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.


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! ( )


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!


Filed under about me, Dietitians, food, Nutrition

Calorie Conversations II: Weighty Issues on Food Quality

In a long over-due follow-up to the first conversation we had around Calories, this post takes a bigger bite out of the energy in = out argument, and the “healthy living guidelines” that have left us in the same place for too long . There’s more to the equation…


The recently hyped and debuted HBO special The Weight of the Nation combines the knowledge and campaign efforts of the three major public-health institutions in the United States: Institute of Medicine (IOM), Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Sunday night, my Mom and I watched the end of the third installment and then backtracked  to see the beginning of part I.

Weight of the Nation HBO obesityinamericamap CDC

I didn’t learn anything new; they aren’t telling us things we haven’t heard 100 times already*. They preached on:

For weight maintenance energy in {should} = energy out
One calorie here = one calorie there, whether it’s fat, sugar or protein
Exercise more, sit less. We need to
Overweight & obesity lead to chronic health conditions, significantly raising an individual’s risk of heart disease, Type II Diabetes, etc.

Obesity is a health epidemic.

*Disclaimer: I haven’t watched all 4 parts beginning to end; my judgment is premature premature, but based off of what I’ve seen thus far.

We know all of this, right?

If all things were as simple as scientists want them to be, we wouldn’t be thousands of pounds and billions of healthcare dollars deep into this crisis. The answer won’t be found in one simple math equation, and the problems won’t be solved by any one government or non-profit agency. The weight of our nation won’t change from food taxes or nationwide recommendations or government mandates.

It’s hopeful that the national scale will budge, as the four-sided boulder that HBO has created with these three agencies begins to roll.

An individual can only change when they’re ready. I do believe in the power of education in any media, but this essential step is only a catalyst, not a solution. It’s only effective when we know the whole story, not the bits & pieces that are supposed to ring true for “everyone”.

So, what’s not being said loud enough? What’s missing from the energy equation, exercise recommendations and nutrition guidelines?

In an interesting complement to the HBO series, Newsweek’s cover recently featured an infant holding French Fries, quoting “When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Weigh 300 Pounds. Help!”

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This article uncovers history and stats that we don’t see plastered over any diet book, dietary recommendation or physical activity suggestion. It intelligently looks past the basics, and dishes out some advice that challenges what science tells us to be true.

Not all calories are created equal. We metabolize forms of sugar differently; our bodies need protein and fat for different processes; set-points vary by individual, based on factors such as activity level, age, genetics, etc.

I don’t believe that an exact balance of calories in and calories out is the solution to weight maintenance. It hinges on what those calories are made up of, and what our body has been trained to do with them.

To paraphrase a section of Gary Taubes’ Newsweek  featured article:

“Glucose is metabolized by virtually every cell in the body, the fructose (also found in fruit, but in much lower concentrations) is metabolized mostly by liver cells…some of the fructose is converted into fat, the fat accumulates in the liver cells, which become resistant to the action of insulin, which is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes. The steady accumulation of fat in our tissue – a few tens of calories worth per day, leading to pounds per year, and obesity over the course of a few decades.”

In short, our body recognizes foods high in processed/added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. differently. Consuming 100 calories of fruit vs. a 100 calorie processed “snack bar” won’t result in the same digestive processes. The same is very likely true for other processed nutrients – hydrogenated oils, some saturated fats, etc.

Of course we shouldn’t be eating thousands of calories of fruit each day (I’m not sure your digestive tract could handle that fiber intake), nor should every calorie of soda (or candy, snack bars, etc.) be replaced with natural sugars – there is some level of energy balance to think about. But the take-away is that even when you are consuming the amount of calories you need, it does matter what foods you’re choosing. We have to start thinking outside of the numbers.

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Think about (i.e. read ) what is on that ingredient list, and why you’re eating something out of a box, wrapper or can. Is there a better choice available?

Think about what any and every food is doing for you, aside from satisfying a hunger pain. There is always room for an indulgence (or two) – dark chocolate, I heart you – but with health-conscious consumers on the rise, even those can be short on ingredients and high in quality nutrients.


With another three other parts to the Weight of the Nation series, we have a lot to talk about! The productions are well done and engaging; there’s no doubt that these will strike a note with people. But as always, there’s more to the story.

{Any requests for Calorie Conversations, III ?}

Let’s hear it – what do you think about the quality of calories vs. just a number to add or subtract?

Are you watching Weight of the Nation ?


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

Flashback Friday: Grad Cap to Pyramid Topper

I very recently realized that it’s been four years since I was a student of any kind; I’ve been in this “real world” for four whole years. As most of us know, one of the many beauties of this online “log” is looking back – four years ago, I wrote this*:

This is weird.

I walked across the stage and shook a lot of hands. I picked up my diploma, and thought about all of the classes I took to get it.

I packed up my room, and looked back at an empty space.

I drove out of town, and realized I don’t know when I’ll be back.

*On a very different blog, in a very different life.

Three years ago today, I was in the throws of Dietetic Intern life. I was undoubtedly counting down the days until June, when we would finally be “RD-Eligible”. I was definitely counting the days until a paycheck landed in my hand.

I had just met Ivan in the Union Station Metro stop (yep), along with a few other running friends; I had put all my energy towards shorter races, surviving humidity & planning for a move. I had just crossed my first Finish Line in DC; more importantly, I had my very first post-race mimosa.

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Sweet. Bubbly. OJ.

Two years ago today, Kate & I were in the very early stages of our morning run routine. We realized that the 90* summer heat would defeat us if we didn’t battle with strategy. 5:20 AM wake-up call? I’m lookin’ at you.

I also had a little car-mishap. Whoops.

Escapay towed

One year ago today, our life was barely recognizable (by comparison). My words, exactly:

Suddenly, it’s been almost 6 weeks at the new job. And I still love every day.

Suddenly, we’ve been in Denver for TEN months. I still say “we just moved from DC…”. I suppose “just” could be dropped from that sentence.

Suddenly, one of my best friends has a baby girl, and two other couples are engaged! Life is moving fast here.

Suddenly, I’m two weeks out from another half-marathon. My running is going as well as it can given all of the above, and I’m embracing the challenge.

Suddenly, it’s approaching the end of May and we’re making Summer plans. Sunshine, come back!

I had just visited Minneapolis for the first time, and was waiting anxiously for the Denver “spring” to pass so that those sunshine-filled days could actually translate to warm mountain adventures.

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Today, I’m happy to head into an office where we work hard to help people live a healthier life. We also work hard to stay fit, healthy & happy ourselves. Scenes from the All-Team meeting this week (and a quick hike up the street to Great Falls):

PM Pyramid
Great Falls MarylandWCS Great Falls walk

At the end of the day, I’ll be off to play tour-guide with my Mom for the weekend!

Life moves fast, but damn it’s good.


Having flashbacks? What, where, when & why – one year ago for you?


Filed under about me, Dietitians

Butter (Alone) Won’t Give You Type 2 Diabetes

The famously endearing Southern cook, Miss Paula Deen, finally shared a little something other than a pie recipe – she has Type 2 Diabetes. She’s had it for three years. She’s now coming out as the spokesperson for Novo Nordisk (pharmaceutical drug, marketing and research company).

… anybody shocked? Of course not.

Did everyone already hear this news 10 times over throughout the past 48 hours? I know; {hand-raised} me too.

paula-deenI’m not here to share a snarky opinion about Paula, her recipes or her decision to get paid by “Big Pharma”. To be honest, I heart that deep southern drawl and her consistently friendly, upbeat, fun attitude. I sort of love that she adds a long “Y’allll” to the end of everything, flashes her pearly whites more often than not, and calls people “Honey”. I wish her the best in the management of this life-long disease – it’s not an easy diagnosis to take on.

But, there’s an opportunity for education, and it appears she’s decided to skip that route.

“Honey, I’m your cook, not your doctor. You are going to have to be responsible for yourself.”
-Paula Deen, herself

Well, Ms. Deen, that’s the issue. There still seems to be quite a disconnect between what we eat, and how it effects our health. That is a problem. You are a cook, you are in the public eye, and the way you eat is not too different from how many other Americans dine.

She’s since been criticized for not giving up butter,  or her deep fryer. It’s highly unlikely that those two things alone led to the development of this chronic condition. Her high-fat, high-sugar, ‘southern-style’ recipes certainly played an big starring role, but the big picture comes together with a few outlying puzzle pieces.

Type 2 Diabetes is still being researched intensely in all respects. It accounts for 90-95% of all Diabetes cases in the United States, and yet we still aren’t entirely sure how people “get it”.  We do have a few things figured out, though.

Did you know that…

  • Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (DM) was once called “Adult Onset” Diabetes – almost all cases were reported in adults, not children. Well, childhood obesity spiked and suddenly we’re seeing kids being diagnosed with Type 2 DM. Now it’s referred to as “Non-Insulin Dependent DM”.
    • It develops as the body becomes resistant to insulin. The pancreatic cells still produce insulin, in most cases, but the body doesn’t utilize it effectively or efficiently. This is the difference between Type 1 & Type 2.
  • It occurs slowly over time; people could have it for years without knowing.
  • The top 3 risk factors (before genetics) are – Low activity level, poor diet & excess body weight around the waist (i.e. fat distribution).
  • Increased body fat makes it more difficult for your body to use insulin correctly – this is applicable to people who are overweight or appear to be at a healthy weight.
  • Many Type 2 DM patients can control the disease with improved diet and increased physical activity alone. No drugs needed! Even some people who take medications have been able to improve their lifestyle, through diet and exercise, enough so that they can be taken off of medication. Examples in the spotlight – Biggest Loser contestants.

ApplesRun FeetChickpea salad

Hopefully you learned something new! As this disease becomes increasingly prevalent in the American population, I think it’s important to know where the prevention (and management) opportunities exist.  Type 2 DM is not a death sentence by any means, and it’s not necessarily a pill-a-day-for-life.

There aren’t a lot of things that I feel “preachy” about, but I suppose this falls into that category. Save money on pills; cook healthier meals, fight your genetics and incorporate some exercise into your day. You are responsible for the choices you make every day – just you.

Paula can choose the medication, continue to cook with her southern charm, and hopefully her health will stable. If nothing else, you’ve got options with her recipes, as her son changes ‘em up. And you’ve got a few more facts in your brain that will hopefully keep your blood sugar from spiking!


Filed under Dietitians, food, Nutrition

“Is Junk Food Cheaper?”: A Challenge

This morning I made breakfast at home!

That statement probably doesn’t excite you, surprise you or even entice you to keep reading. But, stick with me here!

I do this every day (still not shocked yet, I know); it’s not anything gourmet or unique, but it’s filling. I put 1/2 cup of rolled oats (yes, I buy quick-cook most of the time) in a bowl with 3/4 cup of water, microwave this for 1 minute and 20 seconds, let it cool, add in a sliced banana & 1 tbsp of peanut butter.

That doesn’t require a recipe, or even a cohesive thought. The only thing I could do wrong is overcook the oats, and the only thing to be weary of is totally scorching the top my mouth (which I’ve done, many times). This takes two minutes of my time, and cost me approximately $0.33 total. In other words, it’s not only convenient and quick, but it’s also inexpensive and “healthy”.

Obviously this is only one example of a breakfast at home that’s easy, requires minimal time and almost no cooking skills whatsoever. While I ate my breakfast at home, I read the New York Times’ article titled “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”.

No, of course it isn’t.

Before your mind jumps to the quick-to-argue comparison of “junk”/fast food vs. organic, the author tackles that rebuttal:

“…food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux.

The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.”

It is far too often that you read the opinion that we should all be eating organic this and that, or grass-fed animals, or dairy from cows not treated with hormones. While I do agree with all of the above, I also think the first issue to tackle is one of cooking at home.

The following quotes sum up what I think are the most important take-home points:

“Cooking once a week is far better than not cooking at all,” says Marion Nestle, professor of food studies at New York University and author of “What to Eat.”

“If you can drive to McDonald’s you can drive to Safeway.”

“For 50 years, says David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and author of “The End of Overeating,” companies strove to create food that was “energy-dense, highly stimulating, and went down easy. They put it on every street corner and made it mobile, and they made it socially acceptable to eat anytime and anyplace.”

“Once I look at what I’m eating,” says Dr. Kessler, “and realize it’s not food, and I ask ‘what am I doing here?’ that’s the start. It’s not about whether I think it’s good for me, it’s about changing how I feel. And we change how people feel by changing the environment.”

I do realize that the audience here is more likely one that is cooking at home, shopping at nearby grocery store and maybe even buying organic. I know this because I bookmark your recipes, drool over food posts and sometimes wonder how to make meals look more photogenic because I want to post them for you but they don’t look appetizing.

I also know that a lot of you have your own blog, your own voice, and your own way to post about something you care about, like I just did.

In your city, or maybe even neighborhood, you’re very likely to be in the minority. You shop at a local grocery store frequently; your neighbors opt for the closest take-out/fast-food.

Do you know friends who would much rather eat out than in? Who choose this out of convenience, over the “time consuming” home-cooked meal?
(I’m not referring to people who eat out for the experience – we do that almost once a week, too. I love me a good restaurant-style, flavorful meal!)

Yes? Then here’s your challenge  – have those friends over for dinner. Host a party! They can bring a bottle of wine, or whatever your drink of choice may be. You cook one of your go-to meals – something easy, colorful, relatively inexpensive (by your own standards (this is your meal), and takes less than an hour to prepare – something they would eat and enjoy, go home and think “I could make that”.

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I’m happy to provide meal ideas, recipes, etc. – especially if we’ve got tricky diners on our hands. (Vegetarian Gluten-Free Paleo-Friendly, anyone?)

Are you in?


Filed under Dietitians, food, Nutrition