Cottage Cheese Filled Dates

Image by David R. Blume

By: Nikki Nies

Whenever you’re pairing foods, you want to make sure they have the right balance of sweet and savory. The overpowering of one ingredient can lead to the

For as little in size that dates are, they’re nutrition powerhouses, containing fiber, the antioxidant tannins, beta carotene, vitamin A, potassium and iron. While the peanut butter stuffed dates trend has been going around, I’ve been trying to incorporate more cottage cheese into my meals as it is great to pair with savory or sweet foods. Pairing dates and cottage cheese is a great way to maintain protein content, but the added benefit of cottage cheese’s healthy fats. While low in calories, cottage cheese and dates are great spin on the traditional peanut butter stuffed dates.


  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • 5 dates
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Sprinkle of  cinnamon


Slice dates lengthwise, stuff with cottage             cheese. Drizzle honey and sprinkle cinnamon on top of each date. Eat up!

What additional toppings would you add to this easy, delectable snack?


Health Benefits of Dates – Promoting Heart, Brain, and Digestive Health

It’s an Egg-cellent Idea!

93935ddc76ee03c515d43e550bd86e02By: Nikki Nies

The topic of breakfast being the most important meal of the day has been driven into the ground quite nicely.  In addition, it’s a well known fact Santa Clause lives at the North Pole. Yet, the best breakfast options and how to make them are still up for discussion.  It’s not a coincidence that when impending storms are on hand people run to the grocery store for milk, bread and eggs.  With that said, 9/10 homes have eggs on hand in their fridge, but can be hesitant to use due to the controversy its affect on cholesterol levels and inconsistent recommendations of egg intake.

While the yolks of eggs contain the cholesterol, that doesn’t mean you have to shy away from eggs.  In moderation, which means no more than seven eggs per week, having eggs can be advantageous and without concern of increased risk of heart disease*.  Furthermore, in comparison to sodium, trans fat and saturated fat found in the accompaniments of eggs, sausage, ham, hash browns and the oil used to deep fry the foods, the cholesterol content found in chicken eggs is minimal. Also, using cholesterol free eggs or egg whites, which doesn’t contain the yolk part of the egg is recommended.

It’s unfortunate eggs receive such a bad wrap! If one’s mindful of the quantity of eggs consumed, more positive attention can be directed to eggs beneficial nutrient content

So, whether you’re already at the recommended seven eggs a day, there’s no harm in mixing up how you make your eggs! While I’m a sunny side up kind of gal, I vow to try a different use of eggs!

Fun Ways to Eat Eggs:

Original Image by Jodimichelle via Flickr
Original Image by Jodimichelle via Flickr
  • Omelettes, frittatas and quiches: Great way to get your daily recommended intake of vegetables,fruits and healthy oils
  • Hard Boiled: keeping a few hard boiled eggs on hand at all times is a great snack to take on the go; additionally can help cook eggs in advance in case of concerns of consumption prior to expiration date
  • Eggs Benedict
  • Mayo free egg salad. Can be eaten between two slices of bread, English muffin or as is!
  • Breakfast, lunch and/or dinner burrito: By adding eggs in a burrito filled with lean turkey, tomatoes and cheese, you’ll have your family asking for more! Also,make sure to add a spoonful of guacamole for extra flavor and texture!
  • Poached: by cooking in only water, it’s one of the healthiest ways to make eggs. You can’t beat the presentation either!
  • Deviled: many people put their own spin on deviled eggs.  Mix up the traditional recipe with curry powder, chopped celery and mayo!
  • Steamed (Chawan Mush): much easier than one would think, especially in clean up!
  • Egg Soup
  • Eggnog: doesn’t have to be designated to only December! Swap out the whip cream for a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Rolled Omelet (Tamagoyaki): A traditional Japanese way of frying eggs
  • Tea Eggs: A traditional Chinese snack, soak hard boiled eggs in a mixture of soy sauce and tea

What egg-cellent ways do you make eggs? What ways do you plan to incorporate eggs into your meals?

*Seven eggs may be too much for those with diabetes, with 186 mg of cholesterol per one large egg, this may significantly increase risk of heart disease.  It’s recommended that those with diabetes, heart disease and/or high cholesterol, cholesterol intake should not exceed 200 mg per day.  To translate, that means no more than 4-6 eggs per week!

Photo Credit: Pinterest 


Should I Stop Eating Eggs to Control Cholesterol? (Diet Myth 4)

Making Matcha Tea

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Jigme Datse Rasku via Flickr
Original Image by Jigme Datse Rasku via Flickr

In an article written by Kristen Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, she discusses the 15 Foods to Add to Your Diet in 2015. Since I’m always interested in learning about the latest food trends and current recommendations, I had to learn more! The first food listed was matcha tea. While, I’m a fan of green tea ice cream, which contains matcha powder, the health benefits of matcha tea has eluded me. Therefore, today we’ll be discussing matcha!

Matcha tea, also spelled as maccha, is finely milled or fine powder green tea. This type of tea derives from Japan, ubiquitously present in tea ceremonies. Prior to the milling of matcha tea, it’s shaded for at least a month to increase chlorophyll production. The entire tea leaf is used, with increased chlorophyll content found in matcha tea is exorbitantly healthier than water that is brewed and diluted from a tea bag or strainer.

Original Image by Rowan Robinson via Flickr
Original Image by Rowan Robinson via Flickr

To obtain all the benefits of matcha tea, opt to keep it plain. It naturally contains vitamin C, potassium, iron and fiber. Additionally, it can boost one’s metabolism, fights against bacteria and virus, does not raise insulin levels and does not raise one’s heart rate or blood pressure. 10 glasses of green tea is equivalent to 1 glass of matcha tea. When one adds milk to matcha tea, it slightly decreases catechin, which is an antioxidant rich component of cancer fighting properties.

Presently, matcha is commonly used to add flavor and dye to foods–mochi, soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi, a confectionary sugar, yet in its purest form, as tea, one can obtain optimal benefits!  The flavor of matcha tea can vary, depending on the strength of the amino acids used.

What’re you waiting for? Put down the black, jasmine and oolong tea and get yourself some matcha!


Chocoholics Celebrate!

By: Nikki Nies

Chocolate has been tooted as a “healthy” indulgence.  Guys and gals clamor to their feet to celebrate such announcements! Before we get chokladahead of ourselves, I hate to burst your bubble, but I want to make sure every one knows why chocolate is healthy in moderation!

Chocolate derives from the cacao plant, which is flavanol rich phytochemical. Flavanols are a type of antioxidant rich flavonoids.  It’s important to note that not all types of chocolate have an equal distribution of flavonoids, with dark chocolate found to be the most antioxidant rich. Second best is unsweetened baking chocolate, which has the second most amount of flavanol content per serving.  Moreover, the more nonfat cocoa solids chocolate contains, the more antioxidants it has.

Nutrient Content of Chocolate: Cacao contains saturated fat, mostly in the form of stearic acid, which has been noted not to contribute to elevating cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fat and palmitic fatty acid are also present.

The issue that comes up with chocolate is when “milk fat”,”coconut butter”, “coconut oil”, “palm oil” and/or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” are added.

Potential benefits of chocolate in moderation:

  • Reduce risk of heart attack, blood pressure, LDL oxidation, platelet clumping
  • May contain anti inflammatory properties
  • Increase insulin sensitivity
  • Improve arterial blood flow and/or chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Help resist cell damage

CocoaVia_Stickpacks_unsweetened_vertWith news of chocolate’s potential health benefits, companies have made efforts to provide more flavanol rich products.  Hershey’s has its own Cacao Reserve and CocoaVia by Mars has come out with its own line of flavanol rich dark chocolate!

Limit chocolate to no more than 15-30 grams of chocolate per day! Two Hershey kisses may not sound like much, but you don’t really need more than that to “taste” the goodness of chocolate!


Guide to Vitamins



4th of July

73746512617699055_nJZmwufD_fBy: Nikki Nies

Happy early 4th of July! I know you’re prepping for the family BBQs and gathering of friends.  We Dish Nutrition couldn’t help ourselves, but join in the the festivities as well! As a time for celebration of this great nation, there’s no better way to celebrate than with some hearty, yet fresh foods.

Healthy options:

  • Meat: when choosing which meats to grill or BBQ, opting for the lighter colored meats such as skinless chicken breast.  135-46392-crop_mg_1736-1372111761Not only is this a great lean protein, but also packed with B6 and niacin
  • Take it Easy on the BBQ Sauce:It can easily add up in calories and fat.  To be safe, sticking to no more than 2 T of BBQ sauce is ~45 calories, 254 mg of sodium and 8 g of sugar
  • A refreshing treat, such as the Fruity Ice Drinks are not only patriotic, but antioxidant rich too!
  • Don’t be shy with mustard and ketchup: As a great flavor enhancer, mustard contains no calories, fat or cholesterol; yet it’s worth noting that 1 teaspoon contain 60 mg of sodium. Ketchup’s rich in lycopene–an antioxidant that protects against free radicals, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
  • Grab an ear of corn!: One ear provides 3-4 g of fiber, 130 kcal and is packed with B vitamins and beta carotene.  Perhaps, use the corn in a Corn Salad or to make my personal favorite, corn muffins!
  • Fill up on watermelon! While having a cookie or two is reasonable, if you’re still craving something sweet, eating 1 cup of watermelon  contains vitamin A and C and has great anti-cancer effects
  • Show your patriotic side by loading up on “red”, “white” and “blue/purple” foods: It’s not a coincidence that during the summer there are great antioxidant foods that just so happens to be part of our patriotic flag.  Grab some “in season” strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, cherries, tomatoes, cabbage, and red peppers.  The blue/purple foods contain flavonoids and anthocyanidins, which are provide antiinflammatory and neurological protection.  Check out blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, plums and beets.  You’re often told to stay away from refined grains and sugar, but cauliflower, onions, garlic, mushrooms, bananas, and white varieties of peaches, nectarines and grapes are the often overlooked “white” foods that are great for one’s circulatory system and bone health due to their indole rich properties.

With the official kick off to the summer, sorry Memorial Day, remember, 4th of July is a great day to celebrate independence! Enjoy the holiday weekend!


Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

By: Nikki Nies arthritic_joints

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disorder that often impacts one’s extremities–hands and feet.  Impacting more than 1.3 million Americans, RA is an autoimmune disease and can last several years without displaying symptoms.  Symptoms can begin in childhood, called juvenile RA.  With progression, it can lead to joint destruction and functional disability.

The joint inflammation of RA can lead to stiffness, pain, swelling and/or stiffness in joints.  Additionally, pain can occur in the tendons, ligaments and/or muscles.

The direct cause of RA is unknown, yet it’s suspected viruses, bacteria and/or fungi may play a contributory role.  There may be some hereditary contributions to the cause, but information on specific genes is not concrete.  While the exact trigger of RA is also unknown, it’s understood when RA does develop, it promotes inflammation in the joints and possibly surrounding areas/organs. Lymphocytes  (i.e. TNF, interleukin-6)are expressed in the inflamed area.

Periods of flare ups and remission is common, with fluctuating levels of pain. Furthermore, fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, muscle aches, low energy and/or stiffness may be exhibited. Joints may become red, tender and/or swollen due to the lining of the tissue becoming inflamed.

Risk factors:

  • Sex: Women are more likely to develop RA than men
  • Age: While it can occur at any age, there’s an increased risk of development between 40-80 years old
  • Family History: If a family member has RA, you may be at increased risk

In the early stages of RA, it can be difficult to diagnose as the pain and inflammation could be due to another underlying cause.  Secondly, there’s no specific physical or blood test that can be used to confirm the diagnosis. However, during a physical exam, a physician may check one’s reflexes, muscle strength and/or your joints for swelling, warmth and redness.

Those with RA have the tendency to have an elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate), which is indicative of inflammation in the body. Blood tests may look for rheumatoid factor and anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP) antibodies.

Complications can include osteoporosis and chronic anemia. There’s no specific cure to RA, yet there are some proactive nutrition recommendations suggested to alleviate pain and inflammation: fruit-grid

  • Simplify meal prep–i.e. purchase precut veggies and fruits
  • Support immune system by consume antioxidant rich food (i.e. carotenoids, vitamin E, selenium and vitamin D)
  • Restrict sodium intake if needed
  • If there’s elevated homocysteine levels or hyperlipidemia present, may need to limit fat intake
  • If malnourished, it’s encouraged to consume a high protein, calorie diet
  • If methotrexate’s used, increase folic acid rich foods or supplements
  • Make sure to stay hydrated regularly with adequate fluids
  • Since olive oil contains oleocanthal, a natural anti-inflammatory agent, it’s recommended as the “go to” oil

While RA can become a debilitating disease, don’t let it stop you from enjoying life to the fullest.  With these nutrition recommendations, inflammation can be alleviated!


Escott-Stump, Sylvia. (2008) Nutrition and diagnosis-related care /Philadelphia : Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins,

Nonstarchy Vegetables

By: Nikki Nies

 Eating your fruits and veggies is highly emphasized.  However, to make it more complicated, there’s more than one type of vegetables. Starchy versus non starchy vegetables makes it more complicated in regards to what should be eaten and how much.

While not all vegetables are alike, it’s important to know the difference as differences dictate nutritional value and is especially important if you’re tracking your carb intake.  As their name implies, nonstarchy vegetables do not contain as much starch as starchy vegetables. A key feature of nonstarchy vegetables is their low calorie content and carbohydrate density.  Therefore, nonstarchy vegetables are recommended in unlimited

As stated, nonstarchy vegetables are a great way to manage type II diabetes. Since they have a low impact on blood sugar. Specifically, nonstarchy vegetables include asparagus, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, beans, brussel sprouts, beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber,eggplant, fenugreek, okra, onions, pepper, radishes, soybean, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, water chestnuts and/or zucchini.

These great vegetables are packed with vitamin A, C, K, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants. In addition, by using different cooking techniques, you’ll never get bored of these vegetables (i.e. grilling to being used in Asian flavors or meditaranean).

I know it may seem that nutrition tips are always highlighting what can’t be eaten or what needs to be restricted, but nonstarchy vegetables should not be included in such limitations.


Beans, please!


By: Nikki Nies

You don’t have to wait until you have your next bowl of chili to enjoy beans.  In fact, this undervalued protein, fiber rich food can and should be used on a regular basis.

Benefits of increased consumption of beans:

  • Can stave off hunger with the fiber rich content
  • By swapping out meat for beans, can decrease consumption of saturated fat
  • Strengthens one’s body
  • Prevents diseases
  • Heart healer
  • Lowers the risk of type II diabetes: help stabilize blood sugar
  • International Journal of Cancer states women who eat lentils have a decreased risk of developing breast cancer; can decrease prostate and/or colorectal cancer
  • Kidney beans are antioxidant, thiamine and omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid rich; may stave off Alzheimer’s disease
  • Can boost the brain
  • Versatile use–add to burritos, tacos,soups, salads and/or on their own

It’s not fair to clump all types of beans together as each type provide different benefits and have varying properties.  However, it’s clear that beans should have a place in your daily eating habits.  If you’re interested in incorporating more beans in to your daily meals, a quick look in your local grocery store can give you an idea of the many varieties offered.  Start eating!


Healthy Airport Eating

7004114708_ce53ab431d_oBy: Nikki Nies

Long story short, I was at the Chicago O’Hare airport for longer than expected and I had to buy something to eat while I waited for my flight.  As I walked through the terminals, I tried to find something reasonably priced as well as evident of a health conscious menu.  I passed Auntie Anne’s, a sushi bar, Subway, etc. Nothing really met my needs, but I had to eat something, so I ended up getting an Italian Club sandwich.

I was shocked that there were limited healthy options in the airport as there’s been a new “wave” of healthy eating.  I was disappointed that I had to “settle” for a sandwich when I know the airport has the resources and means to provide its consumers healthier, tastier options.  My dilemma made me interested in if ANY airport provides nutritious and healthier options.

There’s hope, Denver International Airport has been ranked as 2013’s healthiest airport.  1383918838000-Untitled-1More than 86% of restaurants offer one or more healthy, plant-based entrées, from veggie wraps and garden burgers to fresh salads and fruit bowls.

Like many, you may have the mentality of being on “vacation” and that you’ve got a pass to indulge in airport foods, but traveling’s food intake should be paid equal attention to other events.  Traveling causes an increased risk of dehydration, constipation, circulatory problems and added stress.

Where might you have a struggle grabbing a healthier meal?  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport came in last with a score of 68%.  No worries, here’s some useful tips to keep in mind, no matter where you’re headed.

Tips for healthier airport meal options:

  • Limit high sodium and fat food meals–which can increase risk of dehydration and slow blood flow
  • Choose fiber rich fruits and vegetables, that are high in antioxidants
  • Opt for “rainbow” filled food plates
  • Prior to heading to airport, research on airport’s website for the best place to grab a healthy meal at the airport
  • Bring snacks with you (i.e. apples, pb&j sandwiches, carrots, dried fruit, cheese sticks, etc).
  • Opt for unsalted or low sodium choices
  • Before picking the first restaurant you see at the airport, take a lap around the terminal and check out what’s offered.  Who knows, you may find a favorite new dish.
  • Limit caffeine intake as it can lead to dehydration
  • Stay hydrated by purchasing water
  • Avoid rich, greasy, fried foods as it can trigger acid reflux, GERD or an upset stomach on the plane ride

I’m surprised Chicago O’Hare was ranked #2 of healthiest, perhaps, I wasn’t in the “healthy” terminal, but maybe next time I’m flying I’ll be able to explore the airports many options.  Airport options have come a long way.  Since 2001, Denver’s airport’s score improved 25 points (from 61 to 86% in 2013). I’m glad to know now what other airports are offering and to remind myself how to navigate among the many options in airports.

Photo Credit: Flickr