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!

Breakfast Cereal

Cereal: It is the “go-to” breakfast. Whether you pour a bowl at the table in the morning or dump some in a bag as you are running out the door, it is a pretty classic breakfast. In fact, grain-based breakfasts have been found to help people lose weight better than those who eat a traditional eggs, sausage, and toast breakfast.

Unfortunately, those grain-based cereals can be more like sugar-based cereal. Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Coco Puffs, and Lucky Charms and even cereals like Kellogg’s Smart Start, Kashi, and Raisin Bran that are all marketed as “healthy” have heaps of sugar in them… sometimes more than a chocolate chip cookie!

I know that makes finding a healthy cereal very confusing, so here are my top 4 tips for choosing a healthy cereal to start your day with.

  1. It should have less than 10g of sugar per serving
  2. At least 3g of fiber per serving
  3. At least 5g of protein per serving
  4. The first ingredient should start with the word whole (ie. Whole wheat, whole grain, etc.)

If your cereal box doesn’t meet all 4 of these, put it back on the shelf and try another one of the other 500 cereals in the aisle. The one exception is protein. If your cereals falls a little short on protein, that is fine, but I would recommend having a side of eggs or low sugar Greek yogurt on the side.

I’ll also mention that portions are a big deal with cereal. The serving size is usually ¾ to 1 cup but we often dump 2-3x that in the bowl. Try measuring out your cereal for a few days. You might be shocked by how much you are actually eating.

Here is a list of some good cereal options:

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Whole Grains

Five weeks (holy cow-I can’t believe it has already been 5 weeks!) of my DI complete and I am finally getting into the swing of things. I have my daily routine down, feel a lot less overwhelmed, and still have time to explore Cleveland and spend a few hours at the grocery store ;).

The highlight of last week was working an outreach table at the outpatient pediatric clinic in the hospital. I spent the day educating patients about the importance of whole grains. I made a poster (which I don’t think I have done since high school), a handout, compiled some recipes, and played a whole grain game with some of the kids. Having quality conversations with some of the parents definitely made me feel like I was making a difference, but playing games with the kids continuously put a smile on my face throughout the day. And even better, not only did I have fun playing with them, they were also able to learn what whole grains were and be introduced to new food items to try! Win-Win!

Since I had the opportunity to teach so many people in the clinic about whole grains, I thought I would share the knowledge here.

Whole grainFirst off…What is a whole grain? You have probably heard of them, but do you really know what they are? A whole grain means that the product contains all three parts of the grain- the germ, endosperm, and bran. White or refined grains only contain the endosperm. The bran and germ are important because they have vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats, whereas the endosperm is made mostly of starch.

Whole grains have also been found to prevent stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and constipation. I don’t know about you, but I think those reasons alone are enough to want some whole grains in my everyday meals.

Ok, now that I hopefully have convinced you to eat some whole grains, you have to find them at the store. This can be the tricky part. Lots of packages slap phrases like “100% wheat” and “multi-grain” across the front to pull you in, but these phrases do not mean it is a whole grain. Here’s what you should look for:

  • Check the ingredient list on the box. If a food is a whole grain, the very first word on the ingredient list will be “whole” (ie. Whole wheat flour, whole grain oats, etc.).
  • Words like “brown rice” “bulgur” “quinoa”, “oats” and “wheat berries” listed first in the ingredients also always mean it is a whole grain.
  • Even if the front of the box says “5g of whole grain”, check the ingredients. While it might have some whole grain, if it is not the first ingredient, then the majority of the product is a refined grain.

There are lots of other whole grains including bulgur, millet, farro, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, and rye, which are great for adding to soups and salads or as a side dish. Those sound a little foreign? Try oatmeal or whole grain cereal (like Cheerios) for breakfast. Air-popped popcorn and whole grain crackers (like Wheat Thins) are perfect whole grain snacks. Even using whole grain bread on your lunch sandwich is a step in the right direction.

Making the switch to whole grains can be hard, but small steps can make it easier. A good rule of thumb is the make at least half of the grains you eat each day whole grains. You can also use this as an opportunity to try some new foods!

Here are some pictures from my outreach in the clinic!

Summer Plans and Future Blogging

As promised, I am back with a summer plans update. (If you want to know what I have been up to the past 5 months, check out my last post.) Being that my Dietetic Internship (DI) starts August 7, my summer is cut a bit shorter than usual…and it is probably my last summer ever since my DI/grad school will run from August 2017-December 2018 without much of a break. That means I am planning to have a very exciting and busy summer, hopefully with some relaxation involved too!

If you know me, you know traveling is obviously #1 on my to do list. Here are the plans so far:

  • Two days after commencement, my family is going to Peru for 10 days of adventure
  • We have a long weekend in New Jersey for my cousin’s graduation
  • A girls, long weekend trip planned in Chicago with my mom and cousins
  • My grandma and I are spending a week in San Francisco and Napa in July
  • I have a trip to Boston in the works with a friend
  • And hopefully I will also be able to squeeze in a weekend visit to see my friends in Cleveland and Columbus

I’ll also be working and coaching gymnastics here and there, cooking up some new recipes in the kitchen (my goal is to make 1-2 new recipes each week, which I will share…if they turn out well, of course), trying new Detroit restaurants while I am home, and getting ready to move into my first solo apartment. I will be living in Downtown Cleveland for the duration of my 18-month program. I am excited to not only live downtown close to all the good restaurants (obviously food is #1) but also experience Cleveland from a new angle. Since I want to move to Downtown Detroit when I graduate, I think this will be a great way to make sure I enjoy living in a growing urban area.

This brings me to my plans for future blogging. Part of the reason I took a little break from blogging is that I started to run out of ideas. Between gathering images, information, and trying to figure out what the lesson from each post should be, it was just a little too time consuming and began to feel like a chore.

With that being said, I still love writing these posts and sharing my experiences with you. That means, I am still going to be posting (hopefully even more now!) but the posts won’t be so much about sharing information and research or trying to teach a lesson. I will probably be writing more about healthy (and yummy) new things I find at the grocery store, healthy and cool new restaurants I try, and my travel adventures (which obviously will include a lot of food). I’m sure there will still be tips for making healthy choices and probably some interesting food facts here and there, but those won’t be the focus of the posts.

Honestly, I’m not sure how it is going to work out so I guess we will find out together 😉

Dana

Back & Better Than Ever

I guess senior year got the best of me and The Lemon Wedge took the back seat. But no worries, I am back to blogging. I thought I would use this post to update you on what I have been up to this last semester and what I have planned for the future.

As I have talked about before, in order to make my dreams of being a Registered Dietitian (RD) come true, I have to complete a Dietetic Internship (read more here). Soooo last summer and fall took the GRE, narrowed down the list of programs I would apply to and began working on my applications. The process to apply is similar to a residency after medical school where you apply to many programs but are only “matched”/accepted to one program (or you don’t match at all and have to reapply the next year). Deadline for applications was February 15th so I kept busy over winter break and the first few weeks of my semester writing, revising, and re-revising my personal IMG_7271statements over and over and over again until I could practically recite them to you by heart. Finally, on February 14th, with trembling hands, I clicked the infamous “submit” button. From there, it was a big waiting game until “Match Day” when you find out the results.

I ended up applying to 6 different Dietetic Internships, all which were combined with a Master’s degree program: University Hospitals (Cleveland), Veteran’s Affairs Hospital (Cleveland), Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland), Ohio State (Columbus), Rush Medical Center (Chicago), and Tufts Medical Center (Boston).

Finally, Match Day (April 2) rolled around and at 7pm on the nose I logged into my online application to find out that I had matched with my first choice- University Hospitals (Cleveland) and I would stay at Case Western Reserve University to get my Master’s in Nutrition! It was quite an exciting day and I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders…I was officially and “RD2Be”!

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Celebrating with Tacos and Sangria

In other exciting news from this semester:
-I had my first research paper published in the Current Nutrition Reports journal. It was a paper that I co-authored as part of my independent study class last semester about dietary supplement use in older adults.

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President Snyder and I 🙂

-I also was selected to be one of the students who decided which professor at the university receives the Excellence in Mentoring award. Being on this committee got me an invitation to Barbara Snyder’s house for a fancy reception…exciting!! (She is the president of the university and basically a celebrity around here!)

That brings us to today. I am currently writing this blog post, as it seemed like a great way to procrastinate studying for my last final exam as an undergraduate (#senoritis). I have one last exam in Pathophysiology next Wednesday before I am done. Then there is a week and a half of lots of food and fun activities with my fellow graduating seniors before commencement.

Now that you are up to speed on the past 5 months, and this post is getting long, I am going to call it quits here. I should get back to studying, but in the next few days I will be writing another post about my summer plans and my future plans for The Lemon Wedge.

Glad to be back!

Dana

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 :).

 

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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.