Claims’ Dissection

ct-icons-enBy: Nikki Nies

We’re bombarded by food labels and health claims in grocery stores, food advertisements and in our own kitchens! Yet, can you confidently differentiate between “light” foods and “fat free?” Do you gravitate to “fat free” labeled foods because you can’t reists the word FREE?

  • “Light”: calorie content; a product that advertises “light”, must contain 1/3 fewer calories than comparison food. In regards to fat in food, “light” must refer to 50% or less of fat than in comparison food.
  • “Calorie Free”: fewer than 5 calories per serving
  • “Low Fat”: 3 grams or less of fat than regular
  • “Fat Free”: product contains less than 0.5 g fat; no added fat or oil
  • “Cholesterol Free”: only animal products contain cholesterol, with no more than 2 mg of cholesterol present per serving; 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving may be present
  • “Calorie Free”: fewer than 5 calories per serving

Have an other health terms you find on food products that you find confusing? What health claims have you come across that were skeptical?

Photo Credit: Pixgood


Review: Mina Harissa


Disclosure Agreement: Review of Mina Harissa 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

Expanding your palate can be done in many ways, whether that’s aimlessly grabbing new ingredients in the supermarket, hoping to find a hidden find of foods or meticulously assessing what flavors are already incorporated into your daily meals and where expansion would be most appropriate.

Why all this talk about expansion? As someone who always reached for the Tostitos’ mild salsa, I can’t help, but regret what other flavors over the years I’ve passed up because I deemed them as too spicy. However, a couple of years ago, I finally came to my senses, being introduced to the new world of flavors, textures and pizzaz that peppers can do to elevate any dish.

Harissa is a mostly commonly associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria, but has recently made a scene in Morocco via the Columbia Exchange.  The versatility of harissa, a Maghrebian hot chili pepper paste makes it a viable candidate to join your regular meals.  Variations of harissa include cumin, red peppers, garlic, coriander, lemon juice, roasted red peppers, serrano peppers, vegetable oil, olive oil, garlic paste, caraway and/or garlic paste. See how the options are endless?

I recently tried the brand Mina Harissa, a red pepper sauce created by Mina herself. Since the age of sixteen when Mina was first introduced to harissa, she has been in love with the fiery red sauce’s endless possibilities.  Mina worked tirelessly to add her own twist and personality to the sauce, finalizing it the recipe with red chili pepper, red bell pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and salt.  While the proportions of the ingredients are not known, use of Mina Harissa’s sauces leave you grabbing the jar for seconds.

IMG_8925However, for today, we used the harissa recipe in Bon Appetit’s Pan-Roasted Chicken Harissa with Chickpeas’ recipe.  The harissa was used inside the chicken thighs to provide flavor. The chickpeas absorbed the spiciness of the harissa, that permeated the entire chicken. This recipe was a great initial use of the harissa as it provided a well balanced meal of protein, fiber and was low in fat.

The presentation of the meal highlights the different elements of flavor in the meal. I have to note that the lemon and parsley come directly from my parent’s house-yes, my parents have a few lemon trees!

Mina Harissa has cleverly come up with three kinds of sauces, mild, spicy and spicy green pepper sauce. Blended with green chili pepper, green bell pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, cumin and salt, the green harissa adds an additional element of spice to any dish. These 10 ounce jars can be interchangeably used in the same dishes depending on the spice level wished. Keeping on hand in the kitchen, Mina Harrisa’s sauce can be used to create spreads, dips,drizzled on top of nearly any dish, or in this case, encassed in chicken with chickpeas.

If I had to quantify the level of spiciness on a ten point scale, the mild would be a two or three, reflecting the softer palates  The spicy Mina Harrisa is would be an eight. Use of Mina Harrisa’s products, particularly the spicy harissa is not suggested for those with gastrointestinal issues, sensitivities to chilis or peppers and/or the light hearted.

Many foodies have joined the harissa bandwagon, with tons of recipes catering to these unique flavors. I can wait to finish my jars of Mina Harrisa with the recipes I’ve already gathered to try, including Harissa Spiced Sweet Potatoes, Jalepeno Boats and Spicy Green Haddock. How do you plan to add Mina Harrisa’s products to your daily menu? I know you won’t regret adding this extra punch of flavor to your dishes.

Check out Mina Harissa’s Facebook | Twitter | Instagram Contact | Site 

Photo Credit: Mina Harissa 


MyPlate for Older Adults



Legume Land

intro-legumes-photo2By: Nikki Nies

Often times, it’s recommended to get your fair share of beans and legumes.  Every one knows what beans are: black, kidney, lima, pinto and garbanzo.  Yet, how quickly can you roll of your tongue legumes? I sure have to think about it for a second.

Legumes deserve the acclaim they receive next to beans.  Beans are part of the legume family, yet there are more to the legumes than beans.  Make sense?

They’re low in fat, high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium and contain no cholesterol!  Additionally, they’re a great filler upper instead of meat,which can be high in fat and cholesterol.

Yes, legumes are often associated with soups and stews, they do play a great part, but tossing some edamame (yes it’s a legume) on your salad is always a plus.

Common Legumes: edamame, peas, peanuts, lentils, beans,

Legumes are great for salads, casseroles, snacks, stews, soups and rice dishes.Legumes are often canned or dried, which are great to have on hand at all times for last minute additions to your meals. Now that you’re well versed in legumes, why not try your hand at Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage.  Let me know what you think!


Debunking Weight Loss Myths!

By: Nikki Nies Weight-Loss-Myths460

“Magic pills” and “detoxification systems” that promise instant weight loss have been around for years.  In the 21st century, the market continues to meet the demand of the such products, yet many of these so called products do not provide the advertised weight loss.

While the bombardment of which products can be overwhelming, be careful what you shell out money for.  The table I’ve created below provides examples of weight loss claims that have not been found efficacious with using such products.

Instead, diet and regular bouts of exercise are the still proven tried and trued method of losing and maintaining weight loss.

If I skip meals, I’ll lose weight quicker
  • Can lead to becoming overly hungry → overeat at next meal
  • Those that skip breakfast tend to be heavier than those that consume at least 3 meals/day

o   Quick breakfast options: whole wheat toast with fruit spread or oatmeal with low fat yogurt and berries

Fad diets will help me lose weight and keep it off
  • Often promise quick fixes with food restrictions and/or avoidance of food groups/types of food
  • Hard to follow
  • May not provide all nutrients one needs
  • Being on a diet of fewer than 800 calories a day for a long time may lead to serious heart problems.
  • Losing >3#/wk can increase risk of developing gallstones

o   Safe wt loss: 0.5-2#/wk

Carbs are fattening. I should limit.
  • Carbs are body’s main source of energy
  • Limit simple, not complex!

o   Simple: candy, cake, cookies, sugar sweetened desserts/drinks and alcohol

o   Complex: fruits, vegetables, whole grains

  • Opt for brown rice, whole-wheat bread, cereal, and pasta
“Low fat” and “Fat free”=0 Calories
  • Low fat and fat free products have calories, but may be less than full fat
  • Many processed foods have the same amount of calories whether low fat or full fat
  • Processed foods that state they’re low fat/fat free may have added flour, salt, starch, or sugar to improve flavor and texture after fat is removed, which contain added calories
When dieting, one can’t eat fast food!
  • Yes, fast food can be bad for you
  • Opt for:

o   Avoid “value” combo meals as more calories than you need in one meal.

o   Choose fresh fruit or nonfat yogurt for dessert

o   Limit use of high fat/calorie toppings

  • i. e. bacon, cheese, reg mayo, salad dressing

o   Pick steamed or baked items over fried

o   Sip on water or fat-free milk instead of soda

o   Choose soft instead of hard tacos

Snacking is always a bad idea!
  • In between meal snacking can prevent overeating at meals
  • Can benefit from 5 small meals a day
  • Great choice: nuts, low fat cheese, yogurt or an apple
Eating healthy costs more!
  • Canned and frozen fruits and veggies can provide same nutrients as fresh at a lower cost
  • Great sources of protein: tuna, lentils, beans and peas
  • In the end, health care costs will be less expensive!

What weight loss claims have you encountered that isn’t listed in the table? Have any specific questions regarding weight loss claims you’ve heard that you’re not sure about? Ask away!


Forks Over Knives

By: Nikki Nies url

Forks over Knives is a 2011 American documentary directed by Lee Fulkerson.  It examines if a low fat, plant based diet can provide reversible effects or delay the progression of on certain chronic diseases.

It hypothesizes by rejecting animal based and processed foods, we can start to live a more clean life.  This documentary looks at the work of researchers Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

The concept of using food as medicine is put to the test, with heart disease and diabetic patients used in trials. The two doctors teach patients how to use whole foods as a source of treating ailments.

Check out the official trailer to spark your interest and then get your hands on the documentary!


June is National Dairy Month!

By: Nikki Nies JuneDairyMonthLogo4-C1

June is National Dairy Month! Now more than ever is the time to praise the contributions that dairy provides and recognize dairy rich foods.

In the past 63 years, the dairy industry has reduced its carbon footprint by 63%. This reduction is a testament to dairy farms’ integrity to produce quality dairy products for all parties.  Many of the initial farms are still family run and operate as swiftly as ever.

CycleofDairyBetter yet, dairy farms continue to evolve, recognizing their role in sustainability. When dairy farms are looking for more sustainability ideas, they don’t have to look much farther than the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy in Sunnyside, Washington.  This facility has saved over 20% on energy costs in 5 of its free stall barns.

How to best celebrate Dairy Month you ask? On average, people consume only 2 servings of dairy a day. So, celebrate National Dairy Month by having your recommended 3 servings of low fat or fat free dairy a day!  With such servings, one is promoting optimal bone health, best deliver nutrients to the body and help reduce the of diseases.

One serving of dairy is: 1 cup (8 oz) of low-fat or fat-free milk, 1 cup (8 oz) low-fat or fat-free yogurt, 1.5 ounces reduced-fat natural cheese (e.g. Cheddar), 2 ounces reduced-fat processed cheese (e.g. American), 1/3 cup reduced-fat shredded cheese

Thank you dairy producers and processors for providing us with calcium and vitamin D packed products!


June Dairy Month – Our Trip To Tillamook And The Cheese Factory

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

By: Nikki Nies schoollunch

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is another USDA, federally assistance food program, striving to provide nutritious meals to children during the school day.  As of 2012, like the School Breakfast Program, the NSLP operates in over 100,000 public, private and non-profit schools nationwide, which feed over 31 million children a day.  To say that the NSLP is needed in schools would be an understatement.  Thankfully, since the introduction of NSLP, Congress has expanded the program to include the reimbursement of snacks for children during extracurricular activities and/or enrichment programs.

Schools that opt to participate in the program are provided cash subsidies and USDA foods for each meal served. To continue to qualify for the program, schools must comply with federal meal nutrition requirements and must offer free or reduced lunches to students. While the specific foods and how they are prepared can be decided by the facility itself, the nutrition requirements include:

  • Offer fruits and vegetables as two separate meal components;
  • Offer fruit daily at breakfast and lunch;
  • Offer vegetables daily at lunch, including specific vegetable subgroups  weekly (dark green, orange, legumes,  and other as defined in the 2010 Dietary  Guidelines) and a limited quantity of starchy vegetables throughout the week;
  • Offer whole grains: half of the grains would be whole grain-rich upon implementation of the rule and all grains would be whole-grain rich two years post implementation;
  •  Offer fluid milk that is fat-free (unflavored and flavored) and low-fat (unflavored only);
  • Offer meals that meet specific calorie ranges for each age/grade group;
  • Reduce the sodium content of meals gradually over a 10-year period through two intermediate sodium targets at two and four years post implementation;
  • Prepare meals using food products or ingredients that contain zero grams of trans fat per serving;
  •  Require students to select a fruit or a vegetable as part of the reimbursable meal

Children from families’ with incomes that meet or are below the 130% poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those from families that are between 130-185% of poverty level are eligible for a reduced price lunch, and are not allowed to be charged more than 40 cents. Children from families over the 185% poverty line will pay full price.

After reading these guidelines, it may sound like the USDA is setting schools up for success, but since schools have the autonomy to choose how foods are prepared and the numerous complaints about how “bad” the food is, I’m sad to see that the NSLP meals aren’t where they could be.  Additionally, there is a discrepancy since all schools have to do is “offer” these healthier foods.  Observations have found that many of the fruits are thrown in the trash after lunch! For anyone has ever gotten school lunch, how are the meals? What’s your take on the school’s ability to meet the above nutrition guidelines? How can the NSLP be improved?

Photo Credit: RubyUHart


Meatless Proteins


By: Nikki Nies

With healthy eating constantly on the brain, it’s constant job to ensure balanced meals are consumed.  Meatless proteins aren’t for vegetarians and vegans any more, with more and more opting for meatless proteins.  Meatless proteins are often low fat, low calorie, with the added protein punch!

Meatless Protein Description Protein Amount per ½ cup How to Eat Tips
Quinoa Packed with fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and folate, low cholesterol; contains all essential amino acids 7 g Stir Fried Vegetables and Quinoa, Black Bean Quinoa Salad with Basil Lemon Dressing; Toasted Quinoa with Chiles and Corn Drain in a fine mesh strainer after cooking; add to soups, hot breakfast cereal or tossed with vegetables
Edamame Have as much fiber as 4 slices of wheat bread; great as an appetizer or within an entrée 8 g (shelled) Edamame with sesame, scallions and almonds; Roasted Edamame Steam instead of boil, which will preserve nutrients; can be served hot or cold
Chia seeds Great source of brain boosting omega 3 and fiber rich; contains great source of iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc; plump up and take on gelatinous texture when soaked in a  liquid 9.4 g in 2 tablespoons Mango Coconut Chia Pudding; Clementine Chia Pudding Use in jams, smoothies, oatmeal, salads, soups, etc.
Lentils Packed with B vitamins, folate, fiber, protein and are heart healthy 9 g Italian Lentil and Broccoli Stew Limit salting or using acidic items to lentils until cooked
Greek Yogurt Low in calories, protein packed; great substitution for sour cream or mayo; less sweet than some regular varieties 14.5 g Grilled Tropical Fruit with Greek Yogurt; Greek Yogurt with warm black and blueberry sauce Be wary of flavored containers that are packed with added sugar
Tempeh Soy bean based ingredient has great texture; firmer than traditional tofu 15.5 g Tempeh Burger; Miso glazed tofu On it’s own, tends to be quite bland, but is great with a marinade
Seitan Made from wheat gluten; has familiar texture of a piece of chicken or beef; brings out any flavors paired with it; looks like duck meat 21 g Mock Peking Duck; Seitan Stir Fry with Black Bean Garlic Sauce No need to add salt as many packaged varieties can have nearly 13% of daily intake
Peanut Butter Contains 2 g of fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fats per serving 32.5 g Peanut Butter Banana Raisin Sandwich; Peanut Butter Caramel Corn Opt for reduced fat or natural peanut butter and “no stir” to limit messes
Chickpeas Aka garbanzo beans; fiber rich; can help cut LDL levels; low calorie 7 g Chickpea Stew with Eggplants, Tomatoes and Peppers; Cumin Spiced Chickpeas Look for chickpea flower, which is a great alternative to those that can’t eat gluten
Eggs When in moderation, can be great protein source; low in calories; may improve HDL levels 7 g/egg Baked Eggs with Cheese and Zucchini, omelettes, quiches, hard boiled, scrambled, sunny side up Choose cage free variety since they’re nutritionally superior and more humaneFound to have 2.5 times more omega 3 and twice amount of vitamin E in eggs of pasture raised hens
Cottage Cheese Affordable, can be eaten with reduced fat, calcium rich for bones, 13 g Combine with fresh veggies or with fruit and cinnamon Can be used as a replacement for ricotta cheese or sour cream in certain dishes
Pumpkin Seeds Great grab and go snack 7 g/1 oz. Pepita Corn Bread In fall, roast fresh seeds; be mindful of serving as seeds can be high in calories
Dried Black  Beans Low fat, fiber filled protein 6 g Cuban Black Bean Soup Opting for dry beans allows one to control sodium and additive intake; soak in large bowl overnight in water and rinse clean afterward, simmer on low heat and enjoy; make with cumin, garlic, red pepper, etc.
Soy Milk Convenient and versatile; often fortified with calcium and 4 g Espresso Soy Milk Shake Vanilla’s great in cereal and coffee; chocolate flavor’s great as a regular treat
Almonds Contains monounsaturated fats which are considered heart healthy 6 g/1 oz. Chili Spiced Almonds Sliced almonds are great over a salad