Is it Bad? Is it Good?

Original Image by Breville USA via Flickr
Original Image by Breville USA via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

I’ve started to notice a trend.  People have drawn a distinction that food is either good or bad for you. For example, one person asked me if V8 juice is good or bad for you. Another friend asked if artificial sweeteners are good or bad for you.

I’m starting to get better at answering these kinds of questions, but it still astounds me the mindset that people have regarding food.  How I try to approach these situations is stating that anything in moderation is key and whatever food they’re inquiring about is dependent on additional factors.  Such as, how many V8 drinks are being consumed, is sodium intake a concern at this time, what else is eaten through out the day, how much physical activity is occurring.  So, to state that something’s necessarily bad or good for you isn’t a cut or dry answer.

I personally, don’t want people walking away from a conversation with me thinking that certain foods are off limits, but with increased awareness, they will be able to discern for themselves how they can best incorporate a realistic amount of a food/beverage into daily routine.

What’re your thoughts?  Have you encountered the same kinds of questions?  How do you handle these situations?

Saturated Fats

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Phu Thinh Co via Flickr
Original Image by Phu Thinh Co via Flickr

The USDA highly recommends the limitation of saturated fat to no more than 7% of one’s daily caloric intake.  So, if you’re consuming 2000 calories per day, it’s recommended no more than 140 calories or 16 g of fat per day.

Saturated fats can be found in animal products (e.g. butter, cheese, whole milk, cream, fatty meats, coconut oil, palm oil, and palm kernel oil) are linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases (e.g. heart disease).  However, it must be noted that there isn’t concrete evidence that a large saturated fat intake will always pan out negatively.

Saturated fats contain carbon atoms that are saturated with hydrogen atoms.  Typically, saturated fats are solid at room temperature.

On to the good news! While unsaturated fats are not as favorable, unsaturated fats are a great replacement.  Unsaturated fats, such as mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature are an awesome alternative. Swapping out the portions of meat consumed for beans and legumes may be a good option as well.

To reiterate, the complete elimination of saturated fats is not needed.  By becoming more aware of what foods you’re eating, you can better acknowledge what your eating habits are.


Top Food Sources of Saturated Fat in the U.S.

The Facts About Saturated Fat

Wansink’s Ted Talk

By: Nikki Nies

Dr. Brian Wansink has developed incredible street cred in regards to his knowledge base and advocacy for good health in nutrition. Dr. Wansink is a current professor at Cornell University and has participated in award winning research on eating behaviors, behavior economics and behavior change.  If you haven’t heard of Dr. Wansink, there’s a lot of literature and information about his role in the mindful eating movement. Go explore!

Check out this TedxTalk from UVM. While the stats may be harsh to hear, this is a great reminder and/or introductory video into the battle of health our nation is currently struggling with.

WHO–Updated Sugar Guidelines

By: Nikki Nies

TIME magazine brings up the argument if WHO’s new sugar guidelines are too harsh. With many Americans consuming 13% of their total kcal from sugar,specifically from processed foods, I can see how their argument could be valid.

Check out some commonly consumed foods and how much sugar they contain.  But first, let me put it in perspective, 1 T of ketchup=4 g; frozen pizza as much as 26 g.

Some argue WHO’s original recommendation of a 10% of total calorie restriction may be more realistic.  What do you think?


Redefining Refined Grains

Original Image by Prem Sichanugrist via Flickr
Original Image by Prem Sichanugrist via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

When I say we’re redefining refined grains, what I mean is today we’re explaining what it means again.  While I provided a post on Whole Grains previously,I never really followed up on whole grain competition, refined grains.

If you’ve ever felt bombarded in the grocery aisles, trying to compare different brands or types of breads, don’t worry, I’ve been there too!

Refined grains have been milled, which removes the germ and bran of the whole grain.  So, what does that leave? The endosperm.  This removal provides a finer texture to products and extends shelf life.  However, when the bran and germ are removed, the nutrients that are found in there are often not restored.  This means the fiber, B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, B6, niacin), chromium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, essential fatty acids, calcium, protein, and iron found in the germ and bran are no longer present in refined products.

Original Image by Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr
Original Image by Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr

Refined grains include: corn bread; corn tortillas; crackers; pastries; desserts; couscous; grits; noodles; pretzels; macaroni; spaghetti; pitas; white bread; white sandwiches and rolls; white rice and/or flour tortillas.

It should be noted that fiber is located in the bran, but products with bran added back into the product doesn’t necessarily mean it’s whole grain (i.e. oat bran).  It’s important to read labels and decipher if what’s being advertised is really what’re you getting!

I hope this run down on refined grains helps you decipher what to buy at the grocery store.  While reading the ingredient list can be time consuming, the more you find yourself reading the lists, the quicker you’ll become at deciding you want to buy a product or not.  Happy shopping and eating!


Food Cues

eyes-have-it-shutterstock_83972737-617x416By: Nikki Nies

Eating doesn’t occur when we’re just hungry, right?  I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you this, but it’s good to reiterate that. Overeating can be due to a multitude of factors.  When there’s more than one factor at large, the odds are against someone that they’ll come out victorious.  Food cues have more power over our food choices than we may like to admit, but have found a place in our society and are here to stay!  Food cues can be contributed to classical conditioning–an unconscious  stimulus occurs, with foods associated with a logo, song or place.

Internal cues include a variety of bodily signals–hormones, sensations of hunger, satiation, nerve signals, neurochemicals–chemical messengers in the brain are released about 20 minutes after one’s done eating.  So, when one eats very quickly and doesn’t allow 20 minutes in between eating and second helpings, one can overeat since one’s not letting the body to tell the brain “enough has been eaten.”

External cues derive from the environment–i.e. lighting, aroma, work schedule, place, advertising bargains, background music, visual of tasty food, etc. A chart at provides a great chart on hidden cues that are often mistaken as hunger.

There isn’t an across the board stimulation of the brain amongst foods.  What I mean is, high sugar and fat foods (i.e. soda and french fries), are very powerful stimuli.  The intense stimuli trumps the negative feedback signals of satiety.  In essence, we’re more likely to eat larger meals and snacks when they’re higher in sugar and fat content due to their more palatable taste.   

Furthermore, studies have shown brain scans of normal weight individuals in comparison to those overweight and obese.  In obese, individuals exhibit increased corticolimbic-striatal activation in response to favorite-food and stress cues and that these brain responses mediate the relationship between food craving.


What RDs Eat!

By: Nikki Nies

Check out this post by Chloe Philips, which details what typical RD diet.  Although, RDs are looked to be the “food police”, as health professionals, we like to enjoy the greats of foods too.  Why do you think we joined the nutrition field?  For me, it’s to provide awareness and be able to have my cake and eat it too, pun intended.


orthorexia-nervosa-2By: Nikki Nies

Too much of a good thing really does exist.  For example, taking multiple showers a day can be deemed as a great assurance to stay clean, yet the extra exposure of hot water to skin can cause dry skin or lackluster shine.  The same concept can be used in regards to healthy eating–orthorexia nervosa.

While there are multiple campaigns and advocates for healthy eating, which is great, however, some people have already adapted healthier lifestyles, but not so healthily.  Many orthorexics may start out with the initial intention to “just eat healthier” and slowly evolves into a fixation on everything pure and healthy.  The word orthorexia literally means ortho–straight or proper and orexia–appetite.  A disorder that emerged in the 1990’s, critics state that with the emergence of organic and healthy eating, there’s a growing trend of orthorexics.

Many orthorexics limits foods that contain preservatives, additives–artificial colors and flavors, pesticides, processed–white flour, added sugar, genetic modification and/or unhealthy fat, sugar and salt.  In addition, many orthorexics may only eat foods that they consider “clean”–being washed multiple times, with minimal handling to reduce risk of bacteria exposure.  Dining out may be out of the question as preparation is out of their sight and/or hands.  Like anorexics, food restriction is a tell tale sign.  The quality of food, not quantity of food is restricted, like in anorexia.

Now, being mindful of the said food traits is great.  Yet, even whole grain bread, which is rich in fiber is not allowed since it’s been processed in some way.  Health professionals WANT people to be more aware of how products are made and how the food is produced, but problems can arise when an obsession with what’s being consumed provides limitations in selection.

For example, orthorexics may be limiting their inclusion in daily activities, isolating themselves to limit exposure to other people’s seemingly “outrageous” eating habits.  Additional signs of orthorexia may include the elimination of entire food groups (i.e. dairy) or displaying anxiety in regards to the amount or type of food they’re eating.

Studies have shown that although orthorexia may not be as main stream of a word as anorexia or bulimia, there’s a handful of people that wrestle with this disorder.  Like other types of disorders, such as night eating syndrome, emetophobia–fear of vomiting and muscle dysmorphia–obsession with muscle building, orthorexia remains controversial.

There may be a correlation between the number of orthorexics and those with an initial interest healthy eating–dietitians, medical assistants, students in medical field, fitness trainers and/or those in performing arts (i.e. ballet, opera singers).  If you or a loved one may be displaying some extreme health limitations, medical professional help is available.


Body Image and the Horrors of Eating Disorders

Orthorexia Treatment

When Canned, Bean It!

When Canned, Bean It!

Canned goods get a bad wrap for the high sodium and potential botulism. However, don’t let those cautionary tales refrain you from venturing out and trying new types of beans. Sometimes, convenience trumps fresh, but keep in mind these lines of canned beans!