Mindful Eating

“TRY this: place a forkful of food in your mouth. It doesn’t matter what the food is, but make it something you love — let’s say it’s that first nibble from three hot, fragrant, perfectly cooked ravioli.”

Mindful eating, as written about in a recent NY Times article, is a a way of meditation and focus that helps to decrease overeating and decrease stress. By putting down your fork between bites of food and concentrating on the flavor, textures, and complexities of your meal, you’ll enjoy it more. And, you’ll probably eat less. It takes about 20 minutes for your satiety signals to kick in, so by eating slower you’ll feel that hunger abide and stop when you’re full.

The mediation aspect of mindful eating can be powerful. Instead of multi-tasking, which we tend to do even when eating, you’ll put a stop to your daily activities and concentrate on one thing. The clarity this can bring you will carry over into your hectic lives as a college student- give your brain a rest so it can concentrate better on the tasks to come.

Check out the NYT article for more!

Source: Gordinier, Jeff. “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought”. New York Times Online. Accessed on 2/8/12 at  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/dining/mindful-eating-as-food-for-thought.html?ref=dining.

February 10th, 2012

A Guide to Healthy Holiday Eating

When we think about the holidays, images of roasted turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and other traditional goodies are among the first to appear. Our mouths water, our stomachs rumble, but oh, how our waistlines suffer! From Thanksgiving to New Years Eve, we face a variety of edible temptations that can lead to quick and unhealthy weight gain. Luckily, healthy holiday eating is not only possible, it can be painless as well!

First, forget about dieting and trying to lose weight. Dieting during the holidays will only prove to be stressful and overwhelming. Continue to follow your usual (and hopefully healthy) eating habits and exercise routine instead. Drink plenty of water, eat regular and balanced meals, and get enough sleep every night. The most important goal is to maintain your present weight during the holiday months.

Second, portion control your meals. Place a little bit of all your favorite foods on one plate to avoid overindulging. Politely pass on second helpings and limit high calorie beverages such as punch, alcohol, and eggnog. Also, take time to enjoy your meal – take small bites and eat slowly so you’ll know exactly when you’re full.

Third, take control! Suggest healthier dishes or offer to bring some of your own – you can cut down on empty calories in a variety of ways. Avoid eating the dark meat and skin of the turkey, as they both carry more fat and cholesterol than skinless white meat. You can make your own low-fat gravy with a rich broth of onion, celery, and herbs and by skimming the fat off the top after refrigerating. You can also keep stuffing low in fat by using sautéed onions, celery, and herbs as well as egg substitutes and low-sodium broth. Stir fry or sauté vegetables with healthy oils, and then top them with a lemon-butter mixture instead of creamy sauces. Finally, serve healthy appetizers such as hummus and carrots, fat-free ranch dressing and celery sticks, and salsa with whole wheat tortilla chips.

If holiday eating still has you a bit nervous, remember the 80/20 rule: Eat well throughout the season 80% of the time and then treat yourself to your favorite foods for the other 20%. This will allow you to enjoy while not overindulging. Happy Holidays!


  1. Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center. 2011. Holiday Eating. Accessed at http://www.columbus.va.gov/features/Holiday_Eating.asp on September 24, 2011.
  2. Gannett Health Services at Cornell University. 2011. Holiday Eating: Nutrition for Breaks and Holidays. Accessed at http://www.gannett.cornell.edu/topics/nutrition/info/holiday.cfm on September 24, 2011.
  3. Jewkes, Melanie D. 2008. Healthy Holiday Eating: Tips and Recipes. Accessed at http://extension.usu.edu/duchesne/files/uploads/FCS/healthy%20holiday%20eating_nov%2008.pdf on September 24, 2011.

By: Julia Canfield

November 21st, 2011

Nutrition and Stress Management

Finals will be right around the corner when we all get back from Thanksgiving break. Stress is a very real part of college life, however, no matter what time of the semester. From class assignments, to final exams, to living with difficult roommates, it may seem like college causes more than its fair share of stress. In fact, according to the National College Health Assessment, more than 50% of Tufts students reported feeling more than the average amount of stress in the last 12 months.

A well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals help boost your immune system, energy levels, and mood. However, in times of stress, many people don’t think about healthy eating. They either skip meals or eat at fast food restaurants, which can lead to more emotional strain and cause a negative toll on their health over time.

So what can you do to eat healthy while under stress? Try incorporating these steps into your daily routine for a healthier (and happier!) day:

  1. Eat regularly, and try not to skip meals. Eating 3 balanced meals a day, which include all the food groups (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy products, and lean proteins), will keep you fueled to handle anything hectic throughout the day.
  2. Keep healthy snacks around. Good options include almonds, fruit, yogurt, string cheese, and granola bars. One or two snacks during the day will help you stay energized between meals.
  3. Cut back on caffeine. Drinking too many caffeinated beverages (coffee, energy drinks, soda) can cause anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, and headaches. Drink more water to keep hydrated—the recommended 6-8 glasses a day.
  4. Try some stress management techniques instead of turning to food when you’re not hungry, but stressed and anxious. Meditate, talk about your problems with a close friend, exercise, or watch a funny movie. Also, the Counseling Center has a relaxation room you can use any time.
  5. If you think your stress eating is due to depression or anxiety, seek help from a mental health professional. Contact Tufts University’s Counseling and Mental Health Services at 617-627-3360.

Whenever you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, one way to help you control it is by eating healthy foods. By doing so, you’ll affect the way you sleep and feel emotionally and physically in a positive way.


  1. Campus Health Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 2007. Nutrition and Stress. Accessed at http://campushealth.unc.edu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=246&Itemid=78 on July 26, 2011.
  2. United States National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. 2011. Stress Management. Accessed at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001942.htm on July 26, 2011.
  3. University of Georgia Health Center. 2011. Nutrition and Nutrition: Healthy Eating When Busy or Stressed. Accessed respectively at http://www.uhs.uga.edu/stress/nutrition.html and http://www.uhs.uga.edu/stress/strategies.html on July 26, 2011.

By: Julia Canfield

November 16th, 2011

The Effects of Energy Drinks

As you read in the first post on EDs, it is evident that they have a dizzying number of ingredients. Do these ingredients add up to become a safe beverage that gives you energy?  No research study has shown that they do, and the safety of EDs is largely untested. Furthermore, there have been reports of seizures and other health complications after consuming the drinks. In fact, one football player was profiled on ESPN for having a serious medical emergency that was caused by the energy drink, NOS.

Let’s explore the research on short-term and long-term effects. Keep in mind that doing research on these drinks is tough, particularly because most of the ingredients in EDs are found over-the-counter and are unregulated in the US. Therefore, there is not a strict requirement for safety AND it is hard to determine what ingredients have what effects. Additionally, the majority of ED drinkers are individuals between ages 15-30, a typically healthy population.

Short-term effects:

  • A study on 15 healthy persons, ages 18-40, showed a significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure after drinking two EDs every morning for five days (Steinke, et al. 2009).
  • In a double-blind crossover study of 13 endurance athletes, ingestion of Red Bull before and after exercise increase stroke volume significantly when compared to a similar drink w/o taurine but containing caffeine, and a placebo drink without either (Braun & Weiss, 2001).
  • There have been many case studies in which individuals have had adverse health effects from EDs.
    • A 28-year old man died after a day of motocross.
    • Five seizures and four deaths have been associated with caffeine-containing EDs (Higgins, et al 2010).
  • EDs are banned in some countries—Norway, France, and Denmark—because of studies on rats that showed EDs caused bizarre behavior.

Effects on Exercise:

  • High concentrations of carbohydrates will slow the rate at which fluid is absorbed into the blood form the stomach, so EDs can cause dehydration (Bonci, 2002).
  • Caffeine:
    • It has been shown to improve exercise performance in individuals who do not drink caffeine regularly or who are untrained athletes (IFIC, 2008).
    • However, caffeine injested too long ahead of exercise, caffeine can cause dehydration since it is a laxative and diuretic (causes fluid loss through urine).
  • In 17 male college students, sugar-free Red Bull did not influence high-intensity run time to exhaustion (Candow, et al. 2009).
  • Taurine modulates skeletal muscle contractile function and thus may lessen DNA damage caused by exercise. However, this has never been shown in studies.

Long-term effects:

  • There have been NO long-term studies on the effects of EDs.

The Bottom Line:

Positive effects of the many of the additives in ED have not been shown, and furthermore, the combined effects of these ingredients are largely unknown, in both the short- and long-term. Additionally, negative effects of too much caffeine and guarana have been shown.

Drinking EDs is not recommended for athletes or non-athletes.

By: Kate Sweeney
Editor: Elisha Sum


Bonci, Leslie. 2002. Energy Drinks: Help, Harm, or Hype. Sports Science Exchange 84;15(1).

Braun & Weiss. 2001. The influence of a taurine containing drink on cardiac parameters before and after exervise measured by echocardiography. Amino Acids. 20(1);75-82.

Candow, Kleisinger, Grenier, Dorsch. 2009. Effect of sugar free Red Bull energy drink on high-intensity run time-to-exhaustion in young adults. J Strength Cond Res. 23(4);1271-1275.

Higgins, J., Tuttle, T., and Higgins, C. 2010. Energy Beverages: Content and Safety. Mayo Clinic Proc. 85(11):1033-1041.

International Food Information Council. April 16, 2008. Caffeine & Health: Clarifying the Controversy. Available at www.foodinsight.org/Content/3147/Caffeine_v8-2.pdf.

Magkos, F., Kavouras, S.A. 2004. Caffeine and ephedrine: physiological, metabolic and performance enhancing effects. Sports Med. 34(13):871–889.

2 comments October 10th, 2011

Energy Drinks—Background & Ingredients

Energy drinks (ED) have exploded in popularity recently. The first on the market in the United States was Red Bull in 1997. Since then, sales of Red Bull and other drinks (Monster, Rock Star, Full Throttle, etc) have skyrocketed. In 2006, ED sales were more than $3.2 billion, a 516 percent inflation-adjusted increase since 2001 (Mintel).

In a study by Malinauskas, et al. (2007), in which 496 college students attending a state university in the Central Atlantic region of the United States were surveyed, it was found that 51% used EDs at least once a month throughout the semester. Students reported drinking EDs to make up for insufficient sleep (67%), to increase energy (65%), and to mix with alcohol while partying (54%).

Since ED intake is prevalent among college students, it is important to know what is in them and what their potential harm and benefits are.

  • Caffeine is a stimulant, which influences neurons and their pathways.
    • Caffeine is the most common ingredient. Doses range from 75-200mg per 16-ounce serving. One can of Red Bull has the amount of caffeine in two cans of soda  or the amount in two 8-ounce black coffees.
    • An intake of greater than 200mg can cause insomnia, nervousness, headache, heart palpitations, and nausea.
    • While small amounts of caffeine have been shown to increase alertness and mood, the amount of caffeine in energy drinks far exceed the amount necessary to promote cognitive functioning (Kohler, et al 2006).
  • Taurine: This is a sulfur-containing organic acid found abundantly as a free amino acid in our bodies. Also a normal part of a diet, particularly in meats.
    • Taurine has many functions in the human body: osmoregulation, antioxidant properties, retinal development, metabolic effects, may lesson exercise-induced DNA damage, and more.
    • The amounts of taurine in EDs have not been shown to deliver any physiological benefit.
    • Taurine and caffeine, ingested together, have not been shown to improve short-term memory (Bichler, et al 2006).
  • B-vitamins are also present in energy drinks in large amounts. These water-soluble vitamins are needed for proper cell functions.
    • Examples are thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and cyanocobalamin (B12).
    • Since B-vitamins are present in many foods, there are very few cases of B-vitamin deficiency within the healthy US population (Higgins, et al 2010).
  • Guarana is a rainforest vine found in the Amazon (Brazil and Venezuala). It contains caffeine and stimulants.
    • Has more caffeine than any other plant in the word.
    • Some young adults have been admitted to the ER because of caffeine overdoses linked to consumption of guarana-rich EDs (Higgins, et al 2010).
  • Ginseng is a herbal supplement.
    • Touted as capable of increasing energy, relieving stress, and improving memory. These effects have not been shown.
    • Athletes allege that ginseng can enhance performance, but a review contradicts that contention (Bahrke, et al 2009).
    • Adverse effects of ginseng include: hypotension, edema (swelling), headache, vertigo, fever, heart palpitations, and more (Ballard, et al 2010).
  • Ginkgo Biloba extract is from the Ginkgo biloba tree and has been used in Chinese medicine.
    • It is claimed to have antioxidant effects.
    • There has been no large, randomized controlled trial to show any important clinical effects in healthy or ill people.
  • L-Carnitine is an amino acid made in the liver and kidney to increase metabolism.
    • Has been shown to prevent cellular damage and beneficially affect recovery from exercise stress (Karlic & Lohninger, 2004).
    • The amount of L-Carnitine in EDs has not been shown to deliver any therapeutic effect.
  • Sugar delivers energy to the muscles by oxidation. EDs have a large amount of sugar derivatives (i.e. sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup)
    • The Monster label above shows that one can (16 oz) has 54g of sugar in it (1 serving = 27g, can has 2 servings). This is equal to just over 1/4 cup of sugar! And, almost 1/5 of your daily need.
    • Long term exposure of the body to simple sugars is associated with insulin sensitivity, diabetes, and obesity.

How do the ingredients in EDs affect college students who consume them? In the study by Malinauskas, et al. (2007) significant dose effect was found for weekly jolt and crash episodes. About 29 percent of users experienced those episodes; additionally, 22 percent reported ever having headaches and 19 percent heart palpitations from consuming energy drinks.

Stay Tuned: In our next post, we’ll talk more about the short- and long-term effects of EDs, in addition to their effect on exercise.

By: Kate Sweeney
Editor: Elisha Sum


Ballard, S., Wellborn-Kim, J., and Clarkson, K. 2010. Effects of commercial energy drink consumption on athletic performance and body composition. Phys Sportsmed. 38(1):107-117.

Bahrke, M., Morgan, W., Stegner, A. 2009. Is ginseng an ergogenic aid? Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 19:298-322.

Bichler A, Swenson A, Harris MA. 2006. A combination of caffeine and taurine has not effect on short term memory but induces changes in heart rate and mean arterial blood pressure. Amino Acids, 31:471-476.

Higgins, J., Tuttle, T., and Higgins, C. 2010. Energy Beverages: Content and Safety. Mayo Clinic Proc. 85(11):1033-1041.

International Food Information Council. Caffeine & Health: Clarifying the Controversy.

Karlic, H. and Lohninger, A. 2004. Supplementation of L-carnitine in athletes: does it make sense? Nutrition, 20:709-715.

Kohler M, Pavy A, Van Den Heuvel C. 2006. The effects of chewing versus caffeine on alertness, cognitive performance and cardiac autonomic activity during sleep deprivation. Journal of Sleep Research, 15:358-368.

Malinauskas, B., Aeby, V., Overton, R., Carpenter-Aeby, T., and Barber-Heidal, K. 2007. A survey of energy drink patterns among college students. Nutrition Journal. 6:35.

Mintel International Group Ltd. “Energy Drinks” (“Mintel report”) Chicago, IL: Mintel (March 2007), p.5.

October 6th, 2011

Next Posts Previous Posts

For RA’s and Programming

Food & Nutrition


Workout & Exercise

Sports Nutrition

Careers in Nutrition


RSS Subscribe to BYL!

Follow Us!