How my Senior Capstone has solidified my decision to be a dietitian

As a nutrition major, I get to have a very unique experience for my Senior Capstone project. Instead of writing a long research like most students, I have the opportunity to teach a nutrition education class, along with four other students majoring in nutrition, to older adults at a local YMCA. Over the course of the semester, we teach six different classes on various nutrition topics. The topic this week- diabetes. We chose to teach about diabetes because over 25% of older adults have it and many cases go undiagnosed or unmanaged.

Before we gave the presentation, our advising professor thought it would be a good idea for us to learn how to check your blood sugar since that is a major part of living life with diabetes. She gave each of us our own blood sugar meter and got to check our own blood sugar. Since needles don’t freak me out, I was pretty excited about the opportunity. Our professor walked us through the process and I got my first ever blood sugar reading: 97mg/dL which is perfectly normal :).

 

testing-blood-sugar

Overall, it was a pretty eye opening experience. While it didn’t hurt that much, it is definitely not something I would want to do every day. (Diabetics may have to test their blood sugar up to eight times a day depending on how well-managed their blood sugar is.) I found it even crazier that people with diabetes can make so many dietary changes to prevent uncontrolled blood sugar and having to test blood sugar every day, yet many people don’t make the changes they need (usually because they don’t know what they need to do or how) and end up suffering the consequences.

While we taught the class, my classmates and I discovered that many of the participants had diabetes, but they couldn’t even identify what foods had carbohydrates in them (the main contributor to elevated blood sugar). I had a little bit of a light bulb moment during the class; I realized just how little the general public actually knows about nutrition, and that I often find myself assuming that people know so much more than they actually do, which can make my job as a (eventually) dietitian a lot harder.

That being said, this is just another reason why I want to be a dietitian. The fact up to 40% of premature deaths can be prevented by changes in health behaviors like diet and exercise makes me feel like my job as a dietitian will be meaningful and will hopefully have a positive affect on the people I work with.

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!

What is Healthy?

It has officially been a week since arriving in Copenhagen and I only went the wrong way on the train once! Last week was filled with orientation seminars and tours of the city, and I successfully survived my first day of classes on Thursday. So far, I am enjoying all of my classes with Danish definitely being the most difficult. Thanks to my host family, I’ve got built in tutors for that!

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My core class in the Public Health program is Health Delivery and Prioritization in Northern Europe. Our class discussion on Thursday and our homework for the weekend revolved around the definition of health. Think about it… health can be a hard word to define. After reading this excerpt from Stephen Holland’s book Public Health Ethics, I was reminded of a new meaning of health that is often overlooked.

“…raised blood pressure is a risk factor for all kinds of disease. Reducing alcohol intake can be expected to lower the patient’s blood pressure and therefore reduce the risk of disease. So, the doctor ought to persuade the patient to drink less. But, on a conception of health as well-being, things look different. Given the patient’s circumstances, it might well be that going to the pub or bar to drink beer is vital to maintaining the levels of well-being. Stopping drinking – even compromising the pleasure of drinking by harping on about its detrimental effects – might well be disastrous for the patient’s well-being. So, on this account of health it would be dubious of the doctor to persuade the patient to drink less.”

The World Health Organization defines health as “a complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. Coming from a nutrition perspective, I am always focused on physical health and preventing disease and often forget about the mental and social well-being part of health.

So what is the point?
What I am trying to say is that it is important that we enjoy what we are eating and have a positive relationship with food. Eating lots of fiber, vegetables, and lean meats is great for our physical health but sometimes it can be overwhelming and interfere with out mental and social well-being.

For example, if you are at a dinner party or a restaurant trying to eat only “healthy” foods, the “unhealthy” foods around you can be very tempting. This can cause anxiety and an unpleasant, stressful night for you. You might be proud of yourself at the end of the night for not having a single French fry, but was it worth all of the anxiety? Would it have been better for your mental and social well-being to have a few fries or a bit of ice cream?

Not only is your diet about balance, but so is your overall health. Every person is different so I am not going to tell you when and where you should be eating what, but keep in mind that your overall health is determined by a lot more factors that just the food that goes into your mouth. Making “healthy” choices doesn’t just mean eating salad for every meal. “Healthy” choices can also include having a piece of cake in honor of a celebration or having chips and salsa at the dinner party so you don’t feel isolated and hungry.

My First Apartment: Moving Day!

Yesterday was finally the day that I got to move into my apartment building. For the past three weeks I have been living in a hotel room since the construction on the new apartment building was not complete. Those three weeks went by much faster than I expected, but boy am I glad to be in my apartment. After living in old, beat up dorms for the past few years, it is nice to be in a place that is shiny, clean, and new!

Mom drove down with all of my apartment things I left at home and helped me move everything in. I don’t know what I would have done without her! We got up bright and early yesterday morning and drove our bursting cars from the hotel to the new building. I got checked in and we began our endless trips up to the room with all my stuff. Looking back, I’m not sure how everything in my room fit into our cars. Anyway, we spent the entire day unpacking and Target shopping for everything I needed to organize and decorate my room.Untitled

Click on the pictures below to see more of my new apartment.

This is my first year in college that I have a bedroom all to myself. Better yet, I have a full size bed, not a tiny twin bed that everything falls off of (including my limbs)! Now that everything is in place, I absolutely love it. It is so cozy and nice that I may never leave (at least until I have to go to class tomorrow). Normally I can’t study in my bedroom, but I spent the whole day today studying for my biochemistry test on my brand new, huge desk and I have been super productive.

With a new apartment also comes a brand new kitchen. I couldn’t wait to test it out so I made myself a nice breakfast this morning. I haven’t gone grocery shopping yet so I didn’t have many options, but I did have some eggs and veggies so an omelet it was. I’m pretty sure that omelet I made was the best one I have ever made. It didn’t crumble or fall apart at all, and I flipped it over in the pan by doing that little toss that chefs do. It may sound silly, but that was probably the highlight of my day.

first breakfast

Until my biochemistry test is over on Tuesday I won’t be doing much cooking, but I am excited to make some new recipes to share with you. Stay tuned for more on my first apartment and my experiences cooking for myself!

Mini Fridges, Microwaves, and Maid Service

My obligatory first day of school photo.

My obligatory first day of school photo.

Day 1 of junior year… check! After a long 8-hour day on campus, I am finally back to my hotel. No, that is not a typo; I am living in a hotel. My on-campus apartment building is brand new and isn’t ready for me to move in yet, so in the mean time I’m living in a hotel. It is a strange feeling walking into a hotel all sweaty from the mile walk back and having the bellhop ask you if you need help carrying your backpack to your room (I must have looked like I was struggling!).

I’m enjoying the 24-hour fitness center along with the clean towels and lotion samples that are left in the bathroom everyday. But, with all the nice hotel amenities come the not so good parts. Can you guess my biggest complaint? The food situation! Three weeks in a hotel means three weeks without the kitchen that I should have in my apartment. I feel like I’m back in my freshman dorm with just a mini fridge and a microwave minus the dining hall.

hotel fridge

The hotel mini kitchen.

Of course there are tons of restaurants to choose from, but I’m not a fan of eating at a restaurant for 63 meals in a row. Thankfully, I have friends with kitchens and spent yesterday afternoon cooking a bunch of meals to stock my mini fridge for the week. Aside from that, here are some healthy snacks I have discovered you have with just a fridge and a microwave:

Fresh Fruits Vegetables
Apples, bell pepper, carrots, celery, and oranges all last about a week so they are great to have on hand for a quick snack or to grab when you are on your way to class. Adding peanut butter or hummus to your fruits or veggies can make an even more nutritious snack.

Cooked Vegetables
Zucchini, broccoli, and edamame can all be kept in the fridge and cooked in the microwave. Click the names below to find out how to cook them.
Steamed zucchini
Steamed broccoli
Edamame 

Other Options
If you have access to a kitchen or can get them from the dining hall, hard-boiled eggs are a great snack with lots of protein.
Popcorn is also a good microwavable snack if you choose one with light butter and salt.
Yogurt and Oatmeal are not only good for breakfast, but also as an afternoon snack with some berries or granola. Check out my post about my obsession with oatmeal here.

Stay tuned for more of my hotel adventures and healthy microwave meals!