Ask Miss Chef RD

About Miss Chef RD

Miss Chef RD, whom is most often referred to as Melissa, developed a love for food and cooking at an early age. Miss Chef RD graduated from Johnson & Wales with an Associate of Science in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Culinary Nutrition.

Melissa completed her 900 hour internship and passed the American Dietetic Association’s national examination in 2004 to become a Registered Dietitian; Miss Chef RD graduated with distinction from the program in 2005 with a Master of Science in Nutrition and Health Promotion.

Melissa enjoys spending time with her family, keeping abreast of the latest trends in Nutrition and as an avid animal lover, playing with her beloved mini-lop rabbit, Trudy. She also has her own blog at

Have a question? Click here to ask Miss Chef RD.

Expert Q&A with Miss Chef RD

Q: Why is quinoa so expensive and is it really good for you? ~Marcie (MA)

A: Greetings to you Marcie!! Great inquiry about quinoa, often touted as a “super grain.” Funny enough, quinoa is not an actual grain and is related to leafy, green veggies, i.e. spinach. Quinoa has earned its notoriety because of the numerous health and nutritious benefits it offers. Quinoa doesn’t contain any gluten so it is a viable alternative for those who have a sensitivity to wheat products or have Celiac Disease, a disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats. Additionally quinoa is a great source of protein; 1 cup cooked has approximately 9 grams protein. It is also rich in potassium, magnesium and manganese. So, in summary yes, it is quite good for you!

Your best bet for purchasing quinoa at an inexpensive price is to go to a natural foods store, i.e. Whole Foods. Buying quinoa from bulk bins by the pound will be cheaper than pre-packaged boxes.

Thanks for writing to Miss Chef RD!!

Q: Why does water with lemon help with your metabolism and “jump start” dieting? How much water with lemon should you drink per day? Can you drink too much water with lemon? ~Lelalou (MA)

A: I appreciate you writing in with a question! Lemon juice does contain certain properties that can be helpful to people looking to shed some excess weight, however simply drinking water flavored with lemon juice will not translate to weight loss. Consuming healthy, well-rounded meals paired with routine exercise is the path to take in order to lose weight and maintain what is lost.

Let’s explore the benefits of drinking water flavored with lemon juice…first, lemons contain a large amount of Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid aids in reducing and clearing away bile from the liver, this in turn helps the liver to break down and process fat more easily. Second, lemons contain pectin, a complex carbohydrate found in citrus fruits, which can make people feel satiated for a longer period of time.

In terms of it helping to “jumpstart” a diet, lemon is thought to be a “cleansing” fruit, helping to rid your body of toxins and mucous, therefore making the system more efficient for digestion. There is no limit to the amount of water flavored with lemon juice to be consumed, but aiming for 64 ounces/day of non-caffeinated, low calorie fluids is optimal. Drinking too much water flavored with lemon juice may be an issue for those who are sensitive to acidic foods or suffer from heartburn; it is always best to check with your doctor if you are unsure.

Hope this helps to answer your question Lelalou!!!


Q: Hi, I have recently started using the WHEY Protein power for shakes. There are so many different kinds. I currently have the EAS WHEY Protein. What is the difference? Also, which one is better for you if your dieting? Thanks! ~Kimberly (MA)

A: Hi Kimberly, You couldn’t be more right! There are so many different kinds of protein powders on the market it can be quite overwhelming trying to decide which one is best for you. Choosing a whey protein powder is ideal because whey protein is a derivative from cow’s milk, meaning it’s an animal based protein and is best utilized and absorbed by the body. Whey protein has the highest Biological Value (BV) of any known protein, which means that the proportion of protein that is absorbed and incorporated into your body’s proteins is higher from whey protein than from other protein sources, (i.e. soy, rice, egg white, etc.). In other words, excellent job selecting a whey based protein powder!

EAS Whey protein is a great choice if you are looking to lose some unwanted pounds. It has a small amount of fat and carbs, but a healthy amount of protein per serving. Using it to replace one meal per day helps to ensure you are meeting your protein needs and not loading up on carbs and sugars for the meal that is being replaced. Many of my patients have a protein shake in the morning as their breakfast, which also helps them to avoid bagels, muffins, cereal, donuts, etc., which can cause tiredness and lethargy because of the large amounts of carbohydrates they contain.

Good luck on your weight loss journey Kimberly!!

Q: I’ve recently heard about “cooling” and “warming” foods; what are some examples of them and why are they called such? ~Julia (Indiana)

A: Hi Julia, Quite an interesting question you have asked! The concept of cooling and warming foods is often related to the symbolism of yin and yang, meaning “a balance.” In particular, inhabitants of Asian countries use the terms “heaty” and “cooling” to signify different feelings/emotions/ailments such as: irritation, upset stomach, fever and sore throat.

Per this philosophy, various foods impact the body in different ways, which in turn influences the body’s state of being. The cumulative effect of one’s metabolism, organ function and arrangement of anatomy aids in ascertaining an individual’s sensitivity to “heaty” and “cooling” foods. Generally speaking, characteristics of “heaty” foods include sweet, cultivated in the sun, high in fats, hard, dry and/or spicy. On the contrary, “cooling” foods typically need little sunshine to grow, are lean, soft and/or wet. Examples of “heaty” foods are pepper, coconut, cherries, garlic, ham, and brown sugar while examples of “cooling” foods are oysters, potatoes, beef, celery, carrots and milk.

“Heaty” foods are believed to produce hot energy and “cooling” foods cold energy, therefore an equilibrium is sought. For instance, if a person notices that when they consume fried foods their skin breaks outs then consuming “cooling foods” would be a way to offset this “heaty” reaction.

Q: Are there any beneficial health differences between red, yellow, orange or green peppers? ~ Marc (MA)

A: Hi Marc, What a timely question you have posed considering bell pepper season is right around the corner! I’m sure that we have all noticed that there is a difference in taste between green bell peppers and the yellow, orange and red ones; green peppers are the least sweet out of the four varieties, however all bell peppers are considered “sweet peppers.” Reason being, capsaicin, which is the element that makes chili peppers spicy, is absent. Time to explore the various nutrient profiles of these bell-shaped delights!

Green peppers: These peppers are classified as ”unripened” amongst its brother peppers, if you will. However, even though they are immature, green bell peppers contain a number of vital nutrients such as potassium (important for regulating blood pressure, promoting muscle contraction and regular heartbeats), vitamin C (helps assist in tissue growth and repair, aids in the prevention of cancer, guards against infection and strengthens immunity) and vitamin A (supports the immune system, enhances lung function and can improve eyesight).

Red Peppers: These peppers are considered “fully ripened” or matured. They contain the same nutrients that are found in green peppers, however the content is higher since they have been allowed more time to bloom on the vine. Additionally, they contain lycopene, an antioxidant pigment that can help prevent certain types of cancer such as prostate and breast cancer. Other pigment related nutrients distinct to red bell peppers are lutein and zeaxanthin, which are known to aid in the prevention macular degeneration and cataracts.

Yellow/Orange Peppers: These peppers fall in between green and red bell peppers on the “ripeness” spectrum. They contain the same types of nutrients that are above-mentioned for green and red peppers in different quantities. Yellow/orange peppers have larger amounts of that which is found in green peppers because they are more mature, however they have less than red peppers since red peppers are fully developed.

Grab yourself some of these crunchy rainbow veggies and incorporate them in your favorite dishes for a nutritional boost!

Q: How can one eat healthy in the context of their own culture’s food? Coming from Asian descent, the Asian diet doesn’t normally consist of salads and large cuts of meat, but instead has lots of carbohydrates, little protein content and lots of veggies.- Brian ( Vancouver, Canada)

A: Thank you for the question Brian. This question is a great reminder that not all cultures are as protein-focused as the United States, which is evident in some popular restaurant menu themes and advertising. For instance, Ruth Chris, Capital Grille and Morton’s are renowned names that have created brands for themselves with regards to their showmanship, preparation and cooking of premiere cuts of beef. Since you can find a number of these restaurants across the country, it is obvious that there is an interested market looking for satiation. Additionally, ad campaigns on television reiterating the phrases, “beef, it’s what’s for dinner” and “pork, the other white meat” inundate our media.

I believe the key to eating nutritionally sound meals, no matter the country of origin, is balance. Ensuring that your plate has carbohydrate, vegetable/fruit and protein components so that intake is varied, thus fueling your body with different nutrients, vitamins and minerals is of utmost importance.

Taking into consideration that meat does not routinely play a prominent role in Asian diets, concentrating on having a solid protein element as part of the meal vs. small, thin strips of meat that appear garnish-like would be beneficial. The protein choice does not have to be meat per se, but could be soy foods, (i.e tofu, miso, etc.), fish and/or nuts. Since these protein options are more popularly seen in Asian cuisine, increasing the amount on the plate and decreasing the rice/noodle/carbohydrate portion would create more balanced, nutrient-rich meals.

Q: Hi Miss Chef RD, In your professional opinion, does the TAZO Green tea count as my fluid intake for the day? Why is Green tea a recommended diet drink? Do you recommend drinking 8-10oz of unsweetened green tea per day? Thank you in advance for your response! CHEERS! – Angela (MA)

A: Hello Angela, excellent question! What with the warmer weather upon us, people may be looking for icy cold refreshment in the form of iced tea and it’s important to know a couple of things. Frequently the question of “how much water/fluid should I drink per day” is posed to me; such a simple question requiring a convoluted response. The reality is there are multiple factors to take into account when figuring the amount of fluid to be imbibed daily, such as where one lives and their activity level. Therefore, “8 x 8-ounce glasses/day” is the general rule of thumb that most people aim for to ensure adequate intake. Additionally, checking to see that your urine is either colorless or slightly yellow is another way to be fairly confident that you are well hydrated.

Generally speaking, caffeinated beverages should not be considered part of your daily fluid intake because caffeine is considered a diuretic, meaning it can cause mild dehydration, especially in people with insufficient intake. Thus, any type of caffeinated tea, (i.e. green, black, etc.) should not be counted towards your fluids for the day.

Green tea is often characterized as helping one to shed excess pounds. Since green tea contains caffeine, which is a stimulant and why many people use it as their morning pick-me-up, it can slightly increase one’s metabolism, which in turn helps speed up the burning of calories. However, there have been few scientific research studies to prove that green tea, and largely caffeine, aid in long-term weight loss.

In terms of the types of fluid I would recommend people drink routinely to meet their needs, water is the best choice. That being said, everyone likes a little flavor in their lives so to help mix it up, artificially sweetened low-calorie beverages (i.e. Crystal Lite and Powerade Zero are a couple of my favorites) once in a while is fine. In terms of unsweetened green tea, I would instead opt for an unsweetenedherbal tea, such as Tazo Passion tea; it tastes great and is caffeine-free. Thanks for writing and keep that water bottle handy!

Q: A lot of new diets include strict directions on counting calories and making sure you are staying within the limit for your body weight. With your meals and suggestions, do you factor in calories, and what is your opinion on preparing meals with a certain number of calories? – Lindsay (ME)

A: Hi Lindsay, you’re right! A lot of diets base their philosophies around calorie counting, which makes sense because in order to gain or lose weight we only have to look at a basic formula: Total Calories In – Total Calories Out = Weight Gained/Lost. Unfortunately, the nuts and bolts of this calculation is a lot easier understood in theory versus the actual number crunching.

Calories always play a large part when I am making snack and meal recommendations, however my intention is to for clients to avoid painstakingly counting them. I don’t want to overburden those who are trying to lose weight since most of the general population doesn’t have a lot of spare time nowadays. Therefore, when discussing meals options with clients I inform them of the lean choices so that when they eat them in the appropriate portion size then the calories take care of themselves, so to speak. Teaching clients to prepare food healthfully, weigh and measure out foods/condiments and keep a record of what they’re consuming are the building blocks to ensuring that a practical and safe number of calories are consumed.

Q: There are so many protein/meal replacement bars available. What should I look for, besides palatability, when choosing a “healthy” protein bar – especially if one is trying to limit intake of carbohydrates? – Virginia (MA)

A: Hi Virginia, great question! In recent years all different types of bars have become more popular, from some alleging to help with weight control to others claiming to fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements. No matter which brand of bar you choose, always remember that it will never replace the benefits of having a well-balanced meal. That being said, when faced with the possibility of skipping a meal, having a bar on hand is a helpful alternative. Now, for the chore of finding a bar that is tasty and that also meets your needs, look for a bar that has 20-25 grams protein since we want the bar to mimic similar intake you would want if you were able to consume a meal. This would be the equivalent of approximately 3-4 ounces of a protein serving. Since the aim is to limit carbs as well, we want to choose a bar without an exorbitant amount. Around 20-30 grams of total carbohydrates, (akin to consuming ~ 2 slices of bread), would be best. Some people just look at the “sugars,” on the label but it is best to get an overall picture of the the nutrients the bar is providing; bars that have these numbers typically are around 200-300 calories and 7 grams of total fat each. Some of my personal favorites are Clif Builder’s Bars (the Chocolate Peanut Butter and Vanilla Almond are especially tasty) and Pure Protein Bars (the Chewy Chocolate Chip 20 gram protein bar and Strawberry Shortcake 19 gram protein bar are tops)!

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