National Nutrition Month: Tips for Eating Smart in the Dining Halls

By Anne Widga, University Health Center dietitian

Making healthy choices can be challenging when facing a buffet of foods at the dining halls. It’s tempting to go back for second or even third helpings, and of course, the dessert bar always looks delicious! If you aren’t careful, things can get out of hand quickly, which can lead to unbalanced nutrition or unwanted weight gain.

Here are a few ways to make smart eating choices on campus:

  1. Make a plan before you eat. Use the UNL Dining Services phone app or website to discover what food is being served in which dining halls or scope out the food when you arrive. Before filling up your plate, pause for a moment to consider your hunger level and what you’ve already eaten for the day.
  2. Get to know the dining hall staff. If you have a food allergy or intolerance or are someone who needs a specific nutrition plan to manage a health condition, these friendly folks can be your best resource. They can answer your questions, save you time and minimize your frustration when choosing what to eat.
  3. Follow the MyPlate model. You need foods from each food group (fruits, veggies, dairy, grains, healthy fats and protein) every day to give your body the nutrients it needs to function effectively. This might mean a trip to more than one area in the dining hall, but it’s worth it.
  4. Take advantage of the salad bar. Eating fruit and vegetables daily is important, and the salad bar can be a great place to stock up. Try different types of greens and other veggies for variety. Add a source of protein (eggs, ham, chicken, tofu, etc.) to make it a complete meal. Adding a single serving of fat such as salad dressing, cheese or sunflower seeds will help slow the salad’s digestion to keep you feeling full and satisfied longer.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If dining hall food is becoming boring or monotonous to you, add some variety by going to a different dining hall or trying a new menu item for the first time. Your tastes are continuously evolving, so you might discover you like a food you once hated.
  6. Eat breakfast. Skipping breakfast—or any meal for that matter—can sabotage your success. You won’t think as clearly or fully absorb what you learn in class if you don’t eat.It can also lower your blood sugar, which can lead to overeating and can negatively affect your mood. Breakfast doesn’t have to be huge. Keep it simple with a piece of toast, yogurt or milk and fruit.
  7. Make wise beverage choices. No one needs the added sugar found in sodas. A glass of water or milk is a better choice as is unsweetened coffee or tea in moderation.
  8. Limit your second helpings. It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to know if you feel full or not, so eat slowly and mindfully. If you do this and still feel hungry, try to make your second helping a veggie or serving of protein. Not skipping meals also helps curb the tendency to overeat.
  9. Enjoy the moment. Don’t be afraid to pick a day — maybe once a week — when you know your favorite dessert or treat is being offered, and plan it into your meal. Never allowing yourself to indulge is unnecessary and can set you up for feelings of guilt when you do have one now and then. Try not to worry how many calories your meal is and whether dessert will ruin your diet. Look forward to your mealtime as a necessary diversion from studies and time to spend with friends.

National Nutrition Month: Beware of Hidden Sugars

By Anne Widga, University Health Center dietitian

In honor of National Nutrition Month, we’ll provide several healthy eating tips for college life on our blog over the next few weeks. In today’s post, we focus on sugar.

Most of us get too many calories from sugars on an average day. This can cause weight gain and chronic health problems, which is one reason why many dietitians recommend people reduce their general sugar intake for a healthier lifestyle.

Unfortunately, eating less sugar isn’t as simple as cutting desserts or soda from your diet.

Sugar is added to many processed foods and beverages by food manufacturers to enhance taste and prolong shelf life. For example, did you know fruit juices, energy and sports drinks, BBQ sauce, packaged cereals, pasta sauces, flavored yogurts and crackers can pack a punch of sugar in every serving? Even breads and frozen meals can have high sugar content. Don’t forget that some people add sugar to their cereal, coffee or tea. All of this can add up fast!

If you’re serious about limiting your sugar intake, here are four realistic steps to help you reach your goal:

  1. Pay attention to the ingredient list. The Nutrition Facts label doesn’t tell you how much of a food’s sugar content is natural or added during processing. The best place to find this information is in the ingredients list. The items listed first are the primary ingredients. As you examine this list, watch out for sugars called by other names: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, etc. These are added sugars and, when calculated together, could easily be the first ingredients on the list!
  2. Choose a piece of fruit over a processed dessert. Fruits have natural sugar, which is better for you than added sugar. They also have fiber and important vitamins and minerals that the body needs. If fruits don’t satisfy your sweet tooth right away, give it time. The more you reduce added sugar from your diet, the more natural sugar will taste sweet and satisfying.
  3. Drink more water. If you’re a natural soda or juice drinker, this may take time. Try substituting one sweetened drink a day with water and increase that number by one a week.
  4. Enjoy sugar in moderation. If you completely abstain from your favorite sweet treat, you may find yourself overeating later. It’s OK to indulge every once in a while. If it helps, consider planning your treat into your diet that week; it may be easier to eat healthy knowing you plan to reward yourself with a cookie or candy bar later in the week.

Want to learn more about eating well? Schedule an appointment with the University Health Center dietitian by calling 402.472.5000. Students who pay student fees get their first session at no additional cost.

Q&A with Transgender Care Clinic Provider Dr. Jean Amoura

The University Health Center opened a new Transgender Care Clinic this year. Nebraska Medicine’s Dr. Jean Amoura, who brings 10 years of experience in transgender care and hormone treatment, is the primary care provider for the clinic. 

Q: Tell us about yourself and how you became actively involved in transgender medical care.

A: I’ve been a practicing OB-GYN in Omaha for nearly 20 years. Shortly after I started my practice, a transgender patient occasionally asked me about hormone treatment because I managed hormones a lot for cisgender women. From that moment on, transgender care became a regular part of and is now the majority of my practice as of the past 10 years, which is when the need in the community became very self-evident.


Q: Why do you think it is important for the university to offer trans care services? 

A: In my experience, it has been difficult for patients to know where to turn when they’re interested in transitioning. They seek a safe place and someone who has the knowledge, experience and ability to help with their medical transitions and resources. Having transgender care services readily available to students at UNL is incredibly helpful to that community because it means they don’t have to seek it out. Students should be focused on their primary job of being a student and not where in the state they can go for the gender affirming services they need.

Q: What types of services does the Transgender Care Clinic offer?

A: My main role is starting and managing hormone treatment for both trans men and trans women. I will also continue to follow patients and maintain their hormone therapy. I have experience with other resources in the area that are known by me to be transgender friendly, and I will share these as needed.

Q: When does the Transgender Care Clinic operate (hours, scheduling, etc.)?

A: I attended a meet and greet at the LGBTQA+ Resource Center on campus in November 2016 to get to know members of the UNL transgender community and assess the need for care, which helped us finalize operational details. The clinic is offered the fourth Wednesday of each month in the afternoons. To schedule an appointment, call the University Health Center appointment line at 402-472-5000.

Students may be curious whether the clinic is covered by insurance. This depends on the individual’s insurance policy. The University Health Center is passionate about bridging the affordability gap for UNL transgender students, which is why the StudentBlue Insurance policy is one of only four Blue Cross and Blue Shield policies nationwide to offer transgender assignment/reassignement coverage. Of the four, the university’s policy has the highest maximum coverage for the 2016-2017 academic period. For detailed information related to StudentBlue coverage or cost, please contact the University Health Center’s Billing and Insurance department at 402-472-7435.

Q: What should patients expect at their first Transgender Care Clinic visit? 

A: I will obtain a detailed medical history and will review your gender history and transition history. A physical exam is typically deferred until the second visit and pelvic exam is not required for trans men (though this service is available and may be recommended for your general health care). Before starting hormones, a variety of lab tests will be ordered. This blood draw can be done after your first visit and results will be reviewed at your second visit. The tests will be explained to you at your visit. I will review the treatment options available to you and will provide you with a detailed consent form to review if hormone therapy is considered appropriate. Consents will be signed at your second visit, after which time you will receive any indicated prescriptions. For those who will need to receive hormone treatment by injection, they will receive instructions to return to the clinic with their medication and supplies (syringes and needles) for a nurse to provide individual injection teaching. This can usually be scheduled on the same day you receive your medication.


Tips for Overcoming the Common Cold

There’s never an opportune time to come down with the common cold. When you have a busy schedule packed full of classes, homework, extra-curricular activities and more, your primary concern most likely is to get better as quickly as possible.

Because a cold is a virus, it can’t be cured with antibiotics. So how do you bounce back quickly? Here are ways you can support your body’s efforts to heal itself:

Remember the basics

Regardless of your symptoms, the best place to start is to drink plenty of water and clear fluids, stop drinking alcohol and smoking, and get plenty of rest.

Treat your nose kindly

Constantly wiping or blowing your nose with a tissue can lead to inflamed nostrils, making it difficult to breathe. Open blocked nasal passages by breathing steam or heated humidified air. You can use a vaporizer, a hot shower or even a pot of boiling water to do the trick, but be careful not to get burned by the steam. You may also want to consider saline nasal sprays and decongestant tablets for a stuffy nose.

Soothe a sore throat and cough

Every two hours, combine a ½ cup of warm water and ¼ teaspoon of salt and gargle. Moisten your throat with throat lozenges and cough drops. Cough medicines are available, but there is no clear evidence proving how well they work. Instead, try acetaminophen, ibuprofen or a similar over-the-counter medication. Remember, the University Health Center Pharmacy offers free 24-hour doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen for UNL students during normal health center hours.

Manage a fever

Take your temperature multiple times during the day. If you have a fever, the best game plan is to relax, lie down, drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and take acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent such as ibuprofen.

Grab a Cold Care Kit from UHC

These free kits are equipped with a few essentials that can help ease your cold symptoms: A pack of Kleenex, an herbal tea bag, cough drops, hand sanitizer, lip balm, a packet of instant soup and helpful cold care tips cards. Stop by UHC to grab yours today!

Monitor your symptoms

Call a health care provider if you have any of the following symptoms or if you aren’t feeling better after seven days:

  • Fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours or a fever that doesn’t go down with medicine
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Severe or continued vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Signs of dehydration (e.g.: extreme thirst, dark urine, infrequent urination)
  • Spotted, red or very sore throat
  • Shortness of breath

Be proactive

It’s not easy to prevent a cold, but you can prevent the flu with an annual flu shot. The University Health Center provides free flu shots to UNL students. Our walk-in flu shot clinic is open Monday thru Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. You can also schedule an appointment with the Medical Clinic to receive your flu vaccine.

Remember, if your symptoms worsen, give us a call at 402-472-5000.