This section includes resources for information about various nutrition topics.
MyPlate is a visual education tool created by the USDA MyPyramid.gov to demonstrate a balanced meal with recommended portion sizes. The site includes a meal and physical activity tracker, as well as nutrition tips for all ages, families, college students, eating on a budget, vegetarian diets, and staying active. For more information, visit https://www.myplate.gov/
The link below provides helpful tips for vegetarians. click here
Tips for Dining Out:
The link below provides helpful tips for dining out. click here
Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget:
The link below provides helpful tips for money saving meals. click here
Videos on MyPlate
Fruits and Vegetables
Nutrition Facts Label Information
Reading the nutrition facts label of the foods that you eat is the first step to know what you’re putting into your body. It’s important to know which nutrients should be higher than other and which ingredients to avoid.
Nutrition Fact Label Reading Tips:
1. The best method for considering the healthfulness of a food product is to skip the front of package slogans, graphics, or nutrition catch phrases, and instead look straight to the ingredients list.
2. The best options for packaged foods are more convenient versions of things that you could technically make yourself, like trail mix, dehydrated vegetables and fruits, jarred or canned vegetables, frozen fruits and vegetables, and perishable dips like salsa or hummus.
3. A general rule of thumb is to avoid foods that contain ingredients you cannot pronounce. Unfamiliar chemicals are a an indicator of preservatives or other ingredients that are added to enhance a food’s sell-ability and shelf life, not it’s healthfulness. And adding back in additional vitamin does not necessarily make it a healthy food either.
4. It’s also a good idea to avoid foods that have a lengthy list of ingredients and multiple forms of added sugars or oils. This generally means that the food is more processed; you’re better off sticking to fresh foods without numerous additives.
5. If it’s impossible to find a version of what you want without a lot of added sugar, just aim for the one with as little as possible. Ingredients are listed in order from largest amount (first ingredient) to smallest amount (last ingredient), so if any of the first three to five ingredients are sweeteners you should be suspicious. At this point you can glance at the sugar content and serving size data to see how much sugar you would actually be eating. A good guideline is to try to keep non-dessert foods under 10 grams of sugar per serving, and consider any processed food with over 15 grams to be more of a treat. This of course excludes natural sugars in whole foods like fruit, which are less impactful because of the healthy fiber in the fruit as well.Click on the link below to learn how to properly read a nutrition facts label:
Nutrition Facts Label Tips for Athletes:
Athletes: NCAA tips on how to use the nutrition facts label – SCAN/NCAA Fact sheet –
Athletes: How to use the nutrition facts panel to choose the right fuel - SCAN/NCAA fact sheet -
<p>When food is not stored in the proper environment or at the right temperatures, enzymes, bacteria, and other harmful organisms can grow rapidly causing spoilage and food illness. Food safety should be practiced throughout storing, preparing, cooking, serving, and reheating foods. Factors such as acidity, temperature, time, oxygen, moisture, cleanliness, and separation of different types of foods are important to prevent foodborne illness. The links below include more information on this topic.</p><p><strong>Food Safety.gov:<br /></strong></p><ul><li>Up to date information on food safety including food recalls and tips for keeping yourself free from food-borne illnesses can be found <a href="http://www.foodsafety.gov/index.html" target="_blank">here.</a></li></ul><p><strong>ServSafe: Food Protection Manager Certification Course:</strong></p><ul><li>Do you want to become certified in food safety? Click <a href="http://www.csun.edu/marilyn-magaram-center/services-0" target="_blank">here</a> to find the next class offered at Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition, and Dietetics, located on the first floor in Sequoia Hall (near the campus library). </li></ul><p><strong>Food Safety Tips from MyPlate.gov:</strong></p><ul><li>Additional information about food safety can be found through the Choose MyPlate website <a href="https://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-safety" target="_blank">here.</a></li></ul><p><strong>FDA – Information sheets and quick guides for Food Safety:<br /></strong></p><ul><li><a href="http://publications.usa.gov/USAPubs.php?NavCode=XB&Sub2ID=42&Cat... about food safety in various environments and for specific purposes can be found through Publications USA.gov <a href="http://publications.usa.gov/USAPubs.php?NavCode=XB&Sub2ID=42&Cat... target="_blank">here.</a></li></ul>
Whole, Organic, and Processed Foods - The basics of pesticides, preservatives, and other food additives.
Whole foods are sold in their natural, unprocessed state without any added ingredients such as flavorings or preservatives (ie. Fruits, vegetables, & dry beans). Conventionally grown foods may use pesticides and other chemicals prior to harvesting, and are often not regulated outside of the US. Processed foods are usually packaged, canned, or sold prepared for convenience, and usually have added ingredients like preservatives to extend shelf life (ie. Cereal, frozen pizza, canned soup). Organic foods are those that have been produced without the use of non-synthetic pesticides, food additives, or irradiation. In the US, to claim a product is certified organic, it must contain 95% organic ingredients and have the USDA organic seal (National Organic Program, 2012). However, whole foods are not the same as organic foods and vice versa. Whole foods might be grown organically without the use of chemical and pesticides but may not be certified organic due to the high costs and extensive paperwork. When you shop for produce at local farmers markets it’s common practice to ask your farmer if they use any pesticides. Organic foods can also be processed because they can be sold pre-packaged, canned, or frozen but use only organic ingredients. Generally, there is no difference in the nutrient content of conventional versus whole or organic foods.
There are many substances added to our food to keep it from spoiling, protect it from insects, or change the texture, taste, odor, and appearance. Some of these substances are natural and usually not harmful, while others have been shown to have potentially negative health effects.
Broken down into three categories (Additives, 2014):
1. Direct food additives: includes preservatives, texturizers, flavors, and nutritional supplements like vitamins and minerals.
2. Indirect food additives: includes packaging materials like plastic, paper, cardboard, and glue that come into contact with food.
3. Color additives: used to alter color.
Most of the pesticides we’re exposed to come from our diet. Even small amounts of exposure have been shown to have negative health effects (Sustainable table, 2014). Pesticides can be found in anything from water, to fruits and vegetables, to baby food. Some foods have more than others, so you don’t have to buy everything organic. Organic foods tend to be more expensive than conventional, and may not always be available in some areas. In order to make healthy informed choices you can use the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides (available here: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php). It has 2 lists (the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen), and will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.
Here are the 2 latest, updated lists from the Shopper’s Guide:
Dirty Dozen (Buy these organic)
- 1 Apples
- 2 Celery
- 3 Strawberries
- 4 Peaches
- 5 Spinach
- 6 Nectarines – imported
- 7 Grapes – imported
- 8 Sweet bell peppers
- 9 Potatoes
- 10 Blueberries – domestic
- 11 Lettuce
- 12 Kale/collard greens
Clean 15 (Lowest in Pesticide)
- 1 Onions
- 2 Sweet Corn
- 3 Pineapples
- 4 Avocado
- 5 Asparagus
- 6 Sweet peas
- 7 Mangoes
- 8 Eggplant
- 9 Cantaloupe – domestic
- 10 Kiwi
- 11 Cabbage
- 12 Watermelon
- 13 Sweet potatoes
- 14 Grapefruit
- 15 Mushrooms
For shopping tips, visit the “eating healthy on a budget” (insert shortcut) page for more information.
Food preservation methods began before the time of refrigeration.
Preservation of food is important to prevent spoiling, especially in areas where production is far away from the consumer and foods might need to be transported for several days before reaching the end user. Food manufacturers use preservatives in their products to decrease food costs and keep up with consumer demands for longer shelf life. Some methods include:
- vacuum packing
Preservatives themselves are ingredients added to food and medication that keep products fresh and extend their shelf life. Examples of natural preservatives include salt, sugar, vinegar, alcohol, citric acid, and vitamin E. Some of the most common artificial preservatives are included in the table below.
|Common Artificial Preservatives|
|Type:||Uses:||Can be found in:|
i.e. Benzoic acid, potassium benzoate, sodium benzoate
|Inhibit mold, yeast, and some bacteria||Soft drinks (ie. Cola), fruit juices, wine coolers, concentrates and syrups, carbonated beverages, pickles, & sauces; medications & cosmetics|
*Found naturally in low levels in cranberries, apples, prunes, cinnamon, & greengage plums.
|i.e. Sorbic acid, potassium sorbate, sodium sorbate||Inhibits mold, yeast, and bacteria||Wine, jams, jellies, marmalades, soft drinks, canned fish, dressings and mayonnaise, breads, cheese, meat, ketchup.|
|Sulfites||Inhibits browning reactions||Found naturally in fermented products, such as wine and beer, dried fruit, jams, soft drinks (non-cola), beef sausages|
|Propionates & propanoates||Inhibits mold||Baked goods, processed meats, whey, dairy products|
|Nitrates||Preservative and color fixative; production of fertilizer||Cured meats and poultry|
|Nitrites||Preservative, inhibits botulism, red/pink coloring in meat; antioxidant; formation of dye & rubber chemicals||Meat; medication|
|Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)||Antioxidant||Butter, lard, beer, baked goods, meats, potato chips, snacks, dry mix for beverages, nut products|
|Butylated hydroxytolune (BHT)||Antioxidant||Fats and oils|
|EDTA||Prevention of food/beverage discoloration; antioxidant; chelating agent in treatment of mercury and lead poisoning||Soft drinks; medications & cosmetics|
Mischeck & Krapfenbauer-Cermak, 2012; Mamur, Yuzbasioglu, Unal, & Aksoy, 2011; Pancholi & Kavadiya, 2012; Wikipedia.org, 2013
Is it safe to consume artificial preservatives?
Many of these artificial preservatives can also be found naturally in foods, especially sulfites. It is not until they are consumed in excess of their daily acceptable intakes (ADI) that may cause adverse reactions (Mischeck & Krapfenbauer-Cermak, 2012). Overall, research shows that the lifetime exposure to preservatives is relatively low and will not pose a health risk to consumers unless consuming a consistently high amount of artificial preservatives on a daily basis (Mischeck & Krapfenbauer-Cermak, 2012). The use of preservatives varies in each country so the content in U.S. foods may not reflect the same content in Austrian foods where this study was conducted. Eating large amounts of foods containing nitrites, found in processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and lunchmeats, has been linked to colorectal cancer (Food additives, safety, and organic foods, 2012). The potential for health effects associated with exposure to preservatives has led several food manufacturers to offer organic products to their consumers.
What about all the other ingredients I’ve heard about?
Other food additives: Examples of other food additives include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and bisphenol A (BPA). PCBs, BHA, and BPA are just a few of the substances listed on California’s Proposition 65 due to their potential cancer causing and developmental toxicity properties (OEHHA, 2014).
PCBs are hazardous, natural chemicals found in the environment that used to be manufactured for use in the US for mechanical use. They can be ingested by consuming contaminated water, fish, and dairy products.
BHA is an antioxidant used as a food preservative. It can be found in food packaging, animal feed, cosmetics, and added to foods like cereals, butter, baked goods, and meat products to preserve their shelf life. Although antioxidants usually have positive health associations, BHA has been known to cause cancer.
BPA is a type of plastic used to make items such as food containers, water bottles, and automobiles. There has been evidence that BPA may have negative health effects if transferred into food stored in packaging that contains BPA.
Other substances found in food come from animal farming, agricultural use, and food processing. These substances are administered to animals in order to reduce disease, promote rapid weight gain, and use less food for weight gain (FDA, 2013). Antibiotics and growth hormone found in animal-based foods have been linked to antibiotic-resistance in humans. Because of this, animal farms are now encouraged to administer antibiotics and growth hormones only when medically necessary. In December 2013 the FDA warranted animal pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily begin making changes to fully implement the recommended changes within three years (FDA, 2013).
To learn more about animal farming and the use of antibiotics, visit:http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378100.htm or
The bottom-line: Eat a variety of foods from each food group and try to buy unprocessed, organic foods whenever possible. Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, whether organic or not, is the key to disease prevention and protecting the immune system.
Genetically Modified Food
Genetically modified foods (GMs) or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are crops that have been genetically engineered (man-made) for human and animal consumption (World Health Organization [WHO], 2014). These crops are modified to have certain qualities, such as increased resistance to pests, increased nutritional content, herbicide tolerance, disease resistance, and tolerance to cold weather. Some examples of GMOs include fruits and vegetables like corn, soy, vegetable oils, and ingredients used to make products like breakfast cereals. GMO foods were created to help meet the food industry’s increasingly high demand for years to come. Although GMOs may seem like a great way to avoid a future food shortage, the health risks are unknown in humans. Currently, studies are being conducted to determine if GMOs are harmful to humans and animals but the results have been inconclusive (WHO, 2014). It may be better to buy non-GMO foods until more research is conducted.
For a list of GMO crops and more info, visit:
- Sustainability – 10 tips for eating sustainably
- Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shopping Guide to Pesticides in Produce 2013. Includes the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen”, a list of fruits and vegetables that are ranked based on the amount of pesticides found on them.http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
Video: Exposure to Pesticides in Produce with Dr. Alex Lu, Harvard School of Public Health