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!

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Homemade Bread

Since coming back to the United States after studying abroad, I have missed the bread-filled lunches I had with my host family. I tried buying bread at the grocery store but it just didn’t add up to the seed-filled bread I learned to love in Europe. Thankfully, a friend in Germany sent me a bread recipe to try and it was just what I was looking for! I also love this bread because all the seeds give it protein. Depending on what types of seeds you use, one slice can have over 6 grams of protein!

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The recipe is below, but here are some more helpful hints to make this delicious bread:

  • Be sure to pay close attention to the measurements. Since the recipe is from Europe, all measurements are in weight (grams) so you will need a small kitchen scale to make it.
  • As for the ingredients, I found everything I needed at Whole Foods. The trickiest one to find was the fresh yeast, but a Whole Foods employee knew exactly what I needed when I asked. It comes in a small cube in the refrigerator section.
  • As the recipe says, I used an electric mixer but you can also mix the ingredients with a spatula. Either way you mix it, the dough should be slightly thicker than cookie dough but still sticky and wet.
  • You can bake the dough as soon as you are done mixing. No need to wait for it to rise!

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Enjoy the bread fresh for 3 days or freeze some to eat later! I like mine with honey as a sweet snack, but it is also good for making sandwiches.

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.

Eating Seasonally

With spring in full swing (aside from the short snow-fall today in Denmark!) farmers markets and grocery stores all around Copenhagen are starting to display their brightest and juiciest produce. Everything from strawberries to watermelons are at the very front of the store just waiting for you to give into the fruity deliciousness you have missed all winter. I’m not joking when I say “missed”. Here, in Denmark, it is pretty difficult to find produce that isn’t grown in Denmark (or at least in a nearby country). The Danes are very supportive of local farmers and only eating fruits and vegetables that are in season. That means for pretty much all of the winter, you can only find things like apples, oranges, and plums. Grapes, kiwis, and especially berries are pretty much impossible to find during the colder months. While I have definitely missed some of natures candy during my last three months in Denmark, there are lots of perks to eating only fruits and vegetables that are in season. Here are some that I have discovered since living here and talking to the Danes:

  1. Environment- This fits in well with yesterday’s celebration of Earth Day. Eating seasonally and locally is good for the environment! It eliminates the need for truck and airplane shipping pollution, refrigeration, green house operations, and chemical/pesticide use. When I go grocery shopping, the environment is one of the last things I think about (I usually focus on cost and taste), but it is important to remember that the environment plays a big role in the food we eat and our overall health.
  2. Taste- When fruits and vegetables are grown with real sunlight (not artificial lamps and greenhouses), the produce grows with much more flavor and fruits are much sweeter.
  3. Cost- When a food is in season, there is usually an abundance of it. We all know from high school econ that that means price goes down. Also, local and season foods don’t come from miles away so that eliminates the shipping costs of the product. Farmers markets are a great way to cash in on some cheap, yet high quality produce.
  4. Variety- Although it is sad to not have any strawberries for the entire winter, it makes springtime that much more exciting when they appear in the stores. Eating seasonal produce also encourages you to try some new fruits and vegetables you might not otherwise try. You have to make do with what is available!
  5. Nutrients- Every minute after a fruit or vegetable is picked from the ground, it loses nutrient content. Therefore, the shorter the “farm to table” time is, the more nutrients that will be available to fuel your body.

Obviously, living in northern climates does not allow us to eat 100% seasonal, but something is better than nothing. Try choosing 2-3 items that you will only buy when they are in season. If you are up for a challenge, you can always try more!

National Nutrition Month + Healthy Ice Cream

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Happy National Nutrition Month! While I probably should have written this post for the beginning of the month, I figured it is still March so it is still acceptable. Each year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics runs a campaign for the month of March that focuses on the importance of “making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits”. This years theme: Savor the Flavor of Eating Right. The message: healthy eating can and should taste good. I am definitely a fan of this year’s theme because there is no way to have sustainable healthy eating habits if you do not enjoy what you are eating. With this in mind, I though I would share this healthy and delicious ice cream recipe that won’t break the calorie bank. Plus, you can make it will all natural ingredients. Hope you enjoy!

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Study abroad update: Dublin was absolutely amazing and is definitely near the top of my list of favorite cities. This week I’m headed to Prague, Czech Republic and Nuremberg, Germany 🙂

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Bread for Lunch?

This post is a little different. I wanted to share this little anecdote about how studying abroad has changed the way I describe healthy dietary patters- so here I go…

“The buns are in the oven”. This is what my host mom told me around 11:00am on my first day after arriving in Copenhagen. She explained that homemade buns (rundstykker) are a traditional Danish food- which are basically just big bread rolls. Each family has a unique recipe and the fluffier the buns, the better. Around 11:30am she asked me to help set the table. I put out plates, forks, knives along with the butter, jams, cheese, honey, and Nutella she pulled out of the fridge and cupboard. As the fresh buns came out of the oven just a few minutes later, my host parents, their three year old son, and I sat down at the dining room table for what I thought was a little, traditional mid-morning snack. My host mom cut the buns in half and passed them around the table until we each had a hot bun on our plate. We all helped ourselves to the toppings in the middle of the table easily spreading them as they melted over the warm crumbly surface. For the next hour or so, we sat around the table talking and getting to know each other. I had a total of one and a half buns, as I didn’t want to fill up on bread before lunch—even though they were delicious and I could have had many more. Over the course of the hour that we sat there, my host mom and dad had three or four buns each and continuously offered me more. When they finally finished cutting, spreading, and eating each bun and our conversation had come to a breaking point we cleared the table and washed the dishes. I went to my room to finish unpacking my luggage and take a nap to catch up on my jet lag. I was expecting a nice hot lunch to be ready when I woke up an hour later. Much to my surprise, I woke up from my nap with no food in sight. I didn’t want to ask my host parents when our next meal was because I was starting to get the feeling that lunch was the buns that we had had earlier. As the clock neared 3:00pm and my stomach started to grumble, I went in the kitchen and grabbed an apple to hold me over until dinner. Fast forward to the evening when I went to pack my lunch for Monday, my host mom suggested that I take some leftover buns with butter and cheese for lunch. It finally clicked! Apparently that meal of bread, butter, and cheese was actually a typical Danish lunch. I began to have a slight internal panic attack when I realized that I would be having a light, bread-filled, and protein-lacking lunch for an entire semester.

Among other things, getting used these light Danish lunches (which are almost always filled with bread) was has been a major food obstacles that I have had to overcome since coming to Denmark. Coming from living in a university apartment where I can buy and eat whatever I want (I try not to eat lots of processed food and simple sugars/grains), to not being able to choose what food is in the house and becoming accustomed to eating bread at every single meal has not been easy.

Now, almost two months into my new Danish eating habits, I actually have a newfound appreciation for the diet patterns. At first, it was difficult to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of eating mostly bread for lunch, but I have actually discovered that eating nut and seed filled rye bread actually fills me up quickly and keeps me full throughout the day. These rye breads with lots of nuts and seeds, which are very common in Denmark, have a lot more nutrients—including some protein—than most bread in the long American grocery store aisles. I have had to add an American touch by having peanut butter on my rye bread to make up for some of the protein and healthy fats I am lacking during lunch, but other than that, I have realized that the Danes actually are not crazy just having bread and some toppings for lunch. It has taken some getting use to but I now feel good about eating all of the wholesome grains in bread for lunch every day.

Eight weeks ago, when I realized I would be having bread for lunch everyday, I nearly had a panic attack. I would have never predicted that, today, I actually look forward to my rye bread sandwich everyday for lunch. As a nutrition major at school and an aspiring dietitian, it is fascinating to learn about the various eating patterns of people around the world. Throughout my education, I have always been taught that bread is full of empty calories and should not be the main part of any meal. Not only has living in Denmark given me new cultural experiences, but it has also changed how I look at diet choices of those in different counties and given me a fresh perspective on what healthy eating is defined as.

Study Abroad Update
It has been 3 days since returning from Riga, Helsinki, and Stockholm and had some really interesting (but some boring) lectures on health care. It is definitely interesting to see how cultural differences (such as Latvia’s conservative views on HIV/AIDS and family planning) can have such a large impact on the health care that is (or is not) provided to the citizens. Some unique food experiences on my trip included traditional Swedish meatballs (which were delicious) and reindeer (which was not so delicious)!

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Tomorrow will take me to Dublin, Ireland for the weekend as my next stop in this amazing adventure!

Copenhagen Street Food

Surprise! In a city that is famously known for their hot dog carts, you can still find some healthier street food options. It just goes to show that there is usually a healthy (or at least healthier) option anywhere you go. Now, I don’t come from a big urban city where street food and food trucks are on every corner so I don’t know if this is normal, but I found a food truck this week that I couldn’t resist sharing. It was a nut and dried fruit truck! Here is a picture of this amazingness but it doesn’t do it justice. 
  
Maybe I’m just geeked out about this because I like nutrition but I thought it was so cool- and personally, I would rather snack on nuts and dried fruit while shopping in downtown Copenhagen rather than eating a hotdog. Aside from the food, I think this is the first food truck I have ever seen that only sells water- no soft drinks. 

Anyways, I just wanted to share this awesome food find and that there are usually always healthier options around. 

That is all for now. I am off to Riga, Latvia, Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm, Sweden this week for more public health visits and lots Northern European adventures!