FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Eat Smart with your SmartPhone

Do you love your Droid or iPhone? If so, let your SmartPhone help you eat smarter and stay healthier. I spent an afternoon reviewing all of the nutrition and exercise apps out there and found four that I think you’ll love.

Download them and try them out, then let us know what you think!

  1. Drinking Water: This app reminds you to drink water and allows you to track how much water you are drinking daily. Every couple hours you hear a calming sound of pouring water. Just reach for your water bottle, chug some water, and then mark off one of the cups on the screen.
  2. Fooducate: Use this at the grocery store. Scan the barcode of an item before you put it in your cart or basket. Find out the good and bad about each item and get some guidance on healthier, but similar, products.
  3. Restaurant Nutrition: It’s hard to know exactly what’s on your plate when you are eating out.  Take your phone with you and use this app to combine menu items from popular restaurants to build your entire meal order and see the nutrition facts.
  4. iMapMyRun: Use this app to record the route, time, distance, speed, pace and calories of your walk, run or bike in real-time. Just make sure your phone is GPS-enabled.

Do you use any of these apps? Or do you think you might try them? Tell us what you think by commenting on this blog, posting to our Facebook page (UNC Campus Health Services) or tweeting (@UNCCampusHealth).

Is meat bad for you?

I’ve found that many students want to know – is meat bad for you?

We can easily see that industrial meat production (in facilities such as certified animal feeding operations) harms the environment and facilitates antibiotic resistance.  But does meat really harm human health directly?  Should someone avoid eating meat altogether – even sustainably or organically grown beef and lean meats? Or are there benefits to eating meat in moderation? Overall, we believe that all foods can be part of a healthy diet – including meats.

Saying “meat is bad for you” is a very strong statement, and one that would be difficult to prove based on the scientific evidence we have. Understanding why requires digging into some of the overall challenges with evidence-based nutrition. For example, if we do a study and find that people who eat lots of meat are more likely to get cancer or be overweight, we still can’t know for sure whether it was the large amount of meat, the additives in processed foods or the lack of fruits/vegetables/whole grains that made them sick. Additionally, we don’t know that eating a moderate amount of meat in a single meal is going to cause any problems. If we imagine that we could prove meat causes bad health, we still wouldn’t know what makes meat harmful. Is it the meat itself, or just a component of the meat (i.e. saturated fat)? If the culprit was saturated fat, we could get just as sick drinking coconut milk even if we don’t eat meat.

Meat isn’t bad for you. That being said, we can use common sense based on proven nutrition science to understand the role of meat in a healthy diet. We know that:

  • Meat has some important nutrients in it like protein, vitamin B12, iron and folate.
  • Eating too many calories will make you gain weight.
  • Eating too much saturated fat can cause health problems.
  • Depending on the type of meat and how you prepare it, the calories and amount of saturated fat in it change.

The Mediterranean diet, for example, includes plenty of meat, and at the same time has been linked to improved health and lower risk of disease because it focuses on lean meats like chicken and fish.

Vegetarianism is not for everyone and it is certainly not the only way to be healthy. To get the most health benefits from your meat, focus on lean meats like chicken and fish and opt for baking or grilling rather than frying. Limit high-fat meats like bacon and beef. Try to eat meat for one meal during the day, and get your protein from beans, nuts, eggs or yogurt at other meals. Meat isn’t bad for you; indeed it can be part of your healthy and balanced diet.

Next week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week!

February 26 – March 3 is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAWeek). Eating disorders affect all of us, men and women from all walks of life. According to a Global Market Institute Survey, four out of ten Americans have either suffered or known someone who has suffered from an eating disorder. That means it’s pretty likely that someone close to you has been touched by an eating disorder: a friend, classmate, co-worker, brother, sister, significant other.

In honor of NEDAWeek, take a break from class, get some free food or watch some groove-shakers, and learn more about eating disorders and body image at the same time! Here’s the scoop:

SUNDAY (February 26th)
Miss Representation film screening, panel discussion and FREE fro-yo
111 Carroll, UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communications
2:30 – 5:00pm

UNC Eating Disorders Program is hosting a FREE screening of “Miss Representation,” a documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Afterwards, there will be a  Q andA with Frank Stasio,  host of The State of Things on NPR; Dr. Cynthia Bulik, Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders and author of The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing What You Look Like With Who You Are; and Ms. Stephanie Crayton, Media Relations Manager for UNC Healthcare with a decade of broadcast experience. FREE frozen yogurt, compliments of TCBY, offered at the event!!

MONDAY (February 27th)
Greek Groove 2012
Memorial Hall
7:00 – 9:00pm

This is a large dance competition hosted by Panhellenic Council. Come see these impressive dancers battle for a cause. Tickets are $10 and are on sale now at Memorial Hall. Funds raised benefit UNC Eating Disorders Program to provide treatment and support for those struggling with eating disorders, and promote awareness of the dangers of eating disorders in the Carolina community.

TUESDAY (February 28th)
The Mirror Event: Book signing with Dr. Cynthia Bulik, and Mirror Pictures!
FREE Food! LIVE Music! Prizes!
@ The Pit and Student Stores
5:30 – 7:30pm

Come to the Pit at 5:30pm for free food, games, giveaways and activities hosted by peers and experts in nutrition, eating disorders, body image, and self-esteem.  Participate in the Great Jeans Giveaway to enter our prize raffle. At 6pm in the student bookstore, meet world-renowned eating disorders expert Cynthia Bulik, listen to excerpts from her book, The Woman in the Mirror , engage in invigorating discussion facilitated by Dr. Bulik, have your book signed and take your picture with The Mirror! Stay from 7-7:30pm for live music and continued festivities as we announce raffle winners.

“Bury” your negative body attitudes at the tombstones in Lenoir and Ram’s Head dining and contribute positive affirmations on the mirrors at the SRC.

Even if you can’t attend any of these events, you can still take a moment to learn a little bit about eating disorders.

  • Can you have an eating disorder and be overweight?
  • What are the different types of eating disorders?
  • How is bulimia different from binge eating?
  • Who is at risk for an eating disorder?
  • Can eating disorders be cured?

Find answers to these questions on this NEDA factsheet and visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for even more information!

We’re pumped about the week’s events, and we hope you will take part in NEDAWeek at UNC.

3 Easy Steps to Stocking Up on Snacks

Having healthy snacks on hand is essential to college life. They are great when you are running across campus for 5 classes back-to-back. They are great when you need a boost to get you through until the dining halls open. But what if you don’t have a car? What if you are on a budget? Still, it’s as easy as 1-2-3 to keep yourself stocked on snacks. Here is a step-by-step guide for those who live on campus, and don’t have a car.

Step 1: Grab an empty duffel bag, back pack and/or reusable grocery sack and take the bus to Walmart. Yes, you have to take Triangle Transit, but do not fear…it’s easy!

Step 2: Shop smart. Don’t know what healthy snacks to buy? Go for non-perishable foods with plenty of protein and fiber. Here are a few options I picked out. 

  • Granola bars:  Try Kashi GoLean Crunchy! (150-160 kcals, 8-9g protein, 6g fiber) or Kashi GoLean Roll! (190kcals, 12g Protein, 6g Fiber). You can also try Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars (190kcals, 5g protein, 2g fiber).
  • Nuts: Try Peanuts, Almonds, Cashews, or mixed nuts, all high in protein and healthy fats. Go for less or no salt.
  • Triscuit Crackers: Only a few simple ingredients and high in fiber so you feel full faster and longer!
  • Reduced Fat String Cheese/Cheese Sticks: A good source of protein, and they make a great snack with the Triscuit crackers. You should store them in a fridge after you purchase them, but they will keep in your backpack all day so they still work as a late morning or afternoon snack
  • Baby carrots: Though most fresh vegetables won’t last, carrots are fairly long-lived. They’ll keep well in your backpack for the day so you’ll have your veggies waiting for you when it’s time for a snack!

Step 3: Buy in bulk, but only what you can carry. Pack everything you buy into the bags you brought. You can even take the granola bars out of their box to make everything fit. Then head home…happy snacking!

Once you get the hang of where everything is in the grocery store, and if you pick a time when the bus schedules match up, the total trip would probably take you between 2 and 3 hours, depending on the frequency of the buses. Not bad, considering you probably only need to go every 3 weeks or so. If you think ahead, you can plan to go right before mid-terms or finals start so that you have plenty of healthy snacks to get you through.

What other bus routes do you use to get to Harris Teeter, the farmer’s market, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s? What are some of your favorite healthy snacks? Do you have any shopping tips to share?

Stay Active, in the Warmth of the Indoors!

I hate being cold. I also hate that when it’s cold outside, I don’t exercise as much.

So, I’ve found ways to exercise in the warmth of home, without exercise equipment. Here are some ideas I’d like to share. You can make a full cardio workout out of these by combining activities and exercising at moderate intensity for 45-60 minutes.

  1. Jumping Jacks: This classic exercise from your kindergarten class never grows old, and will definitely get your heart pumping.
  2. Jump Rope: Find your little brother or sister’s jump rope and see how fast you can do it. See if you can crisscross or double hop. Or, set a timer and jump for 10 minutes straight. Make sure to wear good shoes to protect your feet and legs.
  3. Burpees (or Squat Thrusts): These are classic whole-body exercises which involve quickly lowering into the push up position, pulling the feet in and then jumping up with arms raised. You can see an example here. These are pretty challenging, so do them at a pace that works for you.
  4. Mountain climbers: In the push up position with chest directly above hands, arms shoulder width apart, and back flat, run with your feet as if climbing a mountain. You can see an example here.
  5. Steps: Exercise up and down the stairs in your house by stepping up with one foot, then bringing the other up onto the same step. You may want to use just a few of the steps. Repeat leading with the other leg.
  6. Wii or Kinect games: Many of these video games involve active participation. Kinect Adventures has a great obstacle course game that really gets your heart pumping, or you can try some of the sports games on the Wii.
  7. Dancing: Dancing is a great way to exercise. You can go out with friends for a night on the town, or slip in Dance Central or Just Dance on the Wii or Kinect.

Physical activity will not only help you maintain a healthy weight during this season, it will also give you extra energy and relieve stress as your holiday to-do list grows. Don’t let the cold, ice or snow stop you from staying active. Give these in-home cardio exercises a try!

5-hour energy: Does it work? Is it safe?

5-hour energy, a popular energy drink you may have tried, makes claims that seem too good to be true… Get immediate energy that lasts for 5 hours, without a sugar crash afterwards and with the same amount of caffeine that is in one cup of coffee [1]. Are these claims true?

What’s in 5-hour energy? Caffeine, B vitamins, a sugar substitute and some other stuff.

  • Plenty of caffeine: Despite the claims on the label, some independent laboratory tests have shown that 5-hour energy contains up to 200mg of caffeine while an average cup of coffee contains just 130mg [2]. While caffeine is generally safe (even when consumed daily) there is also scientific consensus that it affects your sleep pattern, and may cause you to be more anxious, especially if you already experience anxiety [3].
  • Extremely large amounts of B vitamins (8333% of the daily value for one B vitamin): While a few recent studies have suggested that taking a daily multivitamin (with B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals) for 30 days leads to improved concentration and alertness, large amounts of these vitamins are not required to produce an effect [4]. All of the B vitamin levels in one 5-hour energy drink are below the maximum daily intake level, but since many students who use energy drinks tend to use more than 1 in a day, you may consume more than the recommended maximum level. If you experience hot or tingling skin and/or numbing sensations, you may have overdosed on B-vitamins. This is even more likely if you already take a multivitamin that contains B vitamins (especially B3 and B6).
  • Sugar substitute: The drink is sweetened with sucralose (otherwise known as Splenda©) to give it a sweet taste. This ingredient is buried in the ingredient list, so you may not have noticed that before. Since this drink contains no sugar, it will not produce a sugar crash common in some other drinks.
  • Other stuff: A mixture of several metabolic byproducts and amino acids such as phenylalanine, tyrosine and citicoline (a derivative of choline) which the company calls an “energy blend.” These components are all associated with energy and metabolism in the body. Because these compounds occur abundantly in beans, meats and many processed foods, deficiency is uncommon and there is zero evidence that consuming these compounds can improve alertness or cognitive performance unless a person has a severe deficiency [5].

The active ingredient in 5-hour energy is caffeine, plain and simple. Caffeine reduces sleepiness, enhances alertness and restores cognitive function lost due to lack of sleep [6]. The B vitamins might also help improve concentration and alertness, but these effects have only been researched in the context of daily multivitamin use and the amounts provided in 5-hour energy are much higher than needed. None of the other ingredients appear to have any effect on energy or alertness except in rare cases of deficiency or nutrient depletion, and there is no scientific basis for the claim that the increased energy will last longer than it would for a similar amount of caffeine consumed in a different beverage.

What’s the bottom line?

  • 5-hour energy may contain more caffeine than advertised, but it is still probably a safe, albeit pricey, alternative to a coffee boost for those who can tolerate caffeine. Because the caffeine dose may be higher than expected and because caffeine overdose can be dangerous, don’t try to consume more than one drink at a time.
  • If you already take a multivitamin that contains niacin (B3) or other B vitamins, be careful not to overdose by combining it with 5 hour energy.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the value of sleep. As I mentioned above, some research suggests that caffeine does not improve cognitive function, but instead simply restores cognitive function lost due to lack of sleep. Instead of spending $3-4 a pop on what is essentially a caffeine shot, you might try saving your money, and improving your energy and concentration the natural way.



  1. 5-hour Energy Ingredients and Safety. http://www.5hourenergy.com/ingredients.asp
  2. Perks of 5-hour Energy Put to the Test. CBS News. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/02/07/earlyshow/health/main7326410.shtml
  3. Broderick P, Benjamin AB. Caffeine and psychiatric symptoms: a review. J Okla State Med Assoc. 2004 Dec;97(12):538-42.
  4. David O. Kennedy, Rachel C. Veasey, Anthony W. Watson, Fiona L. Dodd, Emma K. Jones, Brian Tiplady and Crystal F. Haskell. Vitamins and psychological functioning: a mobile phone assessment of the effects of a B vitamin complex, vitamin C and minerals on cognitive performance and subjective mood and energy. Hum. Psychopharmacol Clin Exp 2011; 26: 338–347.
  5. Leyton, M; Young, SN; Pihl, RO; Etezadi, S; Lauze, C; Blier, P; Baker, GB; Benkelfat, C. Effects on mood of acute phenylalanine/tyrosine depletion in healthy women. Neuropsychopharmacology 2000; 22(1): 52-63Timothy
  6. Roehrs and Thomas Roth. Caffeine: Sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sleep Medicine Reviews (2008) 12, 153–162

Gatorade vs Good ‘Ole H2O

Have you ever wondered whether sports drinks really make a difference? Is Gatorade, Powerade, AllSport or Xcel really worth the extra expense over a bottle of plain water? Over the past week I did some research on this very topic, and thought you might be interested in my findings.

Sports drinks currently on the market contain water, 6-8% sugar and electrolytes that may be lost in sweat such as sodium, potassium and chloride. While commercially-available drinks vary slightly in composition, the differences are not significant and it doesn’t really matter which one you purchase. The main thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to be drinking anything that is more than 10% sugar because that may actually contribute to dehydration. Also, place your water or sports drink in the fridge before you drink it. Cold fluids are better than warmer fluid during exercise because they help regulate body temperature. This is especially important in the summer.

Do sports drinks increase performance? In general, they appear to improve athletic performance because they provide extra carbohydrates which are fuel for muscles, and because they provide electrolytes which, with water, help maintain hydration.

A review of over 70 studies by Coombes and Hamilton published in a journal called Sports Medicine in 2000 indicated that consuming any commercially available sports drinks improves athletic performance for short-term intense exercise (for less than 1 hour) and for prolonged or ultra-endurance exercise (more than 1 hour). The review also stated that the for ultra-endurance exercise (more than 4 hours) where there are large electrolyte losses due to sweating, drinks containing electrolytes have a significant advantage over plain water.

The American College of Sports Medicine in their 2007 statement, Exercise and Fluid Replacement, asserts that “sports drinks containing carbohydrates and electrolytes often do provide more benefits than consuming water alone.”

Ok, so there are benefits for people doing short-term intense exercise, and those planning on running, cycling or engaging in another form of exercise for more than an hour at a time. What about those of us who just like to jog for 30 minutes a day, a few times a week? Should we use sports drinks? There are several factors to keep in mind here:

  1. Remember that sports drinks provides extra energy without giving you very many vitamins or other important nutrients.
  2. On the other hand, studies have shown that during exercise, people will voluntarily drink more of a sports drink than water.

So, you may want to opt for water instead of sports drinks to optimize your balanced diet. Hydration is essential, however, so if you are exercising for a longer period, are prone to dehydration or it’s very hot, it’s most important that you get enough fluid. Sports drinks aren’t necessary (water is great!) however if sports drinks encourage you to stay more hydrated than you normally would with water, give them a try.


American College of Sports Medicine Press Release. February 2007. http://www.acsm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home_Page&template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=6862
Coombes & Hamilton. Effectiveness of Commercially Available Sports Drinks. Sports Med 2000 Mar: 29 (3): 181-209

Try your hand at advertising healthy eating habits!

In 2009, New York City launched a public awareness campaign to discourage soda and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. Some considered the ads overly graphic, and even offensive, because they featured a beverage turning into globs of fat as it is poured into a glass, and showed a man gulping the fat, emerging with fat globs dripping from his face. But others applauded the ad campaign for boldly getting people’s attention turned towards healthy beverages. In a media climate saturated with unhealthy foods and drinks, the ad provided a different perspective that forced people to consider the health effects of their food and beverage choices.

Some more humorous ads have been created to encourage healthy snacking such as the “Extreme Baby Carrots” video that you may have seen on this blog earlier this year. The video features baby carrots in a way that may appeal to adventurous, thrill-seeking kids, adolescents and/or young adults. Just don’t try this at home!


The media is a great avenue for beginning to change our attitudes and our campus culture so that choosing healthier options becomes the norm. So, I’d like to tell you about an upcoming poster and/or video contest! Have some fun designing your poster or video, and maybe you’ll win the grand prize of $150! Here are the details:

Food Day Poster/Short Video Contest
Are you frustrated with today’s food climate? Consider entering the Food Day poster/video contest! Make a poster or short (30-sec) video that either (1) advertises fruits and vegetables as snacks OR (2) discourages soda and sugar-sweetened beverages. Submit entries by October 10th, 2011 to UNCFoodDay@gmail.com. Winner of the $150 prize will be announced at the Food Fight screening on Food Day, October 24th at 7pm in Hamilton 100.

Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it’s good for you

As you may have seen either at FallFest or in the Daily Tarheel, Complete Nutrition, a national retailer of weight loss and nutritional supplements, distributed a possibly unsafe drug to students without informing them of the drug facts and side effects. A local franchise of Complete Nutrition purchased a table at FallFest and passed out various product samples. Some of you may have received a single pill in a plastic bag marked “EphedFx.” The medication was distributed with no other identifying information, ingredient or dosage information and no warning of the side effects of taking this drug, which are numerous.

So what is EphedFx? EphedFx is an over-the-counter supplement derived from the bitter orange plant and its supposed mechanism of action includes increasing the number of calories burned. It may possibly be effective as a topical oil to treat fungal skin infections such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. According to WebMD and the Mayo Clinic, however, there is insufficient evidence that ingestion of bitter orange can bring about weight loss. Still, Complete Nutrition claims that EphedFx “gives you the energy boost of Ephedrine without the negative side effects.”  WebMD states that the substance is possibly unsafe when used in medicinal amounts and that it can trigger migraines. When taken with caffeine (which is another active ingredient in EphedFx), there is an increased risk for high blood pressure, fainting, heart attack, stroke, and other severe side effects. EphedFx and other herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

We hope that you are not in the habit of ingesting unknown medications that you receive in unmarked plastic baggies on the street. The bag was marked “EphedFx,” but it could have contained anything! If you did receive one of these pills, we want to make sure you have the facts about EphedFx. Please carefully review the facts, side effects and drug interactions of all supplements, over the counter and prescription medications before you take them. Being an informed and wise consumer will help you protect yourself from unsafe medications or drug interactions.

If you are concerned about your weight, interested in weight loss or are considering taking weight loss drugs, please talk first with a medical professional. Also, take some time to explore the nutrition resources available to you at UNC Counseling and Wellness Services. For example, we offer free nutrition education and general nutrition counseling for all full-time students who want more information about healthy eating strategies and/or help meeting nutritional goals. Just call 919-966-3658 to make an appointment today!