Will Power Points

When trying to make healthy lifestyle changes, surrounding yourself with a healthy environment can make the world of a difference. Keeping lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in the house and throwing away all the chips and cookies make it a whole lot easier to reach for something healthy. Seems logical right? I think most people have heard this before, but one of my preceptors made a great analogy that put this concept into a new perspective.

She explained, just like we all have bank accounts filled with dollars, we also have a bank account filled with “will power points”. These are the currency used to make healthy decisions when our environment makes it challenging – like choosing not to have a piece of bread from the bowl on the table while you’re waiting for your meal at a restaurant.

Just like we all have a limited amount of money in the bank, we all have a limited number of “will power points”, so, just like money, we have to spend them wisely. If you are putting yourself in unhealthy environments all of the time, those will power points are going to run out quickly and you are going to give in to unhealthy temptations. But, if you surrounded yourself with a healthy environment most of the time (healthy snacks in the house, choosing restaurants that have lighter or healthier meals, packing your lunch for work or school, etc.), you will still have a stash of will power points to use when you need them.

Just some food for thought…Happy Sunday!

Micros and Macros

In this post, I thought I would take it back to some basics: micronutrients (the little guys) and macronutrients (the big guys).

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are all your vitamins and minerals, like iron, zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin E – just to name a few. They are called micronutrients because you only need a little bit of them each day. Your fruits and vegetables are packed with tons of these, but they are also in lots of other foods.

Micronutrients are responsible for things like eye sight, bone health, thyroid function, blood pressure, and many, many more.

Right now, on the nutrition fact labels you will always see vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. That is because back in 1990’s when the label was designed, those were the nutrients that people often did not get enough of. Now, you may know that there is a new nutrition fact panel coming out, which will be mandatory for manufacturers to use by 2021. On this label you will see vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium since these are the micronutrients that most people are low on now.

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are your carbs (including sugar and fiber), proteins, and fats. They are called macronutrients because – you guessed it – you need large amounts of them each day. Protein rich foods include fish, animal meats, and soy products (like tofu and tempeh). Fats come from foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, oils, and butter. Carbs come from grains (quinoa, bulgur, rye, rice, wheat) and foods made from grains like bread and pasta, corn, peas, and fruits. There are also lots of “combination foods” like beans, eggs, and cheese that provide a good mix of 2 or 3 of these macronutrients.

Macronutrients are our main sources of energy, growth, and building blocks for muscles.

Why does this matter?

Micro and macronutrients are both crucial for survival. We can’t live healthfully if any single one within these two groups is missing. I wanted to talk about this because many food products market themselves as “healthy” because they have extra whole grain or protein. For example, I love Kodiak Cake pancakes, which are “protein packed” and made with 100% whole grains. While it is great to have a little extra protein and whole grains these pancakes don’t have many micronutrients. Now think about broccoli and carrots – super healthy right? Yes, they may be packed full of micronutrients but they have very few macronutrients.

See – that’s why variety is important and eating only vegetables all day isn’t really a good thing. There is no single food that can provide all the nutrients we need. Mix things up, try new foods, and maximize your nutrient intake!

Med-Surg, Outpatient, and Change, Oh My!

Boy has this semester flown by! I am officially 1/3 of the way done with my Dietetic Internship and Monday is my last day of class for the semester. Last week marked the end of my general medical-surgical (med-surg) rotations in the hospital, which were a total of eight weeks: two weeks in cystic fibrosis and telemetry, two weeks in geriatrics and trauma step-down, two weeks in cardiac, and two weeks in bone marrow transplant. While I liked some rotations better than others, I honestly didn’t love any of them. Most of the time I was seeing patients due to unintentional weight loss and decreased appetite (both of which are major issues in the hospital). Unfortunately, the standard of practice for these patients is to recommend using high calorie/high protein supplements (which are filled with sugar) and encourage high calorie foods. I also didn’t feel like seeing a patient for 10 minutes, one or two times during their hospital stay really made an impact on their health. I wasn’t encouraging them to eat healthier or make better food choices in their daily life, I was just trying to manage symptoms and ensure they could be discharged as soon as possible. Besides all these dislikes, I did learn that I loved doing calculations for enteral and parenteral nutrition (feeding via a tube or IV) in patients that couldn’t eat food orally.

The past week I have been in my adult outpatient rotation, and I have absolutely loved it so far (which is very reassuring after not loving my previous eight weeks). My preceptors are amazing and I definitely see it as an area I am interested in working in in the future. You get to spend so much more time with the patients and it is exciting to see them learn and make progress with improving their diet. I have also learned a little bit about integrative and functional medicine, which also sparked my interest. It is a growing field and focuses on a mix of different eastern and western medicine techniques, plus uses food as a method of healing different types of diseases.

With all of my experiences this past week in outpatient, I thought I would share a few words of wisdom (per usual). It has been exciting to see all of these patients be so eager and motivated to make change (which is definitely different from the patients in the hospital). But, at the same time, change is difficult and it requires work. You can’t expect to just show up and meet with a dietitian and, poof, you start losing weight or controlling your diabetes. The same thing goes for reading my blog. While I love that people are reading my posts and I am able to share information, reading doesn’t translate to results. In fact, we only remember about 10% of the things we read. In order to make positive changes, you have to take the information you read and hear, and put it into action.

Since this post is getting a little lengthy, I’ll leave it at that for now, but I’ll share more about making changes in my next post!

Internship Update: Finally Time for Clinical

Last Friday marked a very exciting day…the last day of my food service rotations in my Internship. After 2 long weeks in the kitchen cutting fruit and making sandwiches, 1 week in the storeroom and purchasing, and 3 weeks working with a patient meal service manager, I am finally on to my clinical rotations!

As much as I don’t enjoy food service and could never see myself working in the field, I did have some valuable experiences. I learned just about everything there is to know about what patients can order, how patients order, where their food comes from, how it gets to them, and everything in between. As a dietitian, I can definitely see why it might be important to know what options the patients have while they are in the hospital.

Having my food service rotations first gives me good background knowledge on how the nutrition and dietary departments run, and I think I am well equipped to give patients meal recommendations based on their individual diet needs. I guess that I one perk of getting food service out of the way at the beginning (and I am glad I never have to put on another hair net again!).

Now, I have just finished day 2 of my clinical orientation. Day 1 was learning a lot about the electronic medical record and how the healthcare system works, but I am quickly getting the hang of it. My preceptor covers telemetry, general medicine, and adult cystic fibrosis floors so I have seen quite the variety of patients so far. I got to do my first note on my own today, and diagnosed a patient with moderate malnutrition. The patient’s doctor agreed with my diagnosis, which means the hospital gets reimbursed for my patient visit. I also feel very official (and old/not smart enough) wearing my white lab coat around 😉

That is pretty much all that is going on in the hospital. October is my busiest month with class work so I have been a busy beaver working on all my assignments every day after work. That unfortunately leaves me little time for any new recipes, but I have been enjoying a super simple (and of course, healthy) spaghetti squash bowl for dinner. I just mix spaghetti squash, steamed broccoli, peas, and chicken or ground turkey with some pasta sauce and wah lah… dinner is served.

Internship Status: Week 9/49