Quinoa Butternut Squash Salad

Almost a month and a half into school and two weeks away from midterms, my semester seems to be on a high-speed train and I’m hanging on for dear life. Papers, test, my research job, and Dietetic Internship applications are leaving little time for cooking meals. Instead of trying out new recipes every week, I have been making lots of “salads”. No, I don’t mean lettuce and vegetables. I mean, taking anything I can find that sounds good throwing it in a bowl. Thankfully, the past year or two of working on my culinary skills has helped me figure out what tastes good together and all of my concoctions have turned out pretty well. One was so good that I am writing this post about it.

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I have still kept in the sprit of trying new things by buying a new fruit or vegetable each time I go to the store…my latest obsession: butternut squash (which is fitting with fall weather approaching). I used roasted butternut squash to make a quinoa salad with dried cranberries, spinach, chickpeas, and walnuts. I like to eat is warm, when the butternut squash is fresh out of the oven, but I have had it for lunch at room temperature and it is just as good.

This recipe packs in whole grains (quinoa), fiber (squash), healthy fats (walnuts), some protein (chickpeas) and lots of vitamins and minerals (spinach).

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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!

 

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!

Just because I am a nutrition student doesn’t mean I…

Wow, I am officially a senior in college! I just took my last final exam yesterday and now it is crazy to believe I only have one more year of undergrad. After spending the past three years learning all about the body and food, I have discovered that there are many misconceptions about (aspiring) dietitians. I thought I would share some with you that you might find surprising.

Just because I am a nutrition student doesn’t mean I…

  1. …Judge the foods you eat. Countless times I have been to restaurants with family and friends and they always feel obligated to give an excuse for why they ordered a burger and fries. I can’t tell you the number of time I have heard, “I have eaten very healthy all week” or “I’m starting to eat healthy on Monday”. This may be a shock, but you don’t need to qualify your dinner order, and I promise I am not judging you. I like burgers and fries just as much as you do; it is human nature to crave high calorie foods. We all have to make choices when it comes to what we eat, but without knowing your health or lifestyle goals, it is not possible or fair for me to judge your personal choices.
  1. …Don’t eat unhealthy food. Again, I crave chocolate chip cookies just as much as anyone else, and I eat more than just grilled chicken and vegetables. Just because I am interested in nutrition doesn’t mean I am not allowed to have pizza or dessert. You probably know just as well as I do that cookies are not so healthy. Fortunately, I have also learned about the importance of moderation and that cookie should be saved for special occasions.
  1. …Just help people lose weight. Yes, as a nutrition student, I am taught the importance of a healthy, balanced diet to promote healthy weight, but as a dietitian, that is only a small slice of the job. Majority of dietitians work in hospitals doing anything from creating diet plans to prevent cancer proliferation to determining energy needs of a premature baby with a feeding tube. People often forget that dietetics do so much more than just help people lose weight.

Study Abroad Update

I know I haven’t done the best job of keeping you up to date on my adventures, but that’s because I’ve been busy with all my adventures :). As my grandma says (hi Grandma!), this semester should have been called “Travel Abroad” instead of “Study Abroad”. While my actually classes may not have been difficult at all, there is no doubt that spending time in 21 cities in 10 different countries has taught me so much about cultures around the world. I have learned more European history than I ever learned in a classroom, and I have been able to learn about health and food from a completely new perspective. This experience has inspired me to write my senior thesis about the difference in food processing and manufacturing between the United States and European Union and how the different practices effect our health.

As I spend my last three days in Copenhagen saying goodbye to some amazing friends, having final family dinners with my host family, and spending my last few Danish Kroner in souvenir shops, I know that I will always look back on these four months as one of the best times of my life.

BUT! While the semester may be over, I still have another two weeks of traveling before heading back home. One final trip through Morocco and Spain before I’m back for a busy summer of volunteering, studying for the GRE, and trying to remember how to be an American again.

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!

Scrambled Eggs in a Mug

With one week of school in the books, I am finally getting used to living in a hotel. First, I’ve got my printer working (it was a tragic first few days without a printer). Second, and most importantly, I have just discovered how to make scrambled eggs in the microwave and they were EGGcellent!!

My favorite post-morning-workout breakfast is an omelet, so after my run this morning I decided I would give microwave eggs a shot in the tiny hotel microwave. These eggs were so fluffy and delicious that they are probably my new favorite microwave food. They were also much easier and less messy than making eggs on the stove, so I will be making these even once I move into my apartment.

scrambled eggs in a mug

Here’s how to make these scrambled eggs:

  1. Crack as many eggs as you want (or as many that fit) into a microwave safe coffee mug and mix with a fork until the yolks are mixed in. I like to use egg whites because you still get lots of protein, without the fat, cholesterol, and high calories in the yolk.
  2. Optional: Add some chopped veggies to make it more like a scrambled omelet. I used zucchini and broccoli this morning.
  3. Put the mug into the microwave on high for 1 minute then stir.
  4. Place it back into the microwave for 1 minute and stir again.
  5. If the eggs are no longer runny, they are ready for you to enjoy. If they are still runny, continue to microwave and stir at 30-second intervals until they are fully cooked.
  6. Enjoy your eggs straight out of the mug or put them onto a plate.

You can also make these in a disposable coffee cup for eggs on the go. Just bring you cup of eggs in the car with you, and they fit nicely in the cup holder.

Eggs are a good breakfast choice (especially with the vegetables) because they are high in protein to keep you satisfied throughout the morning.