Budget & Time-Friendly Meals

School can be stressful, and so can many other things in life. One less stress we want to worry about is ensuring that we have healthy food to eat throughout the day without breaking our banks and consuming too much time! Luckily, I have some options for a healthy and cheap week of meals. With the help of my friend and classmate, Aaliyah, we came up with 5 days-worth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options using minimal ingredients; all for under $20! You can prep all of these meals in under one hour. Below is a grocery list, all of the recipes, and a video if you’d like to see this process all summed up! Let’s get started!

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What’s on the menu?

Breakfast:

  • Apple Pie Oatmeal
  • Egg Bites

Lunch/Dinner:

  • Stuffed Bell Peppers
  • Burrito Bowls

 

What will we need?

Grocery List:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 bag of rice
  • 1 bag baby spinach
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 container oatmeal
  • peanut butter or PB powder
  • 1-3 apples
  • 1/2 dozen eggs
  • small container of non-fat Greek yogurt
  • optional sides: cheese, avocado, sausages, salsa
  • optional spices: salt, pepper, cinnamon, oregano, basil, ground cumin, garlic salt/powder

 

1st stop: Egg Bites

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Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • bell pepper, chopped
  • spinach
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. First, preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  2. Then, chop up about 1/3 cup of bell peppers, 1/3 cup of onion, and 1/2 cup of spinach. Crack six eggs into a large bowl.
  3. Add veggies and spices of choice to the bowl and whisk.
  4. Grease a muffin tray and pour mixture into 6 cups. Alternatively, you can whisk the eggs and spices alone, place the veggies into the muffin tins, and pour the eggs over the veggies. Whatever works for you! [You may also choose to use different veggies or add turkey sausages or other meats, the options are limitless! I like to sprinkle my egg bites with cheese before baking.]
  5. Finally, bake for about 16 minutes, let cool, and serve! These egg bites are a great option for students or people with busy schedules.

Store them in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat them, pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds and enjoy on the go!

Stop 2: Apple Pie Oatmeal

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Ingredients:

  • rolled oats (oatmeal)
  • 1 apple
  • cinnamon
  • peanut butter
  • fat-free plain greek yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Chop up an apple and douse in cinnamon.
  2. Put your diced apples in the oven at 350ºF for 15 minutes. [Alternatively, you can airfry the apples for 7 minutes.]
  3. Mix 1/2 cup of oats, 1 tbsp of PB (if powdered), and a tsp of cinnamon together in a bowl and add water. [If using real PB, I suggest adding after you microwave.]
  4. Microwave mixture for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add apples to oatmeal mixture.
  6. Top with a table spoon or two of fat-free plain greek yougurt.
  7. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  8. Dive in!

 

The next 2 Recipes use shared ingredients, lowering your food cost even more!

 

Stop 3: Stuffed Bell Peppers

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Ingredients:

  • 2-4 bell peppers (green are usually cheapest)
  • rice
  • can of tomato paste or tomato sauce
  • garlic, minced or chopped
  • rotisserie chicken
  • onion
  • oregano
  • basil
  • garlic powder or salt
  • cheese (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare rice of choice in a rice cooker or stove top. [I like to buy the microwaveable frozen brown rice from Trader Joe’s since it’s cheap and only takes 3 minutes to cook in the microwave.]
  2. Cut off the tops of 2 or more bell peppers and rinse.
  3. Place peppers in boiling water for 4 minutes to soften.
  4. In the meantime, chop any excess bell pepper, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 of an onion, and 4-6 ounces of your rotisserie chicken.
  5. Saute the ingredients from step 4, starting with the garlic, onions and peppers.
  6. Add the shredded chicken and about 1/3 cup of tomato sauce or paste to mixture. Feel free to add any spices you like! We made an Italian style pepper with oregano, basil, and garlic powder.
  7. Load the mixture into the peppers. [Top with cheese if you want!]
  8. Bake in the oven at 375ºF for 30 minutes.
  9. Let cool and serve!

 

Stop 4: Chicken and Black Bean Burrito Bowls

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Ingredients:

  • rice
  • black beans
  • frozen corn
  • rotisserie chicken
  • tomato
  • bell pepper
  • ground cumin
  • garlic powder or salt
  • chili powder
  • optional: salsa, avocado, lettuce
  1. First off in this recipe is the black bean “salad” mixture. Chop a bell pepper and a tomato.
  2. Add in 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed) and about 1 cup of frozen corn (defrosted) into a large bowl.
  3. Add in ground cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder to taste and mix. Feel free to add more spices if desired!
  4. Assemble your bowl! For ours, we did about 1/2 cup of the rice we made previously and topped it with about 3oz of the shredded rotisserie chicken, about 1/2 cup of the black bean salad, a bit of shredded lettuce, 1/4 of an avocado, and some salsa. Easy, delicious, and nutritious!

 

Video link with recipes:

Healthy Eating on a Budget

I hope you enjoy these easy-to-make, budget-friendly, stress-free options!

 

 

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How to Enjoy Your Spring Break

Ahhh, S P R I N !

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We are gradually coming into the Spring season. Can you believe it snowed just a few weeks ago here in Las Vegas? With Spring coming into full-swing and with the sun shining a little brighter, there are some things to look forward to, like a much needed break!

On the menu for this blog:

  • Destress before and during your midterms
  • Enjoy your spring break… but really, ENJOY it.

We are upon the dreadful time of midterms, aka stress, stress, and more stress. But there is light just right around the corner!

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Let’s talk about how to lower our stress levels during this intense time of tests, projects, and deadlines. Here are some ways to manage it:

  1. Eat balanced meals and snacks. It’s so easy to grab the nearest snack available to us during time crunches and times of stress, but this is an important time to eat healthy. With healthy fats, complex carbs, and even dark chocolate, our stress levels will decrease. Increase your brain power and lower your stress levels with avocados, nuts, dark chocolate, and tea, to name a few.
  2. Stay on top of it. Create a calendar and write down all of the items you have due or tests you will be taking this week. Then condense the necessary steps into a day-to-day to-do list. Mark off the steps as needed.
  3. Space out your studying as much as you can. Everyone always tells you this, but try your hardest not to cram! This will overload your brain and body with stress. Instead, study as much in advance as you can, and do not forget to take needed breaks. After about 30-45 minutes of studying a subject, it is important to get up and at least walk around for a minute to realign your mind. You can even switch to a different subject after this for 30-45 minutes and then back to the other. This ensures you are taking in the information you need to without overloading an entire unit of work into your brain at once.
  4. Sleep. Sleep? What’s that? I’m in college full-time and I work full-time, who has time for sleep? Well, it’s time we make room for this very important factor to reduce our stresses and keep our memory sharp for upcoming tests. If you can’t fit those perfect 8 hours in, try to take actions to get a better sleep. You can do this by keeping your eyes off of electronics (phones and laptops) 30-60 minutes before sleeping. Try reading, listening to music, or writing to relax your mind before sleeping.
  5. Stay hydrated. Drink water! Lots of it!
  6. Breath. Most importantly, remember to breath. Sounds silly, I know. But taking deep breaths, especially right before a test, have been known to decrease levels of stress or anxiety. When in doubt, focus on your breath.

 

“So now that I finished my midterms, it’s Spring Break! But then theres more school in just a week and I have so much coming up right after that!”

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Am I the only one who does this?

Look, I don’t really have a list for you on how to enjoy your spring break. Everyone has different interests and takes their breaks differently. My only advice to really enjoy your spring break is to actually take a break. Relax your mind as much as you can, and take in that week without school work. It’s going to get more intense after this time, so it truly is important to have fun, let loose, and relax to the best of your abilities.

But I didn’t have to tell you that, right? 😉

Enjoy your Spring Break, everyone!

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Eat Colorfully // Let Life Happen

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What’s on the menu for this blog:

  • Nutrient Density
  • A yummy recipe idea
  • Pushing forward through whatever life throws your way!

First off:

Let’s talk nutrient density.

This topic has come up a lot lately in my conversations with people. Mainly when I’m cooking around my family members and they want to judge me for putting spinach in my tacos or adding some zucchini ribbons to my whole grain pasta.

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The truth is, not only are these dishes I’m making delicious, but they are full of nutrients. And that’s what eating well is all about… getting the nutrients our bodies need.

For those reading that don’t know what nutrient density is, it explains the amount of nutrients you get from a food, given the amount of calories (energy) the food contains. An example could be the difference between eating a salad made with spinach as opposed to a salad made with iceberg lettuce. Spinach is a leafy green that contains high levels of many vitamins including, but not limited to, vitamins K, A, E, B1, folate, iron, magnesium, fiber, etc. Whereas iceberg lettuce also contains many vitamins, but not in as high of amounts as spinach.

We can easily help our friends and family get more nutrients in their daily diets. It’s all about a little switch-a-roo or two. For instance, I made these delicious vegetarian tacos with:

  • Seasoned chickpeas – full of protein, vitamin K, folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6 (seasoned with ground cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and fresh cilantro)
  • Sauteed bell peppers – high in vitamin C, K, E, A, folate, potassium
  • Tomatoes – loaded with vitamin C, lycopene, beta-carotene (aka antioxidants)
  • Raw spinach – packed with vitamins K, A, E, B1, folate, iron, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, potassium
  • Avocado – rich with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C, E, K, B6, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid
  • Feta Cheese – for a little extra flavor and protein

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Just look at alllll those colorful nutrients in one meal. It’s a simple switch from meat and cheese only, to flavorful nutrient-dense veggies and legumes. Now, we don’t even need to go that far. We can do easy switches like white rice and pasta to whole grain rice and pasta, or even adding veggies to our eggs or toast in the morning. I believe understanding nutrient density is a huge step to understanding how to eat a more balanced diet. Eat colorfully, and don’t be afraid to eat foods you wouldn’t normally think go together. You’d be surprised at what you can create.

Next:

Let’s get a little serious.

A lot of us start the new year off with goals, aspirations and resolutions. What are some things that you told yourself you would change for the better? What are some goals you wish to reach by the end of the year? And realistically, do you ever plan for life to happen between these goals?

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I bring this up because a lot of us, as students (and even not as students), run on a schedule. We have to juggle many things at a time. Some of us work full-time, have families, take care of someone else, may not have the best home-life, have trouble sleeping, have chronic pain or other health issues, YOU NAME IT! Some of us may have all of this going on, ON TOP OF a full-time school schedule. I think that things outside of our school realm aren’t talked about enough. And the truth is, sometimes it is just so insanely hard to balance it all. Not only are our day-to-day tasks and obligations sometimes hard to balance, but every once in a while, life throws you a curveball.

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I wanted to open this topic up to reinforce that we must be aware that most things in life are unknown. We can be on perfect track, have the perfect idea of what is going to happen for us, think we know exactly where we’ll be 2 years from now, but in reality, things can change in a split second. I think it is important for us to not deter from our goals and aspirations, but to realize that once in a while we may need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and reassess what we need to do at certain points.

Instances may pop up that we do not expect…

You may get injured, you may lose a job, a family member or friend may pass, you may suddenly have to move out or move away, etc. It’s very important to remind ourselves that change is inevitable and it is how we react to our situations and our surroundings that will get us to where we need to be.

Every time life throws you a curve, you should step back, reevaluate, and choose a necessary new course. Life is constant change; we just have to learn how to ride the waves.

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Lastly:

Whether your goal is to eat more veggies, run a marathon, travel to space, adventure the world, open your own business, whatever it may be… just remember:

You’ve. Got. This.

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Stress Less – Drink Smoothies

Hi again, everybody!

SNDA holds a great number of students who have become a part of our awesome association this semester! We appreciate the love and drive, and hope we can all build connections, memories, and friends through our association. Many great volunteering opportunities have happened so far this semester, and there are many more to come!

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I hope everyone’s Fall semester is going smoothly. I know for me, it’s definitely getting intense with project deadlines, exams, and trying to volunteer as much as possible throughout it all! The added stress can make it difficult for a lot of people to stay on their health grind. But in reality, being under stress is one of the most important times to make sure you are investing in your self-care.

A good way to destress, in my opinion, is to find a health-related weekly task to get your mind off of school stresses– at least for a small time. This can include things such as working towards a weight-lifting goal, taking time to make a delicious dinner a couple times per week, drawing, writing, singing, dancing, or anything you love a couple times per week! Remember, you can eat all the “healthiest” food and workout as much as you want, but if your mind isn’t right, are you really as healthy as you think?

What I chose as a fun task to get my mind off of stressors for a small moment, is to create a different “themed” smoothie once per week! With Halloween just having passed, I was inspired by one of my favorite candies—How can I make a healthy, on-the-go version of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups?! And here’s what I came up with:

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie Recipe (actual PB cups optional)

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Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup almond milk (I like unsweetened Vanilla flavor)

½ of a medium banana

1 tbsp cacao powder

2 tbsp peanut butter

1 small scoop of chocolate protein powder

¼ cup non-fat plain greek yogurt (for creaminess)

1 tsp agave syrup

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Instructions:

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend!

This recipe was conducted to make a serving of Peanut Butter Cup smoothie for one person, so double or triple the recipe if you want to share! If you love Reese’s as much as I do, but want to make a healthier version that will keep you full, I hope you’ll try my yummy recipe!

[I’ll include another recipe or few on my upcoming blogs for you guys if you like this content!]

What do you do to de-stress?

How much time do you take out of your days or week to do something you love to do?

Really reflect on these questions, and remember to take time for yourself 🙂

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Welcome Back to School – Time to Set New Goals!

Hi everyone and welcome back to another semester!

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Before I begin the first blog of Fall 2018, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Rebekah Manning, but you can call me Bekah. I am a Nutrition major at UNLV and your new Head of Content and Food Day Chair for SNDA. This is my first semester officially enrolled in the DPND Program and I couldn’t be more excited!

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With all of these amazing opportunities I am faced with this semester, I deemed it a great idea to talk about personal goals for the rest of the year.

There are less than four months left of 2018…

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But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing! That means there is still so much time to reach some more of your goals and be even more awesome (than you already are) before the new year!

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Here are some of my ideas to get on track for a goal-achieving semester and final months of the year:

  1. Take a look back at the past Summer and Spring of 2018—what are some things that you accomplished? What goals did you have for yourself? Did you achieve any of them? Do you see more for yourself in the remaining months of the year? Think of what you’d really like to achieve within these months. For me, this year has been all about challenging myself in all aspects of my life. Healthy challenges of course! So I want to encourage YOU to do the same! Just because we are at the latter half of the year, it doesn’t mean we can’t keep progressing and achieving greatness.
  2. Try making a “goal list.” Nothing too crazy that will overwhelm you, but maybe just a few things you wish to achieve in the last few months of 2018. Mine, for example, would be:
  • Get an A or B in all four classes
  • Get yourself to be able to do 5 pull-ups in a row
  • Save $1,000 by New Year’s Eve

3. Make a list of how you can achieve these goals with smaller steps. My example would be:

  • Study at least 2 hours per day
  • Go to office hours whenever you can and build study groups
  • Exercise 3-5 times per week, attempting at least 1 pull-up per session
  • Put away $20 per week from your tips

When we break our big goals down into smaller, daily goals, we have a better chance of achieving them. It is important to not overwhelm yourself with too many goals at once. Only you know how much you are actually able to handle, so set your goals up accordingly. Also try to remember the SMART goal approach and set smaller, time-sensitive goals for yourself that also fit into your schedule. To learn more about setting up a SMART goal, click here.

4. Attack those goals with full-force. Set yourself up for success and continue to take time for what is important to you. Step outside of your comfort zone. Volunteer for that event. Ask questions. Be 100% you and you’ll reach your goals faster than you could even imagine.

It’s only September, there is still so much time left to make your year even better! Keep on kicking butt and make this semester count—inside and outside of school!

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Please feel free to email me at mannir1@unlv.nevada.edu if you have more specific content you would like to see or have any other suggestions/requests. This is my first blogging experience, so feedback is appreciated! Thanks! 🙂

Buying Healthy Foods on a Budget

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Eating healthy shouldn’t look like this!

As I continue growing up and approaching what you could call “real adulthood”, I’ve increasingly realized the value of saving money wherever possible. A hugely significant area of spending for me is on food, coffee, and other tasty stuff. In the end, we all need to eat, right? But a painful reality that slowly creeps up to us over time is the fact that food can be expensive, especially when we eat out on a regular basis as many busy college students do.

The monthly budget for food for one person in the United States averages out to $250 per month, or just over $60 per week, and can vary widely depending on individual needs. That can be a pretty huge chunk of income, especially if your actual spending looms above that (like mine… well, this is turning out to be a pretty convicting post).

How can we start to crunch that number and still get the nutrition we need? Here are just a few ideas.

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Simply put: cooking food at home and eating out less

Two very simple ideas… that can be very hard to follow in reality.  While the price of groceries is beginning to fall, the price of restaurant food is soaring, painting an even more convincing case for eating at home. But when the salad bar is eyeing you from around the corner, or your favorite sandwich is giving you “the look” from the pastry glass, how can you say no?

One way to follow this helpful principle is to find your favorite recipes — and try them for yourself, of course! One of my favorite places to grab recipes is from Delish, the same people that make the fun Facebook recipe prep videos. Here is a list of easy dinner recipes with ingredients that won’t cost a fortune.

Buying inexpensive proteins

If you’re worrying about diet quality when penny pinching on your groceries, this is probably the area you are most worried about. We always want to consider protein quality, digestibility, and other good things to make the most of our protein foods. That said, these simple foods pack a high-quality protein punch without punching a hole through your bank account:

Eggs. Eggs have an impressive amino acid profile and are pretty easy to obtain at a reasonable price.

Chicken breast. Chicken can be a cheap and easy fix for protein, especially if buying it canned or frozen (which doesn’t damage the quality)

Milk. Whey protein is also an impressive amino acid booster and includes the branched-chain amino acids important for muscle growth and repair. Buying nonfat, ultra-filtered milk is another way to capitalize on the protein benefits.

Beans and rice. These two plant proteins offer complete amino acids when eaten together, and cost pennies when purchased in bulk.

Powdered milk. Evaporated and filtered of sugar and fat, powdered milk is basically just the two milk proteins (casein and whey) in a convenience form at a fraction of the cost of commercial whey protein powder.

Buying inexpensive produce

Produce is often (and should be) an inexpensive staple, but sometimes that isn’t the case. A lot of things, like whether the food is fresh, frozen, organic, or in season can affect the price of a given plant food. Not sure how to get the most bang for your buck when buying produce? Here are a few tips:

Buy frozen or canned options. Frozen or canned versions of foods can often be cheaper than fresh, since they have a longer shelf life. As a plus, frozen and canned produce is often richer in nutrients than the fresh versions due to the preservation: just be sure to reach for options without added sugar, salt, or syrups.

Know when to choose organic.You may think you need to purchase all-organic produce in order to really be healthy, but that isn’t quite the case. The label “organic” refers to foods that are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, or artificial flavors and preservatives. While definitely a great option (who wants that stuff in their food?), organic options are almost always more expensive than the non-organic and not always necessary or the better option. You can stick by this tip: if it has a peelable skin, like oranges and avocados, non-organic is pretty safe since most of the contaminants are on the outside skin, but if it doesn’t have a peel and is meant to be eaten as-is, it might be good to splurge on the organic option. You can also stick by this “dirty dozen” list for ideas about what is best to buy organic.

Buy foods in season (and buy local!). When you buy foods that aren’t in season in your area, they usually have to be shipped from places where they are, which both ups the price and negatively affects the quality of the food. Here is a guide for seasonal foods by state. That said: it’s always better to buy local for this reason, since locally grown food is guaranteed to be in season! To find a farmer’s market near you, you can use the USDA’s Local Food Directory here.

Careers in Nutrition: Quality Assurance and Animal Nutrition

What career path in nutrition do you want to follow? If you’re not into community or clinical paths, or just want to experience something different and refreshing, what path would you possibly take?

What about a career in quality assurance or animal nutrition?

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Quality Assurance

Quality assurance includes the methods behind ensuring that foods meet “a degree or level of excellence” in several areas, including safety, sanitation, taste, appearance, and nutrition. You might imagine this as the scientist chemically testing food composition, the person who takes temperatures of cooked foods, or even the person walking the trayline at a hospital to ensure the foods look good and palatable. Quality assurance should certainly always play a role in anything we do as food and nutrition professionals, but there is actually an entire job profile dedicated to this specific duty available in food companies, community programs, and clinical practices, called a quality assurance manager or a food quality manager.

What work would you perform as a quality assurance manager?:

  1. Ensure food equipment is clean and in working order
  2. Ensure cooked or prepared food has met standards to prevent contamination
  3. Ensure food has actually escaped contamination (which is where microbiology courses come in handy)
  4. Ensure food is presented in a nice and palatable manner

While that might sound like boring, technical work, the job of a quality assurance manager is extremely important in any food company or food service — hence why many companies list openings for this job on its own.

Requirements to become a Quality Assurance Manager

Degrees in nutrition sciences, food science, chemistry, or microbiology will suffice depending on the particular company you choose to work with, and you might need to obtain some specific certifications as well.

 

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Pet and Animal Nutrition

Next we move on to a new field of nutrition work: pet and animal nutrition. From professionals working in wildlife to understand the eating patterns of otters, deer, and even crocodiles to the people working behind the scenes on your puppies’ and kitties’ favorite food, animal nutrition is an entirely unique arena of nutrition knowledge. This is certainly far separate from the human nutrition we may all be familiar with in our curriculum, but it’s an interesting field to learn about and maybe even one day explore.  So what kinds of jobs could you get in pet and animal nutrition?

  1. Livestock nutrition. Pros working in this capacity determine the composition and quantity of livestock feed that will best promote the animal’s milk production and nutritional quality, among many other factors important in food production.
  2. Pet nutrition. If you have pets like I do, this area has probably been an interest to you at some point; we want the best for our furry kids and that obviously includes proper nutrition. But if you take the leap to become a professional well-versed in this area, that might involve anything between becoming a full-on veterinarian with a pet nutrition specialty to working in the pet food plants as a quality assurance inspector.
  3. Wildlife nutrition. Working in wildlife nutrition (which is as totally awesome as it sounds) can mean everything from studying the eating behaviors of a wild animal species, feeding a wild animal in captivity (like sweet little river otters), to intervening in a nutrition-related problem that is threatening a species, like the lack of viable plant foods in populations of deer.

Requirements to become an Animal Nutritionist

Many colleges offer programs and concentrations in animal nutrition (including UNR!), but for the most part you will just need any degree with biology, chemistry, and other basic science coursework (unless you are also intent on becoming a veterinarian, which requires veterinary school, of course).

Based on this info, which of the careers above sounds awesome to you? Would you ever consider working in quality assurance or being an animal nutritionist? Let me know in the comments below!

[Collaboration provided by Meagan Levitt]

 

 

The UNLV Community Garden

Guys… did you know we have a community garden??

The UNLV Community Garden is situated on the Northwest corner of campus  on Cottage Grove next to the Rebel Recycling Center. A quaint little square boasting just a few hundred acres, you would probably never come across it unless you were looking; but once you do, it is a site worth seeing.

The garden was officially established in 2015 through the combined effort of the UNLV Community Garden Committee and several landscape architecture classes. It features 41 raised planter beds, each of which may be purchased and applied for by different student organizations or individuals — and yes, SNDA has their very own, featuring some yummy kale, of course.

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Yummy kale in the SNDA garden Planter.

What happens at the garden? A lot, according to Elissa Lafranconi, the garden coordinator who will soon be returning the garden to the original coordinator Tara Pike. Along with inviting field trips for children from pre-k through high school, the garden also hosts the Girl Scouts to help them earn their Gardening, Bug, Planting and Sense Badges by having fun with garden activities. Students enrolled in the horticulture class in the landscape architecture program are tasked with tending the garden several weekends at a time to enrich their knowledge of growing and harvesting plants, and the Hospitality department often uses the garden’s fruits and veggies in their catering recipes. However, the Community Garden, Elissa explains, has served as a learning experience for students in every department from Physics and Chemistry to English and a variety of organizations like the UNLV Foundation, the Student Sustainability Council, and SNDA.

An especially huge happening that is coming up in a few short months is the 555 Dinner at Vegenation, in which 5 executive chefs prepare a 5-course dinner using plants harvested from community gardens across the valley and benefiting the Create a Change Now organization. The UNLV Community Garden held their “planting day” on February 12th and will be hosting their “harvesting day” on May 4th for the vegetables and fruits that will be used in the dinner.

Michael Hernandez, a landscape architecture student and the student worker for the community garden, takes great pride and care in the garden; he boasts his own planter in the garden featuring aromatic lavender and delicious asparagus. While speaking with Michael, I learned about the garden’s unique challenges with vandals, who may graffiti the surrounding tarp fence or even set dumpster fires near the vicinity. The addition of security cameras and card readers has helped prevent some more serious situations, but it’s still an ongoing issue, he explains.

Michael has big dreams that the influence of the Community Garden will “take over” campus, despite its remote location. Every student can gain something valuable from the garden, whether it’s new knowledge about planting, a new sense of community, or an appreciation of the garden’s plants. His first effort to make this happen is his creation of the UNLV Garden Club, which will include organizing meetings at the garden and promoting events (and which anyone can join, by the way!).

 

Michael also plans for the garden to have a more pleasing aesthetic appearance, with the addition of artfully-painted benches, chairs, and tables:

 

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Another essential member of the garden team is their Master Gardener, Tom Bohannon. During my time at the garden a few weeks ago, I got to help Tom with moving and separating compost as he explained some of the garden’s other challenges. He explained that ants, followed by aphids, often infiltrate the crops and leave their sticky sap all over them. On a creepier note, spiders (including black widows!) sometimes take refuge in the compost bins and can surprise the unsuspecting gardener. For now, their arsenal is garlic or peppermint oil spray to annoy the little bugs and chase them away, and the planting of calendula flowers to deter the aphids from the main plants.

 

So if you find time, it’s definitely worth it to venture to the far side of campus and check out the UNLV Community Garden.

Ugly Produce: What do you think?

As I’ve continued attending classes and exploring this cool thing called “nutrition”, I’ve only begun discovering just how many different aspects of food and nutrition there really are. One aspect I’m thinking of that’s tugged not only on my curiosity, but also my conscience, is sustainability.

Sustainability, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as relating to “a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged“. In reality, sustainability has countless definitions depending on the country, organization, or individual person talking about it, but UCLA decided to consolidate all the different definitions and summarize it as this: the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. That’s very cool to me, and a great way to live.

So what’s a great way to practice sustainability? Growing your own food? Creating a compost bin? Recycling, right?

Those are all great ideas, of course, but what about just buying ugly produce?

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I don’t know about you, but I was taught at an early age to be picky about the appearance of my fruits and veggies. It’s true that many food safety experts caution to avoid foods with bruises or scratches to avoid contamination with bacteria, but a lot of us extend this fear to avoiding things like crooked carrots and lumpy tomatoes.  Unfortunately, over half of all produce in the United States goes to waste, and much of that is due to the tendency for consumers, retailers, and even farms to reject crops with even the slightest imperfections. So companies fear costumers won’t buy that ugly produce, and we fear that eating that mutant carrot will turn us into a witch, probably.

I mean who knows, right?

As a result, so much perfectly fine produce is wasted. Given that at least 12 percent of people in the U.S. have limited access to healthy and safe food, the fact that we are still wasting so much of that food is troubling to say the least.

In response, companies and organizations are trying to turn the switch on this situation. Here’s what they’re doing right now:

1: Advocate for ugly produce. Organizations like the Food Waste Reduction Alliance are promoting ugly produce in one of their efforts to reduce food waste in the United States, assuring customers that even fruits and veggies that aren’t exactly beautiful are still nutritious and delicious. There are also websites like Ugly Fruit and Veg that are dedicated to showing how beautiful ugly produce can be (you can check out their Ugly Fruit Posters here).

2: Buy and sell ugly produce. Imperfect Produce is a company based in San Francisco that ships orders of less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables to customers for 30-50% less than what they’d be charged at the grocery store. Their goal is to not only save customers time and money, but also to drastically cut down on the current food waste situation. (Currently, they only ship to the Bay Area, Portland, and Seattle, but are planning to come soon to the Southwest and beyond)

So what do you think? Is ugly produce still a little too weird to you, or are you gonna give the three-headed lemon a try? What’s the ugliest fruit/veg you’ve ever seen? Share what you think in the comments below! 

Welcome back: Steps for getting readjusted and back into the groove of school

 

Hey SNDA,

Welcome to the Spring 2018 semester! I hope you are all getting snugly settled back into your classrooms this week. What’s that? You’re not happy to be back? You were just falling asleep in class? You’re sneaking out of the classroom as we speak?

It’s a common experience after a long vacation. We enjoy ourselves, relish in the late mornings, indulge in huge volumes of precious sleep and delicious food, and suddenly it’s the Sunday before classes start and we silently scream, dreading the coming months of sleep deprivation and essentially starving ourselves to plug in hours of last-minute work. And waking up early? Yeah, no.

Whether this was your first go at a 5-week winter break or the 5th, it is never easy to readjust after the time off. For a lot of us this first week was a shock on our bodies, and that’s okay for a time. But no one wants to be drained of life for months on end, so here are a few techniques to get yourself back into the swing of college life this semester.

  1. Take it slow at first (even if your classes don’t). If your typical days during break were like mine (doing literally nothing for hours on end), forcing yourself to fill in those hours with concentrated work will be difficult, frustrating, and pretty unproductive. So, for these first few weeks back make it a priority to focus on one assignment at a time and provide yourself some break time in between.
  2. Keep doing what you enjoy. Did you read a lot of novels during break? Or watch IMG_3076lots of telenovelas? Drink a bunch of fancy coffee? Live on Instagram? Whatever you did to fill in your extended free time, keep on doing it. Depriving yourself of the things you enjoy in order to finish work may make you develop some pretty negative feelings about school in general. It doesn’t have to be one way or the other: incorporate your favorite activity, whether it’s drawing or coffee-tasting or TV-watching, into those regular breaks mentioned above.
  3. Take time to unwind (a.k.a. don’t overload your schedule!). I had to learn this the hard way. After scheduling work shifts after my classes every single day last week, I made myself ready to throw in the towel before week 1 was even done. So I say very emphatically: take it easy on your schedule the first week coming back. Give yourself some time off to reflect and let it sink in that school has returned yet again. Even if you can’t work out getting time off of work or school, consider taking a few minutes before bed or in the morning to practice some decent meditation or relaxation. Come on, you know you deserve it!
  4. Eat breakfast, for goodness sake! Breakfast is always termed “the most important meal of the day”, but it is also easily the most skipped meal of the day. It is super important to include lots of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals at the start of  our day to get your body and mind kick-started and ready to take on the day’s challenges. No time in the morning? Make some time by prepping ahead: whip up some beautiful overnight oats (you can find my favorite recipe here) or cook up hardboiled eggs the night before to enjoy with whole fruit in the morning. The quick-fix breakfast possibilities are truly endless.
  5. Put your health first. It may have been way easier to maintain your health and fitness routine during the break, but it’s not time to drop your healthy habits just because school is back in session. Don’t glue yourself to that desk; take walking breaks to boost your blood flow. Don’t drown yourself in those energy drinks (though I admit they do look pretty good…); grab wholesome forms of energy like a banana, or sip some green tea for a caffeine boost. Check out all these other helpful tips for staying healthy with a busy lifestyle.

Good luck with your studies this semester; only 15 weeks until summer!

Oh, and here’s one final tip:

6. Come to the first SNDA meeting of the year this Monday, January 26 in BHS 132 and buy some yummy frozen yogurt! What better way to get readjusted to school than with frozen yogurt?? There is none.