Road Trippin’ Healthily


By: Nikki Nies

Growing up, a summer was not complete without a trek to Ohio to visit my grandparents.  I still remember packing the car the night before so we could get up real early, only having to put our clothes on for that day.  While I made sure to have my toothbrush in a handy spot in the car, the snacks were always a top priority concern of mine.

I grew up with limited trips to fast food joints, which I’m now grateful for, with my mother preparing sandwiches the night before for the road.

Here’s some friendly suggestions to keep in mind:

  1. Whole grain cereal cups: Look for brands that contain at least 4 g of fiber and approximately 160 calories/cup; i.e. cheerios; great to be paired with low fat yogurt and bananas
  2.  Peanuts in the shell: Great source of reservatrol, vitamin E and monounsaturated fats=heart healthy snack; 1/2 cup provides 7 g of protein, 3 g of fiber and 20% of your daily value of vitamin E
  3. Trail Mix: Opt for the dried fruit and mixed nuts options and you’re good to go; be mindful of portions, as 3 tablespoons are 140 calories and 9 g of fat
  4. Baby Carrots:  So handy and filling, dip in peanut butter if needed and it’s a stellar treat
  5. Bananas: They don’t get enough of the spotlight, but these fruits are awesome portable, year round fruit; a great powerhouse, able to provide you the energy you need to get through the day
  6. Plain Popcorn: don’t have to worry about staining your clothes, it’s a great portable snack sans butter
  7. Mini Pita Sandwiches: Combine hummus, sliced cucumbers, carrots and/or peppers to pita bread

NutsForNutsWith any trips on the road, whether it’s a 5 minute drive to the post office or cross country trip, you don’t have
to rely on junk food to get you through the days.  Any one who knows me well, can attest that I brings snacks anywhere and everywhere, you never know when you’re going to get in a bind and need a little refueling.  With a little planning and prep, your family and you can be on the road in no time with some delicious, yet health alternatives.

Wanting to experiment with trail mix varieties? It can add fun to prepping for the trip!



By: Nikki Nies

Bisphenol A (BPA) can be found in the materials used to produce the containers of processed goods and products. Since the 1960s, BPA has been used to produce hard plastic and resins, specifically plastic water bottles, baby bottles, dental fillings, medical devices, contact lenses and dental devices.
Many health conscious individuals look for the BPA free label when purchasing water bottles as there have been concerns that arise from BPA use.  BPA can cause unnatural hormonal changes linked to heart attacks, obesity, and certain cancers.

BPA is an endocrine disruptor that interferes with the production, secretion, transport, action, function and elimination of natural hormones.  It can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of food products. Babies and young children are most susceptible to adverse effects of BPA.

Adverse effects of BPA products:

  • Male impotence and sperm count decrease
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity increase
  • Diabetes increase
  • BPA_free_logo1Hyperactivity/difficulty learning
  • More susceptible to cancer
  • Early puberty in females
  • Increased risk of autism
  • Ovarian cysts/uterine fibroids
  • Abnormal play/social behavior

What can you do?  Limit microwaving foods in polycarbonate plastic containers; reduce use of canned foods; choose glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers; use baby bottles labeled BPA free and recycle bottles according to their recycling codes.   Look for products that proudly show off a BPA free stamp!


Tis Always the Season[ings]


By: Nikki Nies

Whether you’re grilling, sauteeing, roasting or broiling, having seasonings on hand can make a or break a dish.  Sometimes, the extra splash of seasonings can really evoke the flavors waiting to come out.  In addition, seasonings aren’t low in health benefits. While the seasonings you keep stocked will obviously your taste and style of cooking, having certain seasonings on hand can make a world of difference.

Spice Description
Bay Leaves Aromatic, woodsy-tasting leaves are typically sold dried. Choose those with a rich green color. Add whole bay leaves to soups, stews, and marinades; remove before serving
Black Peppercorns Must-have for their slight pungency. Always opt for black peppercorns over preground versions: The flavor of freshly ground or cracked pepper makes the small effort in preparation well worth it
Cayenne Pepper Made from a small, spicy red pepper foundation of many bottled hot sauces. Used frequently in Cajun and Indian recipes
Chili Powder Typically made from a blend of dried chilies, cumin, coriander, and oregano. Delicious in Mexican and Southwestern dishes
Cinnamon, Ground warm, aromatic spice has a reddish brown color and a bittersweet flavor. Great for baking, stews, chilies, and curries
Cloves, Ground Sweet, rich spice is a staple in holiday baking, especially gingersnaps. Use it sparingly; a little goes a long way
Cream of tartar Derived from a crystalline acid that forms on the insides of wine barrels, this fine white powder is most often used to stabilize meringues
Cumin, ground An aromatic, mellow spice, ground from a small seed; great in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, especially curries
Curry Powder Includes coriander, cumin, and turmeric—can make up this popular Indian blend; Madras variety has more heat
Ginger, ground More intense and astringent taste than fresh ginger. Keep it on hand for baking
Kosher salt Coarse salt made without the addition of iodine; use in place of table salt for seasoning recipes; the larger crystals are easier to pinch with your fingers, allowing for greater control of seasoning
Nutmeg, whole Delicate, warm spice frequently used in baking; common addition to baked winter squash, béchamel sauce, and spinach dishes
Oregano, dried member of the mint family, robust herb is commonly used in Mediterranean, South American, and Cajun cooking
Paprika Powder made from ground sweet red pepper pods, this is available in sweet and hot varieties. (If the type is not indicated on the bottle, it’s most likely sweet.) With a rich red color and a smooth texture, Hungarian paprika is of the highest quality; use to season meat, seafood, and vegetables. It also makes for a nice garnish on deviled eggs
Crushed red pepper Spices up pastas and stir-fries or to sprinkle on pizzas
Rosemary, dried With an aroma of lemon and pine, this herb is used in an assortment of Mediterranean dishes
Sesame Seeds Have a sweet, nutty taste that complements both savory and sweet dishes. The seeds are especially flavorful and aromatic when toasted. Store them in the freezer: Because of their high oil content, the seeds can quickly become rancid
Thyme, dried Fragrant herb lends a delicate flavor to meat, poultry, and vegetables; popular in Mediterranean, Cajun, and Creole cuisines
Vanilla Extract Baking essential made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol. Opt for the pure rather than the imitation variety, which often has additives and an unnatural flavor

What are your go to spices? What are you constantly adding to your dishes?


Portion Sizes: Then and Now


By: Nikki Nies

One of the driving complaints about fast food, franchises and restaurants as whole is that they’re portions are small and you’re not getting your money’s worth.  While everyone knows that portions have doubled, sometimes tripled, people are still not satisified with the amount of food they’re getting relation to what they’re paying.

With such large portions provided, it can be hard to know how much to eat sometimes.  The average restaurant chain serves 96% of its entrees exceeding the recommended Dietary Guidelines for fat, saturated fat and sodium.  Now you may argue that you can tell how much a portion is, but researchers are finding people tend to clean their plates, rather than taking leftovers home.  cdc-new-abnormal-infographic

To put in perspective, an extra 10 calories daily can add up to a pound a year.  A pound a year can lead up to 20 pounds in 2 decades.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not one that 20 extra pounds sits well with.  Join with me in the awareness of intuitive eating and not giving into the portion distortions society is deceiving us.

The scary part?  Over the last couple decades, with the increase in portions, many consumers and restauranteers haven’t noticed the portion increase.  If anything, they’re still stingy with portions, expecting more!

Have no fear, while it may sound like an daunting task, the uphill battle is not impossible!

  • Start becoming familiar with food labels and servings.  Check out a previous post on how to read a food label at:
  • Familiarize yourself with portion sizes.
  • Compare marketplace portions to recommended servings sizes
  • When dining out, to decrease chances of over eating, when served, automatically, remove at least 1/2 of the serving off your plate, so you’re not tempted to over eat
  • Slow down and enjoy the meal! Eating slower helps one enjoy the meal more and decreases chances of needing a second helping!
  • Share a meal.  It makes you feel less guilty about the meal you’re about to embark on

I hope you walk away from this post, energized to trump those deceiving portions! If you think about it, by decreasing portions, you’re not only eating less, but saving money, eating leftovers means you don’t have to cook another meal! Win-win!

Photo Credit: Revolt Against and Divine Caroline 


Maximize Your Freezer!

By: Nikki Nies

The other day my roommate asked me what my thoughts were on buying a second freezer.  At first, I laughed, but it’s really not that crazy of an idea.  Growing up, whenever my mother needed help in the kitchen, it was often “grab such and such in the downstairs freezer.”  So, yes, I did grow up with a downstairs freezer and it came in handy more often than once!

While a second freezer isn’t practical for my current living situation, I fully support them.  Especially depending on how many are living under one roof, a second freezer can be a life saver!  If the purchase and cost of maintenance of a second freezer is practical for you, let me sway you even more!

A second freezer always one to maximize stock up sales, on frozen veggies and fruits! Also, with a great sale on meat, if lack of freezer space is your main reason for not taking advantage of the sale, say no more, if you purchase a second freezer. If you opt to make a big batch of meals, you can freeze left overs for later use.  By having freezed already prepared meals on hand can help you out in crunch time.

Some don’t see the benefit of a second freezer out weighs the cost and that’s fine.  But for those interested in a little wiggle room in stock piling on great sales, it’s a great investment and will save you some headache in the future.


Be Inspired by The Biggest Loser


**Disclaimer: The following post is by no means advocating the practice of disordered eating or eating disorders.  You may be questioning my values, regarding the winner of the latest edition of Biggest Loser.  Rachel Fredrickson lost more than half of her body weight and many labeled her as “too thin.”   As with all posts, my intention is to provide awareness and encourage healthier behaviors.  If you do decide to read the following post, please read with a grain of salt.**

By: Nikki Nies

While the Biggest Loser doesn’t always promote the healthiest weight loss tactics, I can’t help, but watch the show.  Like many others, I can’t help, but feel connected to the contestants and their relatable stories.  Hearing their personal journey of how they have gained excess weight and the barriers it has caused, it makes one root for them to overcome their physical and mental struggles.  If you go into watching the Biggest Loser with the intention of seeing the transformation contestants go through, you can’t help, but be proud and motivated to lose weight yourself.

One of the best milestones on the Biggest Loser is Makeover Week.  During this season, Tim Gunn and Ken Paves came to help the contestants find clothes that they’ve not only wished they could try on, but showed them the physical and mental changes.  Every one loves an underdog story and the Biggest Loser has a no holds bar attitude on what the contestants have to share to alleviate the pain and barriers that have held them back of where they want to be.

Watching the Biggest Loser can also give you great work out tips.  Those creative exercises Jillian Michaels, Dolvett Quince and Bob Harper implement on the contestants can often become part of your daily exercise routine.  Take notes on how many reps contestants are required to do and challenge yourself to keep up.

Pictures are worth a thousand words and seeing before and after pictures of the journey these contestants have embarked on can help motivate at home competitors. Don’t focus on the weight loss these contestants lose week to week, as it is often unrealistic, unhealthy goal, but let the Biggest Loser be your inspiration to the best self!


Calculating BMI


By: Nikki Nies

BMI is a quick, easy measurement tool any one can do with a scale and a measuring tape.   BMI is a greater indicator of health status and fat mass, but by no means be used as the end all indicator of one’s health.

Measurement Units Formula and Calculation
Kilograms or meters Formula: weight (kg) / [height (m)]With the metric system, the formula for BMI is weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Since height is commonly measured in centimeters, divide height in centimeters by 100 toobtain height in meters.Example: Weight = 68 kg, Height = 165 cm (1.65 m)
Calculation: 68 ÷ (1.65)2 = 24.98
Pounds and inches Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x703Calculate BMI by dividing weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared and multiplying by a conversionfactor of 703.Example: Weight = 150 lbs, Height = 5’5″ (65″)
Calculation: [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96

Now, you may be wondering, what does a 24.96 mean? There are 4 main brackets on BMI chart, where one can be categorized.

After a calculation has been made, one can look to a standardized chart to see where their number lies:

  • Below 18.5–>Underweight
  • 18.5-24.9–>Normal
  • 25.0-29.9–>Overweight
  • 30 and above–>obese

It’s good to remember BMI is not a diagnostic, but a screening tool used by health professionals.  To determine if one has excess weight, further assessments are needed to confirm BMI’s indications of health (i.e. skinfold thickness; evaluations of diet and physical activity and family history).


Sugar It Naturally!


By: Nikki Nies

I’ve had many posts on sugar, the impact of sugar, high blood glucose levels, etc.  And yes, here’s another one for you.  As many of you know, sugar is a very real, valid addiction and having information on sugar is needed to keep the sugar intake at bay.  High intakes of sugar can not only lead to obesity, but diabetes, sugar crash, dental caries, hyperactivity and many other preventable issues.

I know it’s unrealistic to cut sugar out of your diet, it’s important to be reminded from time to time that there are some great sugar substitutes.  As with anything, moderation is key.  Using natural sugar doesn’t mean dousing your meals with syrup, but you can feel better about what you’re eating instead of opting for those artificial sweeteners.

Natural Sugar Description Suggested Used
Agave Nectar Tastes similar to honey; contains high fructose content, so use moderately Great for hot or iced tea;
Maple Syrup Comes directly from plant sap; contains over 50 antioxidants Granola, waffles
Lemon  Provides a nice squeeze of acid  Use in hot tea or iced tea
Honey Antioxidant rich Hot tea, homemade salad dressing
Applesauce Naturally sweet Use applesauce in substitution for white sugar;  great dessert
Erythritol Sugar alcohol; 0.2 kcal/g; white powder from a plant occurs naturally in fruits; doesn’t lead to tooth decay Use in chocolate baked goods (i.e. brownies)
Raisins Antioxidant and fiber rich Use in any baked goods
Cinnamon No calories included, adds a subtle taste of sweetness, boosts immunity Great in coffee, baked goods and tea
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder Use a splash in warm milk or hot water; add in vanilla as well
Reb A Derives from South American, natural extract from stevia plant, GRAS A lot goes a long way, put a few drops in the a bowl of oatmeal
Cranberries Tart antioxidants Replace sugar with cranberries in muffins or scones
Dates Have low glycemic index, antioxidiant rich Substitute 2/3 for 1 cup of regular sugar; use in granola bars or brownies
Grapefruit Provides a sweet and sour kick to dishes; provides daily dose of vitamin C Add to a cocktail over soda or tonic water
Coconut Sugar Made from sap of coconut flours; comes in block, paste or granulated form; loaded with potassium Add in to smoothies
Brown Rice Syrup Comes from brown rice; more nutritious than high fructose; buttery nuttery flavored syrup Works well in granola bars and baked breads
Rapadura Made from sugar cane, but skips the refining stage; retains vitamins and minerals lost when white sugar’s proceeded Keep 1:1 ratio when using instead of sugar
Lime Provides a tangy taste without extra sugar rush Perfect for a glass of sparkling water
Pureed Banana Eliminates the sugar Naturally becomes sweeter as it ripens, so no need to add extra sugar
Milk Natural sugar can add a touch of sweetness A little can go a long way in a cup of coffee
Yacon Syrup Sweetening agent extracted from yacon plant; has hints of apple and ½ the calories of cane sugar; sweet just like honey Works well in raw fruit smoothies or baked goods

We’re born with a natural liking for sweet foods.  If you keep on hand some natural sugars, hopefully over time you’re sugar intake from unnatural sources will decrease and you’ll limit your intake of artificial sweeteners, which can pack on additional calories.By the way, the sugar in fruit is one of the best sources of natural sugar.


Meatless Proteins


By: Nikki Nies

With healthy eating constantly on the brain, it’s constant job to ensure balanced meals are consumed.  Meatless proteins aren’t for vegetarians and vegans any more, with more and more opting for meatless proteins.  Meatless proteins are often low fat, low calorie, with the added protein punch!

Meatless Protein Description Protein Amount per ½ cup How to Eat Tips
Quinoa Packed with fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and folate, low cholesterol; contains all essential amino acids 7 g Stir Fried Vegetables and Quinoa, Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Basil Lemon Dressing; Toasted Quinoa with Chiles and Corn Drain in a fine mesh strainer after cooking; add to soups, hot breakfast cereal or tossed with vegetables
Edamame Have as much fiber as 4 slices of wheat bread; great as an appetizer or within an entrée 8 g (shelled) Edamame with sesame, scallions and almonds; Roasted Edamame Steam instead of boil, which will preserve nutrients; can be served hot or cold
Chia seeds Great source of brain boosting omega 3 and fiber rich; contains great source of iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc; plump up and take on gelatinous texture when soaked in a  liquid 9.4 g in 2 tablespoons Mango Coconut Chia Pudding; Clementine Chia Pudding Use in jams, smoothies, oatmeal, salads, soups, etc.
Lentils Packed with B vitamins, folate, fiber, protein and are heart healthy 9 g Italian Lentil and Broccoli Stew Limit salting or using acidic items to lentils until cooked
Greek Yogurt Low in calories, protein packed; great substitution for sour cream or mayo; less sweet than some regular varieties 14.5 g Grilled Tropical Fruit with Greek Yogurt; Greek Yogurt with warm black and blueberry sauce Be wary of flavored containers that are packed with added sugar
Tempeh Soy bean based ingredient has great texture; firmer than traditional tofu 15.5 g Tempeh Burger; Miso glazed tofu On it’s own, tends to be quite bland, but is great with a marinade
Seitan Made from wheat gluten; has familiar texture of a piece of chicken or beef; brings out any flavors paired with it; looks like duck meat 21 g Mock Peking Duck; Seitan Stir Fry with Black Bean Garlic Sauce No need to add salt as many packaged varieties can have nearly 13% of daily intake
Peanut Butter Contains 2 g of fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fats per serving 32.5 g Peanut Butter Banana Raisin Sandwich; Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Opt for reduced fat or natural peanut butter and “no stir” to limit messes
Chickpeas Aka garbanzo beans; fiber rich; can help cut LDL levels; low calorie 7 g Chickpea Stew with Eggplants, Tomatoes and Peppers; Cumin Spiced Chickpeas Look for chickpea flower, which is a great alternative to those that can’t eat gluten
Eggs When in moderation, can be great protein source; low in calories; may improve HDL levels 7 g/egg Baked Eggs with Cheese and Zucchini, omelettes, quiches, hard boiled, scrambled, sunny side up Choose cage free variety since they’re nutritionally superior and more humaneFound to have 2.5 times more omega 3 and twice amount of vitamin E in eggs of pasture raised hens
Cottage Cheese Affordable, can be eaten with reduced fat, calcium rich for bones, 13 g Combine with fresh veggies or with fruit and cinnamon Can be used as a replacement for ricotta cheese or sour cream in certain dishes
Pumpkin Seeds Great grab and go snack 7 g/1 oz. Pepita Corn Bread In fall, roast fresh seeds; be mindful of serving as seeds can be high in calories
Dried Black  Beans Low fat, fiber filled protein 6 g Cuban Black Bean Soup Opting for dry beans allows one to control sodium and additive intake; soak in large bowl overnight in water and rinse clean afterward, simmer on low heat and enjoy; make with cumin, garlic, red pepper, etc.
Soy Milk Convenient and versatile; often fortified with calcium and 4 g Espresso Soy Milk Shake Vanilla’s great in cereal and coffee; chocolate flavor’s great as a regular treat
Almonds Contains monounsaturated fats which are considered heart healthy 6 g/1 oz. Chili Spiced Almonds Sliced almonds are great over a salad




By: Nikki Nies

Pregnant women not only have to worry about eating well, fulfilling regular daily responsibilities, but also about long term health complications of baby and herself.  It’s a large load to ask of someone, but it’s almost a requirement for a healthy outcome for mother and baby.  Conditions, such as pre eclampsia and eclampsia are preventable, yet are necessary to understand if pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Formerly known as toxemia, preclampsia is like pre-diabetes.  One hasn’t been diagnosed with pre eclampsia, but red flags emerged. I’m into my second paragraph and have yet to define preeclampsia.  No worries.  Preeclampsia is when a women develops high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy (between the 2nd and 3rd trimester).

The specific cause of preeclampsia is not conclusive, but may be due to diet, genes, autoimmune disorder and/or blood vessel problems.  Additional risk factors include being one’s first pregnancy, obesity, over the age of 35, multiple pregnancy–twins, triplets, etc.; and/or a history of high blood pressure, kidney disease or a history of heart disease.

Symptoms of preeclampsia include: preeclampsia-pih

  • Swelling [edema] of extremities
  • Sudden weight gain within 1-2 weeks
  • Chronic headache
  • Irritability
  • Decreased urine output
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vision change
  • Abdomen pain
  • Proteinuria

Proteins are normally confined to one’s blood, but with proteinuria, proteins entire one’s urine due to the lack of “filtering” of urine.

A physician will check one’s blood pressure for indications of preeclampsia.  Blood and urine tests may show proteinuria, higher than normal liver enzymes and/or platelet count with less than 100,000.


  •  The only true cure is the delivery of one’s baby–c section or medications may be used to induce labor
  • If delivery is not impending, it may be recommended to consume less salt, bed rest, plenty of water, medications to lower blood pressure and/or frequent visits for monitoring by physician.

Hopefully, preeclampsia will go away within 6 weeks of delivery.  With future pregnancies, the likelihood of preeclampsia increases dramatically.  Complications from preeclampsia can include severe bleeding, premature separation of placenta, stroke, rupture of liver and/or death.


Nursing Care Plan – Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH; Preeclampsia and Eclampsia)