Nutrition Coach's Corner

Our Peer Nutrition Coaches are asked a variety of nutrition related questions everyday. Here is a sample of the most popular topics and the advice they give to students. Check out the blogs they have written to see!

Nutrition Peer's Blogs

A Closer Look at the 4 Most Popular Dairy Substitutes


Julia Latoff, Dietetic Major ‘22

University Health Center Peer Nutrition Coach

If you choose to avoid dairy because of personal preference, dietary restrictions, or allergies, you might be wondering what the best milk substitute is. In today’s, market there are a variety of choices that can be difficult to navigate if you don’t know what to look for. 

Cow’s milk is a quality source of carbohydrates, fats, protein, and vitamins. One cup of low-fat (1%) milk offers about 110 calories,7-8 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbohydrates, and 3-2 grams of fat. It is also packed with nutrients such as vitamin B12, calcium, phosphorus, and often fortified with vitamin D. When shopping for dairy substitutes, it is important to find options that offer similar nutrient profiles.

Here’s a quick breakdown of 4 common substitutes: 

Soy milk

  • Soy milk is made from soybeans or soy protein isolate
  • 1 cup offers 80-90 calories, 7-9 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbs, 4-4.5 grams of fat
  • It is a “complete” protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids humans need to obtain from dietary intake
  • It has the closest nutrient profile to cow’s milk 
  • Soy milk is served at UMD dining halls

Almond milk

  • Almond milk is made from almonds and water
  • 1 cup provides 30-35 calories, 1 g of protein, 1-2 g of carbohydrates, and 2.5 g of fat. 
  • It is a good source of vitamin E which helps the body fight disease-causing free radicals
  • Mostly water and therefore lower in calories than cow’s milk, but also less vitamins and minerals
  • Offered at various café locations on campus, such as Footnotes café in McKeldin Library and The Coffee Bar in Stamp Student Union.

Oat milk

  • Oat milk is made from oats and water
  • 1 cup offers 140-170 calories, 2.5-5 grams of protein, 19-29 grams of carbohydrates, and 4.5-5 grams of fat
  • It is high in fiber which can aid digestion and can help lower cholesterol levels
  • Offered at various café locations on campus, such as Footnotes café in McKeldin Library and The Coffee Bar in Stamp Student Union.

Coconut milk

  • Coconut milk is made from coconut flesh and water
  • 1 cup has 45 calories, 4 g of fat, no protein, and no carbs
  • This substitute is the lowest in protein and carbohydrate content of nondairy substitutes
  • High in saturated fat which should be kept to a minimum when considering heart health 
  • Offered at various café locations on campus, such as Footnotes café in McKeldin Library and The Coffee Bar in Stamp Student Union.

Each substitute offers a unique taste and nutrient profile, so individual needs should be considered when picking the best option for you. However, it is important to note when shopping, look for a brand that is fortified with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E to help you meet daily recommended intakes. 

To learn more about dairy substitutes, reserve your free session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or email or to learn more information visit

5 Tips Every College Student Should Know About Buying Fresh Produce

Casey McAlpine, Dietetics Major ‘22, University Health Center Peer Nutrition Coach


Picture by Casey McAlpine 

Being a college student means always having a busy schedule, which can make finding time to grocery shop difficult. Shopping for fresh produce can be an overwhelming experience. How do I know what fruit is ripe? What if it goes bad before I eat all of it? We’ve all been there, standing, staring at the produce section. So, next time you’re in the grocery store, remember these tips to make shopping for fruits and veggies a breeze. 


Buy produce when it’s in-season

When fresh fruits and vegetables are ‘in-season’ it means that they are sold, purchased, and consumed close to the time that it is harvested. Fresh produce costs less when it is in-season. The USDA Seasonal Produce Guide organizes a variety of fruits and vegetables into lists for the season they are in-season. The guide is interactive and provides nutrition information, delicious recipes, and educational articles about each fruit or veggie. Here is a sample list of produce in-season:

  • Spring: apples, avocados, bananas, carrots, lettuce, pineapple, strawberries
  • Summer: bell peppers, blueberries, cucumbers, peaches, watermelon, summer squash
  • Fall: broccoli, green beans, pears, pumpkin, potatoes, radishes, turnips
  • Winter: brussel sprouts, cabbage, celery, oranges, winter squash


Find a local farmers’ market

One of the best ways to get fresh, in-season produce is to shop at a local farmers’ market. In the fall and spring, the University of Maryland has its very own farmer’ market right here on campus starting on April 6, 2022.  Every Wednesday, outside Tawes Hall, the UMD farmers’ market has a group of vendors who offer a wide selection of locally grown produce and locally made products. There are other farmers’ markets in the area in the Riverdale Park neighborhood and the Hollywood neighborhood. The USDA shares that farmers’ markets offer fresh foods at reasonable prices, support local agriculture, and are often sustainable shopping experiences. Find a farmers’ market near you to enjoy the rewarding experience of supporting the local economy while also eating farm to table!

Find friends to buy produce together

Shopping for one person is difficult. Many college students struggle to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for themselves because of the risk that if they buy too much, it will go bad and go to waste. Finding friends who would want to shop together and share produce is a great way to be able to buy a variety of fresh foods without the risk of waste. Cutting up fruits and veggies takes time so sharing that responsibility with friends helps to accommodate the busy student schedule. 

Additionally, Safeway in Hyattsville typically has a member deal on pre-cut fruit bowls where you can get two for a cheaper price. Pre-cut fruits are convenient and also a great option for individual shoppers. 


Organic does not always mean better for you

Organic farming is when crops are grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic is often associated with being healthier, but that is not the case. Non-organic produce has all of the same nutrients as organic produce but is sold at a lower cost. Organic produce and non-organic produce look and taste nearly the same and have all of the same health benefits. Choose the options that fit within your budget. 

Try something new

Variety is key to ensuring that you are enjoying a nutritious diet and are getting all of your essential nutrients. Are there any fruits or vegetables that you’ve never tried before? Encourage yourself to grab something new off the shelves next time you are at the store; you never know, you may find your new favorite food!

Including fresh produce in your diet gives you the opportunity to enjoy different flavors and textures, in addition to all of the vitamins and minerals they offer. Fruits and vegetables are key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so keep these 5 tips in mind the next time you are planning a trip to the grocery store. 

To learn more about fresh fruits and vegetables, reserve your free session with a nutrition coach today by emailing or by calling (301) 314-5664 or to learn more information visit 

Wait! Don’t Skip the Carbs! Here’s Why…

                Photo credit to Pixabay

Jenna Tognola, Dietetics Major ‘22

University Health Center Peer Nutrition Coach

Terps, carbohydrates are NOT the enemy! From my time at UMD as a Health Center Peer Nutrition Coach, I’ve heard it all: “I am not eating carbohydrates,” “carbohydrates are bad,” … and the list goes on.

These are all myths, Terps! Your body needs them to survive and function properly in all that you do every day as a busy college student.

Why do I need carbohydrates?

1. Carbohydrates are the gold standard of energy to the body. The cells in your body function best when they receive a certain level of carbohydrates, in the form of glucose. The brain, nervous system, and red blood cells rely exclusively on glucose for fuel!

2. If we are not eating carbohydrates, the body will start to look for other places to find fuel, and without glucose from carbohydrates, the body will first start to break down the protein in your body. The Intuitive Eating book by two Registered Dietitians explain it like this: “it’s like taking wood from the framework structure in your house to use as fuel in your fireplace. The wood will burn and provide necessary fuel, but it does so at a high price. You will begin to lose the integrity of your structure!”

3. If the above points did not convince you, another reason carbohydrates are important is our body is *literally* biologically designed to crave, consume, and process them. Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a chemical produced by the brain to trigger us to eat carbohydrates as the body’s primary and preferred source of energy. Food deprivation or under eating drives NPY into action, causing the body to seek more carbohydrates. When the next time to eat rolls around, your body will be super charged to crave carbohydrates which can lead to overeating or bingeing. Some might mistake this as a lack of willpower, but in fact it is your biology. Your body is telling you so clearly that you need carbohydrates for fuel. Your body is screaming: “Feed me!” Food is indeed fuel!

Sources of carbohydrates:

  • Whole grains or foods made from whole grains (like rice, quinoa, oats, breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, etc.)
  • Fruits and Starchy Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Dairy products

Although most food groups provide some carbohydrates, consuming grains is essential for meeting one’s carbohydrate and energy needs.

Weekly Tip/How to incorporate carbs into each meal:

  • Try adding a grain (rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, potatoes, barley, farro, etc.) to a basic garden salad or stir-fry.
  • For at least half of the grain foods you eat, choose whole grains, which are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals as well
    • Experiment with whole grain pasta, bread, brown rice noodles, etc. in the dining hall or in your cooking rhythms
  • Try this week to incorporate a carbohydrate source in each meal!

Next time you are making or purchasing a meal, make sure you are getting carbohydrates in the form of something from the grain group! It is an essential part of a healthy diet!


To learn more about the importance of carbohydrates in each meal for optimal nutrition and health, reserve your free session with a nutrition coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or email or to learn more information visit: