Welcome to the Live Well Furman blog!  This blog is designed to help support healthy behaviors in the Furman community and beyond.  Be sure to sign up for our email subscription to have the latest campus wellness offerings, wellness news briefs, healthy meal ideas, and exercise tips delivered straight to your inbox each week!

What’s in your coffee? How to spot hidden trans fats in food

Pop quiz… this coffee creamer label states that a one tablespoon serving contains “0 grams of trans fat”.

So does that mean that it actually contains “0 grams of trans fat?”

Answer:  Nope.

Since 2006, the Food and Drug Administration has required food manufacturers to list the amount of trans fats on food labels. However, anything less than 0.49 grams may be rounded down to zero.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, some coffee creamers like the one shown above may have up to 0.46 grams of trans fats per serving even though the label lists “0 grams of trans fat.”

So, what’s the big deal?

Trans fats can increase your LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and decrease your HDL (“good cholesterol”).  They promote systemic inflammation, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes (1).

While some trans fats do occur naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products, the largest source of trans fats in the American diet is partially hydrogenated oils.  The food industry uses partially hydrogenated oils because they are inexpensive and tend to have a longer shelf life.  They provide the creamy consistency of margarine and the higher smoke point that is desirable when frying foods.  Partially hydrogenated oils can be found in foods such as margarine, fried foods, and baked goods (chocolate chip cookies, biscuits, cinnamon rolls).

Trans fats have such a deleterious effect on your health that they should be consumed extremely sparingly, if at all.  Some researchers have recommended limiting trans fats to no more than 1% of your total calorie intake (e.g., no more than 2 grams of trans fats per day).

The problem is that trans fat intake can add up quickly.

One tablespoon of coffee creamer (with 0.46 grams of trans fat) is not likely to have a significant impact on your health. But you can quickly exceed the recommended 2 gram limit per day if you use more than that.  For example, 5 cups of coffee with 2 tablespoons of creamer in each cup contain 4.6 grams of trans fat… more than double the recommended daily maximum.

Before you reach for your next mug, be sure to check the label.  Look for creamer that has “0 grams of trans fat” and no “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient list.  Try half and half, skim or 1% milk, soy-based creamer, or a “natural” variety without partially hydrogenated oils.  Be wary of other foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list also.  Apparently “0 grams of trans fat” doesn’t always mean zero.

CLP: Gene Baur speaks about Ethical and Sustainable Food Choices

Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder, presents “Ethical and Sustainable Food Choices” a thought-provoking look at the profound impacts of our food choices. Speaking from decades of experience, Baur’s nonjudgmental approach appeals to a wide variety of audiences, ranging from legislative and agribusiness groups to schools and religious and social organizations. He discusses the problems with industrial animal agriculture and encourages people to make thoughtful food choices that are aligned with their values and interests. He believes we are in the midst of a burgeoning food movement and that growing awareness is creating positive change.

A pioneer in the field of undercover investigations of factory farms, Gene Baur has been hailed as “the conscience of the food movement” by Time magazine. His book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, a national best seller, examines the modern farm industry and how it impacts the lives of humans, animals, and the environment.

This event has been approved by the Furman Cultural Life Program (CLP) and is sponsored by The Furman Culinary Club and Furman for Animal Rights.

New Report: 50% of cancers are preventable

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) just released an important new report– more than 50% of cancers are preventable.

More specifically, the report states that “more than 50 percent of the 585,720 cancer deaths expected to occur in the United States in 2014 will be related to preventable causes.”

This is important news and should encourage us all to strive for healthier lifestyles.  Our choices do make a difference.

So how do we reduce the risk of cancer?

As you can see in the graph below, tobacco use and excess body weight contribute to a significant number of preventable cancers each year.  Avoid all tobacco exposure and strive for a healthier body weight.

Other important factors include being physically active, choosing a healthy diet,  minimizing sun exposure, and receiving vaccinations.


Source: American Institute for Cancer Research

To learn more about reducing the risk of cancer, please click here.


Eat More, Not Less

I tend to cringe when I hear nutritional advice to eat less– “reduce your portion size”, “track your calories”, “restrict, restrict, restrict.”

No thanks.

I am not a bird.  And I refuse to eat like one.

Obviously, we need to exert a little bit of self-control over some foods.  For example, we can enjoy one or two little cookies instead of the entire box.  Or make one trip to the buffet instead of five trips.

But the good news is that we can manage  weight and promote good health by eating ample amounts of healthful foods.

Our ongoing FUEL intervention has been promoting a plate-based, low energy density diet for years.  The participants find this method easy to use, satisfying throughout the day and guess what?  They lose about 0.5 to 1 pound of body fat per week without ever counting a single calorie or feeling hungry.  Most importantly, this method makes them feel happy because it promotes a healthy relationship with food.  Just honor your hunger cues and conform your plate to the FUEL guidelines as often as possible.

Still not convinced?  Check out these two photos below.  Both show 1575 calories worth of food.  The example on the left contains many high-energy density foods–cheeseburger, fries, chips, a cinnamon roll, and creamy sauces.  Small portions of these foods contain a lot of calories.  Notice that foods that are high in fat are also high-energy density.

The example on the right contains many low-energy density foods–ample amounts of vegetables and fruits with some whole grains and lean protein sources.  Large portions of these foods do not contain many calories.  So fill your plate high and dig in.  You will most likely feel full before you have the opportunity to overeat calories.  Low-energy density foods tend to be self-limiting.

Photo Source:  American Institute for Cancer Research


Would you like to learn more about using a plate-based eating guide?  Check out some of our resources below:

The Foundations of FUEL:  Building a Healthy Plate

Meals in Minutes:  Perfect when you are short on time or energy.

Example FUEL Plates:  See what some of our participants were actually eating.

Easy Vegetable Sides:  You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen. Check out these easy vegetable sides with little to no chopping required.

Finding Whole Grains:  Learn about the benefits of whole grains and easy ideas to incorporate them in intact form.

FUEL Meal Ideas When Eating Out

FUEL Meal Ideas in the Furman University Charles E. Daniel Dining Hall

Stocking a Healthy Pantry:  This easy strategy will make meal time a breeze.

Recipe Corner:  Over 50 printable meal ideas that fit the FUEL plate.  Each has a nutrition analysis, shopping list, and tips.

Pinterest:  Search over 1,000 healthy recipes with photos

Live Well Furman Blog on Pinterest:  Search all of our blog recipes and meal ideas with photos


A Taste of Greece Culinary Club Workshop

Please join us for our next Culinary Club Workshop:  A Taste of Greece.  Health Science major Avery Hudson will share some of her favorite Mediterranean recipes from a recent trip to Greece.

Students will work at stations to prepare a dish and then we will share a meal together.

Date:  Sunday, October 19

Time:  4-6 p.m.

Location:  Biology Department Classroom Kitchen, Plyler Hall

Cost:  FREE for Furman students

Click on the graphic above to see some of the featured dishes.

Participants must RSVP through OrgSync to reserve a space.  Click on the link below to access OrgSync.


Can’t make it?  Be sure to check back on our blog for the recipes and photos of the event.

Mediterranean Pasta with Shrimp

Mediterranean Pasta with Shrimp

Shrimp is sauteed with olive oil, garlic,  lemon, spinach, tomatoes, fresh basil,and black olives.  Then it is tossed with whole grain pasta and topped with a little bit of feta cheese.  This dish is light and flavorful!  Serve it with a fruit and yogurt parfait for dessert.

Click here for the printable recipe.

New hybrid bikes available to check out at the PAC

Beginning Monday, September 22, the Furman Fitness Center will offer five new hybrid (mountain / road) bicycles at the Fitness Center desk that can be checked out by faculty, staff, and students at no charge.  Helmets and bike locks will also be provided.

Users will need to bring a valid Furman ID and complete a consent form at the Fitness Center desk to check out a bike.

For more information, please contact the Furman Fitness Center at 294-3581.

Whole Grain Chicken Fajitas with Zucchini, Corn, and Black Beans

Whole Grain Chicken Fajitas with Zucchini, Corn, and Black Beans

Need a crowd pleaser?  Try these delicious chicken fajitas.  Saute chicken with sliced mushrooms, onions, red, yellow, and green bell pepper slices, cumin, and chili powder.  Wrap them up with whole grain tortillas and top with a little bit of shredded cheddar and light sour cream. Serve with a simple zucchini, corn, black bean, and tomato saute.

Click here for the printable recipe.

Salmon Cakes with Brown Rice Pilaf, Broccoli, and Pineapple

Salmon Cakes with Brown Rice Pilaf, Broccoli, and Pineapple

I was raised in Maryland, well known for blue crabs and crab cakes.  This recipe is reminiscent of my beloved crab cakes but much more affordable.  It uses boneless, skinless canned salmon which is readily available in most supermarkets.

The moistness comes from fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs.  Just toast some whole wheat bread slices and pulse them in a clean coffee grinder or food processor so they look like this:

I would imagine that dry whole wheat breadcrumbs would work well also but you will need to scale down to use significantly less than the recipe calls for.  I prefer the fresh breadcrumbs because they keep the salmon cakes exceptionally moist.

Combine the breadcrumbs with egg, scallion, Old Bay seasoning, and canned salmon.  I found this brand of canned salmon at Publix (pictured below) for $1.25 per can.  Trader Joe’s carries a no-salt added variety.

Serve over a simple brown rice pilaf with steamed broccoli and pineapple.  A taste of the tropics.  You can almost smell the ocean breeze….

Click here for the printable recipe.

Shrimp Scampi with Whole Grain Linguine

Shrimp Scampi with Whole Grain Linguine

This colorful dish is one of my daughter’s favorite dinners.  Begin by sauteing red and yellow peppers with mushrooms, onions, and garlic.  Add lemon juice, chicken broth, and shrimp and simmer until it is cooked through.  The flavorful sauce is thickened with a little bit of cornstarch and tossed with whole grain pasta.

Serve with peaches and raspberries with fresh mint for dessert.

Click here for the printable recipe.