4 Things You Should Consider Before Switching to a Plant-Based Diet

By: Selena Shanahan, ’18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
Photo Credit: Selena Shanahan

Photo Credit: Selena Shanahan

First of all…what does it mean to be vegan? Vegans are individuals who do not eat animal products. This means that like vegetarians, they do not eat meat, poultry, or fish, but vegans also do not consume products containing dairy or eggs. Although many diet trends have come and gone, veganism seems to be on the rise with no sign of waning. People make the switch to vegan diets for many different reasons. Some do it believing it is a way of eating healthier, some do it for the environment, and others do it for ethical reasons.

Whatever your reason is for making the switch to a plant-based diet, there are a few things you should pay special attention to in your diet.

  1. Vitamin B12This nutrient is not naturally found in a plant-based diet, but it is extremely important for our nervous system to function properly. However, this does not mean vegans can’t get this nutrient in their diet. There are many vegan products that are fortified with vitamin B12. Some of my favorites are non-dairy milks like soy and almond milk, nutritional yeast, and tofu. Not all brands of tofu and non-dairy milks are fortified with vitamin B12 so be sure to check the label.
  2. Iron: There are many plant-based sources of iron, so why am I mentioning it in this list? Well, the iron in plants is not absorbed into our bodies as well as iron in meat, but there are ways around this. Eating iron-rich foods like legumes and dark leafy greens with vitamin C rich foods like tomatoes or bell peppers will increase iron absorption.
  3. Calcium: Everyone knows you need calcium for healthy, strong bones, and where do we find loads of calcium? In cow’s milk. Well, fortunately for us vegans, that’s not the only food that has calcium. As with vitamin B12, you can find calcium in fortified foods like non-dairy milks or orange juice, but also dark greens, some tofu, blackstrap molasses, and other vegetables. It is important to note that it may be difficult to meet the recommended amount of calcium from veggies alone, so make sure you’re getting it through fortified sources as well.
  4. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is another nutrient that is associated with cow’s milk, but even there, it is fortified. Other than the varying levels in mushrooms, vitamin D is not found naturally in a plant-based diet. However, our bodies can make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. During the winter months, vegans should rely on fortified product like (you guessed it) non-dairy milks or fortified orange juice.

You might be asking, why isn’t protein on this list? After all, that is what most people are concerned about when going vegan or vegetarian. However, it is very rare for an otherwise healthy individual in the U.S. to develop a protein deficiency. Previously there were concerns about the quality of protein in a vegan diet, but recent studies show that as long as someone is eating enough calories from a variety of foods, it would be very difficult for someone to develop a protein deficiency.

If you are interested in adopting a vegan lifestyle, it is important to do some research from credible sources before simply eliminating things from your diet. As I discussed above, it is important to replace those foods with non-animal sources of the same nutrients. Just like with any other diet, a well-balanced vegan diet is necessary for optimal nutrition.

If you would like more information about eating healthy on a vegan diet reserve your FREE session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing nutritioncoach@umd.edu.

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Fitness is for Everyone

By: Kevin Yang, University Recreation & Wellness, Certified Personal Trainer

With the semester picking up, I want to encourage you to check out the weight/fitness areas at University Recreation and Wellness. There are so many different ways to be active as a Terp and a quick workout can do wonders for your body, mind, and spirit.

adobe-sparkIf you have some fears about working out and using the gym, that’s understandable! Here are some common themes I’ve heard from friends who are struggling to get started.

4 Self-Defeating Thoughts & How to Combat Them

  1. I don’t have time.

We’re open Monday through Friday from 6am-midnight. That’s 18 hours of recreational awesomeness waiting for you. Take a study break by lifting or running on our track. It’ll help keep your blood flowing, help you maintain focus, and decrease stress.

  1. I have no idea what I’m doing.

That’s ok! You don’t have to be a fitness expert to get results and feel better from being active. We have tons of easy-to-use machines, as well as staff who who are happy to show you how to use them. Throughout the course of the year, personal trainers hold free “Form Check Friday” sessions where they can help you improve your squat, deadlift, and bench press form. Finally, we have free weight/fitness orientations that introduce you to our machines and teach you how to use them.

You might even consider signing up for personal training to work with a certified trainer and get a tailored fitness plan. Training sessions are offered at a discounted rate for students.


  1. I feel like I don’t belong in the weight room.

At RecWell, we do our best to make sure that everyone feels included in our fitness areas. But we know it can be intimidating. I suggest bringing a friend with you if you’re new to lifting weights. It’s a great way to stay motivated, build your confidence, and you might even learn some new tips.


  1. I can’t lift enough and people will judge me.

Everyone starts somewhere. You may just be on a different stage of your fitness journey than the person lifting next to you. And to be honest, most people are too busy focusing on their own goals to notice and judge anyone else.

I know I didn’t cover every excuse, but I hope you feel more comfortable about coming to RecWell facilities and using our weight and fitness spaces. You belong here, and you are welcome here.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at umdweightfitnessprogram@gmail.com,  I’m happy to help!

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Purposeful Snacking to Fuel Performance Inside the Classroom and Out

By: Ashley Statter ‘18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator


The stress of school can make it difficult for students to stay consistent with healthy eating patterns. As a dietetics student, I have personally experienced how difficult it can be to balance schoolwork while still making time to prepare healthy meals and stay physically active.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in college is how to be creative about fueling my body all day. Eating purposeful snacks has helped me manage my energy, my mood and ultimately my grades! With all the work we put in as students, it is critical we adequately fuel our bodies so we can perform to the best of our ability. The purpose of snacking is to bridge the gap between meals to keep your energy levels up throughout the day and limit overeating at meals.

Get energized, get motivated, and gain confidence in your snacking and overall diet by following these tips!

  1. Make your snacks purposeful by combining a carbohydrate with a protein

    A purposeful snack is just what it sounds like. It is a snack with the purpose to fuel your body with nutritious energy. Snacks are a chance to provide your body with nutrients you may not have gotten in other meals. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel, and protein is satiating and filling. The combination of the two will provide long-lasting energy that will help keep you energized between meals, and limit overeating at meals.

    Some examples of purposeful snacks you can find on campus are

    • Apples or bananas with peanut butter
    • Whole wheat crackers and low fat cheese
    • Pretzels, carrots, or celery with hummus
    • Mixed nuts and dried fruit
    • Yogurt and granola
  2. Carry purposeful snacks in your backpack

    Stocking your backpack with healthy snacks is an easy way to ensure that you never become overly hungry and depleted of energy. Food=fuel, so it is important to make sure that you have snacks readily available so that even on your most stressful and busy days, you are full of energy. Simply noshing on a handful of almonds before taking an exam or doing a presentation can really enhance focus and performance if you are feeling hungry or fatigued. It is also a good way to cut back on your coffee intake. Your craving for caffeine may really be your body crying out for food!

  3. Pre-portion and pre-plan snacks to limit overconsumption

It can be very easy to overeat snacks when eating right out of the bag, box, carton, or jar. This is especially true late at night when students tend to be tired and worn down. Decision making can be a lot harder when you are tired and stressed, often times leading to emotional eating. Try pre-portioning and pre-planning snacks to make it easier to manage portions. A portion of a snack should be just enough to keep hunger managed until the next meal or bedtime.

Some easy ways to pre portion/plan snacks is to:

  • Purchase individual snack size packs such as pretzels, baked chips, granola bars, pudding or hummus.
  • Save money by making your own pre-portioned chips, pretzels, nuts, or other snack foods in plastic bags or Tupperware containers. Seeing the portion you are eating instead of eating out of the bag or box of the food item can help limit over consumption and mindless eating.
  • Have a plan for the times you know you will want to snack. Whether this is late at night or mid-morning, plan in advance what you want to eat as your snack instead of making the decision when you are hungry and your intuition is foggy.
  • Mark the day you bought the food item on the bag to make sure you spread your consumption of it over a number of days. It can be easy to eat a bag of chips in 2 days, or even a couple of hours, but the reminder that you will need to restock soon may limit overconsumption.

Snacking can be fun, healthy, and enjoyable! Leave in the comments section below ideas of purposeful snacks you enjoy!

To learn more about healthy snacking, reserve your session with a University Health Center Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing NutritionCoach@umd.edu.

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Ten Things Terps Need to Know About Nutrition Labels

By: Rebecca Heming, ’18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

Nutrition labels can be confusing to understand! There’s a lot of information, but also a lot of words thrown around that may not mean what you think they mean. It’s easy to feel daunted by the amount of information and choose to simply ignore it all. But don’t despair, you can learn to quickly and easily read nutrition labels once you know what to focus on.

  1. Pay attention to the first few ingredients. They’re listed by descending weight and make up the majority of the food.
  2. The calories and amount of each nutrient are listed per serving. If you eat more than one serving you’ll need to multiply accordingly. For example, if you ate a whole can of soup and the label indicates that there are 2 servings per can, you will need to double the amount of calories and each nutrient to get an accurate picture of what you ate. Keep in mind that the serving size listed does not mean that is the amount you “should” eat, it is just used as a unit of measurement so that the manufacturer can quantify the nutrients in their product. Often our portions contain several servings.
  3. Scan the nutrition label. Look for products with more vitamin A, K, & C, calcium, iron and fiber while containing less fat, cholesterol, and sodium. That being said, don’t let fat content necessarily turn you away from an item. Nuts and potato chips both have higher levels of fat, but nuts are a much healthier choice!
  4. Sugar content can be misleading.  The sugar content is not separated into added sugar versus naturally occurring sugar. The US Dietary Guidelines encourage us to reduce added sugar, so look to see how high up on the ingredients list a form of sugar occurs to better judge the sugar content.
  5. Know some common terms. If you see the term “good source of,” this means the food provides 10% or more of the daily value for the nutrient. The term “high in” indicates that it provides at least 20% of the daily value for that nutrient.
  6. Understand what organic means. A food labeled as organic means it must be produced from at least 95% organic ingredients, while foods labeled as 100% organic must consist of only organic ingredients and processing aids. The term “made with organic” means that at least 70% of the ingredients are organic. Organic does not mean the food is any more nutritious, but it does mean there are not antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, bioengineering, et cetera present in the food.
  7. Gluten free does not mean healthier. Gluten free items can be highly processed and may put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies.
  8. Sea salt vs. regular salt. Sea salt has just as much sodium as regular salt and may not contain iodine, a critical micronutrient that our bodies cannot make.
  9. Look for 100% whole grain. Multigrain or made with whole grain does not necessarily mean whole grain, and whole grain does not necessarily mean 100% whole grain. So, look for 100% whole grain on the label. If whole grains appear first on the ingredients list, then you know it contains more whole grains than refined grains.
  10. The term “natural” is currently undefined and unregulated by the FDA. Natural generally means nothing artificial or synthetic is present in the food, but does not address pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, genetic modification, preservatives, irradiation, et cetera. A food labeled as natural does not mean it is healthier for you and should not be confused with organic.

If you’re not already, I challenge you to read at least one nutrition label this week!

To learn more about nutrition labels, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or emailing nutritioncoach@umd.edu

Posted in Nutrition, Physical Wellness, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Ace Your Finals With Fitness

By Liana Stiegler, University Recreation & Wellness, Communications Assistant


Finals week is here, and exercise is probably the last thing on your mind when you have exams, papers, and presentations screaming for attention. However, a work out deserves a spot on the top of your to-do list this week!

Physical activity increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which helps cognitive processing. This means that working out during finals week just might improve your exam performance!

Plus, exercise affects your brain’s chemical levels in a great way: feel-good chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin increase, while cortisol (the chemical that makes you feel stressed out) decreases. With good brain chemical balance, finals week freak outs can be kept to a minimum. Still need convincing? A study from Saginaw Valley State University found that students who exercised vigorously seven days a week had G.P.A.’s that were, on average, 04. points higher than those who didn’t exercise.

Ready to give fitness study breaks a try? Here are a few places where Active Terps can work out during finals week:

1. RecWell is here for you.

RecWell facilities are open during finals so you can sweat away your stress. Brush up on your favorite facility’s hours.

The RecWell fitness program also released an awesome finals week schedule for all your fitness class needs- check out the lineup!


2. .. and we’re at McKeldin, too!

Yoga is a great way to relief stress and calm the mind. RecWell hosts finals week yoga classes in McKeldin Library, so you don’t even have to leave the library to relax and unwind! All you McKeldin hermits, screenshot this schedule now:


3. Workout from your dorm room

If you prefer to do the bulk of finals week studying from your own desk, try doing some simple workout moves right from the comfort of your own room! Here are 8 bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere, no gym equipment needed. You can also find great dorm-friendly workouts by searching YouTube for free workout videos. My personal YouTube fitness favorite is an 80s style 8-minute abs workout.

Whether you choose move at the gym, in McKeldin, or in your residence hall, don’t forget to make time for activity and movement this finals week! Your mind, body, and exam grades will thank you.


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RecWell Intramural Sports Welcomes All Terps

By: Mary Kate Sullivan Crawford, Assistant Director for Intramural Sports, University Recreation & Wellness

In the 90s, Nike unveiled an advertising campaign centered around the slogan, “If you let me play”. The campaign reinforced the notion that sports can empower women and girls beyond the athletic field; that the benefit of sport reaches beyond the sidelines into ‘real life’. In Intramural Sports, we couldn’t agree more that the benefits of sport participation goes far beyond what happens on the playing surface. That’s why we work hard to offer opportunities for all members of the campus community a chance to play.

We offer a wide variety of sports and activities in several different leagues (men’s, women’s, coed, fraternity, and graduate/faculty/staff) and at two levels of competition (a, competitive and b, recreational). Our sports range from traditional team sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, football, and softball to non-traditional and individual and dual sports like tennis, badminton, whiffle ball, inner tube water polo, and golf. Offering many different sports invites individuals with different backgrounds to participate in our program. Further, offering two levels of competition invites individuals both with and without previous experience opportunities to be successful and have fun while participating in a sport they’ve played for years, or are trying out for the first time.

In addition to the sports and leagues offered, we have policies in place to further encourage participation from all members of our campus community. For example, our gender identity participation policy states “Individuals may participate in Intramural Sports in accordance with their own gender identity regardless of medical intervention.” Although traditional sport participation has been dictated by rigidly defined gender norms, this policy is in place so individuals who identify as trans*, gender non-conforming, or gender variant can participate in a way that best suits their needs. While we are proud to have this policy in place, we are always open to suggestions for improving strategies to better serve the campus community.

One topic often debated in recreation circles are co-ed sport rules. In many of our sports, co-ed leagues are modified by specific rules. These rules were established in order to encourage (require) teams to incorporate women into games in a meaningful way. The rules often reward women’s involvement in a scoring play by adding additional points (I.e. In flag football 9 points are awarded for a touchdown involving a woman versus 6 points if no woman was involved directly in the play). While some may argue there is no longer a “need” for such rules or the rules are not equal, we firmly believe our modified rules establish equity between men and women in our coed leagues. When modifying our sports with co-ed rules, we feel it is important to differentiate between equality and equity. Equality means that everything is equal, but equity takes into account historical and institutional barriers to participation for certain groups, which in this case is women. Equity is providing everyone with the tools and opportunities to be successful. Our co-ed rules provide just that- an opportunity for all members of the campus community to be successful individually and contribute to their team’s success.

Whether you are involved in lots of activities and only have time to play one hour a week, or are looking to participate in all of our 28 unique sports, we have a place for YOU in Intramural Sports.

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Your First Triathlon: Eight Must-Knows about Daring to Tri

By Samantha Bingaman, University Recreation & Wellness, Group Fitness Instructor


My first triathlon was a by-product of forced family fun. I was 10, and my dad thought it would be a great idea for the family to bond through sport. I was less than thrilled when he chose triathlon, otherwise known to 10-year-old-me as a formidable conglomeration of swimming, biking, and running.

But after that first triathlon, I was hooked. Something about putting the three sports together – plus intermixing transitions of madly ripping off wetsuits and replacing them with helmets or running shoes – is fun. It’s rewarding. It’s addicting. And it should be the next feature on your bucket list.

 It’s not just a select few that enjoy the sport – triathlon is gaining traction nationwide. The NCAA recognizes it the newest Emerging Sport for women; Gwen Jorgenson won the first gold medal for triathlon for the USA in Rio; youth programs throughout the States are growing exponentially. Millions of people are joining in with the triathlon movement.

Ready to join in, but don’t know where to start? Use these 8 tips to help you crush your first race.

1. Start small and build up.

Your first tri doesn’t have to be an Ironman (140.6 miles – eek!). Sprint-distance races abound. Go for these shorter distances first and gradually work your way up.

2. Don’t be overwhelmed by the pizazz.

Whether it involves ogling at the newest Cervelo – a really, really nice bike – or rolling up in a logoed bodysuit, triathletes like to be frilly. But you don’t need fancy equipment to do well in a triathlon. If you have the basics – goggles, a bike, and running shoes – then you’re set.

 3. No bike, no problem.

This is similar to #2. You do not need a bike that costs as much as your tuition to do well in a triathlon. If it has two wheels and you can pedal it from point A to point B, then it counts. If your friend has said vehicle, ask nicely and borrow it.

 4. Get acquainted with open water.

Some races involve open water swimming, which can be a scary experience the first time. If your race involves a lake, ocean, or pond swim, take a few practice swims before race day.

 5. Practice transitions.

The time in between the swim, bike, and run in which you change out your gear is known as a transition. There are two in a triathlon, and they are the most underrated parts of the race. The goal is to put on as little gear in the fastest time possible, which can be overwhelming the first time. Practice a few while you train.

 6. Learn about race nutrition.

One great thing about triathlon is that it is a SPORT in which you can EAT during the race. Proper nutrition prevents a mid-race bonk, which is never fun.

Active.com has great, concise reads on nutrition.

 7. Get to know other triathletes.

Reach out to other athletes – it’s a fun community in which you will find support from some ambitious, silly, and all-around great people. Many places have a neighborhood triathlon team, including here at Maryland (insert shameless plug for the Maryland Triathlon Team here.)

 8. Enjoy yourself.

Have fun. Is it cliché? Yes. But is it true? Yes. Whether you are in the middle of a tough training session or powering through your first race, take a moment to enjoy yourself and truly appreciate what your body and mind do. Smell the roses, smile, high-five someone – do whatever you have to do to make your time worth it.

These tips can help you through your first triathlon, but ultimately, it is your willpower that will get you to take the first step. Triathlons can be difficult, but they are not impossible. The reward of crossing that finish line is worth every ounce of effort, so go for it. Push yourself. Defy your limits.

Do as we say in the triathlon community: dare to tri.

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