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Ming’s Cafe (located on Guadalupe St., near Kerbey Lane) is one of the many places in the university area that accepts the Go Local Card, so when 2 o’clock rolled around today (like it normally does) and I felt the pangs of hunger (like a person should) I decided to pay Ming’s a visit.
One thing I enjoy about Ming’s in particular are the rock bottom prices for their fried rice entrees. I am a big fan of sauteed (or, I guess in this case, “fried”) vegetables, so although the chicken and shrimp based meals are tasty, my go to is the vegetable fried rice.
The fried rice comes with broccoli, snow peas, onions, carrots, bean sprouts and pieces of scrambled egg. And as you can tell by the photo, they don’t skimp when it comes to providing an ample serving. (I ordered the small!)
But perhaps the most satisfying aspect is the price. With the Go Local Card, the plate costs only $3.89, which easily rivals the dime-a-dozen Americanized Chinese fast food restaurants we have all had the displeasure of regretting later.
So I say do the Austin thing; support your Austin businesses and keep Ming’s Cafe in mind the next time you are in the area.
One of my proudest health related moments came during my second year of college.
When I first moved into Jester my freshman year, I, like many others, went through that culture shock of immediate freedom. I could order pizza whenever I wanted! Sleeping in was no longer considered a bad thing (everyone was doing it)! And thanks to my dining plan in the dorm, food was constantly available as long as I could find a merchant that would accept the card.
But I was already in bad shape. When I walked across the stage at my school graduation, I weighed 210 pounds, and not much of that was what I would call “muscle.” Diabetes runs in the family on my dad’s side, and high blood pressure on my mom’s. I came to the realization that something needed to change, and quick. So I started being more structured with my meals. I hired one of the personal trainers in training at the Gregory Gym (conveniently located across the street) to get me started, and once that ended I kept going. To make a long story short, I ended up getting down to 150 lbs by the beginning of my second UT fall, became a lot happier with myself, and felt a lot more secure about my future.
It is safe to say that almost all of us could do for a little more respect for our bodies, but when you are taking that leap of faith into the “real” world of a college student, sometimes that is one of the last things on your mind. And even if you do decide to take control, where do you even begin? Who can you talk to?
Brandy Shih’s job, as Dietitian for the University of Texas’ Department of Housing & Food Service, is to do just that. I spoke with her to ask about common concerns and sources of confusion for beginners, and to find out just what it is that pushes so many students to succumb to the “Freshman 15.”
Austin Appetite: Many people have heard the advice that you are supposed to get 2000 calories in a day, but is that true, and where does it come from?
Brandy Shih: Basically, the nutrition fact label says that the daily intake is roughly 2000 calories, but that is really not the best. Everybody is different. When I do calculations for figuring out how many calories you need, I need to take in account your age, your weight, your height, your activity and everything, so that is a little bit better of a ballpark number. Just saying 2000 calories, that’s just really general. Looking at my consulations I do with the students here, it basically ranges from 1500 calories up to maybe even 2800 calories, depending on how active the person is.
If someone recognizes they are having issues with being over or under nourished, what are some of the things that you would recommend for them to rectify that?
[With students I advise] I always go through the different food groups and what recommendations of how many servings they need of each one. So, how many servings of the green group, how many servings of fruits and vegetables, and the dairy, and the proteins. I just kind of go from there, and having those amount of servings generally add up to the amount of calories they should have.
If there were three things you wish everyone was more aware of (in particular, the student population), what would they be?
1. Portion control. I always tell people about portion control. People go way overboard all the time. They don’t realize what an actual “portion” is. If you go Romano’s Macaroni Grill you are going to get a plate of pasta that is probably like 4-5 servings. There is no reason why we need to be eating all of that in one sitting.
2. Having a variety. Variety is such a huge and broad term, but it really is [important]. I mean, one of my good friends, he just eats fast food every single day, and basically it is a burger, fries and a drink. And it is like, there is a lot more foods out there that can meet your needs that are tasty. So having a variety of food is always good and something I suggest to students. Maybe at home they only had a set amount of things they were exposed to, but there are so many types of foods out there you may like. You should always try new things.
3. Physical activity. I get a lot of people in here that want to lose weight, but they kind of don’t want to go move. It is a pretty big part. You know, studies have shown you can diet [and get results], but it is not going to do as much good as doing diet and exercise, changing your lifestyle. So that’s what I tell students, it is not a diet, it is basically a behavior change, that you are going to eat these foods, and then incorporate the healthier physical activity by getting out there and moving. We lead such sedentary lives, and you have to get out and move at some point! People kind of forget that they need to do that.
In your opinion, what is the biggest problem you see students having?
When I go upstairs to eat during my lunch time, I see a lot of food, piles on people’s plate, and I’m just impressed with how much they are eating. I know that they are moving around a lot, they are active and things like that, but sometimes it is such a huge amount I can’t help thinking if they keep that habit up, and never slow down, it’s just going to get bad. I think part of the issue is a lot of people don’t know how to eat healthy now, and you are setting in your habits now, so once you get out into the “real world” with office work and doing things on your own and are not having mom and dad to help you cook foods, you are not going to incorporate those physical activities in order to have a healthy life. Keeping up the healthier behaviors throughout the college years and into the 20s, it makes it a lot easier later.
Do you have any resources you would recommend to anyone who wants to get serious about monitoring their own nutrition?
Lance Armstrong has a website called The Daily Plate, and you can put in what you eat during the day, what you exercise during the day, and you can enter your height, your weight, and if you want to lose weight or maintain or gain muscle, those kinds of things, and it will help you see what you need to do. For example, you have your breakfast, you had this many calories, and then maybe during the day, you went to run for 30 minutes, so it will now say you have a negative amount of this because you only had this much to eat. So it kind of helps the person track down what exactly they are doing. That’s what I tell people; if you keep a food journal, it helps you keep track of things, because you have to write down everything. You can’t just skip the part where you ate a piece of candy or [drank the] soda, you have to write everything down. It is just keeping log and seeing the calories in verus the calories out, and seeing where exercise comes into play.
There is even MyPyramid.gov, that’s where the food guide pyramid is, and they also have their own program where you can track different foods. It shows you what servings you should have, so that is also a great resource to have.
Brandy Shih is available to talk by appointment to all students living in on-campus through the Division of Housing & Food Services. Her contact information (along with more helpful advice from Nutrition Services) can be found here.
*Quinoa is actually a psuedocereal; I explain below!
For many Americans, our go to filler grain tends to be rice. If we are feeling particularly adventurous, we might even turn to brown rice for the “extra” fiber. (The industry likes us to believe that brown = wheat = healthy, but brown rice actually is not much different from white, but it still has its benefits.)
But what most people do not know is that there is an entire world of grain-like products out there that in many ways outdo rice in the health department. Today, I am going to highlight quinoa.
As you might have noticed, I have been stopping just short of calling quinoa a grain. That is because it actually has more in common with chenopods such as spinach and beets. But for our purposes (and yours), quinoa is an excellent alternative for situations where a good, hearty grain-like base is needed in a dish, and it blows rice away in terms of health benefits.
Quinoa’s high protein profile makes it a great choice for vegetarians and vegans, and quinoa comes with one of the most balanced servings of amino acids you can find. Another benefit? Quinoa is gluten-free.
So where can you find it? I suggest you skip the “grain” aisle at the grocery store and visit the one of the bag-your-own stations found in many supermarkets. Not only is it cheaper when purchased in bulk (my last batch I got for less than a dollar a pound), you typically find a much more varied selection than what you can get of the bagged varieties. Here in Austin, I suggest you try either Whole Foods Market, Central Market, and some HEB stores also carry it.
To prepare Quinoa, you take most of the same steps as rice, although when you buy it in bulk you want to make sure you take the time to soak it in water for a few hours to remove the bitterness (if you buy it prepackaged, this has likely been taken care of for you). Bring two cups of water to boil, throw in some salt and butter/oil to mature the flavor a bit, and then add one cup quinoa and cover. Once the germ begins to separate from the seed (you will see a little curl coming off), it is done! As I said before, treat it like rice; serve it under chili or toss it in a soup!
Including quinoa in your diet every once in a while is a great way to sneak in more nutrients with very little effort!
Like many of my fellow college age students, I grew up in a fast paced family that rarely made time for a well thought out breakfast. Although this was probably dreadful for my health, at the very least my young self got to participate in the biweekly ritual of cereal choosing. And, like most children do when given free reign over the cereal aisle, I based all my decisions on which sugar based goodness appealed to me the most.
But as I became more informed about making healthy choices, I realized that there is probably something to that sugary gloss found on Fruit Loops that I should not be happy about. (Fruit Loops first ingredient? Sugar.)
Making the switch to a healthier lifestyle does not mean a person has to make drastic changes to their eating routine to get results. Success comes from making those little changes here and there that eventually add up to a decent decrease in calorie intake. Although in a perfect world we would all have time to cook ourselves a nice breakfast every morning, it simply is not the case.
When choosing a cereal, you want to be on the lookout for three key things. You want a high amount of fiber, to ensure that hunger does not debilitate you before lunchtime, a moderate amount of calories, to provide some energy to get through the day, and as little sugar as possible.
But when you visit the cereal aisle, things are not always so clear cut. Just about every box out there has latched on to the buzz words of “More Fiber!”, but it is important to understand that there are no standards that regulate when a cereal can claim to be a good source of it. Also, just because a cereal has moderate levels of fiber does not mean that the producers of said cereal also did you a favor in lowering both the amount of calories and sugar. Take a look at Fruit Loops again. The 3g of fiber per serving is completely overshadowed by the 12g sugar that tags along.
So, what do you do? The king of fiber cereals has the word right in the title: Fiber One Original. Fiber One comes with a whopping 14g of fiber per serving, with absolutely no sugar (0g) to worry about, and it has only 60 calories per portion. Although no sugar at all sounds a little “bland,” it is nothing that cannot be solved with some sliced strawberries or bananas. (I am a fan of almond milk, which adds its own sort of sweetness to the mix.)
A little too drastic on the scale? Still feeling the tug of childhood? There is always Kix. Yes, the classic kid’s cereal actually does a decent job of providing a balanced offering of fiber (3g per serving) and sugar (3g per serving) with an okay amount of calories (110). Just make sure to keep the portions under control!
If neither of these appeal to you, that is fine, but I encourage you to spend a little more time on your next grocery trip while picking a cereal, and take a glance at the nutritional facts. What you thought was good for your body might have a sugary secret.