When in España…

IMG_9999By: Nikki Nies

I had the pleasure of spending 10 days in Madrid, Seville, Granada and Barcelona, Spain. This retreat from daily responsibilities was a superb way to learn and better understand Spanish culture, food and tradition.

While there, I was taking note of the similarities and differences between American and Spanish culture. On the plane there, I was quickly reminded that the Spanish work to live, unlike the American reputation and often times reality, that we live to work. This statement rang true from city to city. Not only was a greeted with kindness everywhere I went, but the infectious enthusiasm and zest was much needed.

Perceptions can be far from reality, so I went to Spain with as open as a mind as could. Since back from my trip, I realize that I enjoy the Spanish “clock.” Most services aren’t offered before 8AM, with lunch far from starting prior to 2PM and dinner well into 9-11PM.

Cultural and food traditions I took away:

  • As a good reference of time, the metro’s first departure is 730AM. I’m sure you’re familiar with how American public transportation, with life and business available well before 6AM
  • Breakfast consists of a small coffee and a (chocolate) croissant, it’s rare for a cafe to be open before 8-9AM.
  • Bocadillos, or sandwiches, are a quick, easy way to eat on the run! With cheese and Iberian ham, you can’t go wrong. These can be eaten for a heavier, yet acceptable breakfast item or as a snack
  • IMG_9635Spaniards are not afraid, if anything, encourage sugar consumption. While in Madrid, I stopped in a cafe and noticed that instead of the traditional salt and pepper I’m used to seeing on tables, the table had granulated sugar, brown sugar, a sugar substitute and salt. More times than not, there was no pepper to be seen. Additionally, when ordering coffee, even if not requested, sugar was always given
  • The drink of choice is beer. There’s no such thing as ordering tap water, with bottled, mineral water offered if requested. Diet soda is not an option either, with Coca Cola and Fanta the norm
  • With the beaches and Mediterranean Sea near, fresh seafood is a common find on menus. In particular, fried calamari or garlic in prawns were prevalent and served in large portions. It’s safe to say that seafood is in abundance!
  • Pastries are a common means for dessert. A Spanish dessert staple consists of churros that are dipped in chocolate. IMG_0027
  • Fresh produce can be found in day markets and the street vendors are eager to share their latest, freshest produce. You don’t have to travel far to
  • While vegetables are scant, the Spanish have impressively been able to keep their figure. Tapas are a great portion control way to maintain one’s recommended intake.
  • I was intrigued by the Spaniards’ lack of need to “finish” their plates. Unlike Americans, I noticed many times people would leave a bit of their beer, coffee or food on their plate, not feeling the need to “clean” it.

I’m reenergized from this relaxing trip! What aspects of Spanish cuisine do you most revel in? If you’ve traveled to Spain, what different experiences have you had?

Pureed Tofu

By: Nikki Nies

Tofu is no longer found in the Asian or ethnic aisles of the stores, but is commonly found in the produce or refrigerated section of the grocery store, as this silken food product no boundaries! Whether it’s baked, grilled, pureed or eaten as is, tofu can be a great addition to any meal.

Original Image by www.bluewaikiki.com via Flickr
Original Image by http://www.bluewaikiki.com via Flickr

Pureed tofu can be used instead of:

  • Eggs or milk in bread dough
  • Eggs in cookie dough
  • Yogurt in fruit shakes or smoothies
  • Milk in packaged pudding mixes
  • Cream in puréed soups
  • Stock in gravy
  • Cream in sauces
  • Oil or sour cream in salad dressings
  • Egg yolks in soufflés
  • Mayonnaise or sour cream in dips and spreads
  • Milk in mashed potatoes
  • Eggs in quiche
  • Ricotta cheese in lasagna
  • Cottage cheese in casseroles
  • Ground meat in stuffings
  • Feta cheese and eggs in spinach pie
  • Beans in hummus

Pureed tofu can be a great addition to:

Original Image by Crystal via Flickr
Original Image by Crystal via Flickr
  • Homemade or packaged biscuit dough
  • Puréed with vegetables or fruits for baby food
  • Buttermilk (use “Baking Blend”) for muffin, pancake, or waffle batters

I recently made chocolate pudding with pureed tofu, confirming the versatility of this soybean product. I’ve been curating recipes that I can sub pureed tofu in as I’ve always got some tofu on hand! What’s your favorite way to use pureed tofu

Sources: http://morinu.com/tips/tofutips_detail.aspx

Tasty Tofu Baby Food Ideas and Recipes



How Ugly, Unloved Food Can Change the World

By: Nikki Nies

The speaker, Dana Cowin shares why and how everyone can enjoy all things edible and how all foods are beautiful in their own way.

Sources: http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddessig/2015/04/06/dont-waste-wasted-changing-food-stories-leads-to-happier-healthier-eating/3/


Factoring in Fasting

By: Nikki Nies

Religious fasting does not discriminate amongst religions. Off the top of my head, I know several denominations that fast regularly, while the religious premise differs. The term fasting can take on many meanings, but when someone says they’re fasting, it equates to abstaining from a something. Fasting can be in the form of complete abstinence of food and drink until sundown, TV, screen time, added sugar, sleep, sex or coffee to obtain and maintain spiritual growth.

I’m not here to pass judgement on anyone’s customs or beliefs, but to point out some aspects of fasting that should be considered. For example, someone with diabetes should probably consult a physician prior to a food fast. Perhaps, there’s another type of fast that can help with spiritual growth.

Other considerations that should be included are: ReligiousFasting

  • Fasting is not meant to punish our flesh, but to focus on those things above
  • Schedule a physical exam to confirm you’re “fit” to fast
  • If you’re on medications, make sure to notify physician about fasting to limit potential counter indications
  • Should be done during a set time and have an end date
  • Should not be used as a means of dieting, but for religious purposes
  • It can be easier to fast by thinking of this practice as a sacrificial time
  • Similar to starting a new exercise regime, you want to ease into fasting. Perhaps, you fast from one meal or fast for one day, no need to stretch yourself too thin the first time by fasting from food for an entire week!
  • Prior to abstaining from whatever you choose, may be easier to ease into the fast by decreasing intake or use of fasted items the days prior to the fast. This may mean eating smaller meals or decreasing TV time days before so the fast is easier to acclimate to.
  • May be helpful to wean off caffeine and sugar before the fast to ease initial hunger or discomfort in the initial stages of fast

During a period of fasting, one’s safety has to remain at the forefront of every decision. In addition to diabetics, those that are physically too thin or emaciated; suffering from weakness or anemia; prone to anorexia or bulimia; with tumors, bleeding ulcers, blood or heart diseases and/or cancer; have chronic issues with kidneys, lungs, heart or liver and/or pregnant women or those that are nursing may consider opting out of a fast.

The Bible refers to two types of fasts, the “absolute” and the “supernatural absolute.” These are total fasts-no food (solid or liquid) and no water

I tried to keep this post general as to not offend or pigeon hole any one’s practices, but to give some food for thought. Fasting encourages humility, greater fellowship and connection to one’s religious group, acquiring patience, can help restore one’s religious beliefs, frees oppression and encourages a lifestyle of reflection and honor.

Photo Credit:Vocation Network
Sources: http://www.webmd.com/diet/is_fasting_healthy




Review: Larabar

Review of Larabar was due to compensation from the company’s whose products were reviewed. We Dish Nutrition tested each product thoroughly and gives high marks to only the very best. Opinions expressed at We Dish Nutrition are our own. 

By: Nikki Nies

I frequent my grocery store well enough if that if I were to be captured, blindfolded and told I had to go grocery shopping that way, I wouldn’t skip a beat. With that said, I’ve always passed aisle 13, where the energy bars are. Over the years, I’ve, unfortunately, never found energy bars that filled me. While many bars tout themselves as a great snack with loads of protein, it can be hard to decipher which brands are worth the calories and money when they all promote the same qualities and nutrients. We all know they can’t ALL be that good!

thumbYet, during FNCE 2014, I tried Larabar’s new line of uber products, which were more filling than I expected! I especially enjoyed the cherry cobbler, which is a great mixture of dried cherries, almonds, pecans, cashews, raisins, dates and sea salt.  Those are some of my favorite foods and to have them in one bar was like little bits of heaven!

Now that I am transitioning from college life to career, I know my routine will have to change as well.  For me, that means ensuring I will have portable, nutrient packed foods on hand! Thank goodness I experienced the wonders of Larabar when I did! Not only do the flavors hold up to their name, but nutrient wise, they do too! My rule of thumb when skimming through snacks, especially energy bars is that it should be at least 3 grams of protein and fiber, mostly heart healthy fats (omega 3s), mostly whole grains and no more than 15 grams of sugar. A tall order, yes, but feasible!

Let’s do a breakdown of nutrient content of some of Larabar’s popular bars: W

    Nutrient Parameter      
  Nutrition Parameter Cashew Cookie Peanut Butter Cookie Cappuccino Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Calories ≤ 200 calories 230 calories 220 calories 200 calories 210 calories
Carbohydrates ≤ 30 g 23 g 23 22 g 28 g
Fiber ≥3 g 3 g 4 g 4 g 3 g
Sugar* ≤15 g 18 g 18 g 16 g 16 g
Total Fat ≤10 g 13 g 12 g 10 g 11 g
Protein ≥3 g 6 g 7  g 5 g 4 g
Sodium ≤ 100 mg 5 mg 70 mg 0 mg 55 mg

*With six ingredients or less found each bar, the fruit in the bars contribute to the higher sugar and carbohydrate content. These bars are free of added sugars,sweeteners, preservatives, fillers, and artificial colorings.

What are your initial thoughts on the chart above? Be mindful that not all of Larabar’s products are the most sugar friendly.Yet, it’s not a coincidence that nutrient wise, the peanut butter cookie is the best and is considered a Larabar favorite! Make sure to read nutrition fact labels, compare flavors and remember that moderation is key. Make sure you’re stocked with other fresh snacks to maintain balanced intake.

Another note, I am not training for an Iron Man or marathon, so I won’t emphatically look for bars that contain ≥40 g of protein. Yes, there are products out there! As a gal that’s on the go, Larabar’s work for me!

Furthermore, Larabar is a great value-nutrient and price wise and have made efforts to provide quality in all they do.  Everything from production to recycling. Like FSTG, Larabar is committed to the non-GMO project, ensuring its consumers that fifteen of its products are certified non-GMO! Since their partnership with TerraCycle, Larabar wrappers are part of the Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade, a free recycling program and fundraiser opportunity for participants.  LARABAR_Energy_Bar_Wrapper_Brigade_Arrow

Grab your wrappers out of the garbage and sign up to be part of the Brigade, one wrapper at a time! Unfortunately, not all products are available in Canada, so Canadians, don’t get your hopes up when browsing through Larabar’s products!

Check out Larabar’s Facebook | Twitter | Instagram Pinterest | eNewsletter | Blog | Site 

Disclosure Agreement: Review of Larabar was due to compensation from the company’s whose products were reviewed. We Dish Nutrition tested each product thoroughly and gives high marks to only the very best. Opinions expressed at We Dish Nutrition are our own. 

Photo Credit: Larabar

Source: http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/smart-choices/best-energy-bars



Meet REAL RDs from REAL Dietitian

By: Nikki Nies

I had the pleasure of interviewing and getting to know more about the unique registered dietitians that are part of the REAL Dietitian team.   Personally, I find it easier to connect with those helping me when I know a bit about their history and how that has shaped their way of helping others.  Read on to learn about Gina, Brett and Tom’s backgrounds and their hopes with REAL Dietitian’s future!

Meet Gina Crome, MS, MPH, RD GinaCrome Profile

Gina has been a personal trainer and a health advocate since 2006, but her story as a Registered Dietitian has been in the making for quite some time.  Many years ago, she used to weigh 300 pounds.  With portion control and exercise, she a total of lost 172 pounds and eventually went back to school to get a second master’s degree in public health nutrition. She realized clients were seeking concrete diet plans beyond the scope of what a personal trainer has to offer. By becoming an RD, she was able to serve people to the fullest given her personal and professional experience with weight loss success and major body transformation.

GinaConsultAs a Certified Personal trainer, Health Coach and RD, Gina consolidates each discipline into her company, Lifestyle Management Solutions, where she specializes in weight management, employee health and general wellness.  She enjoys public speaking, teaching classes, and freelance writing.  Gina adds, “I am honored to work with others as they move through their own personal journey of health transformation and grateful for the wonderful platform to reach clients regardless of geographical boundaries provided by REAL Dietitian.

Web | Facebook | Twitter | Blog | O: (626) 963-5350 | Email


Meet Brett Curtiss, MS, RD, LDN

FullSizeRender (1)Before becoming a registered dietitian, Brett spent his time working in the marketing industry. Although marketing was his job, he became more interested in reading blogs and books about nutrition in his spare time.  Feeling dissatisfied in his current career, after some soul-searching, he decided he wanted to be an expert that can help others, in the midst of all the nutrition information out there. His nutrition journey started making diet and lifestyle changes resulting in a 50lb weight loss.  Next, in an effort to improve the quality of his diet, Brett’s interest in food lead him to adopt a vegetarian diet as a way to incorporate more vegetables, and limit his contribution to animal cruelty.

After spending 5 years getting a second bachelor’s degree in dietetics, completing his internship, and his master’s degree, today, he is a renal dietitian at the Center for Renal Replacement in Lincolnwood, IL.  In addition, he does consulting work on the south side of Chicago, specializing in peritoneal dialysis nutrition. While Brett now incorporates meat into his meals from time to time, his experience as a vegetarian broadened his perspective on food & nutrition and has made him more confident in his ability to make healthier choices.

As a RD, Brett is proud of the work he has done in a female dominant field.  He prides himself in his style of counseling as his focus is predominantly on diet quality, and overall lifestyle.  He enjoys helping his patients, friends & family, dispelling nutrition misinformation, and sharing what’s he’s learned through his experiences, and readings. It’s evident by his journey, Brett’s not able to get enough about nutrition, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him part of REAL Dietitian’s team!

Check out Brett’s Linkedin profile for more information!

Meet Tom Smurr, RD, LDN

Basketball has been an integral part of Tom’s life.  While it’s brought a lot of personal satisfaction, in college, he found himself feeling sluggish during practice practice.  Thankfully, when he was exposed to the foods offered in cafeteria at a U.S. Olympic training facility, he was blown away with all the real ingredients used and visible nutrition facts information.  From then on, he knew he had to become more involved in the nutrition field, while bridging the gap between the disabled and access to adequate nutrition information.

IMG_20150114_161618377After sixteen years of playing basketball, in 2008 Tom played wheelchair basketball in Briantea84 in Cantú, Italy for and also became a RD in July 2014! Yet, those two experiences have and will continue to shape his future.  His time spent in Italy opened his eyes to the respect and value Italians place on food, with fresh ingredients more ubiquitously found within the home.

Presently, Tom works at CEDA WIC, as one of their nutritionists.  He’s in a unique position, being able to counsel and the bridge between clients and valuable life stage nutrition knowledge.  Furthermore, as a newly titled, Breastfeeding Counselor, he promotes breastfeeding, finding fun in getting the whole family involved in the care of the new infant. Tom finds it refreshing to give dads more nutrition information and to known as source of help for families. In addition, he has a unique spread of knowledge—babies and children, women through pregnancy to postpartum,disability, personal experience with acid reflux, insight on how to gain weight and muscle and recognizes the individualistic approach to help people, as one solution doesn’t always work for all.

While Tom dreams of being a keystone of nutrition and athletes’ with disabilities, he’s excited to be part of REAL Dietitian’s ever expanding counseling team, to leave a footprint and continue to help a wide spectrum of people!

Check out Tom’s Twitter for more information!

Thank you  Gina, Brett and Tom for participating in the interviews.

Photo Credit:Gina Crome, MS,MPH, RD, Brett Curtiss MS, RD,LDN and Tom Smurr, RD, LDN

Farm to Label: Are Organics Really Better?

By: Nikki Nies

 The organic market has grown significantly as it accounts for 30% more jobs per hectare than the non-organic market. Here’s an infographic by MPH Online, outlining the meaning behind the organic label, as well as the costs and revenues of the organic market. Check it out!

Farm to Label - MPHOnline


Photo Credit: MPH Online

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

By: Nikki Nies

With the cold weather here for at least a couple more weeks, might as well keep the soup recipes on hand! Trust me, you’ll want to keep this recipe, Hungarian Mushroom Soup in your bookmarks! This simple, yet delectable soup will be warming you up in no time!

A few quick tips I’ve learned over the years while making this soup is that you really need to stir the soup constantly. Stepping away from it for even a minute can burn the bottom of the pan, so make sure you keep a real eye on the soup. Also, wanting to cut back on the fat or don’t have sour cream on hand? You can easily swap out sour cream for Greek yogurt, you can’t tell a difference!

Ingredients: IMG_8904

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 to 3 tsp dried dill
  • 1 Tablespoon mild paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup milk at room temperature
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • finely minced parsley for garnishIMG_8905
  1. Melt butter in a big pot. Add onions and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt, dill and paprika. Stir well and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in lemon juice.
  2. Gradually sprinkle in the flour, stirring constantly. Cook and stir another 5 minutes or so over medium-low heat. Add water, a little at a time, IMG_8907stirring. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Stir in milk; add black pepper to taste. Check to see if enough salt. when ready to serve, whisk in sour cream. Then heat very gently. Do not boil.
  4. Serve with garnish

Adapted from Liz Bisaccio.

After trying this recipe, don’t you agree it’s worth the extra stirring? It’s a lot more filling than looks may suggest.  So grab a bowl and enjoy!