Category: Uncategorized

The ‘battle’ of fast-food vs. fast-casual

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Taco Bell vs. Chipotle. Subway vs. Panera. Grabbing food on the fly is inevitable. But how do you decide where to go or what to eat? What might make you choose fast-food (think McDonald’s) or fast-casual (think Five Guys)? People often perceive that fast-casual restaurants are healthier than fast-food, but are they? [Note: the true answer to that question depends on how you define ‘healthier’.]

Today we’ll look at a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that focused on the caloric content of lunch and dinner entrees at fast-food and fast-casual restaurants to see if there was in fact a difference.

To some people’s surprise, and perhaps disappointment, fast-casual entrees used in this sample were found to contain more calories than the fast-food entrees.

So what?

Calories are not the end-all-be-all to healthy, but they are an important part of the energy balance equation. And with a growing number of people dining out more often, it’s important to recognize that our choices over time add up.

Be wary of those health food halos. Buzzwords, claims, or pictures can make a food appear healthier than it really is.


Instead – ask questions or look up information. Thanks to legislation in 2010, chain restaurants are required to make their nutrition information available.

If your go-to meal isn’t as healthy or low-calorie as you thought, here are some suggestions of healthier alternatives from 10 of the most popular chains.



Schoffman DE, Davidson CR, Hales SB, Crimarco AE, Dahl AA, Turner-McGrievy GM. The fast-casual conundrum: fast-casual restaurant eentrees are higher in calories than fast food. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Oct; 116(101):1606-12.

Study Drugs Limitless? More Like Limited: Know the Risks

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

There has been much attention on the opioid and heroin epidemic in the last several years. Appalachian states in particular have suffered a great deal from a sharp rise in addiction and overdoses caused by opioid drugs. However, like many other addictive behaviors, there is silent rise in rates of “study drugs” on college campuses across the nation. Study drugs are prescription drugs, such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse, that are used to treat Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Those with ADHD suffer from a brain abnormality that causes difficulties in concentration and increases impulsivity; but, college students without ADHD are using them to increase focus, sleep less, or do more academic, professional, and/or social activities.

The strong marketing and pressure by drug companies to prescribe and sell new ADHD drugs has resulted in more youth being diagnosed with this disorder and more prescriptions being written. There are currently 2.5 million Americans prescribed ADHD drugs and manufacturing of prescription stimulants has increased by 9 million percent in the past decade! I think the real questions are: Do more Americans suffer from ADHD? Or, has American’s need for drugs increased? The sad reality is that the more drugs available, the more opportunities there are to abuse those drugs.

It is estimated up to one third of college students have used study drugs. Common characteristics of users include being white, belonging to a fraternity or sorority, and having a grade point average of a B or lower. Interestingly, these drugs may keep students awake longer, but do not increase cognitive ability or capacity, or said another way, they do not make students smarter and are not like the magic pills in the movie Limitless. Most college students report getting or buying these types of drugs from a friend or peer with ADHD and a legit prescription.

Just because a drug is approved by the FDA, does not mean it does not have side effects, especially if it was prescribed to someone other than the person actually consuming it–every drug comes with risks. Some of the more common consequences of ADHD stimulant drugs are increased blood pressure, irregular heart rate, restlessness, anxiety, nervousness, paranoia, headache, dizziness, insomnia, dry mouth, changes in appetite, diarrhea, constipation, and changes in sex drive. Hallucinations, cardiac arrest, and death have been reported among people with prior heart conditions. In addition, ADHD stimulants are classified as a schedule II drug due to being highly addictive and the suggested sentence for distribution of schedule II drugs is 20 years in prison and a fine of 1 million dollars.

So, if you are using or considering using these types of drugs, please seek support from Campus Health Services or another health professional.

If you have these drugs for ADHD, do not share them with others. Here is a link to ways to “Protect Your Prescription”.


Cherney, Kristeen (2014). ADHD Medications List. Healthline.

University of Texas at Austin, University Health Services. HealthyHorns: Study Drugs.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Campus Health Services: Home.

Drug Enforcement Administration. Federal Trafficking Penalties for Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V (except Marijuana):

Center on Young Adult Health and Development (n.d.) Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants: What college administrators, parents, and student need to know. University of Maryland School of Public Health.

Aberg, Simon Essig (2016). “Study Drug” Abuse by College Students: What you need to know. National Center for Health Research.

Connecting Local Foods to Schools

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Interest in local foods has risen so much in recent years that there are skits on Portlandia and critics speculate whether it’s time to table farm-to-table.

In spite of the pop culture hold on local food, there are sustainable and real economic, environmental, mental, physical, and social benefits to eating local:

  • Contributes to local economy
  • Safer food supply
  • Enhanced flavor
  • More nutrients
  • Increased community connection

Recently efforts have expanded to connect schools with local farmers to provide kids access to nutritious, high quality foods and hands-on learning opportunities. In return, farmers can gain access to a substantial financial opportunity and there is an increased sense of community.


October is National Farm to School Month. Core elements of farm to school include: education, procurement, and/or school gardens. Efforts begin in early childhood education settings and continue all the way through college. This year’s theme, One Small Step, highlights easy ways people can get informed, get involved, or take action support farm to school in their communities.

Check out some of the top Farm to School success stories from 2015.


How can you take one small step for farm to school?



Grace Communications Foundation. Local Food Systems.

National Farm to School Network.

Utah State University Extension Sustainability. The Local Food Movement.

Don’t let depression get you down, get help

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

People tend to loosely use the word depressed as meaning temporarily disappointed or sad, but depression is a serious mental illness that effects many young adults. In fact, the age group experiencing the highest levels of depression are those 18-25 years old at approximately 9.3% of this population as compared with 6.6 % of all US adults. Going to college is a monumental transition period in people’s lives and living independently for the first time, having a difficult course load, interacting with new people, and changes in diet, sleep, and lifestyle habits can increase your susceptibility of depression. If you are feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable for longer than normal (typically measured in at least 2 weeks or more), you may have depression. However, this common illness is treatable. (


Therapy: We could all benefit from talking with a professional, but for those with depression, it is even more important. There are different types of therapies that can be done over the phone, face-to-face, or in a group. CAPS Services at UNC offer a range of therapy and counseling options for students.

For CAPS Walk-In Services:

Go to the 3rd floor of the Campus Health Services Building.

MON-THURS: 9 am – noon or 1 pm – 4 pm

FRI: 9:30 am – noon or 1 pm – 4 pm. 

Medications: A range of medications are available for treating depression including SSRIs, anti-anxiety medication, and mood stabilizers. You should discuss medications with your primary care doctor and/or learn more about your options at your CAPS assessment.

 Other Strategies to Reduce Depression:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Spending time outside in nature
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Learn a relaxation technique, such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscule relaxation.
  • Avoid using drugs
  • Don’t drink alcohol, or only drink in moderation
  • Break up large tasks into small ones.
  • Try to spend time with people who are supportive, including family, friends, student groups, etc.
  • Try something new and try to have fun


Don’t let depression get you down. Your college years are supposed to be some of the best of your life, so get the help you need now and start living the life you’ve imagined.

Running Pains

By: Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

If you’re like me, treadmill workouts and staring at myself in the mirror at the gym gets old and monotonous. I want to change up my routine a little and start doing some more exercise outdoors. After all, the weather is starting cooling off a little, fall is in the air, and being outside is actually enjoyable this time of year. The easiest exercise to do outside is running; however easy to do, running is a very technical activity. Particularly if you are new to running, there are symptoms and injuries to watch out for and address early in order to avoid pain and allow you to stay healthy and active. Below is a list of common injuries and what to do if you experience them.

  1. Runner’s Knee: irritation under the kneecap, inside or outside of the knee, that can flare up during workouts, persist afterward, or occur while going down stairs or hills. It is caused by weak quads, hips, or glutes. If you experience runner’s knee take at least three days of rest and avoid exercises that require you to lean forward, because it puts pressure on the knees. Work on strengthening your quads and maintain cardiovascular health by swimming or using an elliptical during your recovery period.
  2. IT-Band Syndrome: a strain on the connective tissue that runs from the outside of the hip to the shin. Irritation occurs when the IT-band rubs against the bone. It can be a dull pain on the outside of the knee and/or radiate up and down the leg after 10-20 minutes of running. If you experience IT-band syndrome, take a few days of rest and look into orthotics or new shoes. Again swimming or elliptical training can help maintain cardiovascular health while you recover.
  3. Shin Splints: small tears in the muscles around your shinbones that result in aching pain that fades after a warm-up or completed workout. It is most common among new or returning runners. If you experience shin splints, make sure you rest and then gradually work back into a routine, slowly increasing your run mileage. Make sure your shoes are in good condition and fit properly. Cycling and swimming are the best cardiovascular alternatives during your recovery period.

Remember if you have persistent pain or concerns about any of these or other injuries, always consult with your healthcare professional.

For more information about runner’s injuries go to:

For tips on “How to Start Running Without Getting Knee Pain” go to:

Spotlight on Men’s Health [infographic]

Guest Blogger: John Rehm

According to, cancer is the second leading cause of death in men and that 1 in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, prostate cancer survival rates increases significantly if detected and treated early.

To increase public understanding of the disease, prevention tips, treatment options, and encourage men to proactively manage their health, the American Cancer Society has dubbed September as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

The graphic below created by Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s online FNP program, breaks down the U.S Department of Health and Human Services health guidelines for men to improve overall health and wellness throughout their lifespan.


Time for a Change (in birth control)?

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

Over the summer I got married and moved into a new apartment and if that was not enough change combined with the start of the Fall semester, I am thinking about changing my birth control method. This is a common struggle that many women who rely on contraceptives often face. There is no “One size fits all” birth control, and often we must try several different options before finding our perfect method. It is sometimes very obvious when changes in your health or negative effects on your quality of life are a result of your birth control method, and other times it is not as apparent. Your health needs may also have changed since the last time you started a new method or you may have new priorities in your life.Birth control

If you are having trouble remembering to take your pill or change your method every month you may want to consider a new method that is easier to use. Additionally, if you are experiencing mood swings or depression, acne, a decrease in libido, headaches or migraines, and heavier periods it may time to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your current method and options for switching. nuvaring

When faced with dissatisfaction with their method of birth control, many women choose to discontinue their current method without immediately starting a new method or without consulting their doctor, which places them at increased risk of unintended pregnancy. Click here for more specific information for how to switch your birth control method, and don’t forget to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your options.  IUD

This new period tracking app is “Spot On”

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

Adjusting to the start of the school year and being back on campus can be very stressful and overwhelming. It can start to seem like you don’t have time to take care of everything on your list, including keeping track of your own health and your body including keeping track of your period. Your period is a normal (though not always fun) part of life, and tracking can be helpful to understand your own unique cycle and to observe if your cycle is changing at all. To help keep track of your menstrual cycle and your birth control method, consider downloading the new Planned Parenthood Spot On app.

Spot On is for anyone who gets a period or who uses birth control and does not make assumptions about your gender identity or sexual orientation. You can track your flow, symptoms, mood, and also daily activities. The app also has features that help you remember to take your01 birth control. Unlike other period tracking apps that are available, Spot On does not assume that you are trying to get pregnant and doesn’t treat your period like a part of your life that should stay hidden.

The app also includes FAQs and other helpful period resources as well as statistics based on information tracked in the app, which will make filling out forms at your next doctors appointment so much less stressful.

Swipe Right, Save a Life

Currently, there are more than 120,000 people on the waiting list for an organ, with a new individual being added every 10 minutes. Additionally, 8,000 deaths occur every year in the U.S. because organs are not donated in time. But while an overwhelming 95 percent of Americans support organ donation, only half are actually registered as donors.

And if things weren’t bad enough, the current donor registry is a complete mess. When the system was setup in the 1960s, it made sense to have people register at the DMV because it was the only government building people passed through often. However, this has lead to each state having it’s own registry, all of which don’t communicate well with each another.

In an effort to solve these problems, a nonprofit group called Organize has teamed up with Tinder to develop an app that entices more people to register as donors. Just like users of popular dating app Tinder swipe right in an effort to find their perfect match – they can now can use this same concept to register to be organ donors- and potentially save someone’s life.

The organization is also leveraging social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to start conversations about the topic and create the first central organ donation registry. Organize believes that it’s not only important to legally register as a donor, but to publicly express your intent so your next of kin has piece of mind knowing they made the right decision. Social media platforms can provide just that, which is why Organize is capturing data from those who tweet or post about wanting to be a donor.

While we don’t know the implications of their efforts quite yet, we do know that what Organize is doing is definitely innovative, and has great potential to save many lives.

To learn more about the organization or how to register to be an organ donor, visit