Brenda Viens

Registered Dietitian

Brenda Viens is a Community Life Skills Dietitian for Backus Hospital and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. ...More ...Less

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Recent Articles


Diabetes And Your Diet: A Guide

Diet and lifestyle are vital to diabetes management. Start your wellness plan today by following these tips: Find support. Your diabetes care team should include your doctor and a Certified Diabetes Educator, or CDE. Monitor your heart. Two out of three people diagnosed with diabetes have high blood pressure (140/90...


Nutrition: How To Become A Happy (And Healthy) Tailgater

Tailgating classics like cheesy appetizers, burgers, hot dogs, pretzels and beer may get you in the game-day mood but they can really pack in the calories and sodium. There are almost 500 calories in one soft pretzel. A 150-pound woman would need to cycle 10 mph for 81 minutes to...


The Anti-Pigout: How To Find Healthful Food At The Fairs

There is simply nothing quite as mouthwatering as traditional fair food. Hot dogs, ice cream and fried dough tempt fairgoers at every corner. Name a food to deep-fat-fry, and you will probably find it a fair (even cheesecake). Fortunately, fairs offer so much more than fried food. If you are...


Your Nutrition: 5 Ways To A Faster Meal (The Back-To-School Edition)

Between Jonathan’s track meets, Lily’s dance classes and baby Rose’s swimming lessons, it may seem difficult to plan healthy meals and snacks. Here are five simple tips to streamline meal prep and have healthy choices ready during the back-to-school rush. 1.  Take the effort out of weeknight meals by setting...


Taco Bell: The Best-Kept Secret In Fast & Healthy Food?

Cage-free, vegetarian and vegan don’t sound like fast-food restaurant menu options, but they are at Taco Bell. The restaurant chain has transformed its menu by reducing sodium across all menu items, creating healthier menu choices and enabling consumers to nutritionally customize their order. In 2005, Taco Bell became one of...


Summer BBQ: How Long Is Food Safe To Eat In 90-Degree Temperatures?

About one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick annually from the food they eat. Reducing food-borne illness by 10 percent would keep 5 million Americans from getting sick each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People in their own homes can help keep...


Your Nutrition: Top Picks In Health-Fitness Apps

If thumbing through social media was an Olympic sport, we would bring home the gold. According to a study released in March by analytics firm Flurry,  Americans spend nearly five hours each day on their phone and, from an earlier study by Informate Mobile Intelligence, check Facebook, Twitter and other social...


Your Nutrition: What To Try (Or Skip) At McDonald’s

As a registered dietitian, I am frequently asked which restaurants and food vendors have the healthiest menus. Unfortunately, even menu items that appear to be healthy, such as smoothies and salads, are often full of added sugar and calories. In a series of columns assessing the nutritional values of  fast-food...


Your Nutrition: What To Try (Or Skip) At Chick-Fil-A

As a registered dietitian, I am frequently asked which restaurants and food vendors have the healthiest menus. Unfortunately, even menu items that appear to be healthy, such as smoothies and salads, are often full of added sugar and calories. In a series of columns assessing the nutritional values of  fast-food...


Your Nutrition: What You Need To Know About Ancient Grains, Seeds

Revitalize your spring meal routine with ancient grains and seeds. Thousands of years ago whole grains and seeds were a vital part of the food supply in ancient cultures. The ancient grains buckwheat and millet are native to Asia, quinoa, amaranth, and chia seeds are from South America, and flaxseed,...


Your Nutrition: Sunflower Oil On A Salad? Dextrose And Organic Stevia

Two questions today from reader “Anne in Cincinnati”: Q: Is sunflower oil OK to use if not heating it, just using on a salad?   A: National surveys show that Americans are consuming too much omega-6 fatty acids from soy, corn, safflower, and other vegetable oils. More than 50% of the fatty...


Your Nutrition: What To Try (Or Skip) At 99 Restaurant

Making healthy choices when you don’t have time to prepare meals at home is perhaps the most daunting part of following a diet plan.  As a registered dietitian, I am frequently asked which restaurants and food vendors have the healthiest menus. Unfortunately, even menu items that appear to be healthier,...


How To Fight Acid Reflux (Naturally) Without Having To Take Nexium

Have a nutrition question for Brenda? Email her at Brenda.Viens@hhchealth.org. Q: Is it just me, or does adding ginger to my diet – either in food, tea or eating a small piece each day – help with digestion and symptoms of acid reflux? I’m trying to avoid having to take...


Your Nutrition: Fun, Healthy Alternatives to Easter Candy

According to the National Confectioners Association, Americans buy more than 700 million pieces — about 120 million pounds — of Easter candy annually. That is nearly half a pound of candy for every man, woman and child in the country! And as a nation, it is estimated that we consume...


Your Nutrition: What Are Cultured Vegetables?

Q: One of your columns mentioned cultured vegetables.  What would they be? Lauren, Southington A: Cultured vegetables, also known as fermented vegetables, are made during a process called lacto fermentation — an ancient type of food preservation that may enhance the nutrient content of a vegetable (or food). It is called...


Two St. Patrick’s Day Recipes That Break (Slightly) From Tradition

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with green-dyed beer and store-bought corned beef loaded with bad-for-you additives is a tradition that could use some tweaking. Here are two recipes, “Quick ‘Corned’ Beef & Cabbage” and “Shamrock Shake Smoothie” from EatingWell.com in Shelburne, Vt., to get you started. These were tested, and approved,...


Your Nutrition: How This Anti-Inflammatory Diet Can Help Prevent Colon Cancer

If you’re tuning out Colon Cancer Awareness Month because you’re under 50 years old, too young to start routine colorectal cancer screenings, you’re making a mistake. If you were born in 1990, your risk of colon cancer is actually twice as great as someone born in 1950, according to researchers...

"Vitamin D" written in sand.

Your Nutrition: How Can I Fill Vitamin D Deficit Without Taking Supplements?

Q: I am Vitamin D deficient and should be taking 2,000 IU’s a day. Without taking vitamin supplements or drinking milk, what else can I eat or drink organically to make up for the deficit that would be equivalent to taking 2,000 IU’s a day? A: Osteopenia, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia...


Your Nutrition: Salt Alternatives And Table Salt Vs. Sea (And Himalayan) Salts

Many ingredients besides salt can give dishes a full-bodied, savory flavor. The following tips will help you transition to a lower sodium diet without sacrificing flavor by creating what is called umami, the “fifth taste” that suppresses bitter compounds (in foods like kale and broccoli), heightens the existing flavor of...


Your Nutrition: Here’s How To Handle Your Next Snack Attack

Nutrition and eating healthfully have a direct impact on your energy, motivation, and productivity at work. To keep energy levels up, eat nutrient dense snacks at regular intervals throughout the day—about two hours before, and two hours after a meal. A nutrient-dense snack provides: protein, healthy fat, fiber, and about...


Your Nutrition: How To Handle Sugar Cravings?

Q: I’m going to make a conscious effort to cut back on the amount of sugar I consume daily. Now that the holidays are over and the cookies, candies and sweets are gone from the house, what is the best way to wean my sugar cravings? And what is a...


Your Nutrition: Foods That Fight Colds And Flu

You will probably catch at least a sniffle during cold and flu season, and the good news is that certain foods can help soothe symptoms. Cold and flu recovery is more than just garlic and onions. The following is a list of foods and nutrients that reduce symptom-inducing inflammation, and...


Your Nutrition: When Juicing, What Nutrients Are In Pulp?

Q: “I am an avid juicer but have heard conflicting reports: Is it healthy? If so, does adding the pulp contain more nutrients?” Marie, Newington A: Juicing fruits and vegetables at home is a healthier and often more economical option than buying bottled juices. But fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients are left...


Your Nutrition: How Much Protein For Athletes Of All Levels?

Q: My husband is a big protein advocate and says I don’t get enough. There are a lot of things like protein shakes and pre-workout supplements floating around the market. I’d love to know: How much is “enough”? N.S., Newington A: Adequate protein intake is associated with improvements in lean...


Your Nutrition: Will Eating Certain Foods Increase Fat-Burning?

  Q: I’ve heard that there are some foods you should not mix in order to avoid fat storage. For instance: Don’t consume a fat with a carb or a carb with a protein. I may have the combinations wrong but is there any truth to this and if so,...


Your Nutrition: How To Avoid Added Sugar In Family Diet

Q: I am trying to eliminate hidden sugar in everyday foods, especially for my children. What common foods should I watch? KR, Glastonbury A: It’s wonderful that you are trying to eliminate hidden sugar in every day foods. Way to go, Mom and Dad! “Hidden sugar” or “added sugar” is any...


Your Nutrition: Butter Vs. Light Spreadable Margarine

Q: I am wondering which is healthier to use: Butter  or light spreadable margarine, like light I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter? The latter contains palm kernel and palm oil, which I thought aren’t too healthy, but I thought that butter has more saturated fat and calories. Joyce A: Yes,...


Your Nutrition: Food Sensitivity Vs. Food Allergy

Q: Does it make sense to get tested after you have already excluded a possible food allergen? If yes, would we have to ingest the things we are allergic to for the testing to provide a result? Background:  My wife is fortunate.  She can eat anything she wants.  At this point,...


Your Nutrition: Enjoy Holiday Meals with Less Sodium

  Some of us may have waited an entire year for mom’s mashed potatoes and gravy, but beware. A holiday meal could have over 2,000 milligrams — more than a day’s worth — of sodium. Too much sodium increases blood pressure, making it harder for the heart to pump. A...


Your Nutrition: I Eat 50 Egg Whites A Week. Is That OK?

  Q: I eat 10 cooked egg whites five days a week.  Is that too much protein and can that cause digestive or other medical issues? T.V., Wethersfield A: Cooked egg whites are a nutritious, economical source of high quality protein. One egg white provides more than 3 grams of protein and...


Your Nutrition: Should Everyone Follow A Gluten-Free Diet?

  “Gluten-free” is appearing on everything from food and drink labels to toothpaste. Why? An ever-increasing number of Americans are being diagnosed with celiac disease. More than 2 million Americans, 1 in 133 people, now need to follow a gluten-free diet. People who have not been diagnosed with celiac disease,...


Little Chefs: Kitchen Activities For Preschoolers

Children are more likely to accept foods they select and help prepare, so encourage them to do as much as possible for themselves. Preschoolers quickly develop new skills and you may be surprised by how much your little chef can help in the kitchen. At 2 years old, children are...


The Underrated Berry (And A Recipe For Fresh Blueberry Sauce)

Berries have four times more antioxidant activity than most other fruits, and 10 times more than most vegetables. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and chronic disease risk by scavenging potentially harmful free oxygen radicals. Berries are also packed with vitamin C, fiber, magnesium and potassium. One cup of raspberries is only...


Need A Smart-Food Guide Through The Supermarket Aisles? Just Ask

The path toward a more healthful diet starts in the supermarket aisle. Need a guide? Backus Hospital, with ShopRite Supermarket of Norwich, is offering shoppers aisle-to-aisle tours of the store that include tips on how to save money by comparing fresh, frozen, and canned food prices, selecting and storing perishable food...


Summer Grilling Makeover: Building A Healthy Plate

For those grilling this summer, a juicy steak with a side of potatoes might sound like the perfect meal but before taking a bite, you might want to look at the numbers. One-half pound of New York Strip steak garnished with roasted potatoes and a pat of butter contains one...


Kale For Kids? Here’s How To Make It More Appealing

Kale is a nutrient-dense, leafy green vegetable that is a good source of calcium, magnesium and vitamins A, C, E and K. Even with its stellar nutrient profile, kale does not seem to rank high on the average person’s food preference scale and it is often avoided. Two major reasons...