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UC studies calorie labeling on cafeteria food

When food calorie content was posted on menu boards at Kaiser Hospital cafeterias, a significant number of patrons altered their food choices, according to a pilot menu labeling study conducted by UC Berkeley researchers.

The results are compelling because the California menu labeling bill (SB 1420), which requires chain restaurants to put calorie counts on menu boards, goes into full effect next year.

In the Kaiser pilot study, more than 500 patrons completed cafeteria exit surveys. Nearly a third of respondents who noticed the calorie information said they changed their food choices as a result. Nearly all of them agreed that calorie information should be available and 80 percent said they felt Kaiser was helping them look after their health by providing calorie and nutrient information.

The researchers also analyzed the food on patrons' trays - either by observation or by scrutinizing cash register receipts. They determined that food purchases in cafeterias where the labeling was introduced sold significantly more healthy side dishes, but little change was seen in entreé selections.

Eleven percent of the survey respondents indicated that there are potential disadvantages to having calorie information posted in the cafeterias, the research report said.

"The most common disadvantage cited was guilt from ordering high-calorie foods," it reported.

The pilot study was conducted by the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, the College of Natural Resources and the School of Public Health, all at UC Berkeley.

Click here for the 33-page research report.
Posted on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 7:34 AM

Eating right before, during and after a workout

It is "absolutely essential" to eat and drink two to four hours before workouts to fuel and hydrate the body, says UC Davis sports nutrition expert Liz Applegate. Eating before exercise is particularly important when taking part in activities that require hand-eye coordination, like basketball and fencing.

Applegate recorded a 13-minute video for the UC Cooperative Extension website Feeling Fine Online that outlines what and when athletes should eat for optimum health and performance.

The pre-workout meal, she advises, should be high in carbohydrates, low in fat and contain a moderate amount of protein. Applegate's examples:

  • 1 pita pocket with 3 tablespoons of fruit spread
  • 1 cup of oatmeal with 4 oz. of soy or lowfat milk
  • 6 oz. of vegetable juice with 1/2 cup apricots
  • High carbohydrate energy bar with no more than 10 grams of protein
During workouts, she advises athletes drink 1/2 to 3/4 cup fluid each 15 to 20 minutes. If the workout will last longer than an hour, consume about 100 calories each half hour. Foods to consume during workout sessions could include banana, apple, half a sandwich, sports drinks or energy gels.

"After exercise is where I see lots of mistakes," Applegate says.

She recommends athletes eat a specific amount of carbohydrates within the first 30 minutes post exercise. (To calculate the amount of post-exercise carbs for you, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.7. That gives the number of carbs in grams.) A small amount of protein and antioxidants will also boost recovery. Applegate's post-exercise examples are:

  • Smoothie with fruit and yogurt, protein powder or soy milk
  • Bean burrito with 6 oz. of fruit juice
  • Tuna sandwich with 8 oz. of cranberry juice
  • 2 mozzarella sticks, a whole grain English muffin and an orange

Recovery also requires rehydration. Applegate recommends drinking 16 oz. of fluid for each pound of sweat lost.

Posted on Friday, May 21, 2010 at 7:37 AM

New gardeners cultivated throughout Los Angeles County

Gardening has become very popular lately, particularly in growing fruits and vegetables, and largely due to the need to lower grocery bills and eat healthy during this recession.  But for beginners, gardening can sometimes seem intimidating and bewildering due to the multitude of variables involved, such as soil fertility, pest management, seasonal plants, composting, to name a few. Well, UC Cooperative Extension’s “Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative” in Los Angeles helped demystify gardening for many residents, using UC research-based information.

Master Gardener volunteers organized and led low-cost gardening courses to teach the basics of gardening to 297 students. Thirteen classes were held in March, April and May at 10 different sites throughout the county, from Tarzana to Echo Park. Each site accommodated about 30 participants who wanted to turn their new interest in gardening into successful, productive gardens in their backyards, community gardens and patios.  Overall, participants walked away very pleased with the classes, and many felt that their gardening knowledge improved significantly.

“My husband and I just want to say thank you for a really wonderful four-session course.  It was the perfect amount of information for beginner gardeners like us,” said a participant at the Milagro-Allegro Community Garden site in Highland Park, California.

So, what’s next?  Cooperative Extension hopes to host another round of classes in Fall 2010. The hands-on experience was very successful, leaving many to inquire about future classes. For information, please contact Yvonne Savio, Common Ground program manager, at (323) 260-3407, ydsavio@ucdavis.edu.

Posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 8:24 AM

Milk’s secret for fighting childhood infections

UC Davis microbiologist David Mills received a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to test whether certain milk sugars can prevent life-threatening diarrheal diseases in young children. Globally, these gastrointestinal infections are the second leading cause of death among children under the age of five, each year killing 1.5 million children.

Mills, an authority on the molecular biology of lactic acid bacteria used in foods, said, “We will examine the ability of these compounds from milk to prevent gastrointestinal infections and to establish healthy bacteria in the intestines.” He and his colleagues are working to move the basic research toward practical applications in human health.

Earlier research has shown that similar oligosaccharides in human breast milk play an important role in supporting growth of protective bacteria in babies’ digestive tracts. Such bacteria are known to minimize the risk and severity of diarrheal disease and other gastrointestinal infections in infants.

The UC Davis researchers are hopeful that milk from cows will provide an abundant source of oligosaccharides that have comparable therapeutic characteristics for young children who are no longer breast-feeding.

Mills noted that if the researchers’ hypothesis proves correct, they plan to explore how oligosaccharides can be incorporated in a healthful, cost-effective manner into various food products designed for nutritional therapy and for use in international famine and malnutrition relief efforts.

For more information, read the full press release.
Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 2:34 PM

E. coli outbreak on lettuce parallels recent
UC research development

Although the outbreak earlier this month of E. coli O145 in shredded Romaine lettuce hasn’t touched California consumers and local retailers, it is impacting the industry. Once again, the safety of pre-washed and cut leafy vegetables are in headlines, raising the fears of consumers and producers alike.

The Centers for Disease Control have confirmed 23 illnesses and 7 probable illnesses in New York, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee from the contaminated lettuce. The traceback investigation is stretching west to Yuma, Ariz., where the lettuce may have been grown. So far, the source of the contamination has not been identified.

A source of confusion and alarm, however, is the contaminant’s O145 designation. For the past 30 years, the majority of the E. coli illness outbreaks in America were serotype O157:H7. UC Davis Cooperative Extension produce safety specialist Trevor Suslow said E. coli O145 doesn’t come completely out of the blue. O145 is recognized in its association with food in other countries and more often with animal products, not produce.

Suslow and his staff were well aware of E. coli O145 prior to this month’s outbreak and included it in their recent research aimed at development of a new method for detecting a broad range of the most dangerous E. coli bacteria in produce and produce production environments.

The new test was not designed to identify a particular strain of E. coli, but to determine whether a pathogenic/toxigenic strain of E. coli – such as O145 – is present. If the test comes up positive, a secondary test can be conducted to narrow down the specific type of E.coli.

Pathogenic/toxigenic E. coli are of tremendous concern for the fresh produce industry. “Generic” E. coli live in the guts of most mammals; they are typically harmless and may even be beneficial. However, pathogenic/toxigenic E. coli, when ingested by humans, can cause bloody diarrhea and, particularly in the very young and very old, may lead to kidney failure and even death.

Suslow said the new test, which goes by the working name “total pathogenic E. coli,” or TPEC, was tested in a variety of different types of samples: irrigation water, feed lot surface material, manure, compost, soil and produce.

“With all those materials, we had very good effectiveness, but especially with water and produce,” Suslow said.

The research will be presented at the UC Davis Center for Produce Safety Produce Research Symposium on June 23. The Produce Research Symposium is open to the public. A $150 registration fee includes all symposium sessions, breakfast, lunch and an evening reception in the courtyard and gardens of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science.

For more information or to register for the symposium, see the Center for Produce Safety website at http://cps.ucdavis.edu.

Posted on Monday, May 17, 2010 at 6:23 AM

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