5 Reasons Why Every Student Should Have a Blog

Over the past year, I have been avidly posting on my blog/dietitian Instagram page (@DanaGoldbegRDN) which has somehow resulted in free goodies (aka healthy foods) being shipped to me from different food companies. Now, suddenly, a few of my friends are all interested in starting blogs because they think it is so cool to get free “stuff”. While free stuff (especially when it is food!) is wonderful, it is never what I intended to come from this blog, and while some people start a blog intentionally to get free stuff…or make a living for that matter, I strongly encourage all students to start a blog for other reasons…here are my top 5:

  1. A blog allows you to reflect on experiences. I talked about my career confusion in a previous post and also shared my journey through my Dietetic Internship as well as my undergraduate and graduate classes and study abroad in many different blog posts. Having to sit down and write that post on all these different experiences really makes you think critically about what you have done. What did I get out of this and what should I share with other people? It is a good way to avoid just going through the motions of life.
  2. You learn about new and different topics. Yes, the weekly posts have fallen off the train a few times over the past 3 years of blogging, but after putting out over 100 blog posts, I have to keep coming up with new and different content to share. Some of my posts are just life updates and others are things I learn in class, but others are topics family and friends mention that I have to go home and research. Not only does this allow me to share information with you, but I am also able to add to my personal bank of information to use in future careers and help future clients/patients.
  3. It helps you figure out what you are passionate about. When I first started blogging, I shared lots of different recipes. I had just moved into my first apartment and was cooking all my meals for myself for the first time, and I even considered going to culinary school! But as time went on, I realized I didn’t love my posts about recipes. I didn’t want to be a food blogger…I wanted to be a nutrition I don’t love spending hours in the kitchen or trying to take the perfect picture of my food. Instead, I realized that I loved writing posts about the science and research behind nutrition recommendations, talking about popular diets and foods, and debunking nutrition myths.
  4. You can become a better writer. I don’t claim to be Shakespeare by any means (nor do I ever aspire to be a magnificent writer), but I went through grade school DESPISING my English classes. No joke, I would come home crying from school because I hated writing and I was bad at it. I swore I would never end up in a job where I had to write, but in the end, no matter what job you end up in, you are going to have to write something at some point. Having to put words to paper every week writing posts, summarizing research and knowledge I have, is definitely a skill I can take with me wherever I end up.
  5. It is something you can share with future employers. While I may have internships and volunteer opportunities on my resume, getting a job after graduation is probably not going to be a walk in the park. I’m not knocking the internships and other experiences that I have had – they have been great – but having a blog is something that is my own. I think it shows a little bit of my personality, it is evidence of my knowledge in the nutrition field, and it shows that I have gone a little bit beyond the classic summer internships that college students have. (Maybe I am chalking my blog up to be more than it is, but I like to think that it might help me get a job in a few months 😉 )

While I have shared my experiences blogging about food, nutrition, and health, these reasons can really be applied to students in any field of study (Spanish major? Practice your Spanish writing skills. Accounting major? Share some personal finance advice or some crazy number stuff that I don’t understand. Anthropology major? Teach me about another culture.). Even if you keep your blog completely private and don’t share it with anyone, you can still reap the many of the blogging benefits.

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I’m a Registered Dietitian!

Wow, the past few weeks have felt like quite the whirlwind! I finished up the last of my four weeks working as the pediatric ICU dietitian, graduated from my dietetic internship, studied hundreds of pages of dietetics information, made and learned oodles of flash cards, and took (and passed!) the Registered Dietitian Exam yesterday!!

I am officially Dana Goldberg, RDN!

(Not to mention, this is also my 100th blog post!)

With all of these milestones comes lots of self-reflection and things I want to share about my experiences, so first I thought I would use this post to share my thoughts 1-week post- dietetic internship.

I’ll start off by saying that these past 11 months have been some of the toughest months of my career as a student- both academically and mentally. Taking almost a full graduate degree course load and working 32 hours a week as an intern sometimes made me want to pull my hair out, but I am proud to say that I successfully made it out alive. There aren’t many things that I am ever really proud of myself for; it just isn’t my personality and I tend to be pretty hard on myself. Graduating high school didn’t faze me (I was livid and embarrassed when my mom tried to put a congratulatory sign on our lawn), graduating undergrad kind of seemed impressive (but everyone around me was also graduating college so I didn’t feel like it was that special), but I will confidently say that I am proud to have completed a dietetic internship and passed the RD exam. It feels like the hardest part – the uphill climb – is over and I can finally catch my breath.

I know I have shared this in a few previous posts, but I honestly didn’t love my time working at a hospital as a clinical dietitian. I didn’t feel like I really made any lasting impact on patients’ lives nor helped improve their long-term health. However, spending over 1,500 hours 27 different areas of the hospital, plus working with over 35 different dietitians, I learned so much about clinical nutrition that will set me up for success in any nutrition field that I end up going into. Although I dreaded walking into that hospital some days, I don’t think I would have wanted to do it any other way.

Finally, I can’t talk about my experience as a dietetic intern without mentioning my staff relief rotation. During the last four weeks of the internship, each intern got to choose an area of the hospital where she would act as the dietitian. We still had a dietitian to co-sign our charting documents, but we were basically on our own as if we were the sole dietitian covering that area. I chose to spend those four weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), and it was my favorite four weeks on the entire internship. I chose the PICU because I found I enjoyed all of the enteral and parenteral nutrition (nutrition via tube feeds and IVs) calculations in the ICU setting. I also went into my internship wanting to work with kids – and especially enjoyed my pediatric rotations during the internship. The first week of staff relief was absolutely terrifying but by the end, I felt like I had the confidence to go out into the field and be a dietitian (which was very reassuring!). Also, I have to give a huge THANK YOU to the PICU dietitian and my staff relief preceptor Melanie for teaching me more than I thought I would ever know (and also making me laugh every day – even when I was working with kids who were critically ill).

Now, one week since the end of the internship, these are my main thoughts, but I’m sure as time goes by I will have more thoughts and reflections to share.

If you are a current RD2Be, dietetics student, or dietetic intern, be sure to stay tuned for my posts over the next few weeks because I’ll be sharing my dietetic internship and RD exam advice. Feel free to send me all your burning questions and I can answer them in my posts 🙂

Probiotics

Last Wednesday the nutrition department at school had their annual symposium. This year’s topic: the gut microbiome. The microbiome is a pretty hot topic right now. There is so much interesting research on how it affects our health so there is no way I could share everything with you in one post (or even a few!). If you aren’t familiar with the microbiome, it is the collection of the billions of different bacteria (both good and bad) that live inside our guts, and the composition (both the type and number) these bacteria play a role in our health. They can influence whether or not we get certain diseases, how efficiently our metabolism runs, our hormone levels, our immune system, and much, much more. And guess what? Diet is the #1 factor that determines which bacteria live in our gut!

So how do you make sure your microbiome is in tip-top shape? Well, there are many different things to think about, but I am going to just focus on 1 here today — probiotics.

Most of us have probably heard of probiotics in a few contexts – supplements and yogurt. Probiotics are actually live, good bacteria that help create a good balance of the different bacteria in your gut. In other words, they help improve your microbiome, which is good news for your health and digestion.

How much do you need? Taking 1 probiotic supplement every day or consuming 2-4 tablespoons of fermented foods every day is optimal.

If you are going to take a supplement, you want to pay attention to the strains and the CFUs.

  • Strains are the number of different types of bacteria in the supplements. Try to find a supplement with at least 5 different strains to get the most benefit (the more the better).
  • CFUs are the colony forming units or the actual number of live bacteria in the supplement. Aim for a supplement with 25-30 billion CFUs. Some people can benefit from up to 900 billion CFU’s, including those with IBD and celiac, but 25-30 billion is typically enough for healthy individuals.

Sound too science-y and confusing? Eating 2-4 tablespoons of probiotic containing foods is just as good! Probiotics are found in fermented foods like unpasteurized sauerkraut (the stuff you find in the fridge), kefir, yogurt, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, and tempeh. Getting probiotics from just one of these foods is great, but mixing up your sources of probiotics is extra helpful.

Interested in knowing more about the microbiome? Ask me your questions and I would love to share more!

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

Diet & Exercise, etc.

As promised, I have a Dietetic Internship update and some other goodies to share. These first two weeks have been dedicated to orientation at the hospital. I, along with the four other interns, have sat through lots of HR trainings, lectures about hospital policies, gone on more hospital tours than I can count, and even had a few homework assignments already. Aside from that boring stuff, we did have some sessions that were more interesting and applicable to dietetics, like an intro to the Nutrition Focused Physical Exam, a taste test of the various supplements the hospital can supply to patients, and we did some patient-clinician role playing to prepare for talking with patients.

IMG_9871In other very exciting news, I officially can check “run a half marathon” off my bucket list. At 9:58am this morning, I crossed the finish line of the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in Cleveland. Miles 10-12 were definitely a struggle and required a little walking, but I ran the first 10 and the last 1.3 without stopping. Considering my longest training run was 10 miles and I wasn’t planning on running the full 13.1 until October, I am pretty happy with how I did. I decided to run it two months early because I quickly realized, during week 1 at the hospital, fitting long runs into my busy schedule was not realistic.

Now, I am home, have eaten more food than I thought possible (Note: running 13.1 miles makes you very hungry!), and my legs are officially jello. Since getting up off the couch is not really an option right now, I thought I would also add something to this post that is maybe more relevant to you (as opposed to just leaving it as an update on my life).

Since I’m in the half marathon spirit, talking about workouts seems appropriate. While workouts and healthy eating are usually two peas in a pod, I have stayed away from writing about them too much because I have no background or credentials surrounding fitness or exercise. But, I do know a thing or two about the relationship between diet and exercise, which I can share that emphasize the importance of a quality diet:

  1. I’m pretty sure we have all heard that “You can’t outrun a bad diet” and “Abs are made in the kitchen”. While these phrases may seem silly, there is a little bit of truth to them. We, as a society often underestimate how much we eat and overestimate how much we burn during a workout (the cardio machines that give false calorie readings don’t help). So, it can be really hard to burn enough calories in a workout to compensate for the two extra cookies last night. Personally, those two extra cookies aren’t worth a whole ‘nother hour at the gym (see the graphic below)…I’ll stick to one cookie.

    food calories to workout convesion

    Calories in food equivalent to workouts (I think these workouts are a little but underestimated, but you get the point)

  2. Surprise! It isn’t all about the number on the scale. Maybe those extra hours in the gym are worth it to you (or you naturally have a fast metabolism) and you eat anything and everything you want. Just because you fall into a healthy weight category doesn’t make you immune to sodium increasing you blood pressure or saturated fat clogging your arteries.
  3. Diet and exercise are not one or the other. They are both important and you need to find a balance. Here are just a two examples… exercise can increase HDL (good cholesterol) which diet can’t do, and fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants that can reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
  4. A poor diet often leads to low energy, poor sleep, and negative mood meaning your workout (or any part of your daily life) probably won’t be that great or productive if your not eating well.

These are just a few examples of why a healthy, well-balanced diet are so important. Now, I’m not ragging on exercise (see #3), While the “diet pea” might fit very nicely in that pod with the “exercise pea”, sometimes they need to stand on their own and be recognized for their individual benefits. Trust me, after training for a half marathon, I get that after a good sweaty workout you feel like you deserve a giant chocolate bar and a bag of chips, but in reality, that isn’t going to work (not for losing weight or for overall health).

I hope this helps, eat more veggies, and stay sweaty!

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!