Are Cheese Sticks Healthy?

In the Philippines, cheese sticks are sold as street foods, served in restaurants or cooked at home as snacks (sometimes pulutan 🍻 😁). They come in different variants such as plain, with sweet bell peppers or with green long chillies called “siling haba” with varying spice levels.

But wait, are Cheese Sticks even healthy?

If you’re looking for HIGH-CALORIE and HIGH-PROTEIN SNACK ideas (like I do – weight gainer here 😁), then I’d be happy to add cheese sticks to your healthy meal plan.

Cheese is a delicious source of high-quality protein and calcium. These nutrients help build strong bones and increase muscle mass when combined with adequate energy intake and weight-bearing physical activities. Having more lean muscle mass and stronger bones help adolescents and adults prevent frailty and bone diseases such as osteoporosis later on in life.

I cooked Dynamite Cheese Sticks once and our family wasn’t able to eat them. The spice was just too much for us. 🥵

Thankfully, Real California Milk Philippines sent me different cheeses to try and I was particularly drawn to Pepper Jack cheese.

I’ve read that this cheese is good for making quesadillas, tacos, nachos, crackers and burgers. It melts easily, too!

If you can’t take the heat of Dynamite Cheese Sticks, then these Pepper Jack Cheese Sticks are for you.

Here is my Spicy Cheese Sticks recipe na hindi mapanakit:

Slightly Spicy Cheese Sticks


  • 20 pcs Lumpia wrapper
  • 190 grams California Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Red or Green Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Tomato salsa dip (optional)


  1. Slice cheese and bell peppers into finger-length sticks.
  2. Wrap each cheese and bell pepper stick with lumpia wrapper.
  3. Heat canola oil in a deep fryer.
  4. Fry the cheese sticks until golden brown.
  5. Drain excess oil by placing fried cheese sticks into paper towels.
  6. Optional: Serve with tomato salsa dip (I prefer this one over mayonnaise as this makes the overall dish less oily)
  7. Ready to dig in. Caution: Hot! 🔥

Incorporating California dairy into your life supports your overall wellness. I highly recommend you try their great-tasting and high-quality cheeses if you want to level up your cheesy recipes.

Kain po! 😋

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk Philippines. All opinions are mine.

For more information about Real California Milk:

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Ang Natatagong Lakas ni Bulas Gatas – A Dietitian’s Book Review

I had the privilege of attending Coach Jeaneth Aro’s launching of her book “Ang Natatagong Lakas ni Bulas Gatas” last July. I was lucky to get first dibs on a few copies of the book (signed by the author pa!)

I’ve heard that this book is the first of a series of children’s book that tackle topics in nutrition. As a dietitian, I couldn’t be more excited!

So, what can I say about this book? What nutrition topic did this book tackle?

Let’s find out in my book review.

Want a copy for yourself?

Please click this link:

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk Philippines. All opinions are mine.

For more information about Real California Milk:


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Powerful Snack Combo

Here’s one thing I often see in my clients’ food choices: High-carb low-protein snacks.

For the record, carbs are NOT bad. We need high-quality carbohydrates to give us energy so we can do physical tasks [1] such as standing, walking, household chores, exercise and sports, and mental tasks such as thinking, studying and focusing [2].

But, there is one way to improve our snacking habit: Add more protein!

By having a snack with a carbohydrate-protein combo, you can

  • feel more satisfied with your snack and therefore prevent you from eating more, which helps in controlling your calorie intake
  • feel satisfied for longer therefore preventing cravings later on, again helping you lessen your sugar and calorie intake
  • build and repair body structures including skeletal muscles, internal organs, bones, teeth, hair, and skin.

For example, instead of eating plain bread for snack, eat protein-rich foods with it such as nut butter, egg, milk or cheese.

Speaking of cheese, I’d like to share with you a cheese roll recipe that has a bit of spice in it. I wanted to call it by my first name but I might get into trouble 😉 so let’s just call it:

Spiced Cheese Rolls

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups All-purpose flour
  • ½ Tbsp Instant dry yeast
  • 4 Tbsp White sugar
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 pack Real California Pepper Jack Cheese

Wet ingredients:

  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1 cup California Sunshine Homogenized Milk
  • ½ cup Unsalted butter


  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C
  2. Sift all-purpose flour, sugar and salt then mix with a spoon. Add the yeast and mix again.
  3. Make a hole at the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients (eggs and milk)
  4. Combine all ingredients using a wooden spoon or a mixer until it forms into a dough.      
  5. Knead the dough while adding in the unsalted butter. Knead for 15 to 20 minutes until ready (smooth texture)
  6. Form the dough into a ball and place it on a buttered mixing bowl. Let it rest for 30 mins to 1 hour.
  7. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it to release the air.
  8. Portion the dough into 50g-60g pieces or depending on your desired portion size.
  9. Roll the dough to form round shapes and let them rest for 5-10 minutes (cover with kitchen towel or plastic)
  10. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough. Place the cheese slices and roll it to wrap the cheese slice with the dough.
  11. Let all the dough rest for 30mins to 1 hour until doubled in size.
  12. Bake for 20-30 mins in 180 C.
  13. Optional: After baking, brush the cheese rolls with unsalted butter and sprinkle with sugar.          

Snacks that contain nutrient-dense carbohydrates are good for us, but we can make them better by adding protein.

Cheese is a delicious source of high-quality protein, calcium and nutrients essential for good health.

So, add cheese and other protein-rich foods to your snacks often to help you stay healthy both physically and mentally.

Kain po. 🙂


[1] Kanter, M. (2018). High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance. Nutrition Today. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

[2] Edwards, S. (20160. Sugar and the Brain. Harvard Medical School.

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk Philippines. All opinions are mine.

For more information about Real California Milk:

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Are you concerned with being underweight?

Dairy for weight gain by Grace Banal RND

I feel you.

I have unintentionally lost weight for the past few months because of stress from major life events.

While our weight-centric society often celebrates thinness and weight loss, we should be aware that being underweight can be just as unhealthy as being overweight [1].

This is not only applicable to adults. Underweight is also a concern among children and elderly [2].

Having a child and elderly parents to take care of aside from my clients, I take the matter of underweight close to my heart.

To help us gain weight, many of us often think of nutrition supplements to help us increase energy and nutrient content of our diet. Nutrition supplements are convenient but the common concern is it can be expensive to some.

In these cases, I recommend home-made energy- and nutrient-dense beverages to supplement regular meals and snacks. However, some complain that additional equipment may be needed in preparing smoothies and can be inconvenient at times.

I feel you, too.

As a busy and tipid-mode mom and dietitian, let me share with you my go-to milk recipe that helped me increase the weight of my child (who is a picky eater) and nourished my mom who has lost a lot of muscle mass recently due to illnesses:

Nutty Oatie Milkshake


1 ½ cup California Sunshine Homogenized Milk

½ cup Instant Oatmeal

2 Tbsp Peanut butter

Cold: Combine all ingredients in a water bottle / beverage container. Refrigerate and shake well before drinking.

Hot: Add instant oats and oil to warm milk. Stir.


I often share this drink with my child. We drink it at breakfast, afternoon snack and/or before bedtime.

For my mom, I prepare half a cup of this drink and keep it near her bedside so she can drink it whenever she feels hungry.

Dairy provides 13 essential nutrients and is a great way to fuel the body. This drink can help you reach your daily calorie and nutrient needs.

I believe that milk is an underrated food/beverage that deserve more attention, especially among us Filipinos. For my fellow Pinoys out there struggling with gaining weight, milk is our ally.

I am on my journey towards gaining my healthy weight back and I hope you join me on this.

Kain po maigi.

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk Philippines. All opinions are mine.

If you have specific nutrition-related concerns, please consult a nutritionist-dietitian.


[1] Chokshi DA et al (2015). J-Shaped Curves and Public Health. Journal of American Medical Association. Vol 314 No. 13. Pp 1339-1340. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2015.9566

[2] FNRI-DOST. (2020). Nutrition Surveys. Retrieved from e-nutrition:

For more information about gaining weight, please check my blog post and sample meal plan:

For more information about Real California Milk:

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Enjoying Blueberries Year-Round

Can you guess what these are?

From afar, they look like raisins, but on a closer look, they have a different aura of fruity sophistication.

These are dried blueberries – they have that signature blueberry tanginess, wholesome sweetness, and leathery-silky mouthfeel that make you easily forget how much you have already eaten.

After nibbling on these for a couple of days, I made Blueberry Muffins using dried blueberries, and it was a hit! The base is still moist, and the nuts and dried blueberries gave each bite a different texture and flavor profile.

Dried Blueberry Muffins

Dry ingredients:

  • 130 grams all-purpose flour
  • 90 grams brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Wet ingredients:

  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 125 ml buttermilk
  • 60 mL corn oil
  • ¾ cup USA dried blueberries
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (cashew or almonds, optional)
  • 2 pcs overripe banana
  • 2 pcs eggs


  1. Sift all dry ingredients and mix.
  2. Mash the bananas.
  3. Mix all wet ingredients with the banana.
  4. Pour in vanilla, buttermilk, oil,  and eggs. Mix.
  5. Mix dry and wet ingredients thoroughly until no lumps appear, but do not overmix.
  6. Put in dried blueberries and nuts.
  7. Transfer the batter into a lined or buttered muffin tray, about ¼ cup each.
  8. Bake at 180C for 30 minutes.

Blueberries aren’t only good in baked goods. Aside from fresh and dried, blueberries are also available as frozen, infused, and pureed, making them versatile enough to be made into soups, salad dressings, sauces, desserts, or beverages.

At any time of the year, we can enjoy these nutritious little wonders of nature.

I encourage you to take advantage of blueberries’ unique color, flavor, versatility, and adaptability to add more fruits and fiber into your diet.

Kain po!

This post is sponsored by USA Blueberries Philippines. All opinions are mine.

#USABlueberries #USABlueberriesPHL #DriedBlueberries #HealthfulSnacking #BoostofBlue

Dried Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

If you think fresh blueberries are good, wait till you get to try dried blueberries.

They have that distinct midnight blue color but with a tangy flavor and chewy texture.

Since they are dried, you can bring them with you to snack on anywhere, anytime. In fact, I munched on dried blueberries while I was writing my thesis. They did a great job at keeping me awake in the wee hours – better than coffee!

Or, you can make pastries out of dried blueberries, like I did:

Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies

Dry ingredients:

  • 1.5 cup All-purpose flour
  • ½ cup Dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup White sugar
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • ½ tsp Baking powder
  • ½ cup USA dried/dehydrated blueberries
  • 1 cup Oatmeal
  • ½ cup Chopped cashew (optional)

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • ½ cup Unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 pc Large egg


  1. Pre heat oven to 170 C
  2. Mix sugar and butter until creamy
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract, mix again.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder, and salt, and oatmeal until it forms a dough
  5. Combine the blueberries and nuts and fold them into the dough. Do not over mix.
  6. Scoop a spoonful of the dough and roll them like a ball
  7. Place the ball of dough in a lined (parchment paper) baking tray
  8. Bake for 19 mins at 170 C.

Dried blueberries aren’t just tasty – they are packed with energy and nutrients, too.

A 100-gram serving of dried, sweetened blueberries contain 317 calories packed with fiber, vitamin C, and other vitamins and minerals.

Plus, blueberries contain polyphenols including anthocyanins that help defend us against the aging effects of free-radicals.

So, if you are a fan of blueberries, I highly recommend you try dried blueberries as well. You can use them when making breads and pastries, add them to salads or desserts or simply eat them as is.

Don’t forget to let me know how you liked them, ok?

Kain maigi!

This post is sponsored by USA Blueberries Philippines. All opinions are mine.

For more nutrition information and peer-reviewed scientific research, you can click here:

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Better Breakfast

Comment with a heart emoji if you ate breakfast today.

Comment with a breakfast emoji if you are confident that yours is a “better breakfast”.

Better breakfast by Grace Banal RND

For me, a “better breakfast” ticks the following criteria:

  • Madali [easy to prepare] – there’s a reason why a lot of us skip breakfast – we’re always in a hurry in the morning! So, a better breakfast should be easy to make, no hassle!
  • Masarap [delicious] – what’s the point of eating breakfast if it doesn’t spark joy to our tastebuds, right?
  • Masustansya [nutritious] – we need macro and micronutrients to fuel and strengthen every cell in our body. Eat breakfast like a winner!

One key ingredient that helps me have a better breakfast is incorporating dairy products. Dairy such as milk and cheese provide 13 essential nutrients. Dairy is also a great way to fuel the body.

I always gravitate towards Pinoy foods for breakfast. Good thing is that dairy products can easily fit into Pinoy meals, dishes and breakfast foods.

For example, I just had Extra Cheesy Bibingka and milk for breakfast. It’s easy to prepare, yummy and with enough energy-giving carbohydrates, body-building protein and flavor-giving fat.

Extra Cheesy Bibingka (makes 4 servings)


  • 1 cup California Sunshine Homogenized milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ cup rice flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 pcs clean banana leaves (cut into round shapes enough to fit into the molds)
  • Cubed (1 cm)  California white cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Grated California Milk White Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 °F or 200 °C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the melted butter and sugar together. Pour milk and whisk until combined.
  3. Sift the rice flour, baking powder, and salt into the creamed ingredients. Whisk together until there are no more lumps. Add cubed cheese into the batter and mix.
  4. Pour the batter into the molds. Fill only up to ¾ of the mold.
  5. With a sheet pan underneath, put the molds into the oven.
  6. After 20 minutes, add grated cheese. Bake for 5 more minutes or until melted but not burned.
  7. Check doneness by piercing the middle of each bibingka with a cake tester or clean toothpick. If the cake tester comes out wet, bake for 2 more minutes. If it comes out clean, the bibingka is done.

Cheese is a delicious source of high-quality protein, calcium and other essential nutrients. Add it to your usual breakfast foods such as omelets, sandwiches, pancakes or waffles. Finish with a warm or cold milk and you’re definitely off to a better start.

Keep on winning!

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk Philippines. All opinions are mine.

Follow along for more info:

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Do you struggle with gaining weight?

This post is sponsored by Potatoes USA-Philippines. All opinions are mine and values for nutrition information are based from the USDA Food Data Central and product’s nutrition facts panel.

While my contents are mostly about obesity and how to lose weight, I read your comments and I understand that there are also some of you who struggle with gaining weight.

If you want to gain weight or at least prevent further weight loss, here are my tips on how to increase the calorie content of your meals / snacks:

  • Instead of plain rice, go for Egg Fried Rice.
  • Instead of eating plain bread, add cheese, sandwich spreads, nut butter, olive oil or butter.
  • Instead of eating plain boiled potato, kamote or saba, go for potato/camote fries or banana cue.
  • Snack on dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, and dried mangoes.
  • Add dried fruits and nuts to yogurts, oatmeal or champorado.
  • Drink nutritious high-calorie smoothies

Snacking in between meals is a good way of increasing your daily calorie intake. If you are always on the go and don’t have time to sit down for a snack, high-calorie smoothies can definitely help.

Here is a smoothie recipe I thought you’d want to try:

Potato Apple Cinnamon Smoothie

  • 3 tbsp dehydrated potato granules
  • ½ cup sweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 dash cinnamon powder
  • Ice cubes
  1. Combine everything in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.

This smoothie contains body-building protein and energy-giving carbohydrates. A diet with adequate carbohydrates spares protein from being used as your energy source thereby allowing your body to use protein for muscle building.

Hence, it’s important that your smoothie contain enough protein as well as carbohydrates if your goal is to gain weight. Also, a little bit of fat from milk can help you further increase your total calorie intake needed for healthy weight gain.

One last tip:

Resistance training can definitely help you build those muscles and curves. This smoothie is rich in potassium and contains 75% of your daily vitamin C needs. This means that this drink is perfect as pre- or post-workout fueling as well.

Let’s drink up and bulk up. Enjoy!

Each serving contains:

  • 349 Calories
  • 74 grams Carbohydrates
  • 11.5 grams Protein
  • 3.5 grams Fiber
  • 454 mg Potassium
  • 52.6 mg Vitamin C
  • 9 grams Fat (10% of total calories)
  • 114.3 mg Sodium
  • 27 mg Cholesterol
  • 31.5 grams Sugar

For more potato recipes, visit

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Debunking Myths About Carbs and Weight Gain

This post is sponsored by Potatoes USA-Philippines. All opinions are mine.

Myth 1: You gain weight when you eat carbs

Fact 1:

When you exercise and eat adequate carbohydrates, you may experience weight gain due to glycogen being stored (along with water) into your muscles, liver, and brain [1].

Glycogen is not bad – it serves as stored fuel that your body can use when needed such as
during endurance exercises.

Fact 2:

Energy intake that exceeds energy expenditure (energy surplus) is the main driver of weight gain [2].

Carbohydrates, along with protein and fat, are energy-giving nutrients, aka “macros” (short for macronutrients).

It is the total energy or calorie surplus that causes weight gain, not just carbohydrate intake. Therefore, any excess in calories, be it from carbohydrates, protein, or fat, or a combination of the three, can cause weight gain.

Therefore, when you gain weight:

  1. You may be gaining glycogen and not necessarily fat.
  2. It may not be just because of carbohydrates alone but because of your energy or calorie intake from protein and fat as well.

Studies show that people who eat adequate good-quality carbohydrates tend to be in better shape [3] than those who are on low-carbohydrate diets [4].

Good quality carbohydrates contain other important nutrients and fiber, such as:

  • Whole grain cereals – brown/red rice, rolled oats, corn
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Root crops and tubers such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, ube, and gabi.

1 medium-size potato (148 grams) provides about 110 calories and contains about 26 grams of complex carbohydrates with 2 grams of fiber. It also contains essential nutrients such as potassium and vitamin C, plus 3 grams of protein. On its own, it contains zero fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

This shows that not all carbohydrates are equal. When you are trying to manage your weight, go for carbohydrates-rich foods that are both nutritious and satisfying.


  • You don’t need to give up carbs to lose weight
  • You need adequate carbs especially if you are physically active
  • Eating high-fiber carbohydrate-rich foods can help you lose weight and keep the weight off.


[1] Murray & Rosenbloom (2018). Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes.

[2] Romieu et al (2017). Energy balance and obesity: what are the main drivers?

[3] Dam & Seidell (2007). Carbohydrate intake and obesity.

[4] Merchant et al (2009). Carbohydrate Intake and Overweight and Obesity among Healthy Adults.

*For potato recipes, visit

#potatonutrition #USPotatoPower #potatoesusaphl #potatopower

Top 5 reasons why people gain weight

Top 5 reasons why people gain weight (based on my experience in nutrition counseling):

  1. Work
  2. Got married / Had kids
  3. Pandemic
  4. Stress
  5. Low budget for “healthy foods”

This shows that the reasons behind unwanted weight/fat gain may NOT be entirely under our control. There are major life events and unavoidable situations that affect our food intake and physical activities. 

Yet, we often look at CARBS as the main reason for our weight gain. Because of this mindset, we

  • avoid rice, breads, pasta and potatoes
  • stop eating fruits
  • blame ourselves for our lack of control.

While it is good that we recognize the negative health consequences of obesity and strive to stay within healthy weight, avoiding one food group altogether may deprive us of key nutrients we need to stay healthy. Depriving ourselves can make our food habits unstable, leading to more food cravings and weight gain.

How about we re-frame our mindset about food and look at our weight from a more caring perspective?

For example, my clients often tell me “Potatoes are carbs and therefore I should stop eating them”. What we do is we shift the mindset into something more positive:

“Potatoes contain carbs along with fiber, vitamin C, potassium and protein. I can eat these whenever I want, together with other nutritious foods in moderation. This way, I can keep myself in good health, whether I gain weight or not.”

This is what BALANCE is about:

Accept that life is tough and we need to stay in shape so we can face life’s challenges.

At the same time, we need delicious foods so we can experience the beauty of life.

Also, it’s already February! So, let’s celebrate Love Month with more self-love, ok? 😉

This post is sponsored by Potatoes USA-Philippines. All opinions are mine.

For potato recipes, visit

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