Starbucks Experiment + Observations

Original Image by AA jhr via Flickr
Original Image by AA jhr via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

I know all major chains and restaurants post their nutrition information online, but I was curious how helpful employees were to cater to different nutritional needs.  I’m currently at Starbucks and I asked one barista for the nutrition facts.  In other Starbucks, I’ve seen the nutrition fact information visibly available for customers to peruse.  However, since there was no nutrition information in sight, I had to wait for the employee to find the information.

He “hmmed” and “hawed” for a couple seconds, mumbling that they should have a copy around here somewhere.  I was surprised by his response.  When’s the last time someone asked for such information?  I can’t be the first!!! Luckily, he was able to find a copy.

I understand people to don’t immediately associate Starbucks with health.  It’s definitely considered a luxury item above Dunkin Donuts.  However, that doesn’t mean one should walk into a Starbucks blindly.  I’m actually a big DD coffee fan, but Starbucks’ atmosphere is obviously better for longer periods of time.  So what’s a girl to get?  I can’t use their sitting area without ordering something.

When I went to analyze the nutrition facts, I realized the barista only gave me the food nutrition information.  I hate to compare, but at other Starbucks, I’ve seen nutrition information for both food and drink in one pamphlet.  I had to ask more clearly for the beverage nutrition information.  A different barista had to rummage for the beverage pamphlet.  I jokingly commented, “Not many people ask for this kinda information, huh?” and she said, “not really.”

So onto the phase of my curiosity.  Another study session, when there was no one else in a Starbucks, I did another quick experiment.  I asked the barista what was the lowest calorically dense beverage they served, besides water.  She was very kind, but had to think for a minute.

I must say the beverage nutrition information is very pleasantly laid out.  It gives a great depiction of the different sizes of hot beverages as well as cold beverages.  The beverage nutrition information includes “Delicious Sips 200 Calories or Less.”  The only 0 kcal beverages are 12 oz. unsweetened Tazo shaken Iced Passion Tea and Brewed Tazo Tea.  The 12 oz. Soy Tazo Chai Tea Latte and the Coffee Frappuccino Blended Coffee scoot by with a mere 180 oz. How many people get a small when they go to Starbucks?

Original Image by poolie via Flickr
Original Image by poolie via Flickr

A lot of people in the nutrition field emphasize limiting amount of calories derived from drinks, so here’s a list of suggestions one might get at their next time at Starbucks or if they wanted to splurge. Obviously, a lot of choices are personal preference, but suggested ways to cut calories, fat and sugar:

  • Skip the whipped cream and fancy syrups
  • Opt for small (short hot 8 oz. cup size or tall cold 12 oz. cup size) it’ll save calories as well some dollars
  • Try light version of Frappuccino Blended Beverage–1/3 fewer kcal
  • Choose or add skim milk
  • Can’t go wrong with any size brewed coffee–5 kcal

For special occasions:

  • Venti Caffe Mocha without whipped cream–340 kcal; 180 mg of sodium; 43 g of sugar
  • Adding whipped cream is an additional 110 kcal, 40 mg of cholesterol and 11 g of total fat
  • Venti Signature Espresso Drink with 2% milk–500 kcal;  320 mg of sodium; 74 g of sugar
  • Venti Java Chip without Whipped Cream with whole milk–460 kcal; 340 mg of sodium; 84 mg of sugar
  • Venti Caramel Apple Spice–360 kcal; 25 mg of sodium; 89 g of sugar

Starbuck’s offers some foods for under 350 kcal.  However, a lot of the foods under 350 kcal are sugary foods, which will make people more hungry.  One usually doesn’t equate Starbucks with food, but when you’re waiting in line to place your order and your stomach’s growling, it’s very easy to pick up the heavenly looking Danish.  Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Starbucks food on a regular basis.  Based on the nutritional information, here’s my opinion:

For those that need a bite as well:

  • Chicken and Hummus Bistro Box–260 kcal; 7 g of fat; 5 g of dietary fiber; 2 g of sugar 
  • Veggie and Monteray Jack Artisan Breakfast Sandwich–350 kcal; 18 g of fat; 590 g of sodium
  • Hearty Blueberry oatmeal, steel cut with old fashioned oat–150 k cal–I’m impressed they offer agave and dried fruit

My point isn’t to alarm you or become calorie counters, but to make everyone more aware of what they’re not only eating, but drinking.  The biggest culprits can reach over 600 kcal if one adds additional whipped cream and sugar, which could be calories to one of the three meals! Obviously, the larger portions of special occasioned drinks have more kcal, but that is more realistic information to review.  I remember my one friend used to always order a Venti Java Chip every time we went to Starbucks.  She always considered a “treat”, but one summer we were going every week, so the “treat” concept lost the novelty and it was a regular item in her diet.  I know she’s not the only one and this was at a time when nutrition wasn’t a passion of mine, so I was equally unaware of what she was consuming.  That thought has always stayed in my head though.

I know a lot of people get caught up with the amount of calories they’re consuming, but I suggest one should check the sodium, fat, cholesterol and active ingredients as well.  High blood pressure is not as publicized of matter in America now,  but the biggest culprit is a large consumption of sodium.  One should aim for less than 2400 mg of sodium daily.  By drinking the Venti Java Chip with whole milk, that’s 340 mg of sodium, which would be 14% of one’s allotted amount of sodium for the day. If that’s what one wants to spend their sodium intake for the day on, okay, but my biggest goal is to make people more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies.

4 grams of sugar equals one packet of regular sugar, so the venti caramel apple spice’s 89 grams of sugar would be equal to 22.25 PACKETS of sugar!!!!! One doesn’t visually see it, but that’s crazy to think about.

Next time you’re at Starbucks, remember these tips and see if your Starbucks has nutrition information readily available for you to peruse.  You can sip some great beverages without trading many calories!

Home Stretch

Original Image by Steven S. via Flickr
Original Image by Steven S. via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Like many college students, I’m counting down the weeks until classes are over this semester.  If any one was wondering, it’s 7 weeks, not including finals.  With the added stress of finishing classes well, many make shortcuts in parts of their lives to dedicate more energy and time to studying.

However, one’s nutrition should not be compromised for the grade.  In fact, there has been a correlation between better nutrition and better academics.  I know a lot of people may have started the semester off right, bringing prepared meals from home or choosing the healthier choices at the dining hall, but I know, myself included, that with stress, one may succumb to sliding into bad habits.

Here are some quick reminders how every college student can squeeze in some healthy meals into their everyday lives, which will provide optimal concentration on exams!

  1. Bring snacks to class!–bring some carrots and hummus, almonds and an apple to class to curb cravings.
  2.  Limit high fat offerings, such as French fries, mozzarella sticks, cinnabons
  3. Limit high caloric beverages–watch the amount of sugar per serving of soda, ice tea, energy drinks etc. 
  4. Hydrate! Drink water before, during and after a meal
  5. Limit discretionary calories–such as sweets and alcohol
  6. eat more antioxidant dense foods–berries, beans, artichokes, apples and cherries

What’re your go to snacks to have on hand? To help you get through finals? Best of luck to all!

What is N-U-T-R-I-T-I-O-N?

Original Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr
Original Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

I’m currently taking MNT and I have to admit, the class is rubbing off on me.  Since learning the etiology and etymology of a lot of the everyday words used in the nutrition field, it has made me wonder where the word “nutrition” derives from.

Like many words in the English language, the word nutrition has a Latin origin.  The Latin root, nutrire means to suckle or feed.  In relation to the Merriam Webster dictionary’s definition of nutrition, as the “the act or process of nourishing or being nourished” I can see why one would choose the word nutrition as describing the act of nourishment.

I was intrigued, hope that explains the etymology for some as well.


Advice on Providing Advice

Original Image by GotCredit via Flickr
Original Image by GotCredit via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

It’s funny, whenever someone finds out I’m a nutrition major, they immediately want advice.  Does that happen to you?  It’s great to see that others want to take control of their lives and seek information.  However, today I’d like to focus on those that don’t voluntarily come and seek our advice, but could benefit from some nutrition education and advice.

How do you approach them?  I’ve come to the understanding that you can’t help someone until they’re fully committed to helping themselves.  I’m currently taking a counseling class this semester, with my fellow blogger, Dana, and I love the casual atmosphere that our professor, Ms. Rose Green has provided.  We’re not only allowed, but encouraged to ask questions.  We barely have a enough time to get through the PPT provided because throughout the semester people have become comfortable asking questions that they may have otherwise held off on in other classes.

How do you suggest to approach people?  Or should you wait for them to come to you?  Within the last day, four people told me “I need to lose weight.”  I don’t want to agree with them, but I also want to help them face reality.

Say Hello to Rienzi Products


By: Nikki Nies

It recently came to my attention that you can use black beans as a healthy substitute in brownies.  Yes, I said it, black beans.  As I was perusing the grocery aisles, I was looking for a brand of blacks beans with the lowest salt content.  I immediately looked at the nutrition label of the ShopRite “low sodium” black beans, which stated it contained 460 mg of sodium.  Just to check, I started looking at other brands of black beans and I found that the store brand of blacks that advertised low sodium, was in fact, NOT the brand with the lowest amount of sodium.

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Long story short, I was shocked to find that Rienzi had the lowest amount of sodium, with a solid 24 mg.  I checked out Goya, ShopRite brand, etc.  Have you ever heard of Rienzi?  I hadn’t before I had started my comparison shopping, however, it’s now my new best friend.

After purchasing the black beans, I was intrigued why I hadn’t heard of this healthy alternative.  With some research, I’ve found that Rienzi is a local brand from Astoria, NY.  The website provides some great recipes one can use while incorporating Rienzi products into everyday meals.

I was disappointed to find that the brands I thought would be low in sodium, listed sodium in the hundreds of mg.  It showed me one really has to look beyond the advertising and know exactly what’s going into one’s mouth. There’s often a misperception that Organic means healthy, but the ShopRite Organic black beans contained 130 mg of sodium, approx. 72% more sodium than the Rienzi can of black beans.

Your supermarket has a wealth of knowledge, invest a little time comparing labels the next you’re grocery store.  I’m not hear to advertise, but I believe good nutrition comes from great foods.  Check for the blue labeled cans in your local supermarket!  Above, you can see a couple of other known brands that your local supermarket may sell, however, Rienzi had the best nutrition content overall!

Educate, Advocate and Demonstrate!


By: Nikki Nies

While I was perusing, I was looking for some more volunteer opportunities.  I stumbled upon the Kids Eat Right Campaign.  This campaign started in 2010 and has already made some great strides in the last couple of years.  Its growth has been advocated by the White House’s efforts to eradicate child obesity.

With various schedules and priorities, it’s very easy to skip family meals, but studies have shown time and time again, that those that eat together are happier, healthier and live longer.  Even if you take 30 minutes out of your day to sit down with the kids, that can make a world of difference.

As the first Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)and its foundation collaboration, it is a two fold—providing supplemental materials to Academy RD’s and easily accessible information for the general public.  The long term goal is “…to educate families, communities and policy makers the importance of quality nutrition.”

Healthy eating is not just a three times a day decision making process—in regards to the recommended three meals eaten a day, but a lifestyle change.  All parts of one’s life needs share the healthy eating philosophy and by catering to all aspects of life—community, families and those that make up our government, AND can accommodate more needs.

Kids Eat Right’s three objectives—EDUCATE, ADVOCATE AND DEMONSTRATE.  One needs to provide the necessary tools for people to life a healthy lifestyle, but also be the model for change.  Their best advocates are in the dietetic community—with the ability to provide essential information to the general public.

On the website, the general public can see the integrated theme—“Shop, Cook-Eat”, with the goal to increase family dinners.  The website provides user friendly information on how to everything from making the grocery list to how to prep and cook the food to the overall benefits of eating together and how to best eat when out.

For AND members, they can become Campaign Volunteers; utilizing the five Focus Areas to best inform the public on any questions and concerns.  This is a great opportunity to get involved in providing information to one’s local community, as well as the regional community.  The website is organized to encourage one to “Take Action to Fight Hunger” as well as access Toolkits to guide one through the campaign.  The Action Plan can be customized to one’s specific interests—providing information on volunteering at the local food bank to how to educate others on food insecurity.  Everyone can help and make a difference!

Next time you’re grocery shopping, look for FRESH, prepackaged foods that can help you prepare your meals the easiest.  One aspect of your lives you shouldn’t cut corners is your health, within a short amount of time, you can whip up a dish that’s yummy and healthy!

Tips for Healthy Meals:

  • Keep it simple: pre washed salad, pre cut, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, long lasting produce
  • Time saving tips: leftovers, instant brown rice, whole grain pasta
  • On the go! : Pita stuffed with salad, wraps
  • Cook once—eat many times! àUse chicken for a few meals
  • Quick stove top: stir fry, ham and beans, past with sauce, seafood curry

I’m happy to be a part of the Kids Eat Right Campaign as they are the wave of the future and good eating habits are best if started from a young age.  Check out for additional information and pamphlets.  Become a Kids Eat Right Campaign member yourself, customize your action plan and take advantage of the

Happy RD Day!

By: Nikki Nies

As aspiring RDs and nutrition advocates, I believe it is fitting to celebrate and acknowledge those RDs that have paved the path for dietetic students.  On they’ve posted a “Top Ten Reasons” list how a RD can improve the health of this nation–everything helping those with eating disorders, working with public health and local leaders to create wellness programs and  to how to make sure one’s first child is receiving the necessary nutrients!

Let’s take advantage of this celebration of RDs as a chance to thank them for being an instrumental tool to good health.  Check out some events AND has suggested to celebrate the day:

I want to personally thank Nicole Hallissey, RD, who has been an influential role model to me.  Nicole is currently the RD for the ShopRite of Oakland.  She has not only allowed me to sit in on counseling sessions, observe community outreach programs, and given me more support than I could have ever asked for, but has granted me the opportunity to teach my own cooking class and write for her own blog. I’m so happy I met her last year as I have learned so much about myself, the field of dietetics and how I can best cater to individual needs.
As a young child, I always been a good eater and I entered the major of nutrition because I knew I could talk about food all day.  However, with the help of the DPD program at Montclair State University and seeing first hand the impact Nicole has made on clients has made my “interest” in first into a passion.

There are all kinds of addictions, however, food addiction is one of the hardest since we food is a necessity.  I’m happy to see there is a need for RD and that they can make a difference!   I’m grateful for all the RD’s that have opened their hearts and support to me.  Thanks Nicole for not only being a great role model, but showing me first hand “how” one can go from student to intern to RD in such a quick amount of time!  Happy Registered Dietitian Day!

The Skinny on Ice Cream

Original Image by theimpulsivebuy via Flickr
Original Image by theimpulsivebuy via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Like many, the stress of the semester is getting to me.  What do I turn to?  Ice cream and sweets. As a nutrition major, I know the aftermath—the guilt—can get to some, however, my local grocery store, ShopRite of Oakland promotion of Skinny Cow products gives me the ability to have my ice cream and eat it too, pun intended.

I grew up eating ice cream on a regular basis, not just for special occasions. Growing up, I’d always fill the bowl to the top, never knowing how much I’m really eating. I know I don’t have the time or the energy to always do that.  I’m grateful that Skinny Cow has done some of the work for me.  With individually packaged ice cream and treats, Skinny Cow gives its consumers the sweet flavors we crave, without having to trade health.

Original Image by Denise Cross Photography via Flickr
Original Image by Denise Cross Photography via Flickr

How many people can honestly say they use their scale regularly to measure out ½ a cup or just eat ONE serving?

Like any elimination technique, the fall will be that much harder if one deprives themselves of the diet.  The trick is not go off the deep end.  Enjoy the ice cream sandwich, but stop at one.  Skinny Cow’s products are already portioned out so there’s a decreased risk you’ll eat more than one serving.

They’ve also come out with chocolate treats, which I’ve been lucky enough to try.  The company has expanded from the traditional ice cream tub—with cones, ice cream bars, frozen candy bars and have recently developed dreamy chocolate clusters.

Yes, Skinny Cow is a little more expensive than the traditional Friendly’s or Edy’s brand, but you gotta dish a few more bucks to enjoy treats while keeping a happy waistline!  I’m about to grab my snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich AND enjoy every bite while not feeling guilty.

Check out: for a whole list of products and fun activities.

Photo Credit: Tumblr