My Take on the Red/Processed Meat–>Cancer Debate

Original Image by Kim Ahlström via Flickr
Original Image by Kim Ahlström via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Doesn’t every story always have two sides? The good news? The latest craze that bacon causes cancer is a bit of frenzy. The bad news for bacon lovers, this isn’t ‘new’ news, the American Institute for Cancer Research has declared the link between bacon and cancer for a while, yet the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) report on the link between red meats, processed meats and colorectal cancer has brought the spotlight back on to this topic. Before vegetarians get on their soap box, bacon lovers declaring they can’t eat meat ever again or disregard this report by wanting to continue to eat how much whenever, what if I told you there is a middle ground?

Yes, you can have a few pieces of processed meats once in a while is not going to be a death sentence, but understanding what types of meats may contribute to cancer and why will help all wrap their heads around the concept.

“No one food causes cancer,” said Audrey Monroe a Dietitian and Director of Nutrition for the Kansas Beef Council.

Processed meats include those that have been cured, salted, smoked or a preservation method has been used (e.g. cold cuts, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, ham, pastrami, salami and pepperoni). To put the new classification in perspective, like outdoor pollution, UV radiation, alcohol, tobacco and cigarettes, the IARC ranked processed meats as a class 1 carcinogen. The physical method of grinding or mincing of meat does not automatically make it ‘processed.’  Red meats include beef, lamb and pork, with it being ranked as class 2A campaign. Yet, liver is clumped in the ‘red meat’ category, providing all necessary vitamins and minerals.

The mechanism of why and how these meats increase colorectal cancer is not definitive. There is speculation that increased risk is due to the addition of nitrates, nitrites, heme iron in red meat, smoking process and/or high temperatures.

Suggestions on how to lower consumption and cancer risk:

Original Image by Pawel Pacholec via Flickr
Original Image by Pawel Pacholec via Flickr
  • Replace processed and red meats with fresh chicken, fish and plant based proteins (e.g. eggs, cottage cheese, hummus, beans, tofu and legumes)
  • Swap out bacon, chorizo and salami with spicy vegetarian sausage
  • Opt for lean beef and loin cuts as quality protein helps one feel satiated and fuller longer to help maintain desired weight
  • Redirect focus on how meals can provide a balance of nutrients, including whole grains, fiber, lean meats and low fat dairy products
  • Vary the type of produce used as different vegetables provide anti cancer, antioxidant properties. The phytochemicals in vegetables work synergistically together to stave off cancer.

In addition to being mindful of the ranking, it’s important to note the amount of exposure to the carcinogen. Yes, cigarettes and processed meats have been both classified as class 1 carcinogens, but many smokers expose their bodies to tobacco multifold a day, while the same measurement can not be used when assessing processed meat’s impact on someone—instead we need to consider how big the portions and frequency of intake.

If you’re as legalistic as I am, what’s a ‘moderate’ amount of processed meats? 500,000 middle aged men and women were studied, finding that consumption of 50 g of processed meat increased risk of colon cancer up to 18%. In other words, the recommendation is to consume 70 g of less of red and processed meats. Limiting consumption of red meat to once a week/18 ounces (cooked) or less per week, one should not be concerned with an increased cancer risk. In other words, 18 ounces is ~4-quarter pounders hamburgers per week. If you’re eating hot dogs three to four times a week, perhaps, cutting back to once a week is a step you would be willing to take.

As you can see, nutrition is not black and white. While these IARC declarations has sparked debate, it doesn’t mean processed meats and red meat have to be cut out completely. With regular meal planning and mindfulness, all foods can fit.  The USDA and FDA are set to share new dietary guidelines by the end of this year, so it will be interesting how and if the WHO reports affect those guidelines.


Do Bacon, Hot Dogs and Red Meat Cause Cancer? Facts and What You Need to Know!

Meat no more? Local health experts say not so fast

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.


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)

More Mindful Eating

Original Image by Trace Nietert via Flickr
Original Image by Trace Nietert via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

I just finished reading the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink.  While I recently wrote a blog post encouraging you to read the book, I enjoyed it so much and find “mindful eating” an effective way to eat moving forward, that I couldn’t help myself from writing a follow up post.  If you haven’t heard of Dr. Brian Wansink, but are fan of food, healthy eating and/or love to learn, get on board now! Wansink, a food psychologist, is the leading spokesperson on the concept of mindless eating.  He’s given many speeches and talks on mindless eating.

Forewarning, the book covers many studies. Yet, wouldn’t you want someone’s accounts of more “mindful eating” to be back by lab studies, not on mere hunches? Wansink does a great job walking us through the WHY of our natural tendency to eat more than we actually need.  And the best part, you don’t have to give up the four C’s, cookies, candy, cake and ice cream, of overeating entirely! Yay!

Main Takeaways from Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think:

  • Food Trade Offs: “I can eat x if I do y”–>”I can eat dessert if I I’ve worked out” or “I can have chips if I don’t have a morning snack.” This is a great technique as you’re able to enjoy the foods you like as long as you make small concessions.  These trade offs put you back in the driver’s seat in regards to food choices and makes you think about what “price” you’re willing to pay for overeating
  • Food Policies: Are a great way to regulate your eating by eliminating one or two habits; opting to forego habits that have somehow encroached into our lives, but won’t be sorely missed; i.e. 1/2 size desserts, no bagels on weekdays, never eat at my desk and/or don’t buy snacks from the vending machine
  • The Power of Three: Since most diets fail due to their restrictive nature, it can sound daunting to think that any changes could stick.  However, with the “Power of Three”, by choosing three reasonable small changes can make a difference! Since it takes approximately 28 days for old habits to break, you need to have the “Power of Three” checklist on hand to help you “check off” the daily changes. This type accountability makes you more mindful and it’s great to visually see how much you’ve accomplished!  While your record may not be perfect, who’s is? You can still walk away from the month better than started.  By focusing on the positive, moving forward will be much easier!
  • Slow and steady can win the race: While we often embark on lofty goals, sprinting out of the gates, it’s better eat in moderation and make small changes that you can proudly say you’ve stuck to in the past year.  These “successes” will add up to 1-2 pounds a month and in the long run, you’ll be lighter emotionally and physically! Win-win!

The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.

If you’re intrigued to learn more, get your hands on the book! While the above bullets provides a quick synopsis of the book, you can’t beat the actual book! Go on, read!

Foodie on Campus

Original Image by Foodie On Campus

By: Nikki Nies

There’s a famous saying that one’s college years are the best of a person’s life.  While that may be true, there are many aspects of the college experience that must be present for the “best” to be presented.  For many, heading off to college is the first taste of independence.  With the bombardment of offers, temptations and often times free food, it’s no wonder students get a headache with so many dining options.  Many options that aren’t always the wisest in regards to health, I might add.

 However, it doesn’t have to be like that.  You can have you cake and eat it too at college at times.  With Foodie on Campus(FOC): Your Inside Guide is dedicated to providing resources, recipes and latest news to campus students, it doesn’t have to be like that.  The founder and Editor in Chief, Faye Mitchell RD, LDN recognizes that food is an integral part of the college experience.  Instead of implementing restricting rules about eating habits, Mitchell’s team of interns provide an awareness of how to be a successful “foodie” on campus!

Guiding Principles:

Original Image by Arya Ziai via Flickr
Original Image by Arya Ziai via Flickr
  • “Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.” —Ruth Reichl
  • Keep it positive
  • Food is meant to be enjoyed
  • Diet is a four letter word
  • There are no “good” foods or “bad” foods
  • Everything in moderation
  • Nutrition is science based, not opinion oriented
  • There are no quick fixes or miracle foods
  • Weight is just a number
  • No fat shaming, no skinny promoting
  • Eat for Pleasure – Move for Fun!
  • “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ―Julia Child

Nutrition is about understanding that health doesn’t mean one has to trade flavor for health.  There are so many practical, easy swaps that can be made.  There’s no better time to make healthier changes than as a college student!

Don’t miss a bite of FOC’s’ daily updates, sign up today! Follow @foodieoncampus AND like on Facebook!



“The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor.” ~Chinese Proverb

While we often rely on more than one of the five senses to decide what to eat, the saying that we “eat with our eyes” is sometimes too true!   One’s sense of smell and taste are distinct, yet visual stimuli can trump the 4 other senses, with color perhaps, the most visual cue.  Next time you’re sitting down for a scrumptious, indulgent meal, really try to embrace the flavors, who knows, you may only need a bite or two to really appreciate what’s in front of you! 1. Delwiche J. You eat with your eyes first. Physiology & Behavior [serial online]. November 5, 2012;107(4):502-504. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed July 3, 2014.

The Trouble With “Everything In Moderation”

The Trouble With “Everything In Moderation”

I’ve got to admit, I’ve firmly believed in the concept of eating in moderation.  Yet, this article highlights the flaws with moderation.  I’m thoroughly impressed.

Sugar It Naturally!


By: Nikki Nies

I’ve had many posts on sugar, the impact of sugar, high blood glucose levels, etc.  And yes, here’s another one for you.  As many of you know, sugar is a very real, valid addiction and having information on sugar is needed to keep the sugar intake at bay.  High intakes of sugar can not only lead to obesity, but diabetes, sugar crash, dental caries, hyperactivity and many other preventable issues.

I know it’s unrealistic to cut sugar out of your diet, it’s important to be reminded from time to time that there are some great sugar substitutes.  As with anything, moderation is key.  Using natural sugar doesn’t mean dousing your meals with syrup, but you can feel better about what you’re eating instead of opting for those artificial sweeteners.

Natural Sugar Description Suggested Used
Agave Nectar Tastes similar to honey; contains high fructose content, so use moderately Great for hot or iced tea;
Maple Syrup Comes directly from plant sap; contains over 50 antioxidants Granola, waffles
Lemon  Provides a nice squeeze of acid  Use in hot tea or iced tea
Honey Antioxidant rich Hot tea, homemade salad dressing
Applesauce Naturally sweet Use applesauce in substitution for white sugar;  great dessert
Erythritol Sugar alcohol; 0.2 kcal/g; white powder from a plant occurs naturally in fruits; doesn’t lead to tooth decay Use in chocolate baked goods (i.e. brownies)
Raisins Antioxidant and fiber rich Use in any baked goods
Cinnamon No calories included, adds a subtle taste of sweetness, boosts immunity Great in coffee, baked goods and tea
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder Use a splash in warm milk or hot water; add in vanilla as well
Reb A Derives from South American, natural extract from stevia plant, GRAS A lot goes a long way, put a few drops in the a bowl of oatmeal
Cranberries Tart antioxidants Replace sugar with cranberries in muffins or scones
Dates Have low glycemic index, antioxidiant rich Substitute 2/3 for 1 cup of regular sugar; use in granola bars or brownies
Grapefruit Provides a sweet and sour kick to dishes; provides daily dose of vitamin C Add to a cocktail over soda or tonic water
Coconut Sugar Made from sap of coconut flours; comes in block, paste or granulated form; loaded with potassium Add in to smoothies
Brown Rice Syrup Comes from brown rice; more nutritious than high fructose; buttery nuttery flavored syrup Works well in granola bars and baked breads
Rapadura Made from sugar cane, but skips the refining stage; retains vitamins and minerals lost when white sugar’s proceeded Keep 1:1 ratio when using instead of sugar
Lime Provides a tangy taste without extra sugar rush Perfect for a glass of sparkling water
Pureed Banana Eliminates the sugar Naturally becomes sweeter as it ripens, so no need to add extra sugar
Milk Natural sugar can add a touch of sweetness A little can go a long way in a cup of coffee
Yacon Syrup Sweetening agent extracted from yacon plant; has hints of apple and ½ the calories of cane sugar; sweet just like honey Works well in raw fruit smoothies or baked goods

We’re born with a natural liking for sweet foods.  If you keep on hand some natural sugars, hopefully over time you’re sugar intake from unnatural sources will decrease and you’ll limit your intake of artificial sweeteners, which can pack on additional calories.By the way, the sugar in fruit is one of the best sources of natural sugar.


The Ride Called Life

By: Nikki Nies

Are you happy?  It’s a simple yes or no question, but often times people answer with more than just one word.  If  you were to ask me such a question and we’re being honest here, I’m not happy.  Like many, I feel like I’m plugging a long.  With such an attitude, it’s easy to see how one can spiral out of  healthy eating habits and not be one’s best version of him or herself.

You see, I moved to Illinois last August for my dietetic internship, which I’m entirely grateful for being accepted into and don’t want to know where or what I’d be doing if I hadn’t be accepted.  Yet, the move was the largest physical and emotional move I’ve ever done.  I’ve had this countdown of “1 year to go, 11 months to go” and that’s not healthy.  I regret to think about how much I’ve missed out on while I was busy with my countdown.  Not taking advantage of where I live and the resources available for me to grow as a health professional and more importantly a human is hard to admit.   It’s been an adjustment and I hate to say it, but I’m still adjusting to living out here even 5 months later.  It’s nothing personal to Illinois, it’s nice, it’s just not home.

I’m not here attempting to write a public diary entry, but to express that it’s natural to get into a rut and not embrace all the highs and lows of life.  I need to recalibrate my thoughts and realize why I’m here, to start the next chapter in my life as a Registered Dietitian.  You know the saying, if it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it?  I’m beginning to understand the truth to that statement more and more daily.  As with everything, moderation and balance is key. I used to pride myself in knowing myself well, but I’ve learned a lot about myself in these last few months.  I’ve learned what areas I could improve on while admitting strengths I can hone in on.

I hope this non-traditional blog post is relatable and if you’re in a similar situation, you remember to embrace what ever situation you’re in.  Your mood and attitude can dictate your health and well being.  Your mind can be such an advocate or enemy, it’s your choice.  I know my faith’s gotten through a lot of situations and I need to lighten up and enjoy the ride, which is called life.  Life passes by and you better get on or off the train.  I’d prefer to be on the train, wouldn’t you?

What’s the Process[ed]?

Original Image by Walt Stoneburner via Flickr
Original Image by Walt Stoneburner via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

There’s been many times in my life when certain phrases have been ingrained in me and I didn’t always knew what the meaning was behind it. I always shook my head in agreement, but not sure what I was agreeing to.

Yes, that’s not the proactive route, but I believe I’m making up for my complacent behavior as a youngster now that I’ve learned how to think, inquire and investigate information for myself.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of the term processed foods, but how do you define that? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a premier organization in nutrition and health equate boxed macaroni and cheese with whole wheat bread and homemade soup as all processed foods.

I was shocked when I read that whole wheat bread, a coveted type of grain, be called processed because processed has a negative connotation and whole wheat has a positive connotation.  I swore I read that sentence wrong that I read it twice.

However,  not all processed foods are like! Whew!

Minimally processed Simply pre-prepped for convenience i.e. bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts
Moderately processed Raw ingredients have been transformed into something new and different; degree of processing varies i.e. whole grains ground into flour to produce bread, pasta, cereal, oatmeal, etc.
Peak processing Locking in nutritional quality and freshness i.e. canned beans, tomatoes, frozen vegetables and canned tuna
Heavily processed Ready to eat foods i.e. crackers, granola, deli meat
Most heavily processed Pre-made meals i.e. frozen pizza and microwavable dinners

So, next time you’re whipping up a grilled cheese on whole wheat bread, remember it’s minimally processed, but still contains some elements of processed foods. When in moderation, eating processed foods, espiecally the minimally processed foods can be fine.  However, when consuming processed foods, keep in mind the amount of sodium, sugar and fat.

Original Image by Paul Townsend via Flickr
Original Image by Paul Townsend via Flickr
  • Sugar: A lot of products contain sugar, even bread!
  • Fat: Although not as prevalent, processed foods may contain trans fat, which has been seen to raise bad cholesterol (LDL) while decreasing the good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Sodium: The added sodium in many canned products may add texture and taste, but often puts many people’s allotment of sodium over the recommended daily intake.  Over time, overconsumption can lead to hypertension or chronic kidney disease


  • When buying canned goods, opt for “light” or no sodium added products
  • Review a product’s ingredients list and look for added sugars among the first two or three ingredients such as sugar, maltose, brown sugar, corn syrup, cane sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrate
  • Opt for fruit when possible, as that is naturally occurring sugar
  • Choose whole foods when possible

Check out  I really like how they compared the minimally processed foods, at the most wholesome state to the most processed foods (i.e. a whole apple to an apple streudel pastry).


Why Cut Processed Food