenance of the animals. In contrast, pork and poultry produce 7 and 5 kg CO2-eq per kg, respectively. Eggs and nuts generate 4 and 2 kg CO2-eq per kg. Beans produce just 0.8 kg CO2-eq per kg. – Jenny

(In other words, poultry and pork have a smaller carbon footprint than beef and lamb; but eggs, nuts, and beans are best!)

2. People say soy is bad for you. Should we limit the amount of soy protein we eat?

Soy is not bad for you at all! Asian countries eat a ton of soy and they are some of the healthiest long-lived people! I’m more worried about the naturally-occurring hormones in dairy products than I am in soy. – Dana

3. What is the “role” of packaged/processed food in this conversation (e.g. vegetable chips, etc.) or is the message that we need to emphasize cooking and preparing meals from scratch?

Eating as close to nature as possible is best. Cooking and preparing meals from scratch is always healthier than restaurant or packaged foods. However, looking for packaged/processed foods with as few ingredients as possible, recognizable ingredient names, and that are also low in sugar and salt can also have a place in the diet. For instance, frozen fruits and vegetables with no added ingredients can be just as nutritious as fresh. – Dana

4. What are the best nutrient rich grains and foods to incorporate into a plant-based diet? I know a few: quinoa, amaranth, lentils, mung beans.

Farro, bulgur or barley, split peas, whole-grain/brown rice, black beans—almost any type of bean really! Wheat berries, spelt, etc. – Dana

5. I’ve heard feeding seaweed to cows reduces methane production. Is this technique legit?

Livestock are responsible for a huge fraction, 44%, of anthropogenic methane, a greenhouse gas with much more warming potential than carbon dioxide. There is some recent work showing that in a laboratory simulation of a cow’s digestive system, additions of relatively small amounts of seaweed (equivalent to 2% of the cattle feed) did result in greater than a 70% decrease in methane production. Some work with live sheep also has shown significant decreases.

The technology is new, so long term impacts on productivity and animal health have not yet been evaluated. Also, this technology would only apply to the feedlot segment of the animal’s life. Typically, cattle spend most of their lives on pasture and then move to a feedlot for “finishing.”

It is important to note that due to methane production throughout the lifespan (pasture and feedlot), the carbon footprint of ruminants is much, much higher than that of other protein sources (see my response to question 1). Even with the substantial reduction of methane from ruminant respiration during the feedlot period, there are still more climate friendly ways to gain protein. – Jenny

6. What should we do with our food waste if we don’t have access to compost bins?

Given the important role that reducing food waste can play in lessening our “foodprint,” we can all strive to get better at generating less waste. For example, we can take plastic containers with us to restaurants, which encourages us to pack up and eat later what we might have thrown away. This saves the disposable take out containers as well!  

Careful meal planning does take time, but it provides huge benefits in the way of reducing waste, increasing our consumption of healthy foods (and decreasing our reliance on those typically less-healthy last minute options), and saving money.  

Try to spend some weekend time deciding what you’ll eat during the week. You might really like the extra time this gives you to buy and prep the foods you’ll be eating. If you do tend to change plans a lot, you’ll need to be careful with buying perishables. Remember you can always freeze your veggies and leftovers.

Finally, it’s great to learn how to make a simple soup that can help you use up stray veggies, beans, and pasta in your fridge. This can be as simple as boiling up veggies in broth, and running it through your blender. Cashews and white potatoes will add a creamy texture.  Similarly, smoothies will help reduce fruit and greens waste—you can freeze fruits and greens ahead, and then spin them up for a quick and healthy breakfast. – Jenny

7. Is eating insects really a promising alternative to conventional meats?

Traditional diets across Asia, Africa, and Latin America incorporate insects as important sources of protein—often as delicious delicacies! While the act of eating insects is not yet a widely appreciated source of sustainable protein in the western world, with dwindling land, water, and resources and trending environmental-consciousness, insect consumption is more than just a fad; it’s the food of the future.  

Tens of millions of dollars has been injected into the edible insect industry across North America and Europe over the past few years and hopefully this belief in sustainable protein production will trickle down to the plates of consumers. – Elliot

8. How many crickets would you have to eat to make the protein gained in beef? Does this offset environmental benefits?

Comparing raw crickets and raw beef, per 100g, crickets have 8-25g of protein while beef has 19-26g of protein. In general, insects require six times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein and emit less greenhouse gasses.

From personal experience and basic research, I say that there are many environmental benefits (less land use, water and feed use, greenhouse gas emissions) of raising crickets compared to traditional techniques of beef production.  – Elliot

9. Can you talk about DIY, home-based insect production? Are you thinking about offering classes in mealworm husbandry?

One of the toughest parts of insect farming is dialing in the variables specific to the space you are raising them in. Since this is a natural aspect of all DIY projects, I encourage people to take the leap and go through the trial and error period. There are many open-source forums online that can help solve problems.

We are willing to offer basic help to anyone in need of insect raising advice but keep in mind that the majority of hindrances in an individual’s farming will be lack of insect-specific equipment, a market that is still in its larval stages.  – Elliot

“Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally accepted, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritional adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.” – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Written by Hannah Malan, Graduate Student Researcher, EatWell


Tricks to Enjoy Your Treats: How to Mindfully Enjoy Your Candy on Halloween


Halloween is my second favorite holiday (nothing beats Christmas for me!). I love dressing up in clever costumes and going to parties with my friends. However, there is one part of Halloween that can be hard and stressful for me: the candy.

I have a huge sweet tooth, so I would always want to partake in the tradition of fun sized candy bars and pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cups on Halloween. However, sweets were a huge trigger for me. I thought of candy as a “bad food” and eating it made me feel guilty and shameful. As a result, I had a really hard time finding a balance with Halloween candy. Some years I’d eat so much that I’d be doubled-over in pain from a stomachache, while others I’d restrict myself to just one or two pieces and then jealously watch my friends enjoy the Kit-Kats and Reese’s Pieces I so desperately wanted. Whether I was restricting or binging, I’d worry about the impact those extra calories would have on my waistband.

It wasn’t until I learned about mindful eating that my relationship with Halloween candy, and other foods, began to improve. To eat mindfully is to eat with intention and attention; it is to eat with the intention of bringing yourself both nourishment and pleasure and with careful attention to what you’re eating, your feelings about your food, and the effect food has on your body. In today’s society, it’s incredibly easy to eat mindlessly; I often find myself eating in front of the TV or on the way to class, and when I’m focused by the TV or putting one foot in front of the other I’m certainly not paying attention to the food I’m putting in my mouth. To put it simply, if you’re not paying attention to your food, how could you possibly fully experience it and enjoy it?

When I would eat candy on Halloween, I was never just eating it; I was thinking about how many calories were it in, wondering if people were judging me as I ate it, and repeating over and over to myself “Candy is bad for you” or “You shouldn’t be eating this.” In other words, I wouldn’t eat my candy with attention or the intent to enjoy it and was consequently left unsatisfied because I had never fully enjoyed the candy. Furthermore, without feeling satisfied, I would often reach for another piece, and then another, and then another…until I had acquired a stomachache and feeling of self-hatred for letting myself go “too far.”

However, since I learned about mindful eating, I’ve established a much better relationship with Halloween candy and learned some tricks to help me cope with the anxiety that used to plague me every Halloween. If you’ve ever experienced stress or anxiety around sweets, here are my tricks to enjoying treats on Halloween:

  1. Actively enjoy your candy. Eat it mindfully and be completely present while you’re enjoying your sweets. That means don’t eat it in front of the TV or while you’re writing that essay that’s due this week. Savor the flavors, textures, scents, and shapes of the candies you choose to enjoy. If you fully engage with your food and give it all your attention, you’re more likely to enjoy it and feel satisfied later.
  2. Lose the rules. When you tell yourself you can’t have something, or you can only have a fixed number of something, chances are you’ll want it even more. For me, when I told myself I couldn’t have more than one or two pieces of candy, all I could think about was candy and how much I wanted it. So, even when I ate those one or two pieces I didn’t enjoy them because all I could think about was how I wanted more.
  3. Instead of imposing rules on yourself, listen to you body. Are you full? Are you hungry? Do you really want that Hershey’s Kiss or do you want it just because it’s sitting right in front of you? If you’re really craving something, your body will let you know, so listen to it! Also, remind yourself that the candies associated with Halloween are available year-round. If you’re not in the mood for candy today, today’s not your only opportunity to enjoy it! You can always have it as a treat on another day.
  4. Remind yourself that foods are not inherently “good” or “bad.” These are labels that society has attached to certain foods, not explicit qualities of foods. Yes, some foods are more nutritious than others, but it’s also important to remember that we eat for nourishment and pleasure. Less nutritious foods can still be a part of a nutritious diet when they’re enjoyed in moderation. So, if you find yourself labeling candy as “bad” and something that should be avoided, remind yourself that it’s okay to eat less nutritious food for pleasure from time to time.

I hope these tricks help you enjoy your Halloween to its fullest. If you have any tricks that weren’t listed above, please share them with me by sharing on social media or commenting below!

Danielle de Bruin is a fourth-year undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also published in the journal PLOS Medicine and the Huffington Post.