How Oranges Trump OJ

Original Image by Rego Korosi via Flickr
Original Image by Rego Korosi via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Growing up, I was lucky to have my mother make me breakfast every morning. Before I became accustomed to coffee, my mother would heavily encourage me to drink the orange juice she poured, as it would ‘wake me up’ and it’d be a way to get more fruit into my day. I can see why my mother pushed me to drink the orange juice instead of handing me an orange, as there may be misperceptions about ‘orange’ juice being just as healthy.  The USDA allows fruit juice companies to make statements such as ‘one serving is equal to one serving of fruit’, yet after further research, I can attest they’re not equal.  Now, the general advice is to opt for fruit, instead of the juice form, which is stripped of fiber, but added sugar has been included.

While fresh fruit and freshly squeezed orange juice contain approximately the same levels of carotenoids and vitamin C, the levels of flavonoids are lower and pasteurized orange juice contains more antioxidants.  In particular, the flavonoid, hesperidin, is concentrated in pulp and shows promise as an anti-inflammatory by lowering blood pressure and promoting healthy cholesterol.  In addition, studies have found  nutrients in some fruits and vegetables are more bioavailable when chopped, mashed, juiced or prepared with oils. However, I’m not promoting the switch to juices just yet.  Unless you’re making your own juice, the typical jug or bottle of juice purchased at the grocery store spikes blood sugar levels more and at a quicker rate than eating whole fruit.  A study from Harvard found a link between regular juice consumption and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, meaning the downsides of juice unfortunately far outweigh any potential boosts from carotenoids.

Furthermore, store bought fruit juice tends to have a bit less concentrated fructose than soda, with fructose surmised to be a riskier form of sugar than glucose due to the increased risk of chronic diseases (e.g. liver and cardiovascular disease). Deemed as ‘liquid sugar’, orange juice will leave the stomach much more quickly than whole oranges, due to the stripped fiber.

Nutrient Breakdown: An 8 oz glass of orange juice has approximately the same amount of energy as 2 oranges.

Amount per 100 g Orange Orange Juice
Calories 47 45
Total Fat  (g) 0.1 0.2
Saturated Fat (g) 0 0
Cholesterol (mg) 0 0
Sodium (mg) 0 1
Potassium (mg) 181 200
Carbohydrate (g) 12 10
Dietary Fiber (g) 2.4 0.2
Sugar (g) 9 8
Protein (g) 0.9 0.7
Vitamin A (IU) 225 220
Vitamin C (mg) 53.2 50
Calcium (mg) 40 11
Iron (mg) 0.1 0.2
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0.1 0
Vitamin B12 (µg) 0 0
Magnesium (mg) 10 11

As you can see, there’s more fiber and calcium in an orange fruit and the orange fruit contains natural sugar versus the added sugar that is put into orange juice.

I’m not sure why, but the calories one drinks doesn’t register as part of daily caloric intake. We have the tendency to gulp juice down in seconds, yet the healthier contrast of eating an orange requires more time, ‘feeding’ multiple senses while peeling.  Now that I’ve seen it for myself, next time I head to the grocery store, I’m stocking up on oranges!

Note: If you do opt for OJ, choose with pulp, then at least you’ll be getting some more fiber in!



Stone Fruits Are Optimal with Soft Exterior, Hard Interiors!

Original Image by Jitze Couperus via Flickr
Original Image by Jitze Couperus via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

As members of the Prunus genus species, it’s not a coincidence that peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots,cherries and their hybrids (e.g. pluots and apripums) are more alike than different. These fruits are grouped in the ‘stone fruit’ family due to their large, hard seed. Often times these fruits are picked when underripe to limit bruising during transit.

When choosing stone fruits, gently squeeze, choosing those that yield sightly. Peaches and plums should not have any green or wrinkly patches. To store, It’s best to opt for stone fruits that are full of color and leave stem end down at room temperature for a few days to allow them to soften to optimal texture.  No need to place in the fridge until ripe as stone fruits can develop a mealy skin. Cherries can be placed in fridge right away and should be used within 10 days of purchase.

We’re at the end of the stone fruit season, which is between June through September, with stone fruits susceptible to injury from low winter temperature.  Nectarines are more likely to brown rot as they are more susceptible to disease organism, while cherries will crack if there is an excess of rain.

You may be asking why go to all the trouble to get these fruits in season? Packed with fiber, potassium, vitamin A and C, these tiny fruits should be a mainstay in your house during June through September.

Original Image by allisonmseward12 via Flickr
Original Image by allisonmseward12 via Flickr

If you’ve ever been past the Mason Dixon line, you may start to expect to see peach cobbler as a mainstay of desserts. Since my parents moved to Georgia in 2012, I’ve learned to appreciate peaches more than ever. I’ve experimented a bit with making peach cobbler myself, finding that All Recipes’ Peach Cobbler recipe is the best! The recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of white and 1/4 cup of brown sugar, which isn’t too bad  in comparison to other recipes, where I’ve seen up to an entire cup of sugar requested!

Stone fruits are a perfect addition to any cobbler, cake or pie, but it’s natural, pure form as a fruit is equally good or roast, poach or saute with your next meal! Plus, when it’s just ripe enough, it doesn’t get much better than a juicy peach! Other fun ways to incorporate stone fruits into dishes are as jams, chutneys, fruit salsa, grilled fruit, add to a salad and/or in breakfast cereal or yogurt! Enjoy!


Summer Travels: Staying Trim on a Beach Vacation

Image by Drifting Like a Feather via Flickr
Image by Drifting Like a Feather via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

There used to be a time when dining out was limited to only special occasions. Fast forward to present day and families eat out because it’s Tuesday or because it is easier to grab a meal on the run. Yet, with the rise of dining out, in 1999, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a study reporting that the more frequently women dined out, the higher the intake of total calories, fat and sodium. With restaurants serving large portions, finishing all that is served and justifying frequent splurges of higher fat, calorie menu selections, moderation of such meals is needed to stay trim while enjoying vacation.

Still, making arrangements and reservations for vacation can be anything, but relaxing. Sometimes we need a vacation from a vacation as all the planning is exhausting. Rather than eliminating vacation from schedule entirely, a relaxing beach vacation where lounging and recharging are the scheduled activities can be sometimes what is most needed. Yet, before jetting off to the beach resort, make sure to use some of the below tips to stay trim while on vacation, returning much happier and relaxed!


    • Instead of equating dining out as an opportunity for carte blanche, remove the concept of obtaining ‘indulgences’ solely from food and instead focus on indulging in a mystery book, massage or quality time with the family. When redirecting indulgences to other great experiences in life, it will become easier not to overindulge in calories!
    • Order half sized portions, appetizers, share entrees or opt to take leftovers home for tomorrow’s meal.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask to ‘have it your way.” Restaurants are moreaccustomed to guests requesting (easy) modifications to dishes. For example, it’s not unheard of to ask for dressings, sauces and/or gravies on the side or for part of the meal to be “doggy bagged.”

      Original Image by Daniella Segura via Flickr
      Original Image by Daniella Segura via Flickr
    • Aim to “eat in” once a day! Staying in for breakfast or eating last night’s doggy bagged meal can save calories and dollars. Bringing along some low sugar oatmeal, cereal and/or breakfast bars can do the trick too or head to the local market to keep fresh fruit on hand for breakfast and snacks.
    • Sample delectable foods in “moderation” instead of feasting. Keeping treats to once a day allows one to enjoy the “local” food while maintaining desired weight.
    • Take advantage of surroundings and go for a morning run on the beach or afternoon hike. Take every opportunity to sightsee via walking.   The friction from the sand can increase intensity if desired.
    • The mini bar in room is the start of many guilty extra snacks and drinks! Hide the key or keep the fridge closed to limit temptation and overindulgence.
    • Traveling can be dehydrating. Add a few days in the sun and water requirements increase exorbitantly. When possible, keep ice cold bottles of water stocked in r fridge and have some water on hand when out. Also, keep the triple digit calorie drinks at bay with unsweetened hot or cold tea, coffee, sparkling water, club soda or by adding some lemon or lime to ice water. Enjoying a drink or two is expected, but keep in mind each alcoholic drink can add an extra 150-450 calories and added sugar.
    • Take on the challenge of ‘5 a Day.’ Daily, make every effort to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables. These efforts will aid in meeting daily fruits and vegetables quota and make one more satisfied with the added fiber.
    • Go easy on the condiments. For example, half of the fat in Arby’s Southwest Chicken Wrap or Ultimate BLT Wrap comes from the ranch sauce or mayo. Limit intake of creamy sauces or soups, opting for ketchup, marinara, mustard or BBQ sauce, which tend to be less than 25 calories per serving.
    • Take advantage of the abundant amounts of seafood from the nearby ocean! Seafood is a delectable way to get your weekly dose of fish that are high in omega 3 fatty acids. Make sure to order grilled or non buttered fishes as they are lower in fat and calories than the fried or battered dishes.

For your next beach trip, keep these tips in mind so you can have your cake and eat some fruits and vegetables too.


Killer Kebabs

IMG_8636By: Nikki Nies

While it’s not necessarily the warmest time of the year, that doesn’t mean meals have to be dictated by the weather!  The best part? There’s no right or wrong way to make them–whether you’re a vegetarian, griller or want to get your kids in the kitchen with you, these skewers are calling your name! With kebabs originating and made in several Middle Eastern countries there are variations in the spelling-kabob, kebob, kebap, kabab, and kebab.

Original Image by Steven Depolo via Flickr
Original Image by Steven Depolo via Flickr

No matter how you spell kebab, it’s important to note the sticks used to cook the kebabs, skewers, are not the same and can dictate the cooking method, temperature and/or enhanced flavors produced. Stainless steel skewers are the optimal type of skewer as vegetables and meat cling to the metal better than wooden skewers. If wooden skewers are used, make sure to soak them in water 15 minutes prior to skewing to limit chances of wood splitting. Additionally, make sure to apply a light coat of cooking oil to skewers, which will help the vegetables and meat slide off easier after cooking.

Grill wise, obviously personal preference will dictate whether charcoal or gas grill is used, but if a charcoal grill is used, it’s more likely a more “authentic” taste will be present.

Kebabs can be eaten as a meal itself or with pita bread, additional sauté vegetables and/or over a bed of rice.  Dipping sauces and/or marinades-Southern, wine, teriyaki, tarragon, sportsman, soy, rum, Oriental spice, mint, honey spice, herb, Hawaiian, California can be popular entity!

Hawaiian Marinade: Makes 1 cup marinade         

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Combine all ingredients in a pint size, screw-top jar.  Cover jar and shake vigorously.  Store marinade in refrigerator until ready to use.  Shake marinade vigorously before using.

Recipe adapted from The Art of Barbecue and Outdoor Cooking

Speedy Marinade: Makes 1 1/2 cups of marinade

  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme m
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup lemon juice

Put all ingredients except lemon juice in a small saucepan.  Heat.  Add lemon juice; stir to mix well.  Cool and pour over meat to marinate or store marinade, covered.

Recipe adapted from The Art of Barbecue and Outdoor Cooking

I hope the listed marinades give you some inspiration for future kebab cooking! Please share pictures and/or experiences of great dishes you make with your families! Happy cooking!

Photo Credit: Real Mom Kitchen


What 100 Kcal Looks Like



Photo Credit: SparkPeople

Food Waste Solutions

By: Nikki Nies

I realized I’ve picked the right career path when I acknowledged most of my hobbies and interests are further subbranches of food and/or nutrition.  This includes my #1 pet peeve: wasted food.  Within the last couple year’s that I have had the privilege to enter many facility’s kitchen’s I have been shocked, almost dismayed at the amount of food wasted.  One time, I was volunteering in a hospital cafe kitchen and they threw out the heels of the loaves of bread! Whenever I saw the heels tossed in the garbage, I had to hold back my natural instinct to dive into the garbage to save those heels! Couldn’t they make homemade croutons or something?!?

It’s not just food establishments either.  I recognize it’s one prerogative to eat as much or little as they want.  Yet, this past July 4th, I was throwing my garbage out and I saw laying on top of the trash can an untouched Big Gulp! I couldn’t believe my eyes! That is one of many stories that has shaped my sadness attached to wasted food. Picture-12

Astounding stats: Americans waste 10x as much food compared to someone in Southeast Asia; 40% of food goes uneaten in the U.S., which is 20 lbs. of uneaten food for  each American per month!  This equivalent to throwing out more than $165 billion! Literally! All this waste contributes to 25% of the already overfilled landfills.

Just think what we could do with all this extra wasted food! It’s been calculated that instead of the garbage, this food could feed an additional 25 million Americans annually.  That would be a huge help, at a time when 1/6 of Americans are food insecure.

What can we do? Get creative and increase our efficiency. We can also look to our European neighbors and take note of the steps already initiated.  In the UK, an extensive campaign, Love Food Hate Waste, has been running for the past five years with food retailers and brands partaking in this resolution.

Why does the U.S. lag in more sustainable farming? Unfortunately, food represents a small portion of the average American budget.  Too many highlight the convenience of the waste, not recognizing the long term ramifications.

We can’t expect to change things over night, but with small changes, the solutions will come!

  • Whether you’re a family, business or whole city! A Food Waste Assessment must be done! It’ll give you a better idea of the amount, type and reasons for wasted food.  This will also help in creating prevention strategies!
  • Reduce the over purchasing of food by starting more “just in time” purchasing
  • Consider prep waste causes and potential modifications: improve knife skills; purchase pre-cut food if needed; reduce batch sizes (i.e. soups)
  • Think creatively how to use the food “again”: i.e. instead of tossing old bread, make croutons; whip up fried rice from excess rice; add leftover fruit to yogurt; save vegetable trimmings for soups, stocks and/or stews
  • To reduce spoilage, store food at proper temperatures and stock First In, First Out (FIFO)
  • Use smaller plates will help cut down on the amount of food initially served!  It’s be hardly noticeable!

There’s a reason the U.S. is called the land of prosperity.  Let’s be prosperous in health, education and character, not waste! Who’s with me?


How the US Loses 40% of Our Food: Problems & Solutions

Healthy Eating in College

eating_healthy_in_college1By: Nikki Nies

With the impending semester upon us, it’s never too early to talk about healthy dining on campus.  While freshmen are often times required to buy a meal plan with tuition, those living in nearby apartments or are juggling school and home responsibilities, the stress of school can quickly get to students.  Unfortunately, the first habit to go is eating healthy.  Yet, it doesn’t make sense to opt for cheesy fries that don’t have as much energy producing qualities as a strawberry banana smoothie when the time crunch is really being felt!

I admit, I find myself eating on the go more often than not, but that doesn’t mean I’m going through McDonald’s drive thru or grabbing a Hot Pocket out of the microwave on my way out! With careful planning before the work load gets into the “meat” of things, you can set up your semester with some healthier options.

Planning ahead for upcoming semester, trimester or quarter, use the following suggestions for long term use:

  • Have a mini fridge in your dorm and/or access to fridge in apartment or suite for on the go breakfast items, such as a piece of fruit, yogurt,string cheese and/or pb&j  to store leftovers and to have produce on hand!
  • Opt for “healthier” options at fast food chains.  Order salads with dressings on the side, pizza with half the cheese, roast beef sandwich, sweet potato and/or fruit cup.  Limit the high fat, greasier options, such as French fries, fish sandwiches and/or fried chicken.
  • Monitor your sugar intake, which tend to quickly add up quickly.  Often times, coffee creamers, cookies, cocktails, cereals are packed with sugar.  Not sure how to check the sugar content? Here’s how to read a nutrition fact label.
  • Keep your room or apartment stocked with healthier snacks so you’re not tempted to head for the vending machines or order late night pizza.  Next time you’re at the grocery store, grab some pretzels, unbuttered popcorn, rice cakes, whole wheat crackers, hummus and/or granola.
  • Keep a reusable water bottle on hand!  It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day.  It’s common for people to mistake thirst for hunger, plus drinking regular bouts of water can keep you focused.
  • Take advantage of the dining hall’s salad bar! Fill up on fresh fruits and veggies, but go easy on the salad dressing!  Vegetables are very filling for few calories!cafeteria
  • Attempt to eat meals on a consistent basis.  Yes, college is known to be hectic and one may not always a have a set schedule, but eat when you’re hungry and avoid skipping meals as much as possible.
  • Recognize your body’s cues.  I understand it’s a lot easier said than done, but listen to your body as it tells you when it’s hungry and when it’s full.  No need to overeat, that’s what leftovers are for!
  • Recognize portion sizes and stick to them.  You often need less food than you think or may like to fill you up! You’ll let meals stretch longer, while sticking to the recommended portion sizes.
  • Limit alcohol intake.  Alcohol is packed with calories, but provides few nutrients.
  • If you’re going grocery shopping.  Mix it up! It’s easy to get bored eating the same meals day after day and to opt for late night pizza, but don’t give in!
  • Fill up on calcium. Just because you’ve graduated high school, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done growing.  Make sure to eat enough calcium rich foods to continue to prevent osteoporosis. You don’t have to be entirely dependent on milk for your calcium, so keep on hand low fat yogurt, green leafy vegetables and/or low fat cheese
  • If you’re out and your stomach’s growling, don’t feel guilty about grabbing fast food.  Sometimes you have to eat what’s available, eating fast food once in a while isn’t going to kill you.  It’s when such habits become a weekly and then daily habit one should worry.

Yes, this is a lot of information to remember, but you don’t have to add all these suggestions tomorrow.  People tend to be more successful long term with small, gradual changes.

Photo Crdit: Diets in Review and Healthy eating in College


Food for thought: The challenge of healthy eating on campus

July’s National Pickle Month

By: Nikki Niesvariety-of-pickled-produce

I’m sure you know pickles are no longer limited to being served as a garnish to a hamburger or with your fries.  Since the 1960s, the act of pickling has been a time of relishing.  Pun intended.

Pickling’s a creative way to alter food’s taste and texture. With so many ways to pickle, there’s bound to be at least one type you like–vinegar, fermented, fruit, cucumber, beets, bean paste, relishes, kimchi, kraut, etc.  The variety of pickling is dictated by ingredients used and preparation method.

Caution–pickling requires a good amount of salt to inhibit spoilage and and bacteria.  In moderation, one can enjoy a pickle or two.  1 pickle spear=300 mg of sodium. Also, when able opt for dill or lacto fermented variety instead of sweet or bread and butter.  Check out previous post on The Salt Review for a refresher course on the difference between salt and sodium.

Furthermore, to reduce risk of spoiling, it’s recommended to process pickles in boiling water.

To celebrate National Pickle Month, try the Pickled Cucumbers  or Salt Free Dill Pickles recipes for some great flavor without the guilt of high sodium!


It’s All in the Name of the Diet

FAdDiet-BAd-Diet-1By: Nikki Nies

I was working recently at school in a computer lab and a student walked up to me asking to fill out her survey.  After filling out the typical female/male question, I already had questions regarding her survey.

Her first survey question asked, “Do you believe diets are healthy?”  She said what do I mean? I asked if she meant by diet as “eating healthy” or the more name brand diets, such as Atkins or Low Carb Diet. After some thought, she finally stated she was surveying on people’s perception of fad diets.

Of course, as a nutrition major I “strongly disagreed” with all claims that a fad diet is the most effective method of long term weight loss.  However, I started thinking about about “why” and “how” diets have evolved to be effectively hyped up and marketed.

It could be argued everyone’s on a diet–whether it’s a diet consisting of daily trips to McDonald’s to only chicken nuggets as main source of protein or eating 1/2 of one’s plate of fruit and veggies.  They’re all describing a type of diet.  A diet is:

 kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats

To help you decide what kind of diet you want to go ahead with, let me give you some things to ruminate about certain diet features:

  • Rapid Weight Loss: Not only is weight loss more than .5-1 lbs. not the most effective way to lose weight, one will also lose muscle, water and bone.  With too much weight lost in a short amount of time, it can lead to the regain of weight
  • Complete Restrictions of Foods or Foods Groups: Mind you, I’m not talking about eating foods if you’ve got an intolerance, sensitivity or allergy, but be wary of diet claims that either state unlimited quantities of certain foods (i.e. cabbage soup or grapefruit).  You may think substituting a food group with a multivitamin will help compensate with missed food groups (i.e. no carbs), but you’ll still be missing critical nutrients.
  • Exercise is not needed: Regular physical activity is needed for optimal weight management; it’s recommended one gets at least 160 minutes of exercise per week
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!  
  • Lose weight without making any changes!: Be wary of diet claims that you can eat as much high calorie foods and still lose weight.  In truth, it’s recommended to slash calories by 500 for a healthy, gradual weight loss.
  • Once and for all magic pill! Permanent weight loss requires the implementation of healthy lifestyle changes.  Doctors, dietitians and other leading experts are adamant that no “magic pill” exists.
  • Every body will lose weight: there’s no one size fits all solution.  Every one’s situation, body and needs are different! Contact a dietitian and/or your local health care provider to design a individualized nutrition and exercise plan.

The above claims are tempting to believe, but when looking for what you want to merge into your daily “diet”, think about the health claims that the latest diets have to offer.  To help you decide if the  latest diet is for you, ask yourself  “Can I eat this way for the rest of my life?” If the answer is no, the diet isn’t for you.


The Pros and Cons of Fad Dieting