Food Connection | Nutrition

EAT TO LIVE…Delight your body, mind & taste buds!

Want to live a long life, have lots of energy, show off great skin, and be the best you can be?  Simply take a look at what you are eating! Health, strength, endurance, memory, concentration, self-esteem, and happiness all stem from proper nutrition! Think about the choices you are making. With the right foods you can support total health and happiness for your body and mind, and still excite your taste buds.

Having trouble picking the right foods? Confused by food labels? Overwhelmed by conflicting dietary information? We’re here to help you! We rely on the large body of peer-reviewed, scientific research available to provide you with the best tips and guidelines to optimally nourish your body. Use the resources on this page as a guide to transform your meals and health!

Healthy Eating Plate

The Healthy Eating Plate was devised by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and resembles the USDA MyPlate in shape only. “Unfortunately, like the earlier U.S. Department of Agriculture Pyramids, MyPlate mixes science with the influence of powerful agricultural interests, which is not the recipe for healthy eating,” said Walter Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at HSPH. The Healthy Eating Plate is based on the latest and best scientific evidence, which shows that a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and healthy proteins lowers the risk of weight gain and chronic disease. Visit the Harvard website for more info on the difference between the Healthy Eating Plate and the USDA MyPlate.

What is a Health Promoting Diet?

The simple answer is a whole-foods, plant-based diet. This is a way of eating based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Animal products, including meat, dairy and eggs are consumed more as a condiment and/or just a few times per week. A plant-based diet can be tailored to be vegan, vegetarian, paleo, or omnivorous.

What are the healthiest foods for me eat?

Trying to figure out what foods you should be eating on a regular basis? Once you know what to look for, eating healthy can be really simple. Check out our list of Power Foods below that are great to include in your meals each day.

Power Foods

Whole Grains & Starchy Vegetables
Starches are essential and choosing the right ones will promote a good weight and top performance. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, red potatoes, squash, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams. Whole grains include brown rice, whole wheat, steel-cut or rolled oats, quinoa, millet, and many others.

Beans, Lentils & Peas (aka: Legumes)
There’s lot of variety to choose from, like black, kidney, pinto and garbanzo beans, red and green lentils, and split peas. This group also includes minimally processed soybeans, in the form of edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso and soymilk. Soy is a health-promoting food when it hasn’t been overly processed. It’s always best to choose organic to avoid GM soy. More processed soy products, like soy-based burgers, hot dogs and turkey should be limited, along with anything containing soy protein isolate.

This is one of the most important and nutritious group of all. Dark, leafy green veggies are awesome, and full of calcium, iron and a ton of vitamins. Some of our favorites are kale, spinach, broccoli, collards, and Brussels sprouts. Eat lots of them daily! Although loaded with nutrients, they have very few calories, so you can never have too much.

Fruits and Veggies
Get a variety —berries of all kinds, figs, apples, citrus fruits, stone fruits, mangoes, bananas, pears, bell peppers, garlic, beets, celery, cauliflower; the list goes on! Make your plate a rainbow!

Nuts and Seeds
Fats are essential for health, but you want to choose the right types of fat and the best sources. Raw nuts and seeds are very nutrient dense providing you with a fabulous balance of fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The most important fat for you to be concerned about is Omega-3, which can be found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, hempseeds, and walnuts. Wild-caught salmon can be a good source for the omega-3 but you want to be cautious about the level of contaminants in the fish. Extracted oils should be limited because of their high calorie content and low-nutrient density. At 120 calories per tablespoon, extracted oils are like the white sugar of the fat world.

Healthy Recipes
Check out the SSU Food Blog to find simple, tasty recipes. Or see our Recipe Ideas below for some general ideas for healthy meals. With these ideas you can use your favorite grains, legumes, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices to make the dish just the way you like it. Experiment and try new things. No worries if you don’t like a food, but don’t dismiss it immediately. People often find they do like a food if it’s prepared a specific way or if it's made by a certain brand.

Recipe Ideas

Oatmeal: Cook up instant oats, rolled oats, or steel-cut oats (the cooking times vary so pay attention). Then add cinnamon and fresh or frozen fruit. Nuts and seeds give a great crunch and ground flaxseeds provide your omega-3 fats for the day.

One-pot meal: Fabulous option for ease of cooking and cleaning up. And the combination of flavors can be phenomenal. Check out this post for details on one-pot meals.

Stir-fry: You can make endless meal variations by sautéing some veggies (carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.) with the herbs and spices of your choice. We definitely recommend including greens, like kale, broccoli, or cabbage. A great addition to boost the protein and substance of the dish are beans, tofu, or tempeh. The stir-fry goes perfectly over some brown rice, quinoa, or noodles.

Veggie chili: Black beans, kidney beans, and/or pinto beans with garlic, onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, diced kale, diced carrots, tomato sauce, chili powder, salt, pepper. Serve over quinoa, brown rice, or baked potatoes.

Whole-grain pasta: You can choose from whole-wheat pasta, quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta, or a multi-grain pasta. Serve with a super simple tomato sauce – just warm up a jar/can of strained tomatoes and add Italian spices, like basil, oregano and thyme. A can of tomato paste will provide a richer tomato flavor. Adding diced tomatoes and other veggies will create a chunkier marinara sauce.

Big Salad: Start with a bed of greens of any kind – from spinach to kale to romaine – they’re all great. Throw on other veggies, such as carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, snow peas, green beans, and tomatoes. We love adding beans for protein and nuts or seeds for some extra crunch. These additions will also make it more filling so you’re not hungry right away. Balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar make great fat-free dressings. You can also add a little bit of oil, but be careful here, because it quickly adds fat and calories.

Smoothies: Blend a banana with frozen berries and you’re set to go. You can add greens or ground flaxseeds for a nutritious boost. Nuts, seeds and nut butters are great to add for more calories and protein!

5 Reasons for a Plant-Based Diet

There are many reasons to add more plant foods to your diet. It’s not just about feeling and looking better. The food choices you make do affect your body and mind, but they also dramatically impact the environment, animal welfare and even hunger and poverty worldwide.

Promote Your Health
The basis of this guide is health, and many people switch to eating plants because they want to lose weight, improve their heart health, stay healthy as they age, improve blood pressure, or deal with diabetes. A plant-based diet has been shown to help with all of these things — if you also stay away from the processed foods. A diet of processed flour and sugar and fried foods isn’t healthy even if it’s all plants (more on this below). The healthiest populations in the world are plant based:

  • The Japanese Okinawans - traditionally, they ate almost all plants, including sweet potatoes, soybeans, and lots of veggies, with a bit of little fish
  • The Sardinians from the Mediterranean island of Sardinia – they ate a diet of beans & veggies, red wine, some cheese, and meat only once a week
  • The Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California – a vegan community, which means they will not eat any products that come from an animal, and they are considered to be the longest-living Americans

Eating plants is the best thing you can do to reduce your risk of the leading causes of death. Vegetarians and vegans weigh less on average than meat eaters. That’s even after adjusting for things like fiber, alcohol, smoking, and calorie intake! Half of Americans are obese, but on average vegans see much less obesity than omnivores and even lacto-ovo-vegetarians. When eating mostly whole, plant foods, you will shift towards or maintain your ideal body weight. That said, simply going vegan will not necessarily cause you to lose weight. A diet full of sugar, white flour, fake meats and fried foods could be vegan, but will is still highly processed and will promote weight gain. Whole, plant foods are low in calories and have tons of fiber and water. Animal and processed foods on the other hand, have lots of calories and fat, but completely lack the water and fiber, which are essential for sustainable weight-loss.

Protect the Environment
The biggest way to reduce your carbon footprint is to stop eating animal products — better than giving up a car (next best) or using less energy in your home or recycling or using solar energy or driving an electric car or buying fewer things. A 2009 United Nations report shows that raising livestock has a substantial impact on the world’s water, land and biodiversity resources, and contributes significantly to climate change. Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions – that’s more than all of transportation combined, which is second at 13%! It takes over 13 times as much water to produce just 1 day’s worth of food for a meat-eater than it does for a vegan. You’d save more water by not eating 1 pound of beef than you would by not showering for an entire year!

Show Animals Compassion
The cruelest thing most of us do each day is consume animals (and their products). The cruelty that is perpetuated on these living, feeling, suffering beings on our behalf is undeniable. The 16 billion animals who are killed for food annually in the U.S. have very little legal protection from cruelty, even so-called “free range” animals. They are neglected, mutilated, genetically manipulated, put on drug regimens, and killed in gruesome and violent ways. When we adopt a plant-based diet, we keep the animals alive and free from the meat and dairy industry’s rampant abuse  (graphic videos – please use discretion).

Reduce Hunger and Poverty
According to the United Nation’s report, The Environmental Food Crisis, a global shift towards a plant-based diet is an integral part of the solution to reduce poverty and world hunger. Currently, over 800 million suffer from hunger and malnutrition. If we adopted a plant-based diet worldwide, we’d have enough food to feed each and every one of us. If a diet rich in meat and dairy continues, food production will have to increase by 70% by 2050 to feed the world’s growing population.

Look Fabulous

Yes, it may very well be your appearance that leads you to consider plants versus animals. Like we mentioned earlier, a plant-based diet is the best way to reach your ideal body weight. Further than that though, more fruits and vegetables in your diet provide loads of antioxidants and other phytonutrients that fight off free radicals and slows the aging process. All of the vitamin and minerals in plant foods enhance your body’s ability to repair and heal itself, on the inside and out. Even better news: plant foods have less pesticide residues, they are completely free antibiotics or hormones, and they have less environmental toxins than animal products because they’re lower on the food chain. There is actually a direct correlation between the amount of dairy products one consumes and the amount of acne they experience. Overall, fewer toxins mean less damage and more beauty, including for our skin, hair, nails, teeth and eyes.   

Nutrition & Health Links

With such a wide variety of information on the web, it’s hard to know which sources are reliable and accurate. Check out these links for helpful information in regards to nutrition, your diet and what’s best for your health.