Wherever I go, whenever I travel, whenever there’s a new place in town, I cannot wait to try it. Tell me that being a “foodie” hasn’t influenced my decision to study nutrition as an undergrad! My point here, is that as much as I love cooking and creating new recipes, I equally enjoy eating out and trying new dishes as well as revisiting my old favorites.

Food is the center of culture: in many communities/ethnic groups, and consequently, offering food or sharing a meal together shows that one is welcome in that community. Going to eat is often a social outing simply shared around good food. With this social benefit of going out to eat together, the concept of eating out often gets a bad rap – this is due to our food culture in the U.S., not you!

Why, though? Portions are often out of control, dishes are loaded with excessive calories, and the meal can get expensive pretty quickly. Keep reading to learn how to eat out with more intention and to hack the food system while enjoying good food and company!


blood orange mimosa with brunch? ok.

1. Drinks?

Soda and other speciality drinks can be more than three dollars per drink which are high in sugar and extra calories before your meal even begins. The easiest solution?

Order a water.

Free drink, free refills, no calories, and helps your stomach and body prepare for the meal you’re about to enjoy! What if everyone is ordering drink, drinks though? I suggest ordering one and drinking it slowly to enjoy it and not spend more than you had initially planned on.


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packed salad without dressing!

2.  Salad?

Though salads usually are thought of as “the healthier alternative,” as you’re getting greens and vegetables in, you’d be surprised to see that at some restaurants, salads can be higher in calories and saturated fat than some burgers. What? How? The dressing is usually the culprit. Solution?

Ask for the dressing on the side.

You are then able to control the amount you want to put on your own salad and you’ll probably find yourself leaving some dressing behind. Restaurants often give WAY more than the recommended serving size alots for.

3. Not enough nutrients for you?

IMG_0186Noodles & Co small spicy korean beef noodles with shrimp instead of beef and added broccoli 🙂

Many restaurants are accommodating and want to help make your meal the best way you’d enjoy it; it’ll bring you back in! After long tennis practices followed by weight lifting in college, my teammates and I would go to Noodles and Company to refuel. Now, not only does Noodles provide minimally processed fast food with fresh ingredients, they are one of the many restaurants happy to help customize your dish. After tennis practice, I would order a pasta dish (hello post-workout carbs), and in addition to whatever vegetables came with that dish, I would add broccoli and sauteed peppers for a few cents more. That way, you get even more vegetables and consequently, more nutrients, from your meal. Mac and cheese sounds really good? Spaghetti with meatballs? Chicken alfredo as a treat? Add some vegetables!

You will get to enjoy your favorite dish, but also enjoy the benefits of getting more nutrients in one meal. Yay!

get dessert and share it 😉

4. Portion size too big?

If you go to other countries, and I’m thinking of European countries specifically, you’ll note that portions sizes are much smaller than that of ours in the US. This portion size isn’t your fault. But there are two different things you can do about it.

One: Share your dishes.

When you have someone to split your dish with, you’re eating half the calories, half the fat, half the grossly portioned size the restaurant often doses out. This alone will decrease your chances of overeating and getting a stomach ache, and you will likely not regret your decision to eat out. If you order dessert, too, ALWAYS share. 🙂 The other option is…

Two: Get a to-go box when you get your food and put half in the box.

Boom, two meals for one price and immediate portion control. This will prevent you from overeating from the start and give you another meal for the next day. Two meals for one price! What’s better than that!

5. Sides?

Sure, a big burger is a treat for many to have as a “cheat meal” but what usually accompanies that? French fries, onion rings, you get it. If you want to opt to get some nutritional benefit from a meal like this,

Request a different side dish.

Swap french fries for steamed broccoli, onion rings for grilled vegetables, a cornbread muffin for corn on the cob. Most restaurants offer a variety of sides that you can pick from, only it’s up to you to make the change! Check out the menu of Famous Dave’s sides for example.

6. What comes on that?

As mentioned with dressing (see #2), restaurants tend to smother and load things on their meals such as mayo, cream-based sauces, barbeque sauces, alfredo sauces, mustards, ketchup, butter, or other unwanted or unnecessary additives. The solution?

Ask what comes on the meal you’re about to order.

The clears up any confusion, alerts you to any potential allergens, and gives you a heads-up as to what you’ll be consuming. If any of the ingredients listed are not something you want, as if you can skip that item, like the salad, ask for it on the side, or request a healthier alternative. This way, you are eliminating unnecessary cals or fats or sugars, and YOU are controlling how much you put on your meal.

*Bonus tip, my brother’s tip is to skip mayo and add avocado. You get the creaminess you desire [on a sandwich] without the processing, fat, and calories, and you get healthy (monounsaturated) fat from a plant source – woo!

adding salmon to my favorite sesame salad at the North Dakota Museum of Art Cafe

7.  Protein source?

Grilled or crispy? Chicken, steak or pork? Broiled or fried fish?

We’re often faced with a lot of options when it comes to choosing a protein source; especially at restaurants. Solution?

Choosing a lean, grilled or broiled protein source.

Choosing grilled chicken, black or pinto beans, roasted turkey, dishes with lentils or peanuts (legumes), or those with nuts such as almonds, pecans, or walnuts give you the leanest, and minimally processed protein sources. Avoid fried foods. Though they are better than nothing, they offer minimal nutritional benefits and pose potential health risks if consumed all too frequently.

8. What’s fresh?

Restaurants are often proud to disclose what they have on-hand. Some restaurants have partnerships with other local companies and will disclose where they get their honey, eggs, chicken, and produce from. If you’re looking for a healthier option when you go out to eat, eating at local, independently-owned restaurants are more than likely going to offer you higher quality ingredients and more flavor in your food.

Now, if you are enjoying a meal that’s a treat or going out is a treat for you, don’t feel guilty about your food choices. If you go to a specific restaurant a few times a year and go there specifically for their homemade baked mac & cheese with breadcrumbs (my weakness) and Moscow mules, don’t make food swaps. Enjoy your meal. What you can do is also get a water to drink with your favorite cocktail, and bring half of your mac & cheese home so you don’t eat too much, and you have more to eat later. Never follow a “diet” that deprives you from indulging every once in a while. Eating your favorite foods (though they might not fit into your every day “diet”) is good for the soul – trust me! As long as we aren’t eating this way all the time.

With that, I thank you for reading and I hope this helps when you choose to eat out at your favorite restaurants, trying new ones, and when you travel!






Anti-diet diets are among my favorite diets out there. Jennifer Adler, a Certified Nutritionist in the state of Washington, wrote the book Passionate Nutrition resonating with my perspective on nutrition practice:


Jennifer discusses her negative relationship with food throughout her life, describing her early life in poverty, surviving off of packaged foods and being truly hungry. Her story is a beautiful example of her passion, her own experience, and a career all coming together. I highly, highly recommend this read if you want to create a more positive relationship with food, feel better overall, and learn how food is quite literally, medicine.

jennifer adler.jpg

I personally enjoy reading books and research provided by nutritionists and dietitians to learn others’ perspectives and ideas in the regarding food, diet, and implementation. The most influential individuals in the field, to me, are the ones who live by their practices and share the love with others.

passionate nutrition book cover

Chapters include:

  1. My Story
  2. Your Story
  3. The 100-year-diet
  4. A Gut Feeling
  5. The Protein-Sugar Connection
  6. Weight Loss and Metabolism Miracle
  7. Food Miracles, Body Miracles
  8. What is Your Body Saying
  9. Three Ingredients for Natural Beauty
  10. Good Food, Good Sex

*a section of recipes concludes the book*

Find Passionate Nutrition here and purchase used for less $. 🙂

Happy reading,



If you’re looking for nutrition FACTS, advice, and how to improve your diet and quality of life overall, read this one. It is written by Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH with the Harvard School of Public Health.

This book reiterated many of the concepts I have learned throughout my undergrad and showcases a number of studies with new information that might not be what you’d think! Dr. Willett goes through the timeline of the American “healthy” eating guides such as the original food pyramid from the 1990s, and what is challenging about following the current “MyPlate” guidelines.

1990s food pyramid.jpg
remember this one? SOURCE: http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/usda-food-pyramid.html
my plate
current US meal guidelines. SOURCE: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/MyPlate

BY THE WAY: the book was updated in 2017 SO this is the latest information you’ll find regarding diet and nutrition.

This book gives you a breakdown of nutrition, and most importantly, gives you a variety of sources as to WHERE to get your protein, carbs, and vitamins!

Breakdown of Chapters:

  1. Healthy Eating Matters
  2. Of Pyramids, Plates, and Dietary Guidelines
  3. What Can You Believe About Diet?
  4. Healthy Weight
  5. Straight Talk About Fat
  6. Carbohydrates for Better and Worse
  7. Choose Healthier Sources of Protein
  8. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
  9. You Are What You Drink
  10. Calcium: No Emergency
  11. Take a Multivitamin for Insurance
  12. The Planet’s Health Matters Too
  13. Putting It All Together
  14. Healthy Eating in Special Situations
  15. Shopping Tips, Recipes, and Menus

I was #blessed and found this book for a steal at a bookstore’s closing sale (overall, sad), but YOU can find this book right here for about $15 paperback. I strongly recommend this read to anyone who wants to learn more about evidence-based nutrition practice, and to anyone else who wants to learn the best things to put in their body.

Happy reading, and I hope you find yourself as fascinated as I am with overall diet and nutrition!




What does this featured meal have to do with today’s blog post? It is vegan, gluten free, and relatively low in calories, but packed with nutrients and will give you zero dietary cholesterol as an added bonus 🙂

Shawn Brokke, a friend, and plant-based foodie sat through the most frequently asked questions about veganism and answered them with delight. To contact Shawn, find him at @palegoon + @nutritious_goon on Instagram! He really knows how to get the conversation started! I have compiled some questions regarding his experience and life as a vegan.

SB .jpg
check out that vegan tattoo!

Let’s start with the million dollar question(s): How long have you been a vegan? Why did you convert?

I’ve been a vegan for almost two years. I had been dieting before and was not happy with the food I was eating and the density of that food. I had been eating the stereotypical “bodybuilding” diet [consisting of chicken and rice and the occasional vegetable]. I wasn’t satisfied. The reason I looked into veganism was because of my mom’s chronic illnesses including thyroid issues. I discovered the vegan diet, and I’ve never thought twice about it!

Wow, just like that! How did you transition? How did you know what to do? That’s a drastic change!

Overnight, actually. I strongly considered have that “one last meal” of all my favorites that are not part of the vegan diet, but I decided not to. I figured if I did that, it would just prolong the process of transitioning. I gave my food to my brother and the rest was history. However, because I did this overnight, it didn’t come without challenges. I relied on YouTubers and trial and error. The key was not to get mad at myself if I ate something that wasn’t vegan friendly and I wasn’t aware of it. It’s a process and you learn as you go.

 Now that you’ve been a vegan for a while now, what do you eat?

“My go-to is stir fry with all the vegetables – rice noodles, soy sauce or usually tamari.”(pictured above) others include:

  • soy milk.
  • low-sodium pasta sauce with noodles.
  • bananas.
  • tofu.
  • rice.
  • oats.
  • pasta.
  • flax oats
  • Vega protein shakes
  • canned beans – low sodium (more cost effective!)

The most commonly asked question for vegans (or so it seems), is getting adequate protein. Most people believe it simply isn’t possible to get enough protein from plants alone. You’ll see things on the internet regarding vegan bodybuilding and it is indeed possible to achieve physical goals with a vegan diet. If you are eating enough calories (based on individual dietary needs), you should not need to supplement protein or make any extra effort to meet the RDA for protein. It’s fairly simple! 🙂 Especially knowing foods like broccoli and snap peas [green vegetables] have “bonus” protein in them. Most people think of vegetables to fit in the “vegetable” food group, and fail to recognize that there are other either macronutrients or micronutrients that may be contained in that vegetable.

Do you take any supplements since your food is not sourced from animals anymore?

Yes! Vitamin B12 (a necessary supplement for those who follow a vegan diet). By taking it, I have noticed increased energy, and a better sleep cycle, and a decrease in symptoms of seasonal depression. I also take a vitamin D3 supplement.

Your experience sounds phenomenal so far. Have you had any challenges with this lifestyle?

Yes, of course. The major problem I have is that food I eat is so good. It is definitely possible to gain weight if you enjoy the vegan “junk” food such as cookies, cakes, sweets, and other indulgences too much. Though this can be seen as a negative, eating this so-called “comfort” food, can help you transition to eating more plant-based; as long as one is aware of this and can practice self-control while transitioning!

What about eating out? What would you tell someone who wants to go eat with friends?

It’s not as hard as one may think!

  • Noodles & Company: Japanese Pan Noodles with tofu.
  • Paradiso (in Grand Forks): offers burritos with vegan chicken and beef.
  • Olive Garden: minostrone soup!
  • Qdoba: no meat, and all the black beans.
  • Chipotle: Sofritas.
  • Little Bangkok (Grand Forks): I really do miss sushi, but get the sweet potato rolls!!!

Chains usually have better options and are more aware of their ingredients than some of the smaller, locally-owned restaurants. Always ask!

You seem to like tofu and soy protein! What about people who tell you soy isn’t “good?”

Bodybuilders are often against the concept of soy protein because literature has stated that soy can mimic estrogen in the body and decrease your strength capacity. I feel that soy is the scapegoat in the world of veganism; people are so apt to believe that you can look and feel well when adapting this diet. It is interesting because mammalian estrogen is found in dairy milk and isn’t as accounted for as the plant phytochemicals that mimic estrogen (isoflavonoids) in soy.

Most bodybuilders follow diets that are high in chicken, beef, eggs, and other protein-rich animals sources. However, just because they are buff and look good on the outside does not mean that their arteries are not going to pose a health risk down the road.

What are your favorite vegan products?

What would you tell someone who wants to start adopting a vegan diet?

  • BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF. Don’t get discouraged. It isn’t a transition that can’t usually [successfully] happen overnight.
  • Do not be mad at the world with concerns of ethics, frustrations with how food is produced, or people who just don’t listen. This will get you nowhere and nearly defeat the purpose of being that “one person” who is doing good for the world! The
  • You’ll need to eat a lot more. Plants are less calorie-dense than animal products; you will need to eat more, yes more, to maintain a calorie input and stay healthy. Perhaps download an app to help track calories to ensure your intake is adequate.
  • Any step is a step in the right direction. If you start narrowing things down, you’re making progress. If you have a slip-up and your intentions are still good, you’re still moving in the right direction! The ball is in your court!

And with that, I conclude my questions for Shawn. I personally learned a lot about the overall vegan diet and some of the resources that are available. If you considering adopting a vegan diet and need a resource, again, check out Shawn’s instagram or message him or myself with any questions you might have.

Thank YOU for reading, thank you to Shawn for sitting through an interview, and thank you to those who are considering eating more plants! Your body will thank you!



“Veganism is the least you can do for animals.”




There are never enough hours in a day to get everything done. Is anyone else with me there? Preparing meals ahead of time is usually in the busy human’s repertoire, but grabbing *healthy* snacks may not be. Here are my top 5 favorite snacks that require little prep (if any), won’t upset your stomach, or your wallet.

  1. Rx bars.

They fit in little pockets. They are usually made from under 5 wholesome ingredients. They’re high in protein. They’re also my favorite. Buy in bulk to save money. And if you’re first trying them, get a variety pack so you discover which are your favorites! Peanut butter and coconut chocolate are mine.  🙂 Find them here!

PS: to my fellow RX bar lovers, they have three new flavors!

2. Bananas

High in carbs. Full of potassium (an electrolyte) to replace when you’re going to sweat. Sweet. Comes in its own package 😀 Have one before a workout for easily digestible carbs for quick energy OR add some peanut butter for protein and you have a post workout refueling snack.

3. Cucumber slices 

High in water. Extra crunchy. Goes perfectly with whole grain crackers and cheese as as mini sandwiches! Slice the night before or while meal prepping and store in an air-tight container ready to grab and go!

4. PB & J

Carbs, protein, sweet, minimal prep. Make it the night before and store in an air-tight container/bag. Use whole grain bread, a natural peanut butter, and smashed raspberries as your ‘J” 😀

5.  Mixed nuts 

Full of protein and healthy fats, crunchy, satiating and super portable. Buy in bulk to save money and mix yourself to control the ratio! (My favorites are almonds, walnuts, and pecans). Measure out a serving size the night before!

Some of my other favorites include carrot sticks, yogurt (if you have a spoon), whole grain crackers, and grapes – but don’t limit yourself there! As always, get creative with the process – and PLAN AHEAD! 😀



First off, Happy National Nutrition Month too all my fellow healthy foodies!

As many of you know, I am almost finished with a degree in community nutrition which credits me to become a Licensed Nutritionist in my home state of North Dakota (and enables me to apply for licensure in other states) once I graduate. (Complete list of states in link at bottom of page from the American Academy of N&D).

Because this month celebrates dietitians & nutritionists and everything we do for the field of health, I am sharing with you why I chose to purse a degree in nutrition. I’ve wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember but we’ll save that story for another day. However, because I am pursuing medicine, I often find myself explaining why I’m currently studying nutrition but still want to go to medical school. Here’s my story!

During my sophomore year of high school, I was required to take a health course. My classmates and I were taught the standard, “don’t abuse alcohol, don’t smoke or use drugs, use two forms of birth control.” Along with those important components of health, we were also taught about a healthy lifestyle through exercise, practicing a healthy mindset, and that of proper nutrition. I was intrigued when we talked about the MyPlate guidelines and how adequate nutrition affects a athletic performance – reasons I still love nutrition to this day. But what really got to me was watching a few documentaries in class.

One of the documentaries was on adopting a whole-food, plant-based diet that proved regression of several chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, and dramatic weight loss of those suffering with obesity. This blew my mind. As a 16-year-old, I had no idea how important diet and overall nutrition was.

The other documentary, which many of you have seen, was SuperSize Me. Morgan Spurlock documents eating McDonalds for every meal for one month in duration. He experiences first-hand the effects of fast food through gastrointestinal illness, elevated blood cholesterol, and a rapid, unhealthy weight gain. (If you haven’t seen it, you should). Find it here:


Being a knowledge-hungry high school student as well as an athlete, these films sparked my interest and inspired me to change my then moderately-healthy diet into a diet that had me feeling better and enhancing my athletic performance. Through this process, I found myself becoming more and more interested in the field of nutrition and why these things make your body work so well. It was amazing to me that if you feed your body right, it works even better that you could ever imagine, and ultimately, you are in control of your health. I wanted to share this with others.

My junior year of high school approached and I began my first part-time job: a dietary aide in the hospital. I worked with several nutrition & dietetics students and began talking to them about their field of study (Nicole, if you’re reading this, I’m talking about you)! It was very apparent that these students were passionate about their future careers. I did my research in schools and programs, and from there, I knew I was going to purse a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. Now, my degree nearly complete, I haven’t thought twice about it.

What does this have to do with medical school? If you are planning to apply to medical school like myself, you may pick any undergraduate major to complete your 4 year degree in; as long as you complete the prerequisites required for medical school (AAMC) and take the MCAT. It is recommended applicants major in a field of study that they are passionate about andI am so grateful I will have a bachelor’s degree in something I love.

So overall, why nutrition?

1. The top 2 causes of death in the United States are heart disease & cancer (CDC). Both have a strong correlation with diet and can reversed through medical nutrition therapy and prevented through nutrition education. If we continue to educate our country, the prevalence of these chronic diseases may be lessened, and our country may live longer and have a better quality of life overall.

2.   I love all things food, nutrition, fitness, and feeling well. Being educated on what our bodies need to feel all these things, I hope to lead through example for my future clients and patients.

3. Nutrition is a fairly new scientific field. We as students and practitioners are always learning new things about the effects of certain foods, nutrients, and diseases through dietary intake. It’s progressive, new, and exciting to be a part of.

I, like many others, am eager to see the progression of our country’s overall heath through the effects of proper nutrition. It is apparent that we as a country are becoming more progressive in health trends and *not to brag BUT* my generation is spreading the word about living healthy lifestyles through social media platforms promoting nutrition, fitness, and healthy living – it’s quite amazing!

Let’s keep a good thing going!

Thanks for reading, and green smoothie cheers to my fellow nutritionistas! Happy National Nutrition Month!








“Let food be thy medicine.” -Hippocrates