Food And Fitness Information

Healthy eating and physical fitness don’t have to be complicated or expensive.  Simple, safe and inexpensive ways to eat better, maintain a healthy weight and feel great should be the goal! 

Eat Complex Carbohydrates:  Foods high in complex carbohydrates contain less fat, and up to a third of their calories are excreted undigested.  Unrefined grains like whole wheat, rye, oats, and brown rice satisfy the appetite and are a high fiber, low calorie belly-filler. American consumption of fruits and vegetables is at an all-time low and yet these complex carbohydrates can provide some serious low-calorie nutrition. 

Make Fewer Proteins Count:  Two ounces of protein a day is about all the average adult requires for nutrition—far less than the half pound many Americans eat at dinner alone. But there are two simple, delicious ways to combine foods to get low-fat complete protein: 

Combine any legume (beans or peas, peanuts, or soy-based food) with any grain, nut or seed.  A peanut butter sandwich using whole wheat bread is a great example.

Combine any grain, legume, nut or seed with small amounts of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy.  Oatmeal with milk or pizza are two great examples.

Try treating animal sources of protein as a side dish to compliment complex carbohydrate foods. Or combine small amounts of animal protein with lots of vegetables and complex carbohydrates in soups, stews, stir-fry or casserole.

De-Fat Your Diet :  One tablespoon of vegetable oil a day is all you need to supply the fatty acids the body cannot make, but the average American consumes eight times that amount!  Look for hidden fat in your diet and make smarter choices:  Skim milk vs. whole milk; tuna packed in water vs. tuna packed in oil.  Eating fewer high fat sources of protein, such as hotdogs or hamburgers will also help reduce the amount of fat in your diet.

Limit Sugar :  Small amounts of rich, high-calorie foods and beverages make it easy to eat or drink too much before hunger is satisfied.  Too many simple carbohydrates calories at the expense of more health-building complex carbohydrates make it difficult to get the nutrients we need through the food we eat.  Try fresh fruits for dessert or unsweetened cereal with sliced fruit for breakfast.


How much should you eat? It’s complicated!   The amount of food a person needs each day is based on age, sex, height, weight, and level of physical activity. provides individualized recommendations based on those characteristics.  MyPlate makes recommendations for grains, vegetables, fruits, protein foods and dairy, and helps cut through the clutter of information by offering visuals, information about typical serving sizes, and more.  MyPlate is a free resource based on scientific data to help learn what the right amounts are for you.


Nutrition Services at Minnesota State Mankato:  Taylor Nixt, RD, LD is available to meet individually with students to develop a personalized nutrition plan, with achievable goals, and to address nutrition-related concerns. These services are free for students with a meal plan or a minimum of $25 dining dollars on their account.  Appointment reasons include but are not limited to weight loss/gain/maintenance, sports nutrition, and more.  Appointments with Taylor can be scheduled by calling 507-389-1441 or by email:


Target Your Heart Rate.  Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method for measuring intensity during running, swimming, cycling, and other aerobic activities.  The heart rate that should be maintained during aerobic exercise is called target heart rate.  According to the CDC, your target heart rate for physical activity should be between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate based on age. To estimate your maximum age-related heart rate, subtract your age from 220.   To find the lower end of your target heart range multiply this number by .64.  If you’re just beginning an exercise program, or if you’re in poor physical condition, aim for this heart rate.  To find the upper end of your target heart range, do the same math, but multiply by .76 instead of .64. This is the highest rate you should aim for if you’re in good physical condition.  So, for a 20-year-old college student the formula works like this:

                220 - 20 = 200 x .64 = 128 beats per minute (lower end target heart rate)

                220 - 20 = 200 x .76 = 152 beats per minute (upper end target heart rate)

                Target Heart Rate Range:  128 to 152 beats per minute

Resting heart rate is determined by taking your pulse after sitting quietly for five minutes. When checking heart rate during a workout, take your pulse after 5 minutes of activity, after 15 minutes, at the end of your activity, and after you cool down.  Count pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six to get the per-minute rate.  With practice, you can tell when you’re approaching your target heart rate:  your breathing is harder and you may begin to sweat.


Strength Training 101

Anyone can benefit from strength training.  A well-designed strength-training program can provide:

  • Increased bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments strength
  • Increased muscle mass. Increase muscle mass impacts the amount of calories burned while not active, making it easier to maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Enhanced quality of life. As general strength increases, the effort required to perform daily activities is lower.

Strength training should include major muscle groups:  chest, back, back, legs, shoulders, biceps, triceps and truck/core muscles.  Using body weight exercises (push ups, crunches, wall sits) and machine-based exercises for strength training is generally safer for beginners.   As muscular fitness improves, free weights can be added to fitness routines.  Minnesota State Mankato students may want to consult with the certified personal trainers at Campus Rec ( before beginning a strength-training program.  Campus Rec has both machines and free weights for students use and the staff to help you use both safely.

A basic strength training program offers a plan to improve overall muscular fitness and good plans typically include recommendations for:

  • a specific number of repetitions or reps (the number of times you perform the exercise) and sets (a fixed number of repetitions)
  • specific exercises that target individual muscles, muscle groups, and overall strength
  • number of days each week

Keep it Loose!

Stretching for flexibility is an important aspect of staying physically fit.  Research shows that good range of motion for joints allows for more freedom of movement for other exercises.  The American Heart Association offers the following guidelines for safe stretching:

  • Relax and breathe normally while stretching. Then stretch while pushing the breath slowly out your mouth. Count to 10 slowly or time yourself for 10-30 seconds. Breathe normally during the stretch.
  • A stretch should always be smooth and slow, never jerky or bouncy. This can cause muscles to tighten and may result in injuries.
  • Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat each stretch 3-5 times. Remember to breathe normally during each stretch.
  • As you become more flexible, try reaching farther in each exercise. A mild pulling feeling during a stretch is normal. Sharp or stabbing pain or joint pain means you should stop, you're stretching too far.
  • Always keep your joints slightly bent, never “locked” in a straight position. This can cause injury.