Making Matcha Tea

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Jigme Datse Rasku via Flickr
Original Image by Jigme Datse Rasku via Flickr

In an article written by Kristen Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, she discusses the 15 Foods to Add to Your Diet in 2015. Since I’m always interested in learning about the latest food trends and current recommendations, I had to learn more! The first food listed was matcha tea. While, I’m a fan of green tea ice cream, which contains matcha powder, the health benefits of matcha tea has eluded me. Therefore, today we’ll be discussing matcha!

Matcha tea, also spelled as maccha, is finely milled or fine powder green tea. This type of tea derives from Japan, ubiquitously present in tea ceremonies. Prior to the milling of matcha tea, it’s shaded for at least a month to increase chlorophyll production. The entire tea leaf is used, with increased chlorophyll content found in matcha tea is exorbitantly healthier than water that is brewed and diluted from a tea bag or strainer.

Original Image by Rowan Robinson via Flickr
Original Image by Rowan Robinson via Flickr

To obtain all the benefits of matcha tea, opt to keep it plain. It naturally contains vitamin C, potassium, iron and fiber. Additionally, it can boost one’s metabolism, fights against bacteria and virus, does not raise insulin levels and does not raise one’s heart rate or blood pressure. 10 glasses of green tea is equivalent to 1 glass of matcha tea. When one adds milk to matcha tea, it slightly decreases catechin, which is an antioxidant rich component of cancer fighting properties.

Presently, matcha is commonly used to add flavor and dye to foods–mochi, soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi, a confectionary sugar, yet in its purest form, as tea, one can obtain optimal benefits!  The flavor of matcha tea can vary, depending on the strength of the amino acids used.

What’re you waiting for? Put down the black, jasmine and oolong tea and get yourself some matcha!


Healthy Pasta Alternatives

Original Image by Eden, Janine and Jim via Flickr
Original Image by Eden, Janine and Jim via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Love the taste of pasta, yet struggle to eat a balanced diet?  Switch up your meals with healthier pasta options and pair with your favorite vegetables and seasonings.Whether you’re trying to limit your refined carbohydrates and/or increase  whole grains and vegetable intake, by making some small changes, you can still enjoy some great tasting dishes!

Healthy Pasta Alternatives

  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Black bean spaghetti
  • Broccoli Slaw
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Soybean pasta
  • Sprouted wheatgrass
  • Farro pasta
  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Soba Noodles
  • Shirataki Noodles
Cauliflower Alfredo Pasta Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves:8Ingredients:

  • 3 small heads cauliflower
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ c. heavy cream
  • 1 cup boiling water
  1. Chop cauliflower. Bring vegetable broth to a boil over medium-high heat and add cauliflower.  Cook until cauliflower is soft, ~15 minutes.
  2. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute 4-5 minutes or until soft.
  3. Transfer cauliflower to a blender with about 2 cups of broth. Add sautéed garlic, salt, nutmeg and black pepper and puree until smooth .Stream olive oil into blender and add more broth or water if too thick.
  4. When smooth, transfer back to butter/garlic skillet and add cream over low heat
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Make It Yours: Cauliflower is an underutilized food in the kitchen, yet you should always have it on hand! Besides using as a healthy pasta alternative, use cauliflower to make pizza crust, cauliflower mash, replace chicken, cauliflower rice burrito bowl, cauliflower mac and cheese, cauliflower tots, cauliflower breads rolls, cauliflower calzones and/or baked breaded cauliflower “mozzarella” sticks.

Health Benefits of cauliflower:

Original Image by dollen via Flickr
Original Image by dollen via Flickr
  • Rich in fiber, which helps stay full longer and eases digestion
  • Folate rich to form red blood cells
  • Rich in vitamin C, which protects the immune system during cold and flu season
  • Rich in vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting
  • Full of potassium, which helps regulated blood pressure
  • Good source of manganese, which helps nerves function properly
  • Increases HDL cholesterol—“good” cholesterol à reduces risk of stroke
  • Has anti carcinogenic effects—antioxidant rich
  • Helps unborn babies develop properly
  • Low calorie
  • Fat free
  • Vegetarian source of omega 3 fatty acids
  • Improves healthy cell growth
  • Assists with kidney and bladder disorders
  • Blood and liver detoxifier

Customizing Pasta Alternatives: Now that you’ve ventured out and tried non grain pasta, don’t stop there! Add more color, flavor and nutrients to your meal with the addition of your favorite vegetables and seasonings: asparagus, broccoli or broccoli rabe, spinach, arugula, mushrooms, limes, carrots, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, corn, artichokes, pesto, garlic and/or onions.

What’re your favorite pasta add ins? Suggestions for how to make regular dishes more exciting?

Sprouting Grains-Way Better. Pun Intended

By: Nikki Nies WayBetterSnacks4

I recently attended a Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics dinner meeting, where the chic, Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RD, CDE, provided valuable information on the benefits of sprouted grains, friendly suggestions on how to conduct a food demo and provided some yummy samples of Way Better chips! As a non-chip eater, even I couldn’t stop eating them!  While the line of Way Better chips is naturally healthier, the great news is flavor hasn’t been discarded!

Want the low down? These chips are gluten free, omega 3 rich, trans fat free, no high fructose corn syrup, whole grains, low in sodium, no MSG and antioxidant rich!  How are these chips different than regular Lays or Doritos? These chips derive from sprouted grains!

sprouted-bread1While there is no standard scientific definition of “sprouted” grains, it may be interesting to learn how different companies, corporations and councils define “sprouted grains.” Grains are the seeds of certain plants, particularly cereal grasses.  The three parts of grains–bran, germ and endosperm are crucial for the creation of new plants.  Until the plant is fully developed–with all three parts of the plant grown to capacity, built in growth inhibitors are used to prevent the plant from germinating.  Once sprouting begins, these inhibitors are no longer needed and the long term storage starch is converted to smaller molecules to be digested.  Sprouted grains are a combination of seed and growth of a new plant, therefore, they reap the benefits of both worlds–encompassing whole grain benefits + easily digestable!

Potential Benefits:

  • Increases the bioavailability of vitamin C and other minerals
    Have lower amounts of anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of nutrients like minerals and can cause harm
  • Protein and fiber rich
  • Sprouted brown rice can help fight fatigue in nursing mothers, depression and/or diabetes and reduce cardiovascular risk
  • Sprouted buckwheat can help fight fatty liver disease
  • Sprouted barley may reduce hypertension
  • Sprouted sorghum enhances taste and is the best vehicle for sorghum nutrient composition
  • Reduces the amount of gluten consumed, which is an increasing concern
  • Allows nutrients to be more accessible to body and are more digestible

Sprouting is a science.  There needs to be the right amount of moisture, temperature and time for the germination process.  If such conditions aren’t met, this can lead to the preventative condition,e. coli! So, when considering sprouted grains, be sure to be mindful of best practices and needs.  Whether you opt to buy packaged sprouted grains, cook sprouted grains as side dishes, or bake with sprouted grain flour, there is a way to incorporate more sprouted grains in your life!

If you’re interested in presenting information on sprouted grains, the Whole Grain Council has graciously created and shared a free powerpoint! Download the file today! Additionally, mark your calendars for April, as April’s Sprouted Grain Month and grab your own bag of Way Better chips!

Photo Credit: Cook Eat Delicious and Daily Baby Steps to Healthy Living 


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4th of July

73746512617699055_nJZmwufD_fBy: Nikki Nies

Happy early 4th of July! I know you’re prepping for the family BBQs and gathering of friends.  We Dish Nutrition couldn’t help ourselves, but join in the the festivities as well! As a time for celebration of this great nation, there’s no better way to celebrate than with some hearty, yet fresh foods.

Healthy options:

  • Meat: when choosing which meats to grill or BBQ, opting for the lighter colored meats such as skinless chicken breast.  135-46392-crop_mg_1736-1372111761Not only is this a great lean protein, but also packed with B6 and niacin
  • Take it Easy on the BBQ Sauce:It can easily add up in calories and fat.  To be safe, sticking to no more than 2 T of BBQ sauce is ~45 calories, 254 mg of sodium and 8 g of sugar
  • A refreshing treat, such as the Fruity Ice Drinks are not only patriotic, but antioxidant rich too!
  • Don’t be shy with mustard and ketchup: As a great flavor enhancer, mustard contains no calories, fat or cholesterol; yet it’s worth noting that 1 teaspoon contain 60 mg of sodium. Ketchup’s rich in lycopene–an antioxidant that protects against free radicals, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.
  • Grab an ear of corn!: One ear provides 3-4 g of fiber, 130 kcal and is packed with B vitamins and beta carotene.  Perhaps, use the corn in a Corn Salad or to make my personal favorite, corn muffins!
  • Fill up on watermelon! While having a cookie or two is reasonable, if you’re still craving something sweet, eating 1 cup of watermelon  contains vitamin A and C and has great anti-cancer effects
  • Show your patriotic side by loading up on “red”, “white” and “blue/purple” foods: It’s not a coincidence that during the summer there are great antioxidant foods that just so happens to be part of our patriotic flag.  Grab some “in season” strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, cherries, tomatoes, cabbage, and red peppers.  The blue/purple foods contain flavonoids and anthocyanidins, which are provide antiinflammatory and neurological protection.  Check out blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, plums and beets.  You’re often told to stay away from refined grains and sugar, but cauliflower, onions, garlic, mushrooms, bananas, and white varieties of peaches, nectarines and grapes are the often overlooked “white” foods that are great for one’s circulatory system and bone health due to their indole rich properties.

With the official kick off to the summer, sorry Memorial Day, remember, 4th of July is a great day to celebrate independence! Enjoy the holiday weekend!


Nutrition for Cancer Patients

rainbowBy: Nikki Nies

Based on the American Institute for Cancer Research 2007 Guidelines for Nutrition and Cancer Prevention, a healthful diet and regular bouts of exercise can promote health and help reduce risk of the development of another cancer.  Since cancer can impact’s one appetite, it’s important to make sure you’re consuming an adequate amount of calories, protein and fluid. By using the below suggestions when deciding what to prepare for yourself or a loved one, it may help ease treatment and/or recovery.

Suggestions for healthy eating:

  • Fill up on plant based foods! Opt for legumes instead of meat some times of the week (i.e. dried beans or peas)
  • Try to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables–color contains phytochemicals, which are health promoting substances
  • Choose high fiber foods, such as whole wheat bread and grains daily
  • Limit intake of animal fats, choose lower fat cooking techniques, such as grilling or baking and use low fat milk and/or dairy
  • Limit intake of smoked, cured and pickled foods
  • Moderate alcohol consumption
  • During meals,limit intake of fluids with meals as fluids can cause someone to feel fuller quicker and lead to decreased energy intake.  It may help to drink fluids 1/2 hour before or after meals
  • If strong smells cause irritation, perhaps, try cold foods as they often don’t have as strong of a smell; i.e. pasta salad, tuna, sandwiches
  • Avoid spicy or strong flavored foods if needed
  • Eat small, frequent meals every 1-2 hrs. if tolerable
  • Take your medication with high calorie fluids
  •  No matter the time of day, encourage eating

While cancer research continues to make new developments on a regular basis, make sure to do your part in living as healthy of a life as possible!


Spanish Food Staples

mexicanBy: Nikki Nies

As the ethnic diversity of this nation  evolves, it’s important to stay on top of what people are buying as well what’s being sold in stores.  To ignore such trends limits one’s ability to connect to the masses and inhibits one’s ability to provide the best counseling and ed possible. The American census continues to grow, with Spanish American cuisine permeating through New Mexico to New York.  This type of food is also demanded by the American population.  With a rich history from the beginning of time, many Spanish Americans stay true to their family and cultural traditions to this day.  Many of the dishes made to this day have been passed down from past generations, with Goya products a necessary product on hand. I admit it’s not fair to clump all Hispanic cuisines together, there are some commonalities that can’t be denied.

To provide the best overview of such food staples, it only made sense to provide all information that one might encounter in an ethnic restaurant or within a Spanish community.

Food Description Use
Achiote Paste (Recado Rojo) Rust colored flavorful paste; made from the annatto seed; can substitute achiote oil for paste; originally a Mayan blend  seasoning for meat and vegetables
Avocado/Guacamole Can be mild, medium or spicy; can be smooth or chunky; can include mayo or not As condiment or dip
Beans Up to 20% of bean can be composed of proteins; easily grown; inexpensive; plentiful—can be used in a side dish or main dish Can be cooked with onions; epazote, pork crackling; frijoles puercos (“pig beans”); frijoles charros (“ranch style beans”); can be boiled or refried
Chayote Prickly fruit of chayotera; delicate, almost sweet flavor; Sweet and savory dishes; cooked with raisins, sugar, cinnamon and butter; can be eaten with salt and topped with cream cheese
Chiles 6 varieties; generally has high vitamin C content; diuretic, appetite stimulant and to cure some skin infections Can be stuffed and used as a main dish
Mexican Chorizo Spicy pork sausage
Maize/Corn Large grain plant domesticated by indigenous people; leafy stalk Used for tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, tortillas; tamales
Mamey Red, smooth, sweet and delicate pulp An excellent oil to nourish hair
Papaya Firm flesh; yellow with delicate aroma and flavor
Pepper Can be sweet, tangy or spicy Most common: bell peppers; also use jalapeno, habanero, poblano or serrano
Queso Fresco Fresh Mexican cheese with crumbly texture; slightly acidic flavor
Tamarind Pods Tropical fruit; similar to lemon or lime juice For sweet and sour taste
Tomatillo Tart flavor; neighbor of gooseberry Chillaquilles
Tortillas Flat bread often made from f corn or flour Used in enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos, burritos; often warmed to make soft
Zapote Soft, red paste consistency; aromatic; with intense flavor Smoothies


While I had to research staples, what foods have I missed?  What are some foods that you keep in your pantry or use in your dishes?


Equipping Your Kitchen with Mexican Staples

Nonstarchy Vegetables

By: Nikki Nies

 Eating your fruits and veggies is highly emphasized.  However, to make it more complicated, there’s more than one type of vegetables. Starchy versus non starchy vegetables makes it more complicated in regards to what should be eaten and how much.

While not all vegetables are alike, it’s important to know the difference as differences dictate nutritional value and is especially important if you’re tracking your carb intake.  As their name implies, nonstarchy vegetables do not contain as much starch as starchy vegetables. A key feature of nonstarchy vegetables is their low calorie content and carbohydrate density.  Therefore, nonstarchy vegetables are recommended in unlimited

As stated, nonstarchy vegetables are a great way to manage type II diabetes. Since they have a low impact on blood sugar. Specifically, nonstarchy vegetables include asparagus, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, beans, brussel sprouts, beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber,eggplant, fenugreek, okra, onions, pepper, radishes, soybean, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, water chestnuts and/or zucchini.

These great vegetables are packed with vitamin A, C, K, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants. In addition, by using different cooking techniques, you’ll never get bored of these vegetables (i.e. grilling to being used in Asian flavors or meditaranean).

I know it may seem that nutrition tips are always highlighting what can’t be eaten or what needs to be restricted, but nonstarchy vegetables should not be included in such limitations.


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.