salad bar at ram's horn dining center

Head Over Heels for Heart Health 

By Maggie Reilly - Student Guest Blogger

Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate the love in our lives regardless of whether that love is from friendship or partnership, was just last week. But what about showing some love for our own heart? Since the heart helps circulate the blood that carries vital nutrients for our bodies to thrive, it’s important to include elements in our diet that support the overall wellbeing of the heart. Having a healthy and happy heart can decrease the risk of Type II Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Hypertension, and more. Additionally, integrating heart healthy habits into your lifestyle while in college can have benefits that will last a lifetime since the risk many chronic illnesses associated with the heart increase as we age. So, you’ll be excited to learn that having a heart healthy lifestyle does not require countless hours at the Rec Center, decoding every ingredient on a food label, or sacrificing your favorite Superbowl snack. With February being Heart Health Awareness Month, this post will help you incorporate healthy and convenient habits into your diet to keep your heart head over heels for your diet.

fruit and vegetables displayed in the shape of a heart

  • Have a healthy separation with saturated fats- Try limiting your intake of saturated fat and replacing it with healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. A few foods that include these healthy fats are avocado, tofu, and olives.
  • Eat your heart out- Eating heart healthy can be as easy as adding more foods to your diet that your heart will be swooning over. There is a wide variety of heart healthy foods so you will always be able to try something new. A convenient and simple food that has positive benefits on the heart because of their high omega-3 count are nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and flaxseeds. So grab a handful on your way to class and your heart will thank you! Some other heart healthy foods include- berries, fish, beans, oatmeal, and the occasional dark chocolate.
  • Laugh until you cry- The American Heart Association is not only a great resource to learn more about heart health, but also found that laughter really can be the best medicine for the heart. Check out this article to learn more about this funny find.

Lastly, here is a great recipe for heart healthy nachos, as well as bowl and salad variations if nachos don’t strike your fancy, which will make your heart skip a beat.  

Posted by Michelle Valoris Monday, February 22, 2016 2:42:00 PM Categories: Nutrition

5 Steps to Mindful Eating as a Student 

By Laura Daehnke - Guest Blogger

You wake with a start, realizing that you’ve somehow slept through your alarm and now have 15 minutes to get to class.  You get up, get dressed, brush your teeth and find the closest food item you can find (which happens to be a half-eaten pop tart) and you run out the door- munching as you speed walk to campus.  Later in the day, you realize that during your morning rush you forgot to pack a lunch for yourself, so you find the nearest Subway and grab a sandwich to eat while you study in the library.  It’s possible that as a student this may sound like a typical day to you, but there is a key to healthy eating habits that is missing in this scenario- mindfulness.  One of the frontrunners in the mindful eating movement, Jean Kristeller, PhD, created a program called Mindful-Based Eating Awareness Training.  This training program, which encourages participants to examine their surrounds, the food they are about to consume and reflect on their personal physical and mental state before eating, has been shown in studies to aid in weight loss, reduction of binge eating and reduce stress eating.  These principles can be applied to the student lifestyle with 5 easy steps:

How to eat mindfully depicted with a plateAsk Why: The first step is to determine why you feel like eating. Observe your hunger levels and decide whether you are physically hungry, bored, stressed or having cravings due to appetite. If you are anything besides physically hungry take a moment to identify those feelings and make a decision as to whether or not to proceed.

Ask What: The next step is to reflect on what food you have selected to consume. Take a moment to consider what type of nutritional value your food has and about how it will nourish your body, then determine if it is in fact what your body needs at the moment. This is not to say that you can’t at times opt for a red velvet cupcake, but it’s good to think about in order to help you find a healthy balance for the remainder of your day.

Ask Where: Next, you will want to consider where you are when you are eating. Are you in your dorm, in the library, at a friend’s house, at a restaurant? These factors can affect the way you eat, how much you know about your food, how much you eat and how much attention you are paying to your portions.

Ask When: Considering when you eat is the next step in mindful eating. This not only helps you identify eating patterns and your response to hunger cues throughout your day, it can also help you make sure that you’re prepared with healthy options when hunger strikes.

Ask How: Finally, you will want to contemplate how you are eating. This can include your body positioning, pace, whether you are eating alone or sharing food, how distracted you are and how much you chew your food. Studies have shown that these factors can have an effect on the number of calories consumed during a meal.

Moving through these 5 steps to mindful eating is a great way to begin your journey towards listening to hunger cues, realigning your intentions with your decisions about food and building a better relationship with your body. 

Infographic displaying 7 tips you can try at home for Mindful Eating


Andrade, A., Green, G., & Melanson, K. (2008). Eating Slowly Led to Decrease in Energy Intake within Meals in Healthy Women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Vol. 108, Issue 7, p1186.

Harris, C. (2013, March). Mindful Eating-Studies Show This Concept Can Help Clients Lose Weight and Better Manage Chronic Disease. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from Today's Dietitian:

Ipatenco, S. (2015, April 20). Is it Better to Sit or Stand While Eating? Retrieved January 26, 2016, from

Mathieu, J. (2009). What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eatinng? Journal of the American Dietetics Association, Vol. 109, Issue 12, p1982.

Posted by Michelle Valoris Friday, February 12, 2016 9:20:00 AM Categories: Nutrition

Cuckoo for Coconut Oil 

By Brittney Stuard MPH, RDN

Over the last few years coconut oil has gained momentum in the United States as an oil of choice when it comes to healthy cooking.  In fact it has almost surpassed olive oil in popularity with its reputation of being an “ultimate superfood”.  I even had a friend that for several years used straight-up coconut oil as a moisturizer on her skin until her seven-year old niece mentioned that she always smelled like French fries.  However putting potential beauty applications aside, what is it about coconut oil that has people so drawn to it?

Well first just a fun little fact: despite its name, the coconut isn’t a nut but rather a drupe like olives, mangoes, and dates1.  And then historically speaking, coconut oil has been a diet staple in tropical regions of the world for thousands of years.  In fact there are Ayurvedic medical texts written in Sanskrit dating back over 4,000 years that mention the “health benefits” of coconut oil.  The coconut palm tree which grows mostly in Indonesia, the Philippines, India, and other Southeast Asian countries, is known as the “tree of life” in many cultures due to its highly valued and respected source of plant-based fats that have been used both as food and as folk medicine. More recently, in the earlier part of the 20th century in the United States, coconut oil was the preferred source of plant fats for food manufacturers due to its shelf stability, taste and texture.  However, in the 1940’s a switch was made to vegetable and seed oils because of the cost, accessibility and most current nutritional sciences recommendation at the time2.  Thus its recent reappearance in our food supply is more from a health-focused approach versus a food manufacturing necessity.


Nutritionally speaking coconut oil is a uniquely healthy fat source made mostly of saturated fats.  Now as most of you know saturated fats almost always make that “bad foods” list with their predisposition to negatively affecting cardiovascular disease risk.  But the saturated fats in coconut oil are quite different than say those found in butter.  Lauric acid makes up the majority of the saturated fats found in coconut oil, which is the same fatty acid found in breast milk and touts many antimicrobial benefits.  Coconut oil has also been shown to:

  • Aid in weight loss.  Although coconut oil is most definitely a fat, the amount of Calories it contains is less than other sources of fats, like say Twinkies or French fries.  In fact there have been studies proving that increasing coconut oil in your diet plan (by substituting it for other fat sources) WILL help you lose weight3.
  • Help prevent heart disease and stroke. Now some are not comfortable admitting this, but I’m not scared.  Incorporating coconut oil in to your diet has not been shown to negatively affect your lipid profile (the fat make-up swimming around inside your body), thus aiding in heart disease prevention.  It also has some very promising anti-inflammatory effects, as well as an ability to improve insulin sensitivity in those people with Type 2 Diabetes4.

It’s also been recognized in promoting good digestion, increase cognitive function, increasing metabolism and improving one’s immunity.  Yes it’s pretty awesome. And yes, I would recommend it to everyone.  Eat a spoonful between meals. Use it for cooking in place of other oils when sautéing or baking.  Use it to make popcorn with; my favorite.



1. DebMandal M, Mandal S. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.: Aracaceae): in health promotion and disease prevention. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2011;4(3):241-247.

2. Stefansson V. Medicine: the fat of the land. TIME. January 13, 1961.

3. Nagao K, Yanagita T. Medium-chain fatty acids: functional lipids for the prevention and treatment of the metabolic syndrome. Pharmacol Res. 2010;61(3);208-212

4. Kossoff EH, Zupec-Kania BA, Amark PE, et al. Optimal clinical management of children receiving the ketogenic diet: recommendations of the International Ketogenic Diet Study Group.Epilepsia. 2009;50(2):304-317

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 11:52:00 AM Categories: Nutrition

Fad Diets: The Skinny on Their Successes… or Not 

By Brittney Stuard MPH, RDN

Each year the nutrition and health field sees the newest and most sought-out fad diets emerge from the depths of wherever unhealthy and unrealistic eating habits lay.  Over the years we have seen some become international phenomenon and others boom for a month and then fizzle out.  Some of you may remember the low-carb food products and restaurant menu offerings inspired by the infamous Atkins Diet.  But however long these erratic eating plans live in the mainstream, one thing is for sure, the majority do not follow sound nutritional sciences or safe health recommendations.  Thus the overall success rate of someone following a diet that produces unrealistic weight loss is so low, if not nonexistent; due to the dangerous health predicaments they can place the human body in, as well as the unreasonable long-lasting lifestyle changes.  I mean who can really eat only cabbage soup for every meal of every day of their entire life?

Despite the low success rates and potentially dangerous health implications of these eating regiments, millions of people flock to these devices each year. Why is this? Well fad diets are easy. There are rules, dos and don’ts, what you can’t eat and drink. They tell us to count points, we counts points. They send us food, we eat it. They allow you to be on autopilot after you learn the basic ins and outs of the diet.  No one can blame a person for wanting the easy plan to work when it comes to losing weight and eating healthy as it can be hard work at first to do both. 

Fad Diets Won't Work

At this point I’m guessing you have noticed my unfavorable stance on many of the diets out there; however I’m also a realist.  I know many of you will try a diet plan one day and that’s okay.  But the next time you pick up a diet book, read online or hear from your best friend the latest fad, go into it with this mentality:

  1. Expect to learn.  What are you doing differently?  Are your portions smaller?  Is the timing different?  Pay attention to the details of what is making you successful knowing that if you go back to the way you were eating before (which is innate), you will gain back some, if not all, of the weight you’ve lost.
  2. Ask questions.  If a diet tells you to cut something out completely, question why and learn the repercussions of doing so.  A few that I’ve heard: bananas and grapes have too much sugar, carrots are too starchy and potatoes will go straight to my hips!  Give me a break people!  You’re hearing this from an industry where individuals take in 200+ grams of protein a day from protein powder!
  3. Add foods back in slowly.  If you’ve cut something out knowing that you’ll have to add it back in one day, do it slowly.  For example, if you’ve restricted carbohydrates and are only eating vegetables for this macronutrient, don’t go binge on pasta when it’s time to add carbohydrates back in.  Add them back in the correct portions. 

I wish there wasn’t a new diet that hit the market every single day but the truth is there is.  A diet, a diet pill, a medicine, a procedure….we’re bombarded with the advertisements.   Most diets have at least one good component: limiting simple sugars, eating 6 times a day, portion control, etc.  Next time you’re considering one, get all the details of what to expect, side effects and whether it’s really going to fit into your lifestyle for the long term.  Then, if you decide to go forward with it, learn from it!

Posted by Michelle Valoris Tuesday, January 20, 2015 2:56:00 PM Categories: Nutrition

What's Hot in Allergy Friendly Food Options on Campus 

Brittney Stuard, MPH, RDN, Nutrition and Wellness Programs Manager, Residential Dining Services at Colorado State University discusses what’s hot in gluten-free dining options and how CSU accommodates students with food allergies.

Video sponsored by TABASCO® Foodservice. Visit What's Hot on Campus for more of the latest College & University trends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 8:14:00 AM Categories: Nutrition

Fruit or Vegetable? 

By Brittney Stuard MPH, RDN

According to botanists, those green-thumbed individuals who study plants, a fruit is the part of the plant that develops from a flower and contains the seeds. The other parts of plants, including the stems, leaves, roots and even the flower buds, are considered vegetables.  

The following are examples of fruits because they contain seeds and/or are part of the plant’s flower:

  • Avocado, Beans, Peapods, Corn Kernels, Cucumbers, Grains, Nuts, Olives, Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Sunflower Seeds and Tomatoes

Whereas the following are considered vegetables:

  • Celery (stem)
  • Lettuce (leaves)
  • Cauliflower and broccoli (buds)
  • Beets, Carrots and Potatoes (roots)

From an actual eating standpoint, vegetables taste less sweet or more savory however you want to look at it, and are served as part of the main dish. Fruits taste more sweet and tart and are most often served as a dessert or snack. Both fruits and vegetables can be made into juice for a refreshing beverage, and these days the lines of what you can serve a vegetable as versus a fruit are beginning to blur with beet-flavored ice cream available and what not.

Nutritionally speaking, fruits and vegetables are similar in content. When compared with animal products, they're generally lower in calories and fat, but higher in fiber. Generally 1 serving (1/2 cup) of most fruits has a bit more calories than 1 serving of vegetables. Exceptions would be dense, starchy vegetables such as potatoes or beets. Click the following links to view more in-depth information about the specific nutrients in the most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables.

banana + broccoli + tomato + green pepper + apple

One thing simple to understand about fruit and vegetables is that most people don't eat enough of them. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should aim for 2 or more cups of fruit a day and 2 ½ cups of vegetables. However the average American adult eats 1 cup of fruit and about 1 ½ cups of vegetables each day.  Why so many? Well …

Fruits and vegetables contain health-enhancing plant compounds such as antioxidants and phytochemicals, while being loaded with vitamins and minerals. These nutrients, as well as many unknown still to-be-discovered factors about the make-up of fruits and vegetables, has proven that eating enough of them plays a role in preventing cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. And new research has suggested a correlation between eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables and better mental well-being:  

So, take home message: Try to shoot for the recommendation of 4 ½ to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day by starting at breakfast, and including at least 1 cup of either/or during each meal or snack. Loading up on these healthy plants are good for your body and your mind.

Friday, October 3, 2014 2:54:00 PM Categories: Nutrition

What About Wheat? 

By Brittney Stuard MPH, RDN

Poor carbohydrates.  It seems that over the last 5-10 years they have gotten such a bad rap.  Our over-indulgence in them has been linked to the ever-increasing obesity rate, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It’s gotten to the point now that I just feel sorry for this odious macronutrient.  But the fact remains to be said that humans need carbohydrates. We do. We need them to power our bodies and brains, and assist our muscles in building and maintaining mass. However, not all carbohydrates are created equal, and knowing which ‘carb’ has the most nutritional bang for your proverbial buck, is the key to a healthy, well-balanced diet. Today let’s just talk about grains.

Whole Grains

Grains have long been a major contributor of nutrients to the American diet through consumption of bread, rolls, cereal and pasta, and its constituents continue to be a staple of international cuisines throughout the world.  Grains contribute over 70 percent of the folic acid/folate; 50 percent of the iron and 39-60 percent of the three major B vitamins, as well as many others in the American diet (2011, USDA).  These grains in their whole form, i.e. the term “whole grain”, provide the most nutritional benefit to our health.  Even wheat, which has recently been deemed a bad food by many health coaches and self-proclaimed nutrition experts, has several awesome benefits including:

  • Lots of fiber , which is helpful for digestion
  • The best source of prebiotics in the American diet
  • Aiding in weight management by lengthening the feeling of satiety, or feeling of fullness, after you eat so you eat less often

Percentage of Vitamins and Minerals Contributed by Grains (Graph)

Wheat, barley and rye all contain gluten (a protein found in these particular grains) which cannot be digested by those with celiac disease - which is an auto-immune response to gluten by people who are diagnosed with this condition or who are gluten sensitive. In the U.S. less than 1 percent of the population has celiac disease and approximately 6 percent are thought to have gluten sensitivity.

Gluten-free diets are very strict and limiting and are a medical therapeutic diet prescribed for a serious medical condition.  Unless you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is no reason to go “gluten free”.  If you suspect you might have trouble digesting gluten containing grains, it is recommended you see your physician for testing.  There has been an increase in celiac disease in the past 50 years and there are many theories as to why, but none have been proven. Research is on-going.  What we do know, is that the vast majority of people can consume gluten without any adverse effects.  Check out this video for more research-based information about gluten sensitivity diagnosis:

So, take home message: When you are in the dining centers, don’t avoid the ever infamous ‘carb’, give em’ a try. But, stick with the whole grains, because they got what you need without all the baggage.

100% Whole Grain 31g or more per serving

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 9:12:00 AM Categories: Nutrition

Welcome from the Dietitian 

By Brittney Stuard MPH, RDN

Welcome students to the Eat Well @ CSU Nutrition blog! I would like to introduce myself as the dietitian for CSU Housing & Dining Services. I am committed to meeting your nutrition needs while living on campus. I work hard to make sure you have healthy options to choose from every day, in every dining center, and at every meal. To make them easy to identify we created the Eat Well @ CSU nutrition program that includes a nutritional labeling system to help you make informed choices when dining on campus. Each of the labels specifies whether the food is a healthy option, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, contains nuts, or contains local products from a company within/nearby Colorado.

healthy option, contains no animal products, contains no meat or fish, contains no gluten, contains nuts or nut products, from a company in or near CO

In addition to the Eat Well @ CSU nutrition labels, I also have the nutrition and ingredient information for each of the menus at all of the dining centers available online and accessible from anywhere you can access the internet, including on a mobile phone. This information can be found at You can also access the site from the Eat Well @ CSU nutrition kiosks found in each dining center. I encourage you to use the menus to help make choices before going to eat.

In each dining center you will find Eat Well @ CSU nutrition stations that feature information that follows a monthly theme. To go along with each monthly theme, each nutrition station will be stocked with informational posters, a visual demo, an interactive video, and a giveaway. Also, be sure to like our Facebook page to get nutrition tips that go along with the monthly theme every Eat Well Wednesday. September is “grains” month so keep your eye out for information on whole grains.

This blog is all about healthy eating. Around the beginning of the month I will write a blog post featuring nutrition information that goes along with the monthly theme. In addition, I will be posting recipes that can be made right in your residence hall room.

As you get all moved in and settled I want you to know that I have an open door for any of your nutrition related questions or concerns. Please do not hesitate to come by my office in room 107 in the Palmer Center. You can also contact me via email at Brittney.Stuard@ColoState.EDU or by phone at 970-491-4714. I am here to make sure you are able to make healthy choices when dining on campus and I am looking to a fun and healthy school year!


Brittney Stuard, MPH, RDN

Friday, August 15, 2014 11:42:00 AM Categories: Nutrition

What does the red "Eat Well" label mean? 

Each recipe or food item must meet the following criteria in order to wear the Eat Well label. When looking for healthy items in the dining hall, just look for the red label!

Entrees & Sandwiches (per serving):

  • 500 calories
  • 35% of total calories from fat
  • 10% of total calories from saturated fat
  • 0.5 g trans fat
  • 10% of daily value of one of the following six nutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Protein, and Fiber

Sides, Salads, and Soups (per serving):

  • 300 calories
  • 35% of total calories from fat
  • 10% of total calories from saturated fat
  • 0.5 g trans fat
  • 10% of daily value of one of the following six nutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Protein, and Fiber
Thursday, June 26, 2014 3:42:00 PM Categories: Nutrition