Category Archives: Dietitians

Registered Dietitian Day: The Non-traditional Career Path

I became a registered dietitian (RD) in November of 2009 – much like any stressful, my-career-depends-on-this exam, I will probably never forget that day, date or pure sweet relief when the screen flashed my passing score.

Three years later I look at my Resume with a tilted-head – while I can’t imagine having done things any other way, it only makes sense to me.

I lived here, I did one thing, I jumped to that and lived there and then came back and now I do this!

And I love it.

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I’ve recently had the opportunity to present to the Dietetic Internships in this area (DC/MD/VA) about my “career journey” and how I got from point A to point D. I always come back to this online space, the opportunities it has provided me and the people I’ve met. Strategically putting yourself out here on the web goes a long way!

My goal is always to shed light on the other careers out here and available for nutrition and wellness enthusiasts!

Two years ago I wrote The Road to RD, recapping the path from college-grad to dietitian and what that map looked like for me. It’s still one of the most viewed pages on this site, and answers some of the most common questions I get from students and prospective career-changers.

The career posts have evolved from there. If you’re interested in what a non-traditional dietitian world looks like, I hope this helps:

A Dietitian in Marketing (Small Planet Foods)
A Day in the Life: Corporate Wellness Event-Planning (WCS)
Healthy Office Culture: Let’s Chat! #fitatwork
A Day in the Life: Biometric Screenings / Health Education (WCS)

Coach heather signBiometric screening suppliespush-up tabata
WCSlogoWCS billy goat trail

Any requests for future spotlights on what my days look like?

Interested in what wellness would look like for your company? We’d be happy to help! ( info@wellnesscorporatesolutions.com )

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If you have other questions about becoming an RD, or getting your foot in the health/fitness/wellness door, ask away!

It’s an evolving field that has come a long way even in the three short years that I’ve been a part of it. We have a long way to go with a lot of issues, and believe me we’re working hard to get there! The great thing is that there is always more to learn, know and understand about food. The research is going in every direction you can think of; new career fields are being created by the year. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Dietitian Day, to all my fellow RDs!

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Filed under about me, Dietitians, food, Nutrition

“Do I look like the type of person who has a heart attack?”

February is national Heart Health month, dedicated to spreading awareness and educating both men and women on the risk factors for heart disease.

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It’s in my genes, and the routine cholesterol checks have begun – so far, my numbers are “amazing”. Whew. At a recent routine physical, the NP called me a “poster-child for exercise” and realized her 2-minute nutrition talk probably wasn’t necessary to give to a dietitian. For now, I breathe easy and happily keep on doin’ what I’m doin’.

But I know full well what notes could eventually fill up my medical chart if I weren’t active, didn’t passionately eat healthy foods and ignored the importance of stress relief. When I provide a family medical history, there is one recurring theme – heart disease.

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I will never ever forget an April evening in 2011 when I realized I had missed calls from my mom and sister, voicemails and texts. Something’s wrong…

I still vividly remember the words, the shock and the (horribly anxious) waiting on the couch for hours for more news; the reel of thoughts, what-ifs, memories and pure panic that ensued before I finally got another call. He’ll be okay. Tomorrow will just be another day.  Our family is still complete.

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It can happen to anyone, at any age on any day of the week. I was recently introduced to this video by Elizabeth Banks & the American Heart Association, “Just a Little Heart Attack”.

It perfectly represents the situation that none of us deem possible…until it is, and it’s real and it happens to someone you love:

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Do you know your numbers (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, blood pressure)?

If you could ask one question related to heart-health and how to improve any one thing, what would it be? (Follow-up post to come.)

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Filed under Dietitians, family, health

NHBPM WEGO Prompt: Calling BS…

Per the WEGO health post prompt today, I’m ready to call “BS” on a few things.

Any health-world professional will tell you that there are too many ways to accomplish one goal –weight loss, health improvements, muscle toning…whatever it may be – some great, some ridiculous. Most people go for the quick fixes, while some are in it for the “long haul” (hello, life).

The fluctuating trends in nutrition and fitness are even confusing to professionals at times – your friend told you almonds do WHAT? you’re running backwards because of {insert new theory on gait-changing}? you bought that super-food for HOW much?  – and we try hard to keep up! It’s anyone’s guess as to how these get started, but thanks to our friend the internet they spread so dang quickly.

Enter: blogs. Our space and time to speak without interruption! If I may, here are a few things I’d like to call BS on…

Low-caloriesnacks:

We all remember the craze of “100 Calories!” snack-packs, yes? I think they’re still around, but thankfully I see them less and less.

We all know that it’s pretty easy to only snack on 100 calories, right? And it doesn’t have to be in the form of depressingly small “cookie” discs? It can be a banana, a grapefruit, a large apple, a baked sweet/regular potato, a small handful of nuts, a spoonful of peanut butter or even few pieces of dark chocolate. The list goes on and on. Nobody needs to tell you exactly how many calories are in your snack – if they feel like they do, you should probably feel like there’s no need to listen.

natural-peanut-butter

Oil separation = a beautiful thing. Get stirring…

Reduced-fat peanut butter:

Let’s show peanuts some love! They don’t need anyone messing with them, and they certainly don’t need any sugar in their butter. Yep, reduced fat peanut butter is just sweetened and plumped up with additives (read: crap) to make up for the missing fat. It’s just an oil and it’s plenty healthy for you. Plus, some of those vitamins and minerals in there need fat for storage. They’ll thank you for going au natural.

Bacon-wrapped/flavored/infused-everything:

Clearly, as a meat-free eater, I’m biased here. And I’ll be the first to say there’s room for balance in all things – indulge, enjoy, balance, repeat. But the praising of bacon has gone a little bit far, especially when we consider what it is- cured pork meat, mostly fat. That’s it. There’s no rejoicing in the hidden nutritional content here! Nope, it’s just a lot of saturated fat, salt and protein.

If you’re a bacon-lover, enjoy a strip here and there with breakfast, or around a scallop or chocolate-dipped if you’re so inclined. But chew with caution!

cat energy drink

Energy-drinks, “Full of B vitamins!”:

You’re a smart crowd – you probably know full well that energy drinks, with their crazy loud claims and 1980s-style commercials, can’t have anything good going for them. Serious health risks aside (important to note, though), they are not your ideal source of B vitamins.

You’d be surprised how many people seem to think otherwise, and are genuinely swayed to maybe believe these drink-makers for 1.2 seconds when they see the “nutrition” information. Wait, what?…1000% of Vitamin b12?!

No food/drink/product needs to provide you with 1000% of anything; aside from the obvious fact that this can’t be natural in any way, the body can’t absorb all of that! Your urine will be pretty amped up, though.

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I’m sure that list could go on forever, but we’ll leave it at that for now.

Health-enthusiasts (I’m looking at you) – what would you love to call “BS” on?

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Filed under Dietitians, food, health, in the News

What it Means: Four More & ACA

It’s not often you’ll find me touting political beliefs – the Obama-Biden bumper-sticker I received for donating to the campaign is on my fridge, not my bumper – or getting deep into discussions, debates or long-winded arguments. Rather, I do my own research (read, watch and pick D’s brain) and “like” photos and smile when I feel proud of what we’ve done as a country.

I voted for Obama

I cannot wait to take advantage of our DC life and head to the inauguration on January 20th. History, we heart you!

In the meantime, I’m trying to really wrap my brain around what this means. Given my profession and passion, the things that matter to me are education and changes to student loan laws (if/when I go for that Masters…), changes in agriculture and environmental laws, and last but not least the Affordable Care Act.

With ACA in effect, this re-election means:

  • Women have control over their care. ‘Nuff said. (Why this was ever not the case would be a separate conversation…)
  • Coverage must be provided for: pre-existing conditions (this is huge; you know the significance of this when you see it first-hand) and pregnancy (under job-based plans).
  • Medicare recipients will save money on the cost of services and prescription drugs.
  • “Gender-rating” is essentially eliminated – meaning women can’t be charged higher because, well, we’re women. Because we’re of “child-bearing” age and might cost the health insurance companies more. Coverage also “vastly improves” for other minority groups.
  • Light is shed on preventive services. What this will mean, long-term? Who knows. But it’s a step in the right direction. For now: “You may not have to pay a copayment, co-insurance, or deductible to receive recommended preventive health services, such as screenings, vaccinations, and counseling.”
  • For example: “depending on your age, you may have access — at no cost: Counseling on such topics as quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthfully, treating depression, and reducing alcohol use.”

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I realize this post is quite out of character here, but I hope that won’t always be the case. It’s so important that we’re aware of these things and invested in what it means for each of us!

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Moving on to other fun things we do in DC…run! I love the Tuesday night lululemon run club because it gives me a weekly run along the waterfront and underneath the Kennedy Center, coming up to Lincoln and seeing the National Mall. We had a great election-night turn-out, as we all tried to pass the time and enjoy a cool evening in our city:

Lincoln memorial at nightwomens memorial DClululemon georgetown run club 11.6.12

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And with all of that, I bid you happy post-election day. Good-bye ads, hello to four-more-years!

How was your election day/night?

Non-US peeps – were you interested, too?

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Filed under Dietitians, health, in the News, new things!

WEGO Health Soapbox: Why I (Mostly) Avoid Dairy

I’ve signed up for the WeGo National Health post prompts (thanks to Sassy). I won’t touch on all 30 days, but I think it’s a great way to get some (hopefully) thought-provoking posts up here.

So, for now, we take a break from running…and I step on a soapbox.

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The back-story: After a lot of back-and-forth deciding what may be causing D some chronic discomfort, he finally let me play dietitian and test out a few theories. Eventually, we cut dairy and gluten from his diet – ergo, mine at home, too – and voila! Problem (mostly) solved! Just in time for the summer and his cycling season, whew.

got milk you dont need it
(Photo source)

Further back: I stopped drinking cow’s milk right after college, finally realizing I very obviously didn’t tolerate it well*. I stuck with yogurt and hard cheeses because they have little-to-no lactose thanks to the fermentation process. For the lactose-intolerant, they’re generally safe. For the dairy/milk-intolerant (often associated with the protein, not the sugar), they’re not.

*Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants & children.

Approximately 33% of adults are lactose-intolerant, and 75% have a decrease in lactase activity (the enzyme that breaks down lactose). These numbers significantly higher in African-, Native-, Mexican- and Asian-American populations (75 & 90% respectively).

For long-time readers, you may recall a love-affair with vegetable pizzas – homemade or a la the pizzerias of the world. After cutting out meat and poultry, it was a fun dish to be creative with and never miss the meat! When eating out, it was an easy go-to for a “vegetarian” option.

Alas, you may have noticed less pizza appearing on these pages as of late…

I’ll be  the first to admit that melted cheese leaves little to be desired in any dish. But knowing what I do now, and with all stomach discomforts left in the dust, it’s easy to avoid. And we have.

cow milk production then and now
cows milk production 2
(Photo source)

Cows treated with hormones means you’re drinking those hormones. The solution? You can opt to buy organic milks and look for packaging that clarifies something along the lines of “not treated with rBST”.

If nothing else, do this!

{There are a handful of companies responsibly producing dairy products that I’ve supported – notably, Chobani & Stoneyfield – and continue to follow for their quality initiatives, health promotion and community outreach.}

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So, let’s say you’re in the minority of adults that are fully able to digest lactose and you buy organic, hormone-free milks, cheeses and yogurts…

Then, what’s the problem?

milk studies
(Photo source)

Here are a few other reasons to think about decreasing your dairy intake:

  • “In multiple, peer-reviewed animal studies, researchers discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.”
    China Study Cheat Sheet
  • “Some of the “experts” who helped create the pyramid actually work for the dairy industry, which makes the US Department of agriculture’s {dairy} recommendations reflect industry interests, not science or our best interests.”
    “Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.”
    Dr. Mark Hymann – Dairy: 6 Reasons you Should Avoid it
  • “Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, may worsen asthmatic symptoms…High-fat dairy products may worsen inflammation.”
    Foods to Avoid When Asthmatic
    Of note: there isn’t significant research (yet) to support this. The only testament is word-of-mouth & posts like this.
  • “…the truth is that {milk}  isn’t the only way to work toward your 1,000-a-day {recommended mg of calcium}. We gathered some of the most calcium-rich foods out there (including many vegan and vegetarian options) — just be sure to pair each of them with adequate vitamin D intake (the body needs this nutrient to absorb calcium, and milk is already fortified with it).”
    Surprisingly Calcium-rich Foods that Aren’t Milk

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What are those other calcium-rich foods? Things that I would bet most of you already eat, anyway!

white bean salad bowl of kale almond trail mix

Things like: salmon, kale, almonds, white beans, oranges, dried figs, arugula, broccoli, sunflower seeds & soy products (milk, beans/edamame, tofu, etc.).

Milk-substitutes: I primarily drink Almond Milk because I prefer the taste and consume other soy products throughout the week (tofu, edamame, etc.).

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I do believe in approaching all things with moderation. If you’re not up for cutting out dairy completely, just consider reducing your intake.

We’ve learned it can be frustratingly hard to completely avoid dairy – most restaurants use butter/creams in various cooking methods and sometimes  I’ll find “milk” on the allergen list of random foods like BBQ chips or dark chocolate (not okay – that’s what milk chocolate is for!). Sometimes it’s in dips, sauces, etc that I wouldn’t think of. And there are some random days when my 80/20 attitude kicks in, and that’s okay. For me.

Last week I bought organic peppermint patties at Whole Foods, and then saw “milk powder” low on the ingredient list. I didn’t care enough not to enjoy and indulge.

I’m not perfect and I would never expect anyone else to be. But, I care passionately about my health; the information here is too hard to ignore, and it’s worth mentioning that we are the only  species that drinks another animal’s milk. It’s not healthy nor environmentally responsible. Even reducing your intake – vs. eliminating it entirely – will make a difference.

“Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants.” – this will never steer you in the wrong direction. {Michael Pollan}

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And with that, I step off my soap box!

There’s always a sensitive discussion to be had around food. I think it’s important to be open and honest, especially as a dietitian, and I hope you’re along for the ride.


Sources:

Lactose Intolerance Statistics (source: National Digestive Disease Information)

China Study: 10 Things You Need to Know

Learn Stuff: Got Milk? Infographic

USDA ERS – Dairy: Background

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Filed under about me, Dietitians, food, health, Nutrition