Yes, I’m a Brinkerhead!


Image by Brinker Media Room goo.gl/BGM0Hn
Image by Brinker Media Room goo.gl/BGM0Hn

By: Nikki Nies

As of 5/4/15, I can proudly call myself a Brinkerhead! A head of what, you say?! You heard me, I’m a Brinkerhead, otherwise known as an employee at  Brinker International!  While you might not be familiar with the company Brinker International, I’m sure you’ve come across the restaurant name Chili’s or Maggiano’s once or twice!  Brinker International is the headquarters of said companies, priding itself as a multinational hospitality company.

I’ve been at Brinker for almost 2 months and have taken advantage of every learning opportunity that has come my way or which I’ve saught! What I’ve learned so far:

  • My primary role at Brinker has been to provide nutrition information for Maggiano’s banquets. While I had previously been to a Maggiano’s for a business event, I wasn’t aware of all the menus that Maggiano’s has: delivery, carry out, children’s, dessert, wine & beverage, family style, family style lunch, all day meeting, breakfast & brunch, etc. There is some crossover from the dining room, but a good portion of the banquet menu items need their own nutrition analysis as portions are different (i.e. Banquets uses a lot of ‘mini’ versions of dining room menu items).
  • Brinker uses ESHA Genesis Food Processor as the primary tool of nutrient analysis. Working with my supervisor, Ms. Alisa Via-Reque, RD, we’ve consulted with the chefs numerous times to better understand the recipes. I’ve had the opportunity prep materials for lab testing, which requires everything from coordinating the lab’s courier, to weighing the raw weight of the tested item, with breading, the edible portion (i.e. with shrimp’s tail off) and vacuum packing the products for delivery to lab.
  • I had the opportunity to partake in a ‘Culture of Accountability’ workshop, which enlightened me on the values and culture of Brinker. We’re all here to obtain desired results and obtaining results requires providing and obtaining feedback. Yes, feedback can be a sore subject, but it doesn’t have to be.
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  • Called the ‘ops experience’, I was able to work the Back of the House and the Front of the House of Maggiano’s Willow Bend in Plano, TX. I have a greater appreciation of all the work that goes into delivering a quality, fresh meal! Many restaurants claim they’re making homemade, scratch kitchen meals, but when you can take the ‘processed’ ingredients, the credibility of chain’s claims fall through. Not at Maggiano’s! I wish everyone could see what the kitchen is like! As someone said, the restaurant business isn’t ‘for the lazy.’ I’ve been working closely with the recipes, which I was proud to see that the kitchen staff follow to a tee. This brings me great pride as I know that the nutrition information that is being provided by Brinker is credible and there aren’t any ‘add ons’ being put in by the staff themselves.
  • While Maggiano’s is in a mere 47 locations, as of July 2015, it does extremely well for itself! In comparison to Chili’s 1500 locations, Maggiano’s is able to hold its own, with its banquets driving a good portion of the business!  Professional meetings and socials are equally a favorable outing to gather at Maggiano’s. With buffet lines, omelet, pasta and/or carving station, there are menu items for all to enjoy!

I’ve learned so much in the past couple months and have enjoyed soaking up as much of the corporate culture as I can. Brinker knows how to have fun while getting the serious work done first! My kind of life! Can’t wait to see what the next few months bring, I’ve been blessed!

Sources:http://www.brinker.com/company/ourstory.asp

Calorie Detective


By: Nikki Nies

Food establishments that have 20+ locations are required to post food calorie amounts of food offered with the new Obamacare regulations. The idea is that when you know how much you’re eating, you’ll tend to eat less. Yet, Casey Neistat finds the calories provided can be inaccurate.

Original Image by Brett Jordan via Flickr
Original Image by Brett Jordan via Flickr

While the NYC Health Code states that the Health Dept. will cite violations if calories aren’t posted. However, accuracy isn’t required.

With the resources of the Obesity Research lab at St. Luke’s Hospital, a calorimeter was used to test 5 items in 10 hours. Check out the following calorie discrepancies found:

  1. At Grandma’s, the  Original Banana Nut Muffin, it was reported it had 640 calories. However, with Neistat’s fine tooth comb and calorimeter, it was found the banana nut muffin actually had 734.7 calories!
  2. With the Starbucks Grande Coffee Frappuccino with whipped cream, it’s reported it’s a mere 370 calories. However, it’s 392.9 calories. Not too bad off.
  3. In a custom made Chipotle Barbacoa burrito, Chipotle’s online burrito stated it would come out to me 1175 calories. The calorimeter found the burrito to be 10% more calories, at 1295 calories.
  4. One of Neiget’s favorite “Healthy” spicy tofu sandwiches, which was listed to be 228 calories, but was actually 548.4 calories, nearly double the listed calorie amount!
  5. At Subway, the 6″ turkey sandwich rang in accurately! The sandwich is listed as 360 calories and the calorimeter found it be 350.8 calories, 97.4% of the 360 calories listed!

Multiple samples were not tested for validity or reliability, but with Neistat’s experiment, it confirms that we can not believe every nutrition or health claim provided.  If Neiget had gone by the calories listed on the packaged food, he would have consumed an EXTRA 548.5c alories he was unaware of. What does this mean? Can we forgive a 10% margin? Are we being too hard on the restaurant and food industry? This is up for debate. Discuss!

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000002061153/calorie-detective.html

Q&A with Sports Nutritionist: Dawn Jackson Blatner


unnamedBy: Nikki Nies

I recently had the pleasure to interview Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD (DJB), a sports dietitian based in Chicago, Illinois. On behalf of We Dish Nutrition (WDN), I enjoyed  checking out what Dawn’s been up to and learning more about what a sports dietitian does!  Thank you Dawn for taking the time to chat with me!

WDN: How do you approach or respond to others that seem to have a different food philosophy from you?

DJB: I trade judgment for curiosity. I ask questions, point out similarities to find common ground and I respectfully disagree when diet principles are based in fad instead of facts. I believe in real food, more fun and no B.S.

WDN: When you hear the word “Flexitarian” what immediately comes to mind?

DJB: Flexitarians are pro-plants, not anti-meat. I wrote The Flexitarian Diet because it’s how I eat. I’m a plant-loving vegetarian who is flexible enough to enjoy meat, poultry, and fish occasionally.

WDN: What are your key responsibilities as the nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs? How did you go about becoming a consultant for them?

DJB: This is my 6th season as the Chicago CUBS nutrition consultant and every season has been so different. Here are some examples of what I do: Develop recipes & review menus, meet with players individually, give team talks, post inspirational nutrition signs, and create fun ways to present healthy food such as a superfood smoothie station & superfood travel packs.

I love this saying: “Let success find you based on your incredible energy for serving.” I got the initial job interview because the team doctor heard about my hard work & enthusiasm for helping people (word of mouth). I got the job because I was authentic – honest about what skills & passions I have (and don’t have).

WDN: What advice do you have for students and other RDs looking to enter the sports nutrition field?

DJB: Start now! Start doing sports nutrition for anybody. Write about it in your gym’s newsletter, donate a handout for a kids soccer league, create presentations for your yoga studio – get creative. Jobs come to those who are DOING – it doesn’t matter where you start – just start serving. Also, get INVOLVED in the Academy’s SCAN DPG to be around inspiring people & events.

WDN: While each athletes’ nutrition needs may differ, what is one core recommendation you provide to all your clients?

DJB_about dawnDJB: Food is energy. Junk food = junk energy. Clean food = clean energy. Don’t get worked up about the details, get the big things right: Sleep, hydrate and enjoy a variety of nourishing, real food.

WDN: What do you find to be the biggest barriers for people to overcome unhealthy eating habits in the time crunched, rushed society we live in?

DJB: Biggest barrier: They don’t make it fun. Magical things happen when people are excited about what they are doing. “Saying you don’t have time is like saying you don’t want to.” So, I encourage clients to think about what they actually WANT to change…and then it’s easier for them to make the time.

WDN: How do you juggle all of your responsibilities? As a nutrition consultant for the Cubs, as a food and nutrition blogger with Huffington Post, as a nutrition expert on the advisory board of Fitness Magazine while maintaining a fantastic website and balancing work and life responsibilities?

DJB: I slow down, to do more. I used to feel panicked and anxious. Now, I breathe & mindfully prioritize one thing at a time. Advice I follow: Enjoy the process of work, don’t just work for the outcome. Meaning, instead of just rushing to check things off my to-do list, I enjoy doing the little daily tasks. Makes for much more joy in work & life.

DJB_let's work togetherWDN: What projects are you currently working on?

DJB: I just finished my new book featuring a new, FUN approach to eat more superfoods (out in 2016). I’m currently working on an interactive online nutrition course for clients who want my philosophy in a self-study format instead of private sessions. Oh and I launched my new website, I’d love for you to check it out: www.dawnjacksonblatner.com.

Want to learn more about Dawn? Connect with her today! Facebook | Twitter  | Pinterest | Instagram | Nutrition W.O.W. Newsletter Contact

Photo Credit: Dawn Jackson Blatner

Seventh Day Adventist’s Mindful Practices


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Original Image by Bobbi Bowers via Flickr

 

By: Nikki Nies

While studying for my RD exam, I’ve come across and have been quizzed on various ethnic cultures and dietary restrictions. As you have seen, I’ve read more about dietary practices during the Lenten season and have delved further into what Kosher really means. Up until now, I’ve had a pretty good idea about what those dietary practices entailed, but the diet of Seventh Day Adventist is foreign to me. Do you feel the same way? Not quite sure what Seventh Day Adventist means?

Join me in the fun of learning all the details now! While the Seventh Day Adventist church promotes autonomy, the relationships in the church are meant to call one another higher, to live as positive examples of God’s love and devotion. In regards to diet and health, this means:

  • Gluttony and excess are to limited
  • The key to wellness is balance and temperance
  • Limit alcohol, tobacco and mind altering drugs, which can affect clear minds and wise choices
  • It’s believed a well balanced vegetarian diet that emphasizes legumes, whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables and sources of vitamin B12 will promote optimal health
  • Like the MyPlate guidelines, Adventists are advised to limit processed foods, sugar, sugar substitutes and food additives.

To remind you, a vegetarian diet has more benefits than the costs of the abstinence of meat. A vegetarian diet continues to provide evidence of lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes,obesity and/or high blood pressure.

Being vegetarian isn’t a requirement to be part of the Seventh Day Adventist church, yet many of the church go beyond the vegetarian diet,either eating raw foods or vegan. One of its founders, ellen White’s vision for the Seventh Day Adventist included eight principles for a healthy lifestyle: fresh air, sunshine, abstemiousness, rest, exercise, nutrition, water and trust in a divine power. The second part of the White’s vision included the establishment and devotion of health reform, health education and treating the ill in a new way.

As you can see, Seventh Day Adventist’s dietary practices are very similar to those of vegetarians, if not more strict. I’m proud to see the founder, White’s vision and principles for the church have been upheld since inception in the 1860s. For any of you that are practicing Seventh Day Adventist’s are there any key practices that I’ve missed? What personal practices do you follow in your daily life?

Sources: http://www.adventist.org/vitality/health/

http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/ http://www.seventhdayadventistdiet.com/

https://www.adventistarchives.org/fundamental-beliefs-of-seventh-day-adventists.pdf

WIC Resources


By: Nikki Nies

I recently completely my last dietetic internship rotation at Will County WIC! During my time, I was able to create several handouts and provide resources that would be distributed to future mothers and families.

Today, I’ve provided a copy of the handout I made to gather more information on maternal nutrition and early childhood nutrition. Make sure to check out these resources today!

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Winter [DI] Bucket List


By: Nikki Nies

With the holidays around the corner and responsibilities winding down, add these All Access Internships Bucket List items to your list of fun! Enjoy the holiday season!

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While I’m not necessarily applying for dietetic internships, I find these bucket list items a great “check list” of mingling, networking and improving your craft within the nutrition field. If you have an interest in writing for a blog-whether to get your feet wet or to become a more active writer, We Dish Nutrition would love to have you write! Email us at wedishnutrition@gmail.com or nikkinies@gmail.com for more information! Additionally, I myself am taking the bucket list as a personal challenge this winter and so should you!

Chili’s Hot Flavors + [Some] Nutrients


https://www.youtube.com/edit?video_id=AET_RtM6oxE

By: Nikki Nies

Unlike a typical restaurant review, which includes the evaluation of wait staff service, ambiance, and/or décor, we’re reviewing restaurants a bit differently! Sensational Sustenance is redirecting one’s attention to the nutrient content of specific menu items! We aim to not only evaluate the flavors in the entrees, but how nutrient rich entrees are in relation to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans using our own proprietary score sheet:  Healthy Food Critic’s Ultimate Review Form for Restaurant Entrees.  I recently made a trip to Chili’s to check out what dishes they have and Chili’s Restaurant Evaluation!

Described as a “family-friendly chain serving classic Tex-Mex & American fare in a Southwestern-style setting”, Chili’s originated in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but has done a tremendous job in expanding to a national level, with over 1500 locations ubiquitously found throughout the 50 states.  Since inception of their Tex Mex regular menu, the company now proudly offers a nutrition menu, allergen menu, vegetarian menu and offer veggie burgers supplied by Kellogg Company.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Chili’s, so my first impression of it’s menu as “vibrant” “loud” and “inviting!” I was ready for a delicious ride of flavors!

While perusing the menu, I chuckled that the Lighter Choice (LC) options were in the back of the menu.  While the acronym LC is sprinkled throughout the menu, it’s not until you’ve passed the appetizers, make your own burgers campaign, the quesadilla section and pass Go to collect your $100 that you reach the LC section.  With a closer look at the LC section, there’s an explanation of the dishes under 650 calories or less that a consumer can grasp the concept of LC.  After debating between salmon or tilapia, I opted for the Mango Chile Tilapia (550 calories) described as “with 6 pepper blend, drizzled with spicy habanero mango glaze and topped with chopped mango, cilantro, house made pico de gallo and fresh diced avocado.  Served with rice and steamed broccoli” at $10.99.

Original Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr
Original Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr

When I ordered my tilapia, I was asked if I wanted to the broccoli and/or rice with the tilapia or if I wanted any of the other sides Chili has to offer.  I thought about ordering the Spiced Panko Onion Rings, Homestyle Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, Southwestern Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Loaded Mashed Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes with Black Pepper Gravy, Sweet Corn on the Cob, Black Beans and/or Cinnamon Apples.  However, if you deviate from the original menu listing, the alternative options to broccoli and rice didn’t seem to elevate the nutritional content of the dish. Therefore, I kept the order as is.

hvkWhen the dish arrived, I was pleased by vivid variety of flavor, with the distinct mango and habanero smelled great! The visual layout of the dish, a rectangle dish instead of the usual circular dish, made it easy to eat–combining broccoli or rice with the tilapia for a good blend of flavors.

After evaluating the dish, I was able to retrieve further nutrition information on the mango chile tilapia on Chili’s website: 550 calories; 21 g of fat; 4.5 g of saturated fat; 0 g trans fat; 70 mg cholesterol; 1600 mg of sodium; 56 g of carbohydrates; 8 g of fiber; 13 g of sugar; 38 g of protein.  In comparison to the evaluations’ healthy option measures, the tilapia met some, but not all parameters.  The breakdown:

Healthy Option Parameters1 Mango Chile Tilapia Nutrient Content
600 calories or less 550 calories ✓
At least 50% is fruit or non-starchy vegetables Contained mango, avocado, steamed broccoli and tilapia  ✓
Grain based item are at least 50% whole grains No indication of whole grain rice  
Total fat is less than 30% of total calories Total fat was 34.5% of calories–550 calories contain 190 calories from fat
Sodium is less than 750 mg 1600 mg
Low in added sugars N/A
Less than 10% of calories from saturated fat 4.5 g of saturated fat ✓

1Healthy Option Parameters are based upon the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for American

Visually, I would estimate I received ½ cup steamed broccoli, ½ cup rice and 3-4 oz. of tilapia.  Based on recommended healthy portions, I would say this was “just about [the] right” amount of food. In hindsight, I’m glad I stuck with the rice and broccoli as my sides as they added the right balance of flavors to counteract spiciness of the pico de gallo and habanero from the tilapia.

I was beyond impressed with the flavors of the mango chile and found the price was accurately listed.  In my eyes, fish is always, and appropriately so, more expensive than meat options. Again, in regards to this dish, my senses walked away very satisfied, rating the dish “liking very much.” The necessary flavors for an interesting dish were present, with evidence that thought was put into the development of the dish.

I understand Chili’s is promoting their “make their own” burgers, but instead of using LC as a obligatory side note, Chili’s could profit from using LC as a more health conscious fast casual restaurant.  They certainly scored better in my book in comparison to my recent trip to Maggiano’s.

Photo Credit: Printable Coupons