Original Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr
Original Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr

By: Nikki Niesyogurt-combined

I had never heard of the Aldi grocery store chain until moving to IL, there weren’t any near me on the East coast.  However, I’m so grateful their just down the street from me as I’m on a very food limited budget, but aim to eat quality food as well.  That’s a task in itself.

On top of already great lower prices, their weekly ads put other stores to shame.  You won’t find name brands, as the premise of Aldi is to provide customers with quality food without the added price.  However, if you’re not too stingy about name brands, you can find a lot at Aldi without breaking the bank.

dishwashing-combinedIf you’re heading to Aldi’s for the first time, make sure you take your own bags with you as the store doesn’t supply one with bags.  Also, if you want to use one of their grocery carts, you have to put a deposit down of .25 cents to “unlock” the cart and the 25 cents will be returned to you once you return the cart.

I’ve comparison shopped and haven’t found a better price on milk than Aldi’s.  If you’ve found a gallon less than $1.89, please let me know!

Look for an Aldi near you on their website and sign up for weekly emailed circulars. They’ve got some great recipes on their website as well.


5 lbs. Fat vs. Muscle

Original Image by Next TwentyEight via Flickr
Original Image by Next TwentyEight via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Last year ,I helped at a supermarket nutrition activity, where I manned the table that included fat and muscle models.  Children were first asked to guess what they thought the models were.  Muscle was easier to identify.  After squirming over the “eww” factor of what fat looked liked, a lot of the children guessed it was an old crystal. To their defense, children probably haven’t seen these models before.  However, I’m going to make an assumption the average American hasn’t seen  these models as well.

One’s body composition is composed of different tissues: lean tissues (muscle, bone, and organs) that are metabolically active, and fat (adipose) tissue that are not metabolically active.

One’s body fat percentage can be determined through hydrostatic weighing, bioelectrical impedence and/or skinfold caliber measurements.Muscle is 18% denser than fat, which means with more muscle, it will take up less room on the body and one will appear leaner.

Benefits of increased muscle mass:

  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improved flexibility and mobility
  • Increased energy and vitality
  • Increased metabolism
  • Improved blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Increased lean body mass

To gain more muscle, the best treatment is to get moving.  I’m not saying to start training for a marathon, but small changes can make a world of difference.  Check out previous post: Every Minute of Exercise Counts for suggestions on how to get moving and What’s the Fat About? on the breakdown of fat content for men and women.


Sweet Substitutes

By: Nikki Nies

I’ve been on a baking binge lately.  Trying to remain on a budget as well as continuing to be health conscious, I’ve starting substituting ingredients, which decreases my guilt in consuming baked goods.  Bananas and applesauce are a great way addition and/or substitution to any baking recipe.  Whenever a recipe calls for sugar, opt for applesauce.  Also, I’ve been using coconut oil in replacement of butter recently.  There’s several websites that provide conversions of the amount of coconut oil in relation to butter stated in a recipe. What healthy baking substitutions do you use?

Below you can find some quick, easy treats that are guilt free.


A simple, quick treat that can curb any cravings.  If you freeze bananas, you can have them handy for any time.  To the left is banana, peanut butter, and dark chocolate chip bites =]




The Unhealthiest Juices

Original Image by FoodBev Photos via Flickr
Original Image by FoodBev Photos via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

I hate to admit it, but I used to be a soda junkie.  It was so bad, that it was just easier to drink out of the liter of soda, however, with an array of cavities consuming my mouth and with increased knowledge of sugar addiction, I knew I had to stop.

I only drink water, tea and coffee now.  I never thought I’d be saying that now, but I’m happy I was able to get off my sugar addiction.

I’m a regular subscriber to Men’s Health Eat This, Not That guide.  I know a lot of people drink sugary drinks, such as soda and juice.  Men’s Health just shared their “Unhealthiest Juices in America.”

After looking through the list, I’m not surprised by the drinks that made the list.  I liked that Eat This, Not That not only breaks down what are unhealthy products, but the whole concept is to provide alternatives.

1.  Worst Grape Juice: Tropicana Grape Juice Beverage (15.2 fl oz); 290 calories, 0 g fat, 72 g sugars

2. Worst Juice Imposter: SoBe Elixir Cranberry Grapefruit (20 fl oz bottle); 250 calories, 0 g fat, 65 g sugars

3. Worst Lemonade: Minute Maid Lemonade (20 fl oz bottle); 250 calories, 0 g fat, 67.5 g sugar

4. Worst Mixed-Berry Blend: Welch’s Mountain Berry (8 fl oz); 140 calories, 0 g fat, 33 g sugars

5 .Worst Cranberry Cocktail: Ocean Spray Cran-Apple (8 fl oz); 130 calories, 0 g fat, 32 g sugar

6. Worst Canned Juice: Arizona Kiwi Strawberry (23.5 oz can); 360 calories, 0 g fat, 84 g sugars

Notice the size of each fruit juice?  With variations in sizes, it’s easy to see how you can down several bottles of juice without thinking about it since the size doesn’t represent the amount of sugar and additives in the juice.

I’m not saying you have to cut out juice altogether, but when possible choose fresh fruit as you won’t be consuming additional sugar and if you’re going to drink fruit juices, limit to special occasions or opt for the suggested alternatives.  Your body will thank you for it.


Vibrant Neighborhoods of Chicago

Original Image by Brent Payne via Flickr
Original Image by Brent Payne via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Along with other surrounding area Chicago dietetic internships, my internship participated in an “Ethnic Tour” of Chicago.   I love exploring and being exposed to different cultures and as the first time that I really got to see a larger chunk of Chicago, I was grateful that the tour stopped in some of the ethnic communities that we were able to visit.

With different cultures and practices, trying to educate someone with a different ethnic background than what the RD may might be familiar with can be a barrier to providing the most help.  Foods that people have grown up with can shape favorite foods and dictate the cooking methods often used.  Browsing through the grocery stores, bakeries and through the streets of the ethnic neighborhoods gave us a better idea of where a lot of ethnic groups are coming from.

I want to share where we went for anyone wanting some guidance in the Chicago area.  The tour was broken up into 4 parts categorized by the area of Chicago.

Stop #1: Corner of Kedzie and Lawrence–Mexican, Korean, Middle Eastern and East European IMG_4205

  • Middle Eastern: Jafeer Sweets–4825 Kedzie; Sahar International Super Market–4851 N. Kedzie; Nazareth Sweets–4610 N. Kedzie; Al Khyan Market: 4738 N. Kedzie
  • Mexican: Super Mercado Lindo Michoacan–3142 W. Lawrence
  • East European: La Baguette Bakery–4134 N. Kedzie; Andies Fruits and Vegetables–4725 N. Kedzie

Stop #2: Devon Avenue–Indian, Russian and Kosher

  • Indian: Kamdar Plaz–2646 W. Devon; Fresh Farms Porduce 2626 W. Devon; Patel’s Indian Groceries 2610 W. Devon; Patel’s Cafe, Sweets and Savories–2600 W. Devon

Stop #3: Clark and Foster–Swedish, Persian and Middle Eastern

  • Swedish: Swedish Bakery–5348 N. Clark; Erickson’s Swedish Deli–5250 N. Clark; Ann Sathers 5207 N. Clark
  • Middle Eastern: Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery–1512 W. Foster
  • Persian: Pars Persian Store–5260 N. Clark

Stop #4: African and Asian  IMG_4210

  • W. African–Old World Grocery–5129 N. Broadway
  • Vietnamese–Bale Bakery and Take Out–5014 N. Broadway; Dai Nam Grocery–4925 N. Broadway; Mien Hoa Grocery–1108-1110 W. Argyle; Viet Hoa Grocery–1051 W. Argyle
  • Chinese–Chiu Quon Bakery–1127 W. Argyle

I’m looking forward to heading back to these neighborhoods to pick up ingredients. I feel more confident being able to peruse the aisles as I have a sense of familiarity of what the food products are used for.  All the neighborhoods were gracious enough to allow us into their communities and were eager to help with any questions.

Where ever you’re living I’m sure there’s an ethnic community’s cuisine and culture you haven’t experienced.  It doesn’t have to be large area, but experiencing a different culture can open your eyes to other’s customs and show you how similar we all really are.  I challenge you to check out neighborhoods in your background.  You might find a new cuisine you really love.


Original Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr
Original Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

This article came to my attention and the “experiment” provides saddening information.  The CEO of Panera Bread, Mr. Ron Shaich is currently sustaining himself on $4.50/day for the week.

Why $4.50 you ask?  That’s the amount allotted to those eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  With only $31.50 for the week, it’s been a humbling experience for Mr. Shaich, as he can’t even afford his own Panera bread dishes if he wanted to.  What has he been eating? He had dry cereal and water for breakfast and then chickpea soup for lunch and dinner.

Mr. Shaich admitted: “It’s very hard to eat well. Money really provides choices.” 3fab80133e798b6510bca6446bbcccdb

Panera Bread has made taken the initiative and has opened 5 Panera Cares Community Cafes  where people can pay whatever they can for the meal.  I’m glad to see Mr. Shaich took on this experiment and is able to see the harsh reality that 1/6 Americans experience on a regular basis.

My intention isn’t to downplay SNAP’s generosity, but shed more light on the aspects of national hunger that could use improvement.  I’m not sure what the solution is, but by providing awareness of what’s the root cause of the issue is.



By: Nikki Nies

There’s always “trending” meals and diets.  A new wave is vegeterianisms has arrived.  Whatever your reason for eliminating animal based foods from your diet, there’s some precautions you should know.

Benefits: Types of Vegetarians

  • Vegetarian diet is composed of calories from grain products, vegetables and fruits, which is recommended as an overall diet
  • Reduces the risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain types of cancer including colon, breast, prostate, stomach, lung and esophageal cancer
  • May keep weight down–vegetarian diet tends to be lower in saturated fats and processed foods and higher in plant based foods
  • May have longer life span
  • Easy symptoms of menopause
  • Reduce symptoms of food borne illness–through elimination of poultry, meat, fish and seafood, which are more susceptible to food born illnesses
  • Staying true to one’s ethical beliefs regarding humane practices of animals
  • Plant foods are higher in fiber than animal foods–may have more “regular” movements
  •  With higher consumption of calcium, may build stronger bones
  • Help reduce pollution
  • Avoid toxic chemicals
  • Have more energy
  • More colorful plates

Of course, these benefits are conditional in conjunction with other environmental factors and can’t be definitive benefits.  If you worry about B12 and/or zinc deficiencies, as with any major diet changes, check with your physician beforehand.


Seeing the world on my bike

By: Nikki Nies

I recently bought a bike.  I must admit, I surprised myself.   I’ve wanted one for a while, but I actually bought one.  With school only a mile away, I couldn’t imagine driving there to and from.  Taking advantage of the weather and the close proximity to my school, it was a win win.

With the advisement of 30 minutes of physical activity daily, how do you get your exercise in? What’s your go to activity?