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Category: Tara Sanders–Nutrition

The Plant Based Diet: Healthy For You and the Environment  November 18th, 2010


I recently had the opportunity to meet Mark Bittman, author of Food Matters.  Mark suggested (to an audience of college and university food service operators) that if we want to practice environmental sustainability, we ought to encourage our customers to eat more plant based foods .  He explained that he wasn’t here to promote veganism or vegetarianism per se, but rather, “eat-less-meat-ism”.

According to the American Dietetic Association, appropriately planned plant based diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

A plant based diet is associated with lower: risk of death from heart disease, LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, blood pressure, rates of hypertension ,type 2 diabetes ,body mass index overall cancer rates. However, plant based diets can be unhealthy too if they are not based in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and if they are lacking in nutrients typically found in animal products such as protein, calcium/Vitamin D, zinc, iron, B12, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Whether vegan, vegetarian, semi vegetarian or omnivore, the texture and flavor packed in bean and legume dishes can please all palettes…. and the planet.  The indigenous Mexican diet and agriculture history has been comprised of the “Three Sisters” (corn, beans and squash) because of nutrition and environmental sustainability attributes.  Beans put nitrogen back into the soil, reducing the reliance on chemical fertilizers.

Beans and legumes have been a culinary staple for centuries for many cultures in South America, Africa, Mediterranean, Asia, and India.  For many of these regions, beans and legumes in combination with grains are the center of the plate and meat is viewed as a garnish or accent to the dish.

The Benefits of Beans and Legumes

  • High in antioxidants. Consider all of the vibrant colors found in beans: rich black, red, pink, green.   Bright colors found in produce can be are biggest “clue” in high antioxidant content.
  • Rich source of fiber.  The high fiber content helps to stabilize blood sugar and fill you up.
  • Very lean protein. ½ cup of beans contains 115 calories and 10 grams protein.  Combine with a grain such as brown rice or bulgur to make it a “complete protein”, containing all of the essential amino acids.  (Note-the grain just needs to be consumed sometime within the day—not necessarily at the same meal).
  • Great source of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, iron, zinc
  • Inexpensive!  1 ounce of bean protein costs about 6 cents!
  • Great “carrier” of flavor; Texture and flavor attributes make them “craveable” comfort food

Interested in some exciting UHDS vegetarian options?  Here’s a few highlights that feature beans as the main fare(check out links for a complete list): Arnold Bistro’s Global Fare offers daily beans and whole grain specials ranging from Ethiopian Lentils, Persian Kidney Beans and Brown Rice with Dates and Walnuts. Marketplace West’s Serrano’s grill serves up a black bean burrito stuffed with veggies and smothered with mole sauce.  Boardwalk Deli specials include Falafel (seasoned garbonzo bean patties) on fresh pita and Moroccan Vegetable Stew.

Be Well!

The Lore of the Freshman Fifteen  October 19th, 2010

While it’s true that college freshman gain some weight their first year, it is closer to 4 pounds rather than the “Freshman 15”.  And since this is based on an “average” many do not gain weight while some gain significantly more than 4 pounds.

So why do college freshman gain weight?  And what can be done to combat it? Read the rest of this entry »

UHDS: Encouraging Wellness  September 24th, 2010

Welcome to OSU and UHDS!    As UHDS’ Registered Dietitian, I would like to share that we are deeply committed to creating environments that encourage wellness.  In an effort to promote physical wellness, our goal in dining services is to make the healthy choice, the easy choice. Read the rest of this entry »

Tara Sanders–The Shake on Sodium  May 19th, 2010

The Shake on Sodium:

Myth or Fact: “I’m young and I don’t have high blood pressure therefore I don’t need to be concerned about my sodium intake.”

MYTH!  According to the American Heart Association, a high sodium diet can contribute to high blood pressure…at any age.  Particularly vulnerable are those who are “salt sensitive” and have a tendency to retain water after a high sodium meal.  When we retain water we put extra stress on our heart and kidneys and over time, this puts individuals at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Currently, 1 in 3  Americans adults over 20 suffer from hypertension.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. (There is about 2,400 mg in a teaspoon of salt.)

Some studies estimate that up to 75% of American’s sodium intake comes from packaged convenience foods and from dining out.  Looking for ways to keep your sodium intake “in check” while eating in the UHDS dining centers?  Consider these strategies:

1)Check the sodium content of your favorite options on the on line menus:

2)If you typically eat three meals/day try to eat less than 800mg of sodium per meal.

3)Add little or no salt to your plate.

4)Fill half of your plate with whole foods that are naturally low in sodium such as whole fresh fruits and fresh raw or steamed vegetables.

5) Consider your portion size particularly with high sodium foods like pizza or deli lunch meat.  Instead of a whole ham sandwich, consider a half sandwich and pair it with a side salad and fresh fruit.

6) Be aware of additional sources of sodium found in sauces, soy sauce and salad dressings.

7) Snacks like chips, granola bars and crackers can pack a lot of sodium; instead, while you are in the dining center, grab a fresh crisp apple or baby carrots to snack on later.

Be Well,


Tara Sanders

Registered Dietitian

Oregon State University

University Housing and Dining

Office: 541-737-3915

Cell: 541-602-9736

Tara Sanders–Healthy Dining Options  May 12th, 2010

As UHDS’s dietitian, probably the most common question I receive is, “What foods are healthy in the dining centers?” If you ask ten different people what healthy eating is, I guarantee you will get ten different responses.  For some, healthy eating is a diet based in vegetarian, sustainably produced foods.  For others, healthy eating is a diet low in fat and calories.  Others believe that Mediterranean foods, largely plant based and rich in healthy oils, represent a healthy diet.

The truth is, all of these diets can be healthy. According to the USDA, a healthy diet is based in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, legumes, beans and vegetable protein sources as well as low-fat, calcium rich options.  To some, achieving a healthy diet may seem overwhelming in the dining centers. However, there are a few simple strategies that you can try in the dining centers to improve the “healthiness” of your meal:

  1. Eat more fruit and vegetables!   Make half of your plate fruit and veggie based and eat a variety of colors.
  2. Go whole grain!  Substitute processed grains for whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa and barley
  3. Eat more plant based proteins like beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

Looking for healthy and delicious fare?  Give these options a try!

Marketplace West:

  • Ring of Fire’s Pho bowls, a Vietnamese Pho soup available with tofu, chicken, shrimp and a variety of fresh vegetables
  • Serrano’s Mexican burrito, filled with your choice beans and vegetables all packed in a whole wheat tortilla;
  • Tomassitos’ whole wheat pasta and pizza crusts
  • Cooper Creek’s tofu jambalaya
  • Calabaloo’s Pacific City Salad made with local pears cranberries and fresh spinach
  • Clubhouse Deli’s roasted portabella vegetarian panini on a whole grain roll.

Arnold Bistro:

  • tofu panini with pesto and sundried tomato
  • entrée salad made from an expansive salad bar that includes fruit, vegetables, lean meats, tofu, beans and seeds
  • whole grain and legume special of the day

At Bing’s Café

  • build a whole wheat sandwich with healthy toppings like balsamic marinated and grilled chicken, fresh spinach and sweet bell peppers.

McNary Central

  • Boardwalk Cafés Indian curried chickpeas and char-grilled sole
  • Deli’s whole grain sandwiches with your choice meat or hummus and vegetables
  • Raintree’s locally made whole wheat bagels
  • Casa Della Pasta’s whole wheat pasta with pesto, artichokes and sautéed vegetables.

UHDS encourages guests to make informed food choices based on individual needs.  Nutrition information, ingredients and allergy information are transparent and available on line at the UHDS website (

If you have any questions or suggestions about the nutritional quality of foods available in UHDS operations, don’t hesitate to contact the UHDS dietitian, Tara Sanders at 541.737.3915 or at

Be Well!