Yes, I’m a Brinkerhead!

Image by Brinker Media Room
Image by Brinker Media Room

By: Nikki Nies

As of 5/4/15, I can proudly call myself a Brinkerhead! A head of what, you say?! You heard me, I’m a Brinkerhead, otherwise known as an employee at  Brinker International!  While you might not be familiar with the company Brinker International, I’m sure you’ve come across the restaurant name Chili’s or Maggiano’s once or twice!  Brinker International is the headquarters of said companies, priding itself as a multinational hospitality company.

I’ve been at Brinker for almost 2 months and have taken advantage of every learning opportunity that has come my way or which I’ve saught! What I’ve learned so far:

  • My primary role at Brinker has been to provide nutrition information for Maggiano’s banquets. While I had previously been to a Maggiano’s for a business event, I wasn’t aware of all the menus that Maggiano’s has: delivery, carry out, children’s, dessert, wine & beverage, family style, family style lunch, all day meeting, breakfast & brunch, etc. There is some crossover from the dining room, but a good portion of the banquet menu items need their own nutrition analysis as portions are different (i.e. Banquets uses a lot of ‘mini’ versions of dining room menu items).
  • Brinker uses ESHA Genesis Food Processor as the primary tool of nutrient analysis. Working with my supervisor, Ms. Alisa Via-Reque, RD, we’ve consulted with the chefs numerous times to better understand the recipes. I’ve had the opportunity prep materials for lab testing, which requires everything from coordinating the lab’s courier, to weighing the raw weight of the tested item, with breading, the edible portion (i.e. with shrimp’s tail off) and vacuum packing the products for delivery to lab.
  • I had the opportunity to partake in a ‘Culture of Accountability’ workshop, which enlightened me on the values and culture of Brinker. We’re all here to obtain desired results and obtaining results requires providing and obtaining feedback. Yes, feedback can be a sore subject, but it doesn’t have to be.
  • Called the ‘ops experience’, I was able to work the Back of the House and the Front of the House of Maggiano’s Willow Bend in Plano, TX. I have a greater appreciation of all the work that goes into delivering a quality, fresh meal! Many restaurants claim they’re making homemade, scratch kitchen meals, but when you can take the ‘processed’ ingredients, the credibility of chain’s claims fall through. Not at Maggiano’s! I wish everyone could see what the kitchen is like! As someone said, the restaurant business isn’t ‘for the lazy.’ I’ve been working closely with the recipes, which I was proud to see that the kitchen staff follow to a tee. This brings me great pride as I know that the nutrition information that is being provided by Brinker is credible and there aren’t any ‘add ons’ being put in by the staff themselves.
  • While Maggiano’s is in a mere 47 locations, as of July 2015, it does extremely well for itself! In comparison to Chili’s 1500 locations, Maggiano’s is able to hold its own, with its banquets driving a good portion of the business!  Professional meetings and socials are equally a favorable outing to gather at Maggiano’s. With buffet lines, omelet, pasta and/or carving station, there are menu items for all to enjoy!

I’ve learned so much in the past couple months and have enjoyed soaking up as much of the corporate culture as I can. Brinker knows how to have fun while getting the serious work done first! My kind of life! Can’t wait to see what the next few months bring, I’ve been blessed!


Calorie Detective

By: Nikki Nies

Food establishments that have 20+ locations are required to post food calorie amounts of food offered with the new Obamacare regulations. The idea is that when you know how much you’re eating, you’ll tend to eat less. Yet, Casey Neistat finds the calories provided can be inaccurate.

Original Image by Brett Jordan via Flickr
Original Image by Brett Jordan via Flickr

While the NYC Health Code states that the Health Dept. will cite violations if calories aren’t posted. However, accuracy isn’t required.

With the resources of the Obesity Research lab at St. Luke’s Hospital, a calorimeter was used to test 5 items in 10 hours. Check out the following calorie discrepancies found:

  1. At Grandma’s, the  Original Banana Nut Muffin, it was reported it had 640 calories. However, with Neistat’s fine tooth comb and calorimeter, it was found the banana nut muffin actually had 734.7 calories!
  2. With the Starbucks Grande Coffee Frappuccino with whipped cream, it’s reported it’s a mere 370 calories. However, it’s 392.9 calories. Not too bad off.
  3. In a custom made Chipotle Barbacoa burrito, Chipotle’s online burrito stated it would come out to me 1175 calories. The calorimeter found the burrito to be 10% more calories, at 1295 calories.
  4. One of Neiget’s favorite “Healthy” spicy tofu sandwiches, which was listed to be 228 calories, but was actually 548.4 calories, nearly double the listed calorie amount!
  5. At Subway, the 6″ turkey sandwich rang in accurately! The sandwich is listed as 360 calories and the calorimeter found it be 350.8 calories, 97.4% of the 360 calories listed!

Multiple samples were not tested for validity or reliability, but with Neistat’s experiment, it confirms that we can not believe every nutrition or health claim provided.  If Neiget had gone by the calories listed on the packaged food, he would have consumed an EXTRA 548.5c alories he was unaware of. What does this mean? Can we forgive a 10% margin? Are we being too hard on the restaurant and food industry? This is up for debate. Discuss!


Review: Sabra

Original Image by Cooking Cinderella via Flickr
Original Image by Cooking Cinderella via Flickr

Disclosure Agreement: Review of Sabra 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

Sabra is much more than a company that sells hummus. Its a brand that offers nutritious dips, blends and salsas, continuing to reinvent itself and products for its consumers’ wants and needs. Yet, Sabra doesn’t stray too far from its initial product, hummus, which is created with simple, fresh ingredients: chickpeas, tahini and just the right mixture of herbs and spices. If you’re new to Sabra and “dipping”, you can’t go wrong with what you pair with the hummus. Get dipping with carrots, celery, pita chips, shrimp, kebabs, crackers and/or your favorite flavor of chicken wings!  As a spread, hummus can be used on sandwiches or wraps.

Recently, I shared some of Sabra’s dips with my friends and we were pleasantly surprised how tasty the newest addition, the Lemon Twist Hummus was more enjoyable than expected! Lemon Twist is a great blend of refreshing lemon with Sabra’s classic hummus.

I’m appreciative Sabra thinks outside of the box, experimenting with ingredients and flavors they’ve globally obtained.  Started in 1986, these Mediterranean—foods like hummus, eggplant dips, babaganoush spreads, and vegetarian sides have helped Sabra become one of my favorite dip brands.  In a short time, they have expanded to include Greek yogurt dips, which have 67% fewer calories and 88% less fat than average sour cream dip. Those that are vegetarian and/or gluten free can enjoy these dips as well, as Sabra caters to many allergy and food restrictions.

While Sabra is only a 25 year old company, they set a great example of how to be as eco-friendly as possible. Their new plant in Virginia has been constructed of 20% recycled materials. To make the plant as energy efficient as possible, innovative and eco-friendly designs include a reflective roof that cuts cooling needs and heat recovery systems that cut heating needs. In fact, at least 35% of the building’s energy will come from renewable resources. That’s equivalent to offsetting the yearly electricity use of 573 households a year!

IMG_9191An improvement I would recommend regarding Sabra’s guacamole is that its physical container is not consistent with other Sabra products. I wish the guacamole had a sealed container that could be used to inhibit the acidation of the guacamole instead of having to slide the opened plastic seal in the cardboard case. It’d be much more visually appealing and limit qualms I have of what is my guacamole is exposed to while in the fridge.

If you’re up to the challenge, use the Sabra for more than dipping chips, veggies or fruits. Sabra has provided some easy, delicious recipes. What recipes have you tried and can’t get enough of?!

Check out Sabra’s  Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Recipes | Blog | Food Trucks | Hummus House | Singing Farmers | Wellness Nutrition Team

Photo Credit: Sabra

Fat Replacers

d4037a5e-4e06-4d5e-946a-846fdd6cfdfd_Lubrication KL_530x397By: Nikki Nies

There is a time and place for all things. This includes the enigmatic use of fat replacers. With a society highly focused weight loss and management. Calorically, fats provide 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates and proteins each provide 4 calories per gram. As you can see, fats are more calorically dense than carbohydrates and protein.  Therefore, the Institute of Medicine recommends limiting fat intake to 10-35% of daily intake as excessive intake of high fat foods can lead to greater risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

Now you’re wondering how to cut down on your beloved fatty foods? With the help of fat replacers you have some help! Fat replacers are nonfat substances that are not the same in chemical properties as fat, but will provide many of the same characteristics, such flavor, texture, mouth feel and volume at a lower caloric amount.

Use of fat replacers help decrease fat intake by 1/3 and more easily comply with fat intake recommendations of lower saturated and trans fat intake.ed. Fat based replacers use vegetable oil instead of triglycerides, including caprenin, salatrim and olestro*.  Carbohydrate based fat replacers include modified starch, dextrins, oat fiber, dried plum paste and gums can be used as thickeners for dairy type products, frozen desserts, spreads, salad dressings or sauces. Milk protein or egg are used as protein based fat replacers are used in low fat dairy products, such as margarine, mayonnaise, soups and salad dressings.

EnergyDensityPRShort term studies on fat replacers have shown potential health benefits, including lower blood lipid levels, weight loss and blood clotting factors. Powdered soluable oat fiber has also indicated lower body weight, lower systolic blood pressure, better glucose tolerance and lipid levels. While these short term studies are positive news, long term studies need to be conducted to confirm and validate these initial findings.

The point of fat replacers is not to downplay fat’s role in foods, as we need fat in cheese to maintain silky texture, provide tenderness and softening the crumb in baking, but to make you more aware of alternative solutions to limit fat intake.  Remember, fat replacers is not a end all solution, but moderation is key.  One can still overeat on foods that are listed as “fat free” or “low fat” as it is not a guarantee of lower caloric intake.

*Olestro/olestra has been found to interfere with absorption of fat soluable vitamins and carotenoids and may cause cramping, loose stools and/or bloating.

Photo Credit: Wageningen UR and Prevent Cancer