Drink Your H2O

Over the summer, a friend and I made a bucket list of a bunch of things we wanted to do during our senior year of college. Four weeks into school, we are slowly checking things off the list. One check mark I got to add Tuesday was donating blood. I’ve wanted to do it for a while but for some reason, it just never happened. When “Blood Drive” was listed as an upcoming event in last week’s university email, I knew I had to go for it. I registered with the Red Cross and signed up for a time slot. I was feeling pretty good about it until I was walking to the donation site. I started to get a little freaked out, praying that I wouldn’t pass out. Once I got there, I calmed down a bit. I had to read a big information packet, get a brief physical done to test my blood pressure and iron levels and then answer a bunch of questions. The nurse wasn’t too happy with me since she had to type in all the countries I had traveled to in the past year (it ended up being 13!) and the amount of time I spent in each one. After that long process it was finally time to stick the needle in me. Shockingly, it didn’t hurt, nor did I even get the slightest bit light headed. I got a banana, some apple juice, and was sent along my marry way. Hopefully you don’t mind the graphic pictures!

How does this story relate to food and nutrition?
Well, if you have ever given blood before, you know that you have to drink lots of extra water both before and after you donate to increase your blood volume and keep you hydrated. But even if you aren’t donating blood, water can do tons of amazing things for the body. Here are some of the top reasons why you should always have a water bottle by your side (if you didn’t guess, mine usually has lemon it in😉 )

  1. Water is crucial for our survival. The body is made of 60%-70% water and every system in our body requires water to function properly.
  2. It can improve your mood. Being thirsty is never a pleasant feeling. Dehydration can also affect your mood and make you grumpy and confused. Drink more water to be happy and think clearer.
  3. It regulates your appetite. Sometimes when we feel hungry, we actually just need something to drink. Try a glass of water before reaching for the munchies (this can help you lose weight too!).
  4. Water keeps your skin glowing. Skin is the largest organ in our body and water helps it continue to build new cells, which can improve the color and texture of your skin. Staying hydrated also helps your skin maintain your internal body temperature.

How much water should you be drinking?
There are lots of opinions on this one. The old fashion recommendation is 8 glasses of 8 ounces per day (64oz total). Now, new research is saying that more wouldn’t hurt. A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. That should give you the number of ounces you should aim for per day.

Drink up!

“Real Food” Bars

While I know most people do not enjoy grocery shopping, I am quite the opposite. Walking through aisles of the grocery store (especially at Whole Foods) for me is like a kid in candy store. All of options blow my mind. I could spend hours and hours reading every label and spend way too much money trying the new and crazy products on the market. One that I have recently become obsessed with is the snack bar whose only ingredients are fruit, nuts, and spices-nothing else (no chemicals, no preservatives, no added sugar, no nothing-only real food!).

I first tried the Raw Bite brand when I was studying in Copenhagen. Denmark has a 7/11 store on every corner filled with healthy snacks, pre-made salads, along with the usual candy bars and chips you find at 7/11 in the U.S, so finding the Raw Bite bars was a piece of cake. Pretty much all of the flavors are made of dates, raisins, nuts, and cashews, plus whatever gives it a distinct flavors (cocoa, peanuts, etc.). After coming back to U.S., I was on a mission to find a replacement for the Raw Bite bars I ate in Europe; the closest things: Lärabar.

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The main ingredient in Lärabars is dates and then each flavor has different fruits and spices to make them unique. Unfortunately they aren’t sold on every street corner 7/11 like in Europe, but I have been able to find them pretty easily at the grocery store (and not just at Whole Foods). My favorite flavors are Coconut Cream Pie, Apple Pie, Coconut Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cookie- each with no more than six ingredients. Because they are made of mostly fruit, they are high in sugar (natural sugar, that is) and low in protein. This makes them a good snack, but they shouldn’t replace a meal like breakfast. I snacked on these all summer and are great during my back-to-back classes, but one of my favorite times to have them is a few hours after dinner when I need a little something sweet while working on my homework (the new Mini Lärabars are perfect for this!). The sweetness from the dates hits the spot when I don’t want something too dessert-like.

While Lärabars are my all-time favorite of the “real food” bar brands, more and more have been popping up recently. Kind makes Pressed by Kind bars that are just fruit (and depending on the flavor they also have vegetables and chia seeds). So far I have tried and enjoyed the Cherry Apple Chia and the Pineapple Banana Kale Spinach. There are also That’s It bars that are made of apples and one other fruit. They are sold at Starbucks so they are my go-to if I forget to bring a snack with me during the day. Because these two bars don’t have nuts in them like Lärabars, they are lower in fat and calories but aren’t as filling.

 

I’m always on the look-out for new products (especially snacks with no artificial ingredients) so if you have any recommendations, please send them my way!

 

What I Learned From Losing My Fitbit

Last week, I had a very traumatic event happen…I lost my Fitbit (okay, maybe traumatic is an exaggeration but I digress). Thankfully, my mom had one that she didn’t use at home and could send to me at school. Still, this left me Fitbit-less for about a week. One day that week, I had the strangest thought while walking to class. I felt like walking wasn’t worth anything because I had nothing to show for it (ie. No big green star at the end of the day when I hit my step goal). I quickly had to shake myself out of that crazy thought. It blew my mind that losing this little piece of technology and not being able to see how many steps I had taken made my walking feel useless.

I did, though, get a good lesson out of this crazy thought of mine: My life is constantly a numbers game: how many steps I take, how many ounces of water I drink, how many calories I eat, how many minutes I exercise for, and the list continues. I can have a few OCD tendencies at times; I like to keep track and make sure everything is neat and organized and I guess counting all these things can bring a little bit of organization to my life. Even if you aren’t someone like me who is obsessed with counting steps, calories, minutes, and ounces, it seems like that is what we are recommended to do. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends we consume about 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2000 calories, 5.5 ounces of protein, and 64 ounces of water each day.

My point is that we are a numbers and counting driven society even though that is not the recommended way to lose weight or create a “healthy” diet. Counting and recording everything has been proven to be an ineffective way to have long-term weight loss – it is just not a sustainable behavior. Instead, listening to your body and making logical decisions about what and when to eat and exercise is the best way to go. This crazy thought during my Fitbit-less walk showed me that I need to do a better job of just listening to my body and not worrying about the numbers- especially when it comes to physical activity.

Is your stomach growling? Go get something healthy to eat. Are you full? Stop eating- you don’t have to finish everything on your plate. Craving chocolate? Break a few squares off of the big bar, enjoy them, and leave the rest for later. The same goes for exercise. Sitting at a desk all day? Get up and go for a walk. Sore muscles and exhausted? Take a rest day. Feeling unmotivated? Remember that exercise will make you feel better so go get it done!

Your body knows exactly what it needs, you just have to learn how to listen and understand the cues it gives you. I know it isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes time and work to be “on the same page” as your body. Setting number driven goals (like 10,000 steps per day) might be beneficial to working towards a target weight or activity level, but in the end, it is all about how you feel. Whether you meet those goals or not, if you aren’t feeling good all the calories and steps you counted don’t mean anything. You should always try to feel healthy, not hungry, tired, or deprived.

Dietetic Internship Search Update
The beginning of senior year means the hunt and application process for a Dietetic Internship (DI) has begun. A DI is a 1200-hour supervised practice program a student must go through to in order to sit for a board exam to become a Registered Dietitian (read more about the process here). I am looking at DI’s that have a master’s degree program combined, so that narrows down my options but there are still lots to choose from.

Step one in applying to any of these programs is taking the GRE (Graduate Records Exam), which I just took in August. I got my scores this week and thankfully I did well enough that I don’t need to take it again!

The next steps are figuring out exactly where I am going to apply and starting my personal statement. Stay tuned for more DI updates🙂

Back To School: Senior Year

Happy hump day! It has been a while since my last post, so here is a little life update. Monday marked the first day of classes for this semester…well for most people. I, somehow, got lucky enough to only have classes on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s this semester! It might should like I have quite the relaxed semester, but don’t worry. I will be keeping busy with my senior capstone project, an independent study literature review research paper, applying to grad school/Dietetic Internships, and my new student research position at the Cleveland Clinic. My research job doesn’t start until next week, but I am super excited to explore the research side of nutrition. I will be working with patients who have Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, teaching them how to comply to a Mediterranean diet, and doing some data collection.

Yesterday was my first official day of class so I got to meet all my professors and read several pages of daunting syllabi with all my assignments and exams to look forward to…NOT. My classes this semester are Community Nutrition, Child Nutrition, and Guided Study in Nutrition Practice. While the first day isn’t a great indicator, my favorite class so far is Guided Study. I am going to learn how to talk to patients, ask relevant questions, and figure out how to come up with a proper nutrition diagnoses and action plans based on the patients needs. This class is bringing my Registered Dietitian goals to life; it showed me that the information and skills I am learning will actually be relevant to my job in the future (who knew? J).

On another note, back to school means back to meal planning and packing lunches. I made my meal plan and prepped my meals over the weekend before I got busy with classes, but I am going to have to get back into the groove. I have to remember to be thorough in my planning because popping over to the grocery store is not as easy on campus as it is living at home (learned that the hard way after I forgot eggs this weekend). This week my typical oatmeal is on tap for breakfast, quinoa with ground turkey and sweet potato for lunch, and veggies burgers (recipe coming soon) with guac for dinner.

Since I haven’t been at school since last December because of my study abroad trip, I forgot about all of the free food around campus that can be so tempting! Free donuts if I join the Chess Club, a mini cupcake if I sign up for the Math Club, and even free candy for walking past the Student Dietetic Association table (this one has never made sense to me, haha). I will definitely be arming myself with lots of healthy snacks tomorrow (including apples, string cheese, trail mix, and Skinny Pop) to keep me satiated and to have a healthy alternative when walking past the sugary bribes on the way to class.

I hope to try out some new recipes this weekend and learn some fun nutrition facts in my classes to share next week!

Peanut Butter Energy Balls + Olympics

I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen the past few days testing out some new recipes so expect lots of yumminess soon. Today I thought I would share one of my favorites: Peanut Butter Energy Balls. They are perfect to grab as a quick snack or to enjoy when you need a little sweet snack after dinner. They are incredibly easy and fast (and don’t require any baking). Just mix all the ingredients together, roll ‘em into balls, and enjoy!

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In Other News…

Guess what today is?! The opening ceremony of the Olympics (aka my favorite time of every other year); in fact, I am watching them as I type this! Seriously, I am obsessed with the Olympics. I have already downloaded 5 iPhone apps to make sure I’m always up to date on scores and medal counts, and my butt will likely be glued to the couch for the next few weeks watching everything from gymnastics to synchronized swimming to beach volleyball.

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Olympic Training Center 2010

On a more serious note, I attribute my love for the Olympics to my involvement in sports throughout my life. If I had not been an athlete myself, I would not have the same appreciation for all the athletes competing in the Olympic games. As a rhythmic gymnast, I learned the importance of being healthy a living a balanced life. I saw first had how eating habits could impact my energy and performance at practice and competition. These experiences are really what have guided me on my path in college to become a dietitian. Whether I work with athletes in the future, that is tbd.

Enjoy the games and go team USA!

My First Blogiversary!

IMG_4328It’s hard for me to believe that one year ago today I made my first blog post on The Lemon Wedge. Over the past 12 months I have written 40 blog posts, received 221 “likes” on my posts, and gained 88 followers. To some that might not seem like much but I never thought anyone more than my family would be reading my posts. In high school I swore I would never write anything that wasn’t for school assignment. It is amazing how writing about something I love has turned my most hated school subject into a hobby. Over the next year I hope to write more, cook more, and learn more about food and nutrition that I can share with you.

Enough with my rambling and onto the celebration. Yes, my blogs 1st birthday calls for a celebration! In true Lemon Wedge fashion, I decided to conjure up a lemony and healthy dessert for the occasion. The result: Lemon Frozen Yogurt. It came out a little more frozen and icy rather than smooth and yogurty, but it still tasted great and made for a good celebration treat! I scooped it into a hollowed out lemon for this photo op, but if I make it again, I would definitely make it into popsicles to enjoy on a hot and humid summer day. The recipe is below so you can freeze it in whichever form suits your fancy.

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Thanks for reading my blogs over the past year and I hope you look forward to another year full of posts. What topics would you like me to write about over the next year?

Say Ta-Ta to Trans Fat

New research is always coming out telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat. From red meat giving us cancer to avocados making us skinny, the information we get about food can be confusing. One thing that hasn’t changed is the research regarding trans fat (the type of fat in partially hydrogenated oils). Trans fats are the worst of all the fats in our food and are strongly linked to causing cardiovascular disease.

Fortunately, just about one year ago, the FDA removed partially hydrogenated oils from the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list. That means, from that date, companies have three years to remove all trans fats from their products. Currently, trans fats can be found in products like margarines, fried food, non-dairy creamers, cookies, and crackers.

Until 2018 when trans fat is removed from our food, you should still be checking food labels and preventing consumption of trans fats. It is also important to make sure the ingredients do not include any partially hydrogenated oils. That’s because companies can legally label their product as having zero grams of trans fat as long as they have less than .5 grams per serving. Meaning, there can still be trans fat in a product even if the label says there is none.

Read more about the ban on trans fats here.

Read more about how different types of fat affect the body here.