By: Emily Martinez-Maria, USJ Dietetic Intern 17’

I had the chance to attend FNCE 2016 with my dietetic internship class this past
October! On top of being a great place to get free samples of everything imaginable and more, I actually learned a lot. There was one talk in particular that stood up to me: “Diet, Supplements and Cancer Therapy: What should we tell our patients?” by Dr. Abrams and Mary Marian, DrN. During the talk they described some of the recent nutrition therapies currently used to treat cancer patients. Dr. Abrams mentioned a diet I was not very familiar with, the alkaline diet.
I found out this diet has been in the media for a few years and has been followed by
celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow and recently, Kelly Ripa. So, what do these celebs do or have done to follow this diet?1

The Basics…
In the pH scale from 0 to 14, anything that falls below 7 is considered an acid and
anything above 7 is considered a base. The alkaline diet increases the intake of basic or alkaline-forming foods and reduces the intake of highly acidic-forming foods, or the foods commonly seen in the regular diet that some or most Americans follow! The alkaline diet eating patterns decrease the amount of acid the body has to process, making it less stressful for a few organ systems.2
When following this diet, foods are categorized as positive or negative potential
renal acid loads (PRALs), or in simple words, foods that have an effect on the kidneys and the acid levels in the urine. Alkaline-forming foods have negative PRALs scores and acid forming foods have positive PRALs scores. Surprisingly enough, the food’s ability to alkalize in the body does not depend on the actual pH of food, therefore even though citrus fruits are seen as acidic foods they actually have an alkalizing effect in the body. 3 If a person’s health needs some improvement, the diet recommends 80% of the foods to be alkaline-forming foods or having negative PRALs scores, and 20% or less to be acid-forming foods or having positive PRALs scores for diet balance and digestion. To maintain health, the diet recommends 60% alkaline-forming foods and 40% acid-forming foods.

The Diet…
Some Alkaline friendly foods 3






Some Acid forming foods 3


The Research…
There has been some research done to observe possible relationships between
following an alkaline diet and health benefits. Some results suggest that the body creates a basic environment when following an alkaline diet and that this type of environment may improve the effectiveness of some types of chemotherapy treatments but not others when treating cancer. However there is no evidence that supports the benefit of an alkaline diet and cancer prevention.2 Other research suggest there is also no evidence that supports the association between the alkaline diet and bone health, even though an alkaline diet reduces the amount of calcium lost through the urine.4 Therefore there is no current strong evidence supporting the alkaline diet when treating certain diseases.



Even though there is not a lot of research connecting the diet to benefits when preventing or treating some diseases, the diet follows good guidelines such as eating mostly plant-based foods, including a lot of fruits and veggies, limiting the amount of
low biological value protein, avoiding processed, high-fat, and low fiber foods. These recommendations can also be seen in some of the nutritional guidelines published for the general public and disease prevention.5,6 As a dietetic intern I have to say that moderation is key to ©DrCynthia.com find the right balance in your diet and I personally wouldn’t recommend following any extreme diet if you are an overall healthy individual. Instead of minimizing or avoiding the consumption of protein from animal sources, I would recommend increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables and other plant-based foods to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies.

Now let’s see, how BASIC do you really are?!
Where did I get my facts?
1. Duerson, Meena Hart. “I Tried the Alkaline Diet and Here’s What Happened.”
TODAY.com. Today, 12 Aug. 2016. Web.
2. Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. “The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH
Diet Benefits Health?” Journal of Environmental and Public Health (2012): 1-8. Web.
3. “The Acid Alkaline Balance Diet.” AcidAlkalineDiet.net. The Acid Alkaline Association.
4. Hanley, David A, and Susan J Whiting. “Does A High Dietary Acid Content Cause Bone
Loss, and Can Bone Loss Be Prevented With an Alkaline Diet?” Journal Of Clinical
Densitometry: The Official Journal of The International Society For Clinical
Densitometry 16.4 (2013): 420-425. Medline. Web.
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Disease Prevention and
Health Promotion. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed.
6. American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and
Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. (2012). Web.

Why You Should Buy Chia Seeds and How to Incorporate Them into Your Diet by Haley Lemieux, USJ, Dietetic Intern


I’m sure we all remember the days of Chia Pets. Everyone wanted the little clay statue modeled after a cartoon or famous person that would eventually sprout green “hair.” It was a major hit and every kid and even adults had to have one. At the time most people didn’t know the many health benefits that those tiny little seeds provide! Within the last few years chia seeds have risen to the top of the market in the health industry. Who would have thought that they would make a come back? This time it’s not just to grow a plant.


As we have probably all heard, chia seeds have a lot to offer. Let’s check out just a few of the many benefits in this super food:

First, chia seeds contain fiber.  A 1 tablespoon (15 grams) serving contains 4 grams of fiber. People often lack the proper amount of fiber in their diet, so adding chia seeds is a great way to get in some extra fiber! 1 tablespoon is a very manageable portion size to get all these added health benefits!

Next, one serving also contains 3 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbohydrate and 5 grams of fat. These little seeds are very macro-nutrient dense for just 80 calories! The average consumer may think 5 grams of fat for a little serving of seeds? Who wants to waste some of their daily fat intake on that small portion?! Don’t fear, it’s healthy fat! Chia seeds are loaded with omega 6’s (fatty acids the body can produce) and omega 3’s (essential fatty acids that must come from your diet!) Omega 3’s have many benefits such as reducing inflammation, reducing triglyceride levels and even have shown some positive effects against depression and anxiety.

Chia seeds also contain many vitamins and minerals. They provide calcium, copper, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. They also have vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E and vitamin D. Chia seeds also include other minerals such as iron, magnesium, iodine, sulfur, niacin and thiamine. They are also rich in antioxidants.


Pick a bag up in your local grocery store today!

There versatility makes it super easy to incorporate into your daily diet! Here’s eight different ways to start adding them to your diet:

  1. Oatmeal- Mix them right into your daily bowl of oatmeal for some extra fiber and protein. They add a lot of volume too! Simply stir them into your oats while cooking. They will absorb up some of the water and a little bit of a gelatinous texture will develop. You can also soak them in water to aid in digestion.
  2. Smoothies- Blend them into your smoothie or throw a pinch on top after you pour it into a glass! That’s one of the great things about chia seeds- they can be mixed into foods without even noticing they are there very easily, so if you aren’t necessarily a fan of having tiny seeds in your food, you can easily blend them in without even knowing they are there!
  3. Salads- Toss some chia seeds into your salad without taking away from the other flavors and adding some extra texture and crunch! You can also try making your own dressing and throwing some in that as well!
  4. Yogurt- Mix in some chia seeds and top with fresh fruit and a drizzle of peanut butter for a macronutrient balanced snack or meal! Add some granola and you’ve got a delicious parfait.
  5. Pudding- Chia seed pudding is another recently popular item. You can buy individual containers at the grocery store or make your own. There are tons of recipes out there- get creative with your flavors and combinations!
  6. Granola and Bars- A lot of granolas and bars contain chia seeds, or if you want to get creative you can make your own. Be sure to watch the amount of sugar in store bought products, and always read the labels to know what is in the products you’re buying.
  7. Muffins and Breads- Chia seeds can easily be added into the batter of any baked good! Banana bread with chia seeds- delicious!
  8. Jam- Making homemade jam is extremely easy, so what’s one more simple step to add in a bunch of nutrients?


Try out some of these easy and fun ways to incorporate chia seeds into your diet today


The holiday season is approaching. You are thinking to yourself, how can I continue to have a healthy mind and body while indulging in all the festive food? Many times are eyes can be larger than our stomachs.



Eat light snacks while preparing for your party or holiday lunch/dinner so that when mealtime arrives, you do not over-indulge. Have fruits, vegetables and nuts available to you and guests to munch on prior to the meal.



If you plan to make leftovers for guests to take home, separate those foods once you finish making each item. Put the leftovers in to-go containers. This tactic may prevent you from continuing to go back for seconds and thirds and leave you with no leftovers.

When all the food is presented at once, take a look around. Only take what you love and include fruits and vegetables on your plate to keep a balanced meal.


You can modify any recipe to be lower in fat, sugar and calories. For example, if you usually love to include a baked yam dish, add roasted Brussel sprouts, cranberries, shredded almonds and any of your other favorite vegetables to the dish.

  • Exchange half the butter with an oil such as canola or olive.
  • Use low-fat or fat free milk and cheese when cooking or baking
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor your dishes.
  • Include whole grains, use whole grain bread crumbs to make stuffing!
  • Remove the skin from the turkey.



Remember, holidays are for family, friends and conversation. The food is an added delicious piece. Try to enjoy your environment and people you are with. When you are engaged in good conversation, your focus will shift more toward your company and the food will be secondary.


Probably not on the day of the holiday, but include physical activity during the holiday season. An average American eats about 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving which is 1 ½ pounds gained in one meal.1 Your goal should be to maintain your current weight through the holiday season! Walk, job, exercise classes, DVDs, youtube or on-demand workouts etc.


Eat slower to give your body time to signal to you when you are satiated.

Reduce or avoid sugary drinks or alcoholic beverages to lower your intake of empty calories.


Marshall M. Calculate the Holiday Season’s Extra Calories | Huffington … Calculate the Holiday Season’s Extra Calories. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-marshall/calculate-the-holiday-sea_b_6142204.html. Published November 13, 2014. Accessed October 9, 2016.

Blog written by Jessica Mirkin, USJ, Dietetic Intern


Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a time for family, friends, delicious home cooked meals and for some…anxiety. Anxiety over sticking to one’s health and wellness goals while still enjoying favorite drinks, dishes and desserts.

Thankfully, there are many ways to navigate the holidays in a healthy way and still celebrate this time of year.We spoke with a few Registered Dietitians and asked what their best advice and tips are for individuals who are trying to maintain their wellness goals.

Ellen Liskov, RD, MPH, CDE – Outpatient Nutrition Specialist and President, Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Even if you ate poorly for a meal or two, let it go and get back on track right away.  Never say “I’ll get back on track on Monday”.  Every meal and snack counts- there are no good or bad days.

Kaycie Lindeman, RDN, LD – Clinical Dietitian, Minnesota: I love the holiday season for so many reasons – spending time with family, enjoying delicious food dishes, and slowing down to be thankful for my surroundings! The last thing I’d want is for stressors surrounding diet and weight to get in the way of enjoying all those things. My healthy holiday approach is:
1) Bring the healthy dish to the party! There are always so many snack items at the party, so I usually keep it simple – a vegetable tray with a delicious yogurt dip or fruit kabobs. Best part? I’ve never come home with leftovers!
2) Keep it simple during the holiday season – focus on the nutrition basics. The holiday season is not the time to introduce new, unrealistic (or extreme) nutrition goals.
3) Most importantly, focus on the people that surround you and the fun to be had. The food should be there to complement your day, not be the focus of the day.

Haley Goodrich, RD, LDN – Owner at INSPIRD Nutrition Consulting, Pennsylvania:
It’s about approaching the meal with a different mindset. Instead of being focused on this wonderful time of year with people you love, we are focused on the anticipated binge. Stick to your normal eating pattern, don’t skip meals in anticipation, slow down and enjoy each bite. You will probably eat half as much and be twice as satisfied.

Jacie Johnson, RD – Clinical Dietitian, Washington: Holidays are a time to enjoy your family and friends, but also those favorite foods! Keep in mind appropriate portions, but don’t feel like you have to deprive yourself. There are no rules saying you can’t take a few bites from each thing on the menu, or choose a few of your favorites to enjoy. You can continue to be successful with your goals, while still enjoying those holiday favorites!”

Rebecca Iselin, RD – ConnecticutKeep active. Eat a small high protein, high fiber snack before going to a party. Pick 1-2 of your favorite holiday appetizer, dessert or drink at a party and enjoy without any guilt!

Katie Emery, RD, LDN – Clinical Dietitian, Pennsylvania: Here are my tips for surviving the holidays:
1) Don’t show up to the meal starving. Have a good breakfast (or lunch) before the main meal to keep yourself from overeating.
2) Drink plenty of water before and after the meal. Being dehydrated can make you feel hungry, so make sure you are hydrated.
3) Use a smaller serving plate! Trick your brain into thinking you have more on your plate than you actually do.
4) Stop eating when you are full, listen to your body’s fullness and hunger cues. To help with this, eat slowly, focus on chewing and enjoying each bite, this will help to keep you from overeating. Before heading in for seconds give yourself at least 20 minutes, that is about the time it takes for your brain and your stomach to catch up to each other.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Connecticut Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!

In honor of National Nut Day tomorrow, we are putting a spotlight on this plant-based, nutrient-dense, protein-packed, (healthy) fat-rich food group.


Homemade walnut and almond granola over yogurt

Deemed one of the “Hottest Nutrition Trends of 2016” by Today’s Dietitian, nuts aren’t leaving our plates anytime soon. They have evolved from a party snack to a variety of flavorful butters, milks and “flours”. Nuts often serve as the foundational ingredient for many of our favorite, plant-based dishes. Pulverized almonds are a wonderful flour substitute for gluten-free baked goods; toasted walnuts compliment a favorite salad and blended cashews serve as the base for a rockin’, vegan buffalo dip.

Why eat nuts? Most nuts contain: some type of unsaturated (healthy) fat, fiber, vitamin E, arginine, protein and plant sterols. Over the years research studies have shown that nut consumption has beneficial effects on heart health (improved lipid profiles) and may help to moderately control blood sugar levels as well as aid in weight management (when substituted with nutrient poor foods).

Aside from the traditional peanut, there are many types of nuts (ex: almond, peanuts, cashews, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, macadamia, Brazil nuts), which often carry different health benefits. For example, almonds are quite fiber-rich while Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium.

It is recommended to try a variety of nuts, but be mindful of the portion size. As beneficial as nuts can be, they are still calorie dense. Recommended portions depend on the type of nut. For example, one portion size of pistachios is around 45 pieces while one portion of almonds is around 22 pieces.

How can I incorporate nuts into my daily meal plan? Nuts are so much more versatile than we once thought.  If you’re a purist at heart, enjoy a handful of roasted, unsalted, mixed nuts in between meals. Looking to get creative? Use peanut butter as a sauce base or crushed pistachios for a crusted fish dish. Make your own macadamia nut milk for a rich and aromatic addition to your morning coffee. There are endless options for the creative chef!

Flours – almond, pecan, hazelnut, walnut and chestnut

Milks – almond, cashew, hazelnut and pistachio

Butters – peanut, almond, cashew, macadamia, walnut and pistachio


Banana almond meal muffins


Our featured recipe is perfect for a National Nut Day:

Super-Seedy Granola Bars 

by Alexandra Caspero, MS, RD

These grab-and-go bars are packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats. Cover them with plastic wrap to store in the fridge or freezer for a quick, portable snack.


  • [125 grams] 1½ cups quick-cooking oats
  • [55 grams] ½ cup sliced almonds
  • [35 grams] ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • [35 grams] 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • [40 grams] ¼ cup hemp seeds
  • [3 grams] 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • [3 grams] ½ teaspoon salt
  • [240 grams] 1 cup unsalted peanut butter
  • [170 grams] ½ cup (120 milliliters) honey
  • [4 grams] 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract


  1. Line a 9-by-9-inch square pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap with enough overhang for easy removal.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract until very smooth.
  4. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, stir until evenly combined.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Using the back of a wooden spoon or an offset spatula, firmly press the mixture evenly into the pan.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
  7. Gently lift the parchment or plastic overhang to remove from pan and slice into 16 bars.
  8. Enjoy immediately or wrap individual bars in plastic wrap or parchment paper and place in a freezer-safe bag to store in the fridge or freezer. Serves 16.

Cooking Notes

  • If using old-fashioned oats, pulse oats a few times in a food processor to break up the texture.
  • If using salted peanut butter, use only ¼ teaspoon salt.

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 1 bar (45 grams)



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Back to school for many signifies cooler weather, updated school supplies and brand new routines. It may also mark a good time to introduce new practices to support better health. One way in which we can better support our health is by incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our snacks and lunches. Based on the MyPlate model, adults and children alike should aim to fill half their plate with vegetables and fruits. Eating more fruits and vegetables means an increased intake in fiber, essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. It may also mean a reduction in the risk of developing chronic diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.

The month of September is Fruits and Veggies More Matters Month. Fruits and Veggies More Matters is a health initiative, created by the Produce for Better Health Foundation.  Produce for Better Health (PBH) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote an increased daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. PBH along with the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance Steering Committee developed Fruits and Veggies More Matters to support the recommendations outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Fruits and Veggies More Matters serves as a useful resource for individuals and families looking to diversify their recipes and focus in on better nutrition daily. Their website provides meal plans (budget friendly), recipes, shopping tips and community resources.

Whether you are a veteran produce eater or a novice, there are many ways to add a serving of fruit or vegetables (or both) to your plate.

10 ways to increase fruit and vegetable intake in the new academic year:

  1. Try “Meatless Mondays
  2. Instead of a pre-packaged brownie for dessert, try half  of a banana thinly covered with peanut butter, lightly sprinkled with mini dark chocolate chips or (frozen) grapes dipped in Greek yogurt
  3. Snack on spicy edamame or hummus with snap peas
  4. Feast on a plant-based nourish bowl
  5. Mix it up with this mason jar salad guide
  6. Pack a green smoothie for breakfast
  7. Build your own trail mix with no sugar added, dried fruit
  8. Introduce a plant-based “Taco Tuesday” (think: lentil tacos or black bean burritos)
  9. Bell pepper slices with white bean dip for a quick bite
  10. Pick one new fruit or vegetable to try each week – keep a list

Start the year off right by putting your health and wellness first!

When you think of lasagna, what comes to mind? Fresh tomatoes and herbs used to make a homemade tomato sauce from a treasured family recipe? Tender layers of lasagna noodles? A rich ragu of vegetables? Many people have a favorite recipe that is completely unique and special to them.

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Lasagna is enjoyed all over the world and what better way to celebrate that fact than to devote an entire day to celebrating this layered delight. Fun fact: The word “lasagna” or “lasana” originated in reference to the actual pot in which the dish was cooked in, rather than the food itself.

It is important to note that lasagna’s origins have been disputed between Greek, Italian and English sources. Some of the earliest lasagna or “laganon” makers, were ancient Greeks. “Laganon” was a flat, wheat flour based, pasta-like product. Research states that it was closer to an unleavened bread compared to the cooked, flexible pasta noodles we know today. Preparations used to include: accompanying with oil or legumes (ex: chickpeas), frying or cooked in broth.

Today’s lasagna noodles are typically made from durum wheat flour, water and salt. Lasagna noodles can be either rippled or flat. In Italy, lasagna differs depending on the region you are from. Preparation of the pasta dish can be made with a thick ragu or creamy béchamel sauce (or both), various cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella, parmigian0 reggiano), various vegetables as well as ground meats and sausages.

Oftentimes lasagna is not highlighted as a “healthy” meal option, but it’s all in how you make it. There are many variations of lasagna and we wanted to offer some tips to  make your favorite lasagna dish a little more nutritious:

  • Try using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef
  • Try a whole wheat noodle instead of the traditional durum wheat
  • Add more fresh or frozen vegetables to every layer
  • Use part-skim cheeses (ricotta or mozzarella)
  • Try low sodium tomato sauce (or homemade)

Vegan, vegetarian or just dairy free? No problem! There are plenty of lasagna recipes that are completely plant-based.

  • Substitute mozzarella, ricotta or parmesan cheese for vegan (Daiya), cashew or tofu-based substitutes
  • Try a vegetable or lentil-based ragu

Gluten free? There are options as well:

  • Try a gluten-free pasta
  • Instead of pasta, use sweet potatoes, zucchini or eggplant as your “pasta” to create the layered effect

Note: lots of these ingredients are in season right now – check out your local Farmer’s Market for the freshest ingredients!


Layered Zucchini Lasagna

Recipe by Wendy Lopez, MS, RD


  • 5 medium-sized zucchinis
  • 1½ cups tomato sauce
  • ½ cup light ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced in rounds
  • Optional: black pepper to taste


  • Chop both ends off of each zucchini.
  • Slice each zucchini length-wise into ⅕-inch slices, about 4 to 5 slices per zucchini.
  • In a baking dish, assemble the first layer of zucchini slices. Place four to five zucchini slices, tightly aligned, as your base.
  • Spread ½ cup tomato sauce over first layer of zucchini slices. Add ⅓ of total ricotta and mozzarella over sauce. Top with 4 to 6 slices of red onion.
  • Repeat the layer — zucchini slices, sauce, cheese, onion — a second time.
  • Repeat the layer a third time.
  • Top with the remaining zucchini slices. Lightly spread what’s left of the tomato sauce and cheese, and finish off with grounded black pepper, if using.
  • Bake at 400°F for 60 to 70 minutes. Serves 4.