How Being a Yelp Reviewer as Made Me Ask More Questions and Connect with Servers


By: Nikki Nies

Last night, my roommate and I went to Sushi Star in North Dallas as our last meal together before we part ways. While we’ve lived together for the past year, this was our first meal out together. We’ve done tons of cooking in the home together or take out, but when I thought about it, it was crazy to think this was our first time breaking bread together. It made me realize how much one can learn about another just by dining out.

What do I mean exactly? I warned my roommate that I tend to ask questions when dining out, it’s rarely a quick exchange of ordering. Thankfully, she was fine with that. Over the years, I’ve learned to ask questions, not only for clarification of what menu descriptions are, but to discern what to order if it’s between two menu items.

Someone ordered a beer or maybe two
Original Image by Susanne Nilsson via Flickr

For example, we were debating on either getting the salmon or crabmeat sushi tower. After learning about the nutritional difference between imitation and real crabmeat, I make every effort to eat only real crab meat. Since the menu didn’t detail which type of crabmeat was used, I asked! I’m glad I did, as the restaurant uses imitation crabmeat.  After a few more exchanges, we didn’t end up getting either tower as I was drawn to the tower due to aesthetic look of it. I’m glad I asked more questions (e.g. how much food is it) as I would’ve been underwhelmed with the tower dish. I hope servers can see my genuine interest in understanding what’s been served and recognize I understand there’s only so much space on menus for descriptions.

Of course, there’s always a polite way to ask menu questions. I try to only ask the ‘necessary’ questions and take the suggestions, such as ‘What do you recommend?’ as they should know the menu quite well. When dining out, I try to order foods I wouldn’t necessarily make at home. I don’t mind spending a few more pennies for the ‘seafood’ version of  a meal, as I’m grateful someone else is taking the extra steps to cook the lobster or steam the mussels.

Hopefully, you can relate to my inquiries. I’m sure you’ve seen some menus state subsitutions aren’t allowed. Politely, if it’s not too busy of dining time or you can sense they’d be open to substitutions  (e.g. a local, fresh restaurant). Most servers want to accomodate requests, especially dietary restrictions, but don’t want to be bombarded with elaborate changes.  Many restauranteurs are happy to make accomodations if the dishes are made to order and again if you ask politely. While I believer it’s a minor request, I always ask with a smile if they can hold the mayo or sour cream. I urge you to ask for substitutions whether it’s listed or not. Many patrons are fine with [sweet potato] french fries as the generic accompaniments, but I never opt for that. I know I have to make a more concerted effort to obtain my allotted fruits and veggies for the day, so I’m willing to pay the extra couple dollars to do so.

I hope from the above suggestions, you can tell I enjoy the whole dining experience and appreciate any and all suggestions servers make. I want to use all my senses and take advantage of their knowledge of the dishes. Most recently, I’ve started writing restaurant reviews on yelp.com, which has elevated my dining experience. I want to be able to articulate better how a meal was, better than stating ‘It was good.’ While critics may say some of the reviews on yelp aren’t written by real people, I’ve used yelp religiously to pick out great restaurants and I want to do my part to help direct people to great restaurants, food and service.

Are you an avid yelp user? Do you write or read reviews regularly? How has asking your server questions shaped your dining experience?

Sources: https://www.rewardsnetwork.com/blog/questions-every-restaurant-server-know-answer/

Get Inspired with ‘From Fat to Finish Line’


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Original Image by From Fat to Finish

By: Nikki Nies

Wanting to jumpstart your health regime, but seeking a team of encouragement and accountability to help? ‘From Fat to Finish’ may be the community you’ve been waiting for! Through this community

‘…of dedicated runners with one goal, to help each other.’

you are not only given a real time, virtual community of people that are working towards their own fitness goals,  but ‘challenges’ that can keep the tasks exciting and twists to up the ante and find local events to get to know your fellow runners. Besides, you never know how you can be an inspiration to others by sharing your story too!

Therefore, whether you’re just getting back into walking a few blocks a day or training for your ‘nth marathon, From Fat to Finish can meet you anywhere you are during your journey!

Needing a bit more inspiration? Check out the 2015 documentary directed by Angela Lee that walks through 12 runner’s experience with 200 mile race from Miami to Key West Florida while losing over 1200 pounds!  Initially, many of the runners dealt with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other by products of obesity, but through the use of digital community and working together to meet their goal of shedding pounds to run the race, they once again proved that if you set your mind to it, it can happen! One pound at a time! Get your copy today via rent, download or purchase!

Learn more about how you can join the community and get moving today! Site | Blog | Twitter | Facebook Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Youtube 

Sources: http://www.fattofinish.com/
http://www.runnersworld.com/newswire/from-fat-to-finish-line-documentary-premieres

http://fromfattofinishlinefilm.com/

Why and How to Add Cold Brew To the Mix!


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Original Image by Nina Nelson via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

I hope you enjoyed a coffee or two yesterday during #NationalCoffeeDay! I sure did! Is it just me or did the concept of cold brew coffee come out of no where? Not only is it all the craze at mainstream Starbucks, but local coffee shops seem to be popping up with the concept too. Perhaps, I’m late to the ballgame, but it’s evident this type of coffee is here to stay and I need to better understand not only the process, but the hows and whys.

Those new to the cold brew game may mistake it for the traditional iced coffee, but there is a difference! While iced coffee is made with hot brewed coffee’s that been cooled down, traditional cold brew coffee has been steeped in room temperature or chilled water, with the coffee infusing throughout the mixture over time. Fans of cold brew describe it as having a more mellow, less acidic taste, which is better for you teeth and those with heartburn may find cold brew options easier to digest.

Cold brew requires twice as much ground coffee to obtain the right flavor and caffeine, requiring shops to charge more for the extra labor and brew.  Yes, the first cold brew apparatus was created in 1964, but until the last couple of years, it’s been a niche or true coffee lover’s dream. While studies of cold brew’s benefits are still thimble, health claims state it contains less caffeine than iced and/or hot counterparts. When researchers used Starbucks’ regular coffee blend, the cold brew was found to have 40 mg of caffeine per 100 g while store brewed Starbucks coffee had 61 per 100 g. Why might you want to limit your caffeine intake you ask? According to the National Institutes of Health, large amounts can be a hindrance to women and children and lead to osteoporosis of fibrocystic disease.

Gone are the days where the barista asks if you want iced or hot coffee. Now with the cold brew option added to the mix, the options have multiplied ten fold.  Worried about how cold brew stacks up in comparison to regular hot or iced coffee, there are minor differences with neither coming out on top significantly more than another. So, if you’re up for it, take a sip of the

Sources: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/whatever-happened-to-plain-iced-coffee-cold-brew/2016/09/02/ecad64e0-5fe7-11e6-8e45-477372e89d78_story.html

http://fortune.com/2016/07/26/cold-brew-coffee-snobs/

https://toddycafe.com/cold-brew/why-toddy-cold-brew

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glamour/is-cold-brew-coffee-bette_b_8964244.html

Learn How to Train Yourself to Eat Only 2-3 Bites of Anything!


By: Nikki Nies

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Original Image by houseofthailand.com via Flickr

I’ve touched on the topic of mindful eating before, but it’s such an easy tactic that it’s overlooked, it’s worth mentioning again! As a gal that can never say no to cookies and/or ice cream, I’m one of those people that needs tangible accountability practicals. Especially when it comes to ice cream cake!  I’m all about understanding the system and thought process of food and finding small ways you can have your cake and eat it too!

A 2013 Cornell study finds eating smaller portions of your favorite foods, such as chocolate and chips can provide the same satisfaction as a larger portion would.  Logically, it makes sense portion size has a direct impact on caloric consumption, but not on level of satisfaction. Your body and hunger cravings need less than you think! If you’re wanting to control your weight and cravings, take a small bite and wait 15 minutes and see if your stomach and head ‘need’ more.

This research supports the notion that eating for pleasure – hedonic hunger – is driven more by the availability of foods instead of the food already eaten,” said Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing at Cornell’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and a co-author of the study.

If cutting soda or sweets out of your daily life cold turkey isn’t realistic, which is understandable, combine your sugar craving with a healthy option. For example, dipping bananas in chocolate sauce or with peanut butter can be a great way to satiate cravings, while obtaining desired nutrients. Each individual’s food journey is unique and dietary changes need to be specific to overall feasibility. Removing sugar cold turkey may be necessary at the beginning, but once you’ve recognized how to gain more control over food choices, you can reintroduce it a little at a time. Maybe after a month of no ice cream, you allow yourself 1/2 cup twice a week.

Also, let’s talk quality! If you’re going to splurge on calories, pick high quality products that you can savor every bite.  Every once in a while, choose the perfect dark chocolate truffle that may set you back a few pennies instead of the ubiquitous Baby Ruth. So, what treats are you going to allot for the week? Think about what you can gain and lose–weight wise by using the above tactics!

Sources: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/savor-every-bite-with-mindful-eating/

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/patients-families/health-matters/december-2014/sweet-tooth-conquering-your-cravings.aspx?feed=blogs

http://sandradodd.com/eating/sweets

http://www.daveywaveyfitness.com/nutrition/5-tips-to-eat-dessert-daily-and-never-get-fat

How to savor every bite – Mindful eating 101

http://fooddaily.com.au/articles/47/savour-every-bite-mastering-the-art-of-mindful-eating

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/13-ways-to-fight-sugar-cravings#1

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2013/01/study-just-bite-satisfies-cravings-snacks

Challenge Yourself To Own Version of Elon Musk Challenge


By: Nikki Nies

This last year has a been a lot of self reflection and realization. I’m embracing more of who I am and am proud of the ideals I have formed. While we’re all works in progress, I’m grateful for the life experiences I’ve had and how I’ve learned how little I need to survive. I’m sure I’ve shared, but my time in grad school and my dietetic internship while grueling, was a turning point in my life. Not only did I become more comfortable in the kitchen due to the inability to eat out as much, but I became more eager and willing to have people over, fine tuning my hospitality skills and learning how to cater to food preferences and restrictions.

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Original Image by Ashley via Flickr

Since I was restricted to eating at home and being creative to a small budget, that was my version of Elon Musk challenge. If you haven’t heard of this challenge, I hope you take a few minutes to learn how this 17 year old man lived off $1/day for a month to see if he had what it takes to become an entrepreneur. It’s certainly not the most exciting challenge to take on, but it’s an eye opener and helps you realize how little you really need in life and how much excess we have. Yes, I don’t know your social status or income level, but it’s a humbling experience to see how well you really are and how when funds are tight, you can make it stretch and work.

Now working at Christian Care Center, I’m grateful to not have to be so cognizant of every penny, but I didn’t want to lose that sense of minimalism or gratitude that was ingrained in me during school. I often times partake in the Pantry Challeng, testing how I can repurpose different foods, stocking up on ugly fruits and vegetables and how I can take advantage of Aldi’s remarkable deals.

If you’re up for the challenge, the Elon Musk challenge will require some planning, but I hope you try it, even for a week! Yes, Elon’s challenge stemmed from his curiousity if he could financially make it as an entrepreneur, but no matter what your reasoning is, it’s a great challenge to better understand your mindset and where your values and priorities are. Perhaps, you’ll realize how much you eat out and want to revert back to more homemade meals or recognizing how much food and money you truly throw out!

Please share with us how you plan to incorporate any or all of this challenge into your life @WeDishNutrition! I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from all of you!

Sources: http://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-challenge-food-budget-2016-2

http://www.businessinsider.com/elon-musk-2-dollars-day-food-challenge-2016-1

http://www.therichdaily.com/4-challenges-fuelled-elon-musks-success/

How Billionaire Elon Musk Once Lived on $1 a Day

Thank You MyFitnessPal For Helping Me Get Back on Track


By: Nikki Nies

Previously, in my post Where I’ve Been and Where I Want To Be, I had touched on my praises for MyFitnessPal, but since I continue to proudly use it and it has made me more aware of my ever present need to input my food intake, I believe it deserves a bit more attention than a sentence. In the last couple months of using it, I’m proud to say that I haven’t missed a meal–inputting all of my intake, while not always the best meal choices, but it truly has become a part of  my daily routine and habit.

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Original Image by slj tribe via Flickr

Sometimes it can seem hard to gauge servings, but I’ve recently purchased a food scale and I keep my measuring cups within reach. I haven’t found using measuring cups as a limiting part of eating, but it helps me be more aware of what a true serving is and just how much I can eat! If I’m going to input my daily meals, might as well do it accurately right?

Another facet of MyFitnessPal I applaud is the ability to input recipes that I’ve followed whether I’ve retrieved from a blog or the ability to input homemade recipes. Prior to uploading recipe to MyFitnessPal it’ll give a breakdown of the ingredients and confirm the use of the said ingredients. I recently made a tzatziki salad, with the original recipe calling for generic Greek yogurt, but with the abundance of available ingredients, I was able to input the Aldi Friendly Farms Greek yogurt I use and it provided a more accurate picture of what I’m using and slashed the calories! I love that you can scan the bar code of products too if you’re not wanting to manually input too.

I do have to admit, there have been times where I’ve checked out the calories, fat, protein and sugar content of foods and opted not to eat it after seeing the astronomical numbers. Yes, I don’t want to be limiting myself when it comes to food, but MyFitnessPal is doing it’s job in making me more aware of what I should and shouldn’t eat. Again, while a lot of people focus on meeting their caloric needs, since using the app, I’ve become more aware of meeting and staying within my fat recommendations. I love nuts and can quickly overeat them if I’m not careful, but since using the app, I’ve been able to cut down while not feeling deprived.

While I’m sure MyFitnessPal step counter isn’t as accurate as a Fitbit, as it counts steps with any ‘motion’ and I don’t always have my phone with me, it’s been a great test run to see how much I actually move. With my desk job, I’ve made more of an effort to get moving, including starting to walk on my lunch with my coworkers versus eating at my desk! I

How My Budget Turned Me Into a Semi-Vegetarian


By: Nikki Nies

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Original Image by Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr

People are always surprised to learn I’ve only been cooking for the last couple years since it’s become a huge part of my life–when I’m not cooking, I’m meal planning, when I’m not meal planning I’m grocery shopping and when I’m not grocery shopping I’m looking up at the latest food trends. It wasn’t until I hit grad school, where money was extremely limited that I was forced to cook for myself, learn how to be a hostess, cater to dietary restrictions (e.g. gluten free) and how to meal plan and prep. While some may look at those times as a struggle, I found cooking to be a source of entertainment and as we all know it’s a great way to bring people together.

Due to my competitive nature and eagerness to have fun in all I do, I made it a game to see how little I could spend on groceries while still eating ‘well.’ This is where more plant based foods came into the picture, with me realizing I could get more bang for my buck while eating adequate sources of protein, I quickly switched over to more plant based proteins. For example, at H Mart, I just bought 12 slices of tofu for $4.99, you can’t beat that price! That tofu will last me a good couple weeks and will allow me to make a variety of dishes I’ve been wanting, such as Tofu and Mushroom Miso Soup.

Not all my meals have been plant based. I vividly remember when skinless boneless chicken breasts were well over $2/lb. Therefore, I opted for buying 4 whole chickens, teaching myself how to cut, debone and trim the fat off chickens. That was a sight to see!

 

I’m never been one for eating tons of pasta or bread, but I’ve always made sure my plates were filled with large chunks of meat and protein. Adopting a more plant based diet took some time to adapt, but my taste buds adjusted well and I feel a lot healthier.

It’s been almost two years since graduating, but I’m proud to say I’ve maintained a lot of the same culinary practices. I only buy meat if there’s discount sale at Kroger and always stock up on dry legumes–such as lentils and black beans. Whenever I am dining out, I’m not afraid to try the steak or the seafood option as I know it’d be harder for me to prepare at home. I’m grateful my budget constraints made me think out of the box and I feel more liberated than ever to be able to make different types of food. What culinary changes have you made over the years? Perhaps it was due to food restrictions or budget like me, but I look forward to hearing about it!

Sources: http://www.peta.org/living/food/making-transition-vegetarian/ideas-vegetarian-living/vegetarian-eating-budget/

Grocery Hacks: 6 Money-Saving Tricks for the Vegetarian Athlete on a Budget

https://www.buzzfeed.com/chelseamarshall/fancy-vegan-budget-vegan?utm_term=.mmwY4xzq2#.pjdZj2rn8

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/slideshows/reasons-to-choose-a-plant-based-diet