Snack’s Bad Reputation

Original Image by jeffreyw via Flickr
Original Image by jeffreyw via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

It’s become more common and socially acceptable to deviate from the mainstream three meals of debates.  There are even debates on whether one should eat five “snacks” throughout the day instead of over sized portions of the common three meals.  While the debaters figure it out for us, I’m going to zero in on snacking today.  You know there’s a concept of “bad” snacking, right? I hope I’m not introducing a foreign concept today.

This blog post came about as I was at school the other day, passing the vending machine. For those that don’t know, I carry food with me everywhere I go. I’m not talking about a carrot, but full on meals. I like to defend my load of food as being prepared and boy has those meals helped me get through my current dietetic internship and master’s program. I digress. Walking past the vending machine, I asked myself, what if God forbid I forgot to back food with me and had to resort to vending machine food? I went through the vending machine options and I really couldn’t find any foods that I saw “worth” the cost. The healthiest snack might have been pretzels, yet how long would that sustain me? Not very long!

With that said. if you’re still with me, I don’t recommend or endorse vending machines.  Those prcocessed treats may have to be used in the dire need of emergencies, but not for day to day energy needs! Please don’t resort to those types of foods as many are filled with empty calories, full of sugar, sodium and fat! Who needs that?!

Original Image by Zdenko Zivkovic via Flickr
Original Image by Zdenko Zivkovic via Flickr

Bad snacking can become a vicious cycle of overeating oversized portions, with many Americans easily eating 600 calories from snacks alone.  As you know, too much unhealthy foods can lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, elevated triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which can directly impact one’s weight and development of heart disease.

Continuous eating also can contribute to the development of dental caries.  With increased exposure to food, the enamel has more opportunities to produce damaging acids. One should be espeically careful with sticky foods or those that leave particles behind (i.e. dried fruit, granola and/or crackers). If you’re not sure about the foods you’re eating, when in doubt, use the travel toothbrush you have handy!

Be honest, do those processed leave you feeling ready to tackle the next task?  I doubt it! Snacks on the go are a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your day! Yes, keeping healthier snacks on hand does require some planning, but investing in your health is a facet of our lives we should all aspire to do.


Food Revolution

By: Nikki Nies Jamie-Oliver

While obesity is a preventable disease, we’re currently on the losing end of the war.  It’s not only an American, first world problem.  As a global epidemic, Jamie Oliver has once again, thankfully, taken it upon himself to lead a Food Revolution!  While we’re by no means deprived of food, with so many options, more children than ever are malnourished due to the number of empty calories they consume on a regular basis.

Jamie Oliver explains the premise behind said Revolution!

“Since I’ve been working in America, I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have come out to support the Food Revolution. More than 630,000 people have signed the petition, over 300,000 of you subscribe to our newsletter and thousands of you have written to me. The only message I keep hearing is that you believe your kids need better food, and that you want help to keep cooking skills alive. That’s why this Food Revolution matters.” -Jamie Oliver

It’s great to hear others acknowledge and understand the issue at large.  The Food Revolution is a great platform to help inspire all to get back into the kitchen to cook real food from scratch and get away from the pre packaged, processed products that are ubiquitously calling our names!  This movement has already made great strides toward health awareness and changing how we eat. Still not convinced change is needed?

Global obesity alarming #s:

  • More than 43 million children under 5 years old are overweight or obese
  • More than 1.5 billion adults are overweight or obese
  • With obesity, one’s life can be cut by 10 years
  • In the U.S., obesity costs $10,273,973/hr!

While the above numbers are scary stats, Jamie’s got a 6 point plan moving forward:images

  1. Cook more with the availability of community kitchens (i.e. church halls, healthcare centers and/or schools) that will help you learn the basics of home kitchen! By getting in the kitchen you can control portion sizes, ensure the use of fresh ingredients and it’s a great way to get the family together!
  2. An activist program is supporting parents that want to ensure better quality of food for their children.  There is a community website that encourages grass roots change nationwide in the U.S.
  3. With the Food Revolution truck, this mobile food classroom offers cooking classes
  4. Inspiring parents, caregivers, teachers and students to cook fresh meals and snacks on campus and throughout school district
  5. Within corporations, promoting a culture change: helping healthcare sectors to recognize the “investments” needed for better health in the future.  Also, providing employees the opportunity to learn essential cooking skills and fresher foods at canteens

What are you waiting for?!? There’s so many ways you can contribute to this revolution and be part of the change! Sign the global petition today! Learn more about this Revolution and how you can get involved today!

Photo Credit:Mazwo and Indiana Public Media


FNCE 2014!

By: Nikki Nies FNCE

I’m looking forward to October! Not only so I can officially wear scarves, but because it means we’re only days away from the Food and Nutrition Expo (FNCE)!  FNCE is an annual conference that brings together health professionals under one roof to learn, network and regroup! I’m lucky enough to go this year as it’s in Atlanta and my parents live in a nearby suburbs!

If you’re a budding dietitian and/or health professional, I recommend you go at least once.  The location is different on an annual basis, so wait until the conference is near you! For example, in 2015, FNCe will be Nashville, TN, closer anyone?

In case you’re interested in what sessions I’ll be attending, here’s a tentative schedule!

Objectives: Document patient progress and outcomes with the Nutrition Care Process Terminology (formerly IDNT) using the new ANHII software tool. Advance Nutrition Care Process Terminology documentation expertise within their area of practice in a hands-on documentation experience working with focused case studies in long-term care, pediatric care and adult acute care. Utilize ANDHII in their practice setting to facilitate documentation to more easily collect and measure patient care outcomes.
Time / Location: Saturday, October 18, 2014 from 11:30AM – 3:30PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B213-214
Objectives: Identify two key challenges affecting food and nutrition professionals . Develop action steps to address identified challenges to implement change. Identify two incentives to motivate colleagues to adopt problem solving techniques to solve your challenges .
Time / Location: Saturday, October 18, 2014 from 4:00PM – 6:00PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: Exhibit Hall B1
Objectives: Describe principles of sustainable, resilient and healthy food and water systems in the context of the new Standards of Professional Performance. Identify how hospitals, institutions and practitioners can advance healthy food and safe water systems. Demonstrate the benefits of a hospital food system that has successfully implemented sustainable food and water initiatives.
Time / Location: Sunday, October 19, 2014 from 8:00AM – 9:30AM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B302-305 Read
Objectives: Anticipate the nature of questions on the registration examination and the exam format. Effectively navigate the online registration, payment and scheduling to take the registration examination. Utilize key resources, such as the Study Guide for the Registration Examination, to successfully prepare to take the examination.
Time / Location: Sunday, October 19, 2014 from 10:00AM – 11:30AM Georgia WorldCongress Center / Room
Objectives: Recall one requirement of Section 4205 of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Define the challenges of implementing restaurant menu labeling. Define how nutrients are listed on menu boards in restaurants.
Time / Location: Sunday, October 19, 2014 from 1:30PM – 3:00PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B302-305
Objectives: Identify three career path options for RDNs not choosing to work in a hospital clinical setting. List a variety of career opportunities that RDN and DTR students can pursue when they graduate. Research alternative career paths using the Internet and by networking with contacts.
Time / Location: Sunday, October 19, 2014 from 1:30PM – 3:00PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B206
Objectives: Communicate the role of health economics research supporting the use of medical nutrition therapy as a cost-effective solution for improving patient outcomes and reducing hospital costs for the malnourished patient or those at risk for malnutrition. Identify effective clinical strategies for achieving interdisciplinary collaboration and incorporating nutrition protocols into the continuum of care. Provide EAL evidence-based nutrition practice guidelines to promote nutrition interventions to treat malnourished patients or those at risk for malnutrition in a timely manner.
Time / Location: Sunday, October 19, 2014 from 3:30PM – 5:00PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B401-402
Objectives: Describe the proven role of RDNs in providing nutrition and diabetes education in the home and assisting older adults set behavior goals that can positively impact their health. Identify how communities can work together to reduce hospitalizations and health care costs. Describe how advocacy results in improved health outcomes.
Time / Location: Monday, October 20, 2014 from 8:00AM – 9:30AM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B213-214
Objectives: Discuss the unique cultural and health beliefs as well as dietary practices among Chinese Americans. Identify evidence-based educational resources developed specifically for Asian Americans populations. Apply educational and counseling strategies to promote adherence to dietary and lifestyle recommendations among Chinese American clients.
Time / Location: Monday, October 20, 2014 from 8:00AM – 9:30AM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B207-208
Objectives: Describe historical background on previous guidelines and update on GRADE approach to literature review. Discuss highlights of the 2014 ASPEN/SCCM Nutrition in the Critical Care Patient. Explain how guidelines can be brought to the bedside in the ICU.
Time / Location: Monday, October 20, 2014 from 1:30PM – 3:00PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B102
Objectives: Describe national, state and local policies to improve foods and beverages in public places. List three common challenges and possible solutions experienced when trying to implement policies for healthy foods and beverages in public places. Cite three tips for successful implementation of nutrition guidelines for public places and workplaces and where to find helpful materials and resources.
Time / Location: Monday, October 20, 2014 from 3:30PM – 5:00PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B302-305
Objectives: Discuss the Expert Clinical Obesity Guidelines, their implications and preventative strategies. Explain the complexities of unsuccessful weight loss maintenance (WTLM) in 55+ women including behavioral issues, biological maladaptations, and physiological dysregulations. Translate current evidence-based WTLM behavioral and nutritional strategies into various healthcare settings.
Time / Location: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 from 8:00AM – 9:30AM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B312-314
Objectives: Discuss the state of childhood obesity worldwide and different public policy approaches implemented to overcome it. List the issues involved in adapting and implementing the KER International Campaign in other countries. Identify variables that should be taken into account to adapt the KER program, Energy Balance for Kids with Play, in a disadvantaged international environment.
Time / Location: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 from 9:45AM – 11:15AM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B213-214
Objectives: Describe the role of present health information technology standards and terminology in supporting nutrition data transmission across the care continuum. Depict the success of the IMPACT (Improving Massachusetts Post-Acute Care Transfer) Project and its role in development and support of template transmission standard. Illustrate practical use of the Nutrition Care Process (NCP) and NCP terminology (previously IDNT) to in electronic health records (EHR) with the intention of nutrition data following the patient across care settings.
Time / Location: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 from 12:00PM – 1:30PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B103
Objectives: Locate and utilize relevant resources for involvement in international nutrition and dietetics. Identify some of the diverse roles held by nutrition and dietetics professionals around the world. Explain specific steps needed for pursuing a career in international nutrition and dietetic
Time / Location: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 from 12:00PM – 1:30PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: B207-208
Objectives: Implement two new change management techniques Identify the key obstacles to change in team environments Develop personal techniques to manage change in unique work settings
Time / Location: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 from 2:00PM – 3:30PM Georgia World Congress Center / Room: Exhibit Hall B1
If you’re attending the conference as well and would like to meet up, don’t hesitate to contact me!  Additionally, what sessions have I missed that you think are “must” attend? I can’t wait to see old and new friends!

Nourish to Flourish



High Fiber Musts

By: Nikki Nies

High fiber diets are always tooted as a lifestyle must! What does high fiber mean, you ask? It means consuming a diet of at least 21-25 g of fiber for women and 30-38 grams of fiber for men.  If meal planning isn’t part of your daily routine, it’s easy to let the days go by and not fulfill the daily fiber recommendations.  Gradually increase your fiber intake as a quick surge in fiber can lead to bloating and gas.

The best way to consume a high fiber diet is to eat more foods that have a higher fiber content! Can you guess what tops the list of the highest fibrous foods per serving?


  1. Corn bran, raw: 1 oz.=22 g of fiber
  2. Navy beans or white beans: 1 cup=19 g of fiber
  3. Yellow beans, cooked: 1 cup=18 g of fiber
  4. Adzuki, French, or black turtle soup beans: 1 cup=17 g of fiber
  5. Split peas, cooked: 1 cup=16.3 g of fiber
  6. Kidney or cranberry beans: 1 cup=16.0 g of fiber 
  7. Mung or pinto beans: 1 cup=15 g of fiber high-fiber-diet
  8. Lentils, cooked: 1 cup=15.6 g of fiber
  9. Black beans: 1 cup=15.0 g of fiber
  10. Oat or wheat bran, raw: 1 oz.=12.0 g of fiber
  11. Lima beans: 1 cup=13.2 g of fiber
  12. Baked beans, vegetarian, canned, cooked:1 cup=10.4 g of fiber
  13. Artichoke, cooked: medium=10.3 g of fiber
  14. Green peas, cooked: 1 cup=8.8 g of fiber
  15. Raspberries: 1 cup=8 g of fiber

A high fiber diet + adequate fluid intake is the right combination for smoother digestion, lower one’s risk of obesity, heart disease and/or cancer.  Furthermore, since fiber isn’t digested, it moves through the body quickly, helping to aid in constipation.

Have you added more fiber into your daily diet?  What changes have you seen accompany these fibrous additions?


Healthy vs. Attractive Weight

By: Nikki Nies

Depending on one’s cultural and personal views, the perception of what’s healthy and attractive can or can not be synonymous. By medical standards, many Americans meet the criteria of overweight to obese.  Yet, critics of the BMI measurement state it is not always an accurate measurement of healthy and/or attractiveness.

A lot of critics suggest the lack of adequate nutrition in the Western diet has led to the current obesity epidemic, yet it seems some people are comfortable or sometimes prefer extra cushion or being “thick.”

Original Image by Kiran Foster via Flickr
Original Image by Kiran Foster via Flickr

A healthy lifestyle is subjective, but a standard measurement is how one’s lifestyle is linked to overall nutrition, obesity, physical activity and one’s risk for chronic diseases–heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  When looking at lifestyles, one’s cultural specificities of how food and fat operate in body according to class, gender and ethnicity, need to be evaluated as well. A study led by Lovejoy et al., 2001, found Black women tend to be more satisfied with their weight, size and appearance than their white counterparts.  A possible explanation for this difference may be the “afrocentric aesthetic”, which may allow blacks to resist mainstream beauty and that black men prefer larger women than white.

Healthy eating has been criticized due to the limiting consideration of food practices and has negatively played a role in the addition  of dieting.I’m not sure when the loathing of fat was introduced in American society, but it has had a double edged sword.  Being healthy promotes a healthy weight, but often times it’s mistaken as an attractive weight, yet healthy and attractive weight are not always the same thing.

With the cultural pressure to meet and remain a smaller size, it has led to body distortion, eating disorders and/or poor body image and self esteem.

Modern media has dictated what an attractive weight is, which isn’t always realistic.  “Penalities”for being overweight or obese is less severe for black women than white. While a person’s weight is part of the assessment of one’s physical appearance, it’s unfortunate that in our society so much emphasis and acknowledgement of weight is part of mainstream news and attention.  Physical attractiveness has been noted to help one’s prospects in the labor markets, in romantic relationships and throughout various face to face social interactions.

Although discrimination against weight can’t always be proved, it’s been widely scrutinized as responsible for social exclusion, public ridicule and the development of depression and/or isolation.


  1. Ali M, Rizzo J, Heiland F. Big and beautiful? Evidence of racial differences in the perceived attractiveness of obese females. Journal Of Adolescence [serial online]. June 2013;36(3):539-549. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 26, 2014.
  2. Kokkinos P. Nutrition and exercise: The safest way to health. Hellenic Journal Of Nutrition & Dietetics [serial online]. January 2011;2(1):19-22. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 26, 2014.
  5. Ristovski-Slijepcevic S, Bell K, Chapman G, Beagan B. Being ‘thick’ indicates you are eating, you are healthy and you have an attractive body shape: Perspectives on fatness and food choice amongst Black and White men and women in Canada. Health Sociology Review[serial online]. September 2010;19(3):317-329. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 26, 2014.

Sneaky Food Marketing Tactics to Kids

Trix are for kidsBy: Nikki Nies

In any activity, parents want their children to feel included.  Well, parents, you don’t have to worry about marketers excluding your children from their marketing campaigns.  Think about it, when’s the last time you saw Macintosh apples advertised on TV or those scrumptious blueberries announced on the radio?  Crazy thought, huh?

Still don’t believe me? I’ve got #’s to prove my point! The food industry spends an ANNUAL $1.6 billion on marketing foods to children.  And they say our country’s in a recession?  Well, now I know where the money is! Ok, all jokes aside.  To think the marketing campaign is within the billion’s is definitely hard to wrap my mind around. The major concern is what kinds of foods are being advertised.  If fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products were mainstream in food advertisements, I wouldn’t be arguing with $1.6 billion being spent on food marketing.  Yet, the $1.6 billion is spent on high sugar, fat and/or sodium foods.  Specifically, energy dense foods such as salty snacks, carbonated soft drinks, baked goods, sugary breakfast cereals, etc. As you may know from first hand experience, children are a great market to target as they influence parent’s food purchases.  Who can say no to Johnny pleading for the new fruit snacks with Diego on the packaging? Daily, children between the age of 2-17 years old, see on average 12-21 TV commercials for food products.

Food marketers to do a swell job making children think it’s fun and cool to eat unhealthy. Unfortunately, a lot of industries have their hands tied.  They receive the largest profits from unhealthy snacks even if they want to promote the healthy ones.  Now you may be wondering what you can do.  Take your kids outside and enjoy what mother nature gives us on a daily basis! Also, limiting unhealthy snacks to once in a while will eventually increase likelihood of children to not desire sugary sweets and beverages in the long run!


3rd Most Time Consuming Activity

watching-tv_0By: Nikki Nies

**Disclaimer: While this is a generalization that every one watches an abundant amount of TV, I myself included, while you may not spend an excessive amount of time watching TV, it’s still good to understand the ramifications of excessive TV watching.**

Besides work–which is predominantly behind a computer screen more than ever, and sleep, TV viewing is the 3rd most time consuming activity in which Americans engage in on a regular basis.  With such a statistic, it’s no surprise that large amounts  of TV viewing may contribute to obesity via the promotion of sedentary behavior and exposure to food related commercials.

While TV is convenient, enjoyable and relatively inexpensive, many families watch more TV than the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends.  AAP recommends no TV for those younger than 2 years old and no more than 2 hours for those 2 years and older.


Excessive TV watching can lead to:

  • Higher rates of attention problems in children
  • Children may become upset and/or aggressive by excessive violence seen on TV
  • TV watching may be unhealthily be used as a means to void social interaction with others
  • TV watching is a means of entertainment and leads to physical inactivity/physical development impairments
  • Increased food consumption–studies have found children consume 45% when sitting in front of the tube
  • Increased exposure to branded foods, drinks and restaurants and product placement of unhealthy products
  • Food marketing inherently influence food preferences and grocery shopping requests!

If you’re thinking to yourself, 2 hours of TV is an unrealistic request, small gradual changes can make a world of difference!  For example, making bedrooms Internet and TV free can cut the number of hours of screen in no time!

Check out this list of 174,203 things you can do besides watching TV:

After going through the above list, what new and/or old things are you going to try? After looking at the list, you can’t help, but NOT want to watch TV, right?


Metabolic Syndrome (MetS)

Original Image by U.S. Army via Flickr
Original Image by U.S. Army via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Metabolic syndrome is not an actual syndrome, but a cluster of risk factors that can raise one’s chances of heart disease, diabetes and/or stroke.  While, the name may be misleading, it’s called metabolic syndrome due to the impact the risk factors have on one’s biochemical processes and the ability for one’s body to function normally.  Other common names for MetS include Syndrome X, Obesity syndrome, insulin resistance syndrome, hypertriglyceridimic waist and/or dysmetabolic syndrome.

While one can have only one of the following risk factors, it’s common for someone to encounter multiple risk factors simultaneously.  One’s considered to have metabolic syndrome if at least 3/5 risk factors pertain to them:

  1. Large waistline:  Also known as “apple shape”; with abdominal obesity, excess fat in the abdominal area increases chances of heart disease, then on hips; for men: 40 inches or larger; for women: 35 inches or larger
  2. High triglyceride levels:  Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood; or if you’re already on triglyceride medications; 150 mg/dL or higher
  3. Low HDL cholesterol level:  When low HDL levels are low, it means the cholesterol from arteries isn’t being removed at ideal rate;for men: 40 mg/dL or lower; for women: 50 mg/dL or lower
  4. High blood pressure: With high blood pressure over time, it can damage the heart and lead to plaque buildup; blood pressure of 135/85 mm Hg or higher
  5. High fasting blood sugar:  Can signify early diabetes; 100 mg/dL or higher

For those living with MetS, it can lead to diabetes, yet the follow recommendations for those with MetS may help:

Original Image by Department of Foreign Affairs via Flickr
Original Image by Department of Foreign Affairs via Flickr
  • Increase  physical activity: while it may be hard at first, start by walking 5 minutes a day and increase time gradually; it’s doctor recommended to do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily
  • Losing 5-10% of your body weight can make a world of difference! It can decrease blood pressure, insulin resistance and one’s risk for diabetes
  • Adopting the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or Mediterranean diet can help one eat healthier: limits intake of unhealthy fats, while highlighting whole grains, high intake of fruits and vegetables and low sodium foods
  • Stop smoking!: Smoking increases one’s insulin resistance and
  • If prescribed, don’t forget to necessary medications to help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels

The more risk factors one has, for example, 4/5 risk factors, the more likely one will develop heart disease and or develop diabetes than someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.  While the above risk factors are often looked at as indicators of heart disease, they’re not the sole risk factors, physical inactivity, smoking, insulin resistance, age and gender can also play a role in one’s heart health.  With 35% of the American adults with MetS, be proactive and talk to your physician.


The Financial Toll of Excess Weight


By: Nikki Nies

I was recently at a neighbor’s house, perusing her Money magazine that was laying on her coffee table.  I’m always up to hear the latest tips on money, yet I wasn’t expecting to read an article on obesity in money magazine.  Yet, there it was, in Money magazine, there was an article called The Economics of Fat to Thin.  With more than 2/3 of Americans overweight or obese, of course, I had to read it.

Some scary statistics, such as:

  • According to the U.S. Center for Disease and Control and Prevention, being obese elevates the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer
  • Annually costs the government an additional $450 billion
  • An overweight person tend to consume more calories, with added costs of an additional $90 billion a year
  • Employers and employees pay a higher life insurance premium; pay out more for  those who are overweight or obese for workers’ compensation
  • The obese spend 42% more on medical care article-2531797-1A5C3A8800000578-940_634x366
  • 77% more on medications than those with healthy weights
  • May spend 48% more on hospital stays
  • The severely obese will have an additional $3000-$10000 in medical costs
  • Obese earn up to 6% less than their thinner counterparts
  • The obese are 1.7 times more likely than leaner peers to take 7 or more sick days
  • “Plus size” and “big and tall” clothes are often more expensive since they require more fabric
  • May need to pay for an additional plane ticket for 2 seats
  • Excess weight can result in decreased fuel efficiency, every 100 lbs could lessen miles per gallon by up to 2% stated by US Energy Department
  • The morbidly obese may deduct 8-10 years from their life span
  • Those with BMI above 30 have 50-100% increased risk of premature death compared to those with healthy weigh

I liked this article because I wasn’t expecting it from  Money magazine.  Their in depth evaluation and impact of excess weight on one’s wallet is eye opening and provides an eye opening additional angle on the problems people can avoid by living a healthier life.