Keto with Caution

By Vanessa Evens a recent ASU Nutrition Student

The Keto diet has surged in popularity recently. Chances are you or someone you know is keto and raving about it! But tread lightly. This fad is under-researched and potentially over-hyped.

Keto, if you are not familiar is a very high fat, low carb diet. There are many versions of this diet, including the newer Ketotarian diet, which eliminates the meat traditionally found with Keto. The Keto Diet suggests 60-75% of your calories should come from healthy fats. This means non-saturated fats.  This is where a lot of people get it wrong. Keto isn’t just the beef and butter diet that it has seemingly turned into here in the states. Keto is supposed to be about upping the healthy fats available to us. This would include nuts, avocados, and olive oils. Done correctly, it should mirror the food choices of the Mediterranean Diet but with the quantities of each food differing.


Here’s the hiccup with the Keto Diet. The only real research that really has been done on this diet is as a treatment for people with epilepsy. There is growing research that seems to show favorable results as a short term weight loss plan, but the research is still limited. Conversely, there is some research that shows some negative effects of this diet including muscle mass loss, as well as kidney stones and blood sugar issues in diabetics. Another common side effect of the keto diet is hair loss and potential heart issues. “A new study to be presented at an American College of Cardiology conference found that people who got less than 45 percent of their day’s calories from carbs had an 18 percent higher risk of atrial fibrillation than those who got 45 to 52 percent of their calories from carbs” says Vandana Sheth, a registered dietitian near Los Angeles and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


Obviously, Keto is not without its risks, but when you bring uneducated enthusiasts into the mix the negative effects can grow. A lot of people in the US are not executing the Keto Diet the way it is intended. They focus on the “high-fat” aspect instead of the high “non-saturated” fats. Saturated fats include fattier cuts of beef, pork, and poultry, along with dairy, coconut oil, and processed meats like bacon. Unsaturated fats are healthy fats like olive oil, fish, avocados, and nuts. Keto should be a mix of both fats but focus primarily on the unsaturated variety. A lot of the recipes I see online are for Keto bacon cheeseburgers (no bun) or butter coffee, which is literally what it sounds like. These things do fit into a Keto diet in moderation but in America, they have become staples. This is not how the diet is intended to be used, or what any of the research done has been based on.  You need a logical balance of both types of fat.


If you want to try the Keto diet, make sure to do your science-based research and not just what the latest fad blogs are telling you! Keto with caution friends!



Ketotarian: Keto Without the Meat. (n.d.). Retrieved from


Moll, J. (n.d.). The Key Differences Between Saturated and Unsaturated Fats. Retrieved from




Looking for more articles to help boost your healthy living? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the recipe section on our website.

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How to Keep Your Cool in the Back to School Madness

By Alexandra Petti, AZFB Communications Intern

Back to school season is right around the corner. Back to school is a stressful time for the teachers, parents, and even the kids. I have a few tips that will help keep your cool in this back-to-school madness.

The key to keeping calm is to keep on top of things and to be organized but also have a little fun with things as well.

The first thing that I do each year before the start of school is going through all of the school supplies from last year, as well as all of my old school clothing to see what is still usable and what still fits. Once you have gone through everything you will have a better understanding of what you will need to get.

Next, I would always make a list of the things I need to get: clothing, school supplies, backpack and lunch box, etc. Many teachers put out a list of things that the students will need weeks ahead of time, and stores, like Walmart and Target, have started partnering up with local schools to make lists for school supplies by grade level. This is a big help when it comes to knowing what your child needs for back-to-school in the classroom. Also, keep an eye out for deals on school supplies. Target is offering a discount for teachers in the month of July.

After shopping for school supplies it’s time to declutter the house. This may seem like a task that has nothing to do with going back to school but trust me it does. For the first couple of weeks, you are building a routine with school and activities and you will be crazy busy. It will be nice to come home to a clean, organized home. The decluttering will also give you and your child the opportunity to set up a study space where they can study and do homework, the clean area will give them a place so they can concentrate on the task at hand.

Lastly, having a designated place for school clothing and backpacks. In the morning it can be crazy trying to get everyone ready for school, lunches packed and backpacks packed. So, if you designate a place for these things you are less likely to forget important homework or your lunch.

Amazon and many other stores sell a clothing organizer that hangs in the closet. I used one of these all the way until I was in high school. Every Sunday I would wash all of my laundry and pick out my outfits for the week. This left me extra time in the morning to get ready for school and was a life saver for my mom.

Along with that we also had a designated place for our backpacks. Wherever our study space was we would have a place next to it for our backpacks. This would ensure that out backpack would always stay with our homework. When we were done with homework we would just put it back in our bags.

Top Tips to Back to School:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Declutter
  • Go through old school supplies
  • Make a list of what to get
  • Organize
  • Create a daily schedule
  • These simple tasks are sure to keep you cool in the back to school madness and help you feel like you’ve got it down. Pinterest offers many good ideas for back to school organization.

Check out the Fill Your Plate Blog for articles about healthy eating. Ever wonder what produce is in season? Check out the Arizona Produce in Season section.

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The Importance of Vitamin D

 By Erin Wyatt A Recent ASU Nutrition Student

We all know that vitamins and nutrients are good for us, but do we know why? I personally feel that when I know the exact benefits that a vitamin provides me, the more likely I am to incorporate it into my life. Some vitamins not only have physical benefits but mental as well. One such vitamin is Vitamin D. This crucial nutrient impacts many important bodily functions, but unfortunately, many people are not getting enough of this super vitamin. In fact, about 40% of the U.S. population has a Vitamin D deficiency. Let’s take a look at the role that Vitamin D plays in our bodies and ways we can get more of it.


Vitamin D for Our Bodies

One of the reasons that we require this vitamin is that it aids in transporting other nutrients in our body. These nutrients include calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D helps us absorb the calcium and phosphorus from our digestive system into our bones, which keeps our bones strong and healthy.2 Another benefit of Vitamin D is its ability to help prevent certain diseases. These include skeletal disorders, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, in which studies have shown a correlation between low Vitamin D levels and higher risks of these types of deadly diseases.3 Vitamin D also helps the immune system perform its best and perhaps aid in infectious disease prevention.3


Vitamin D for Our Minds

Studies show links between Vitamin D levels and our moods. When the amount of Vitamin D in our body drops, so do the serotonin levels in our brain.4 Serotonin is a chemical found in the brain that supplies us with a feeling of happiness.5 Ever notice how you might seem a little less happy during the winter time? This could be due to the lack of sunshine and thus our Vitamin D levels falling. It is appropriately named Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Luckily, Arizonians do not need to worry as much as some about this disorder, but there are other factors that contribute to lowering Vitamin D levels. These include sunblock, obesity, and not getting enough food sources of the vitamin.3


Sources of Vitamin D

      Now that we know how important this vitamin is for our overall health, let’s take a look at ways we can incorporate it into our lives. The best source is the sun, in fact, just 5-30 minutes a day can achieve the optimal vitamin levels.3 Although sunblock is very important to prevent skin damage and skin cancer, it also blocks the source that allows our bodies to produce Vitamin D. Depending on your sun sensitivity level, consider going the first 5-10 minutes without sunblock and then apply and reapply the longer you are exposed to the sun’s rays. When the sun is not an option, achieving ideal Vitamin D levels can be reached through food and supplementation. Obtaining Vitamin D from food is not easy, but there are some foods that provide it. Consider eating more of these items during the winter months.


Food Sources of Vitamin D:

  • Cod liver oil (best source)
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Fortified milk and cereals


The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for Vitamin D is 600 IU.2 If your doctor tests your blood for Vitamin D and it shows that you are deficient, then supplementation may be recommended.

                This vitamin has a broad range of very important roles in our bodies, as well as our minds. It aids in bone health, disease prevention, and immune-system wellness. Lower levels can affect our moods, contributing to depression. Sun exposure, food sources, and possible supplementation can give us adequate amounts of this super vitamin. Talk to your doctor if you would like to learn the status of your Vitamin D levels. And Arizonians, consider yourself lucky to have an abundant resource of this pivotal vitamin.




  1. Forrest, K.Y.Z., & Stuhldreher, W.L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutrition Research, 31(1); 48-54.
  2. Gunnars, K. (2019). Vitamin D 101- A detailed beginner’s guide. Retrieved from
  3. Lappe, J.M. (2011). The role of vitamin D in human health: A paradigm shift. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine 16(1); 58-72.
  4. Greenblatt, J.M. (2011). Psychological consequences of vitamin D deficiency. Retrieved from
  5. McIntosh, J. (2018). What is serotonin and what does it do? Retrieved from



Looking for more tips and tricks like this to keep you family happy and healthy? Check out the Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some new recipes to try out? Check out the Recipe Section of our website. How about some fresh produce that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the local Farmers Markets near you.

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“Safe Snacking” Healthy Snacks for Kids

By Alexandra Pettit, AZFB Communications Intern

Snacking can be a risky game when it comes to your kids. Finding healthy snacks that they want to eat can be a battle in itself. They want the sugar filled, empty carb snacks that are advertised everywhere. As a mom, you know they are not good for them to have each day.

This can be a daily battle for many parents, but it can also be easier than you think. Making healthy snacks can be time-consuming but it can also be a fun activity to involve the kids in especially during the summer. Some they might even be able to make themselves.

When thinking about snacks for the kids think of things that will sustain them for a long time vs eating a bag of chips and being hungry an hour later. Snacks that will sustain them for a long time are foods high in protein.

  • Nuts, a variety
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Peanut Butter
  • Yogurt

These snacks are sure to keep them full until their next meal. Along with these options, there are many more snacks that are high in protein that they may prefer over the ones listed above.  There are also many different variations of these snacks…

  • Peanut butter and apples
  • Peanut butter and banana
  • Squeeze yogurt
  • Yogurt and granola/yogurt and fruit
  • Fun boiled egg animals (Include carrots as the legs and feet)

Along with this, there are some healthy snack substations. If your child is craving a snack that might not be the best option you can make them a healthier version.

Snack they want:

  • Cookies
  • Chips
  • Candy bar
  • Fruit snacks
  • Nachos
  • Ice cream

Healthy Alternatives for these snacks:

  • Healthy No Bake cookies
  • Baked sweet potato chips or Zucchini chips
  • Dark Chocolate covered banana Bites (Add peanut butter for added flavor)
  • Homemade fruit roll-ups/ homemade fruit snacks
  • Fruit smoothies
  • Fruit salad

Although these snacks are not the same as junk food, in the long run, they are a more sustainable snack to get the kids to their next meal.


Check out Fill your plate Pinterest account and Fill your plate blog for more fun snack ideas for kids.

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Electrolytes: What and Why?

By Angela Bates a Recent ASU Nutrition Student

We all know electrolytes are important and that they do something for us, but their exact function and importance is little known. More than just what can be found in a bottle of Gatorade, electrolytes keep your cells functioning and the balance is delicate. Knowing what electrolytes are, how they affect the body, and where to get them in your diet is good to know.

Electrolytes are the minerals that have an electric charge. In other words, they can be ionized, which means they can conduct electricity. The electrolytes in our bodies keep the fluid balance within a specific range, move nutrients into cells and waste out of cells, keep the pH (acid-base) levels balanced, and—as anyone who has had a leg cramp after running has found out—they help conduct the electrical impulses in the body’s nerves, muscles (heart included). They keep your muscles contracting and relaxing at the correct rates and even play a role in blood clotting. Without electrolytes, your heart would not beat.

The electrolytes in the body are sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate, copper, zinc, magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphate, molybdenum, and chromium. The seven most important electrolytes in the human body are sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, chloride, and bicarbonate. Electrolytes can be found in the blood, tissues, cerebrospinal fluid, and urine and they enter the body through the digestive tract. So, the electrolytes you eat and drink are absorbed when consumed through normal digestion. They are lost mostly through urination, but also through sweating and excretion, which is why excessive sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea can cause a drastic loss in electrolytes.

One thing that makes electrolyte balance so difficult for the body is that an overabundance on of electrolyte can cause severe drops in another. Similarly, a drop in a particular electrolyte can trigger a spike in another. This can have many symptoms, which will be covered later. The body tries to return to balance itself, but sometimes, we need to take in more electrolytes to help. Each individual electrolyte has its own special functions.

Sodium is not the enemy, but it does have to be consumed with care. For instance, a heart patient commonly told that they should avoid salt as much as possible. Sodium naturally occurs in many foods in small amounts, but in packaged or prepared foods, the levels can be astronomical. Sodium is very important, as it regulates the pressure gradient of fluids between cells. It’s fairly common knowledge that excess sodium causes blood pressure to rise, but too little sodium can be fatal as well, by swelling in the brain and red blood cells. Too little sodium can be caused by overconsuming fluids like water, which dilutes electrolytes in the body, or congestive heart failure.

Can a banana prevent cramps after your morning run? Bananas are a well-known source of potassium, which interacts with the same pumps as sodium in the cells. Potassium, along with calcium, helps tell neurons and muscle fibers when to rest or contract. It also plays a large part in the water and acid-base balance of the body. As with all the other electrolytes, too little or too much potassium can be dangerous, though getting too much potassium from food sources is almost unheard of unless there is an underlying medical condition. With too much potassium, the heart will not relax after a short time, which is a critical medical situation that requires emergency care. In some cases, a lack of potassium can result from too much sodium intake, so being careful not to consume a lot of sodium helps keep these levels balanced.

Chloride plays a very important role in maintaining proper hydration. It is also a component of stomach acid and keeps the electric charge of the fluids in the body neutral. Chloride ions are secreted and reabsorbed with sodium ions. High levels can occur with dehydration and can be seen in individuals who swallow sea water. Bicarbonate is formed from carbon dioxide and water and keeps the acid-base balance of the systems balanced. Phosphate is an important component of bones and cell membranes, among other things. Bones and teeth bind about 85 percent of phosphate in the body. Frequent use of antacids can lower phosphate greatly. The body also requires vitamin D to absorb phosphorus, so receiving enough sunlight is important for the balance.

Two extremely important electrolytes which compete for absorption if consumed together are magnesium and calcium. Strangely enough, an abundance of magnesium taken in with calcium with cause the magnesium to absorb more actively, while higher amounts of calcium will cause both magnesium and calcium to absorb poorly. According to a study in Shanghai, China, the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the body may be more important in disease and mortality than calcium levels alone, suggesting that both are important in specific amounts for the body.

Calcium provides bone hardness, where excess calcium is stored for use when it is needed in the blood. Calcium ions assist with muscle contraction and blood clotting, as well as the release of hormones and neurotransmitters. It is absorbed with the help of vitamin D, meaning a vitamin D deficiency can lead to a calcium deficiency, so both are important to prevent osteoporosis. Calcium supplements are being studied to prove or disprove a link between calcium supplementation and heart disease or stroke. Many experts feel there are too many factors at play, but recommend getting calcium from foods unless directed by your doctor.

According to the National Library of Medicine, magnesium is required for over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body. It helps in energy production, protein use, glucose levels, bone strength, immunity, nerve function, and heartbeat regulation. Researchers have been studying magnesium possibly treating and preventing several diseases and disorders like heart disease and diabetes. If you have a high intake of calcium, protein, and vitamin D, you may need extra magnesium to restore levels. Levels can be an issue in those with diabetes, intestinal disorders, and the elderly.

So now we know what electrolytes are and why they are all necessary for the body. What are some of the signs you may have an imbalance? The signs and symptoms are different depending on which electrolytes are high or low, but some common symptoms include:

  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Muscle cramps and weakness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Fatigue

Causes of electrolyte imbalance can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Overhydration
  • Diuretic use
  • Certain medications (such as proton pump inhibitors, antacids, and chemotherapy drugs)
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea
  • Sweating or frequent urination

Whatever the cause, an electrolyte imbalance can be a medical emergency, so seek medical attention if there is a possibility of one. To prevent imbalance, staying hydrated without overdoing the water drinking (yes, it’s possible and dangerous) and eating food sources of electrolytes can normally allow the body to stay in balance. Here are some sources of electrolytes (minus sodium, of which most Americans get enough):

  • Calcium: dairy products, fish, meat, eggs, dark leafy greens, beans, and fortified bread and cereals
  • Potassium: oranges and orange juice, grapes and raisins, prunes, yogurt, spinach, bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, melons, tomatoes, and beans
  • Magnesium: leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, whole grains, dairy, beets, bananas, and pineapple
  • Chloride: celery, seaweed, tomatoes, olives

For more articles check out our fill your plate blog. Looking for some fun recipes to make at home? Check out our recipe page.

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