My Interview for Megan Ware, RDN!

I had the lovely experience of being a part of Megan Ware's Dietitian Spotlight Series!  She is an awesome RDN based out of Texas that has launched her own company to counsel clients and help others attain total health through her 'Whole-istic" and real foods approach.

Check out my interview today!

And check out the rest of her sight and the other dietitians that she has interviewed as well.  I think it very nicely shows how many different avenues can be taken with an RDN credential.  :)  Thanks Megan!!

Resources: Top Mindfulness Apps

New Trend: Devices for Mindfulness

With new health apps being released all the time, here are my top picks for mindfulness apps!  Check them out today to get into better headspace with yourself, utilize reminders to stop and breathe, and can even help impact meal planning.

  1. Insight Timer, $2.99
  2. Mindfulness Bell, free
  3. Before I Eat: A Moment in the Zone, $0.99
  4. Headspace, $3.99 or free
  5. Stop, Breathe and Think, free
  6. Mindfulness Daily, free

Is the Training to Become an RDN Enough?

"Too Linear"

I am so incredibly proud to be a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist.  I worked very hard for that credential and couldn't be happier with my choice.  But lately I've heard the conversation brewing that attempts to attack the credential.

It is a very expensive endeavor to educate a dietitian.  I went through 4 years of college in a Dietetics program, and an MS/DI (Master of Science/Dietetic Internship) program.  [Please note that the MS is being phased into requirement but wasn't at the time of my completing it.]  During the Dietetic Internship I was paying to work 40-50 hours weekly in the hospital setting and completing mounds (trust me, mounds) of research, case studies, presentations, disease oriented worksheets and self-evaluations to check off all of the didactic requirements of the program.  It was a chaotic, exciting, and exhausting endeavor and I left the program with excellent yet formal scientific training.

On a phone call the other day with a fellow wellness professional, he informed me that he felt RDN's to be "too linear".  I actually totally understood what he meant.  Not to the detriment of our industry, but in order to build good clinicians in all aspects of healthcare you must first instill the ability to critically read research and practice guidelines, and apply those to a patient population in congruence with the most up to date best-practices.  The process of teaching that in a clinician is a rather linear process, ask any PA, MD, RN, or RDN about their education.  It is an essential foundation.  With that foundation, you can go on to use critical thinking, patient outcomes, and clinical judgment to craft your practice over the coming years.

I think where the going gets tough for RDNs is that the world of nutrition is rather difficult to study, has a lot of moving pieces in terms of lifestyle, is constantly evolving (let's face it: the sum is always greater than the total of its parts), and because at the core we're dealing with food and behavior change.

The Good

I feel that RDNs are the best suited professional to help the public understand the most up to date nutrition research, translate that into layman's terms, and apply it with practical and individualized advice.  We are able to take into account medical history, medications, allergies/intolerances, labwork, etc. to plan your care and give you the tools you need to succeed.

The Bad

RDNs get a very broad education in the arenas of clinical nutrition, food service management, and community nutrition.  Many programs lack in properly educating the RDN on business, marketing, public policy, communication and healthcare management.  There is a newer initiative being created by the Commission on Dietetic Registration that will go into effect over the next decade to create "advanced practice pathways" for more specialized residency programs and advanced board certifications.  This is a positive step - we can't be all things to all people in nutrition, honing in and becoming the expert on a smaller scope of topics makes more sense, and so does creating structured programs to do so.

The Ugly

About 45% of those that apply to programs annually get accepted.  The growth of educational programs can't keep up with the demand and so people are taking other paths to becoming nutrition professionals.  I think that ultimately this will sort itself out but in the meantime there are certifications that cost way less and take about 1/20th of the time (scary isn't it?).  RDNs have to work even harder to compete against professionals with an entirely dissimilar education.  I feel that there are some fantastic credentials available (such as in the integrative nutrition realm!) that make the RDN a stronger, well-rounded health care professional, but right now it is up to us to make it happen.

Headlines and Science: Oil and Water?

The Importance of the Salacious Headline

I am constantly bombarded with questions from patients and friends about the latest nutrition headlines.  I always appreciate the curiosity, and honestly, getting even the most obscure question makes me a better clinician because I make sure to go back and read the research to answer appropriately.  But sometimes I just don't want nutrition headlines to be sexy, I want them to be accurate.

Don't get me wrong, nutrition is a constantly evolving field that is very scientifically difficult to study.  You try to design a study free of confounding factors when you're trying to exrapolate meaningful and causative (versus correlative) relationships by controlling what thousands of people eat and has to take lifestyle factors into account.  I can't do that with my patients and they're paying to hear what I have to say.

I appreciate that nutrition is a constant in the news because it helps continue to drive the conversation about our health.  Most recently, there was a particularly negative article about the role of nutrition in cancer prevention in the New York Times.  The data has been all over the place over the years as cancer and nutrition is a difficult relationship to study, but sometimes pointing that out to the lay public and oversimplifying scientific data does more harm than good.  The average American is not going to take the extra step to read the research that derives this article or check out what the American Institute for Cancer Research has to say about it or even make sure they ask their health care team about it.

I guess all I can do is comment on these stories, stay on top of the good and the bad in the publishing world, and keep a research oriented focus so that I can give my patients the best possible advice.  Just be forewarned: even when it comes to the best news outlets, don't fall prey to the salacious headline and always stay open to all sides of the discussion.

3-D Printing Whhhaaaaat?

Just a fun tid-bit for the day!  Researchers in Germany are developing 3-D printed food specially designed to look and taste great while having the ability to melt in the mouth and slide down the throat for dysphagia patients.

While the technology isn't ready for market just yet, I was stunned at the concept of 3-D printers having the capability to create something that we ingest, has nutrients, and feeds our cells and muscles and bones and brains.  I guess with all of the food technology that exists in this world I shouldn't be so surprised!  I am glad however it is being designed with the aging population in mind as many conditions can cause dysphagia (strokes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, head and neck cancers, MS, among others).

Check out the article in Tech Crunch (link above).  What food technology do you envision happening in the next 5 or 10 years that is likely to blow our minds?!

A Trip Abroad: Budapest and Prague

Sorry for being MIA from the blogosphere for awhile!  I went on a trip abroad and enjoyed being mostly unplugged (save for a few mins of wifi here and there).  I still have to go through all of my pictures and will be sure to include some on here as a follow-up post.  :)  

My initial thoughts on the trip:

Budapest: Beautiful, friendly, clean, manageable, accessible.  Many spoke English, signs were also in English, it had beautiful open streets that felt friendly and it reminded me of Boston in a lot of ways.  I had my first marketplace haggling experience which was kind of fun.  They also layered a lot of symbolism and history into all parts of the construction of the city which was very interesting to learn about.

Prague: Stunning.  Simply stunning to walk along the cobblestone roads and see the architecture.  The city was also very manageable from a size perspective and walking all over the place was so enjoyable.  Prague was slightly less manageable from an English speaking perspective (but still fine), had great food (mmmnnnn...) and they sure loved their beer.  Pilsner Urquel and Staropramen are everywhere!

100 Happy Days

Hey everyone!  I have started out this year with a few challenges and I feel that I just need to take time to be thankful for all of the wonderful things in my life - people, food, experiences, nature, and the list goes on.  I want to refocus my energy and just simply be happy.

I'm going to take the next 100 days to try to document such a task using the #100happydays on social media (namely instagram: @whitneyba).  Well that and use the e-mail intructions for whichever pics I want to keep private.

So will you join me?  Doesn't have to be the same 100 days, but follow the principle of trying to acknowledge one small thing daily that makes you happy every day.  If you decide to, feel free to sign up here and share your pics with us!

Supermarket Savvy & the Taste of Eating 'Right'

Happy National Nutrition Month all!

This year, the theme for NNM is 'Enjoy the taste of eating right!', and I just love that sentiment because food tastes great.  There are a plethora of flavors out there, and as an honest foodie, it makes me sad when I hear about people being addicted to three things: salt, sugar, fat.  This isn't because they don't have interesting flavor properties, it's because they tend to dominate, and start to slowly drown out a lot of other amazing flavors.

Real food tastes great.  Real herbs, spices, produce, eggs, cheese, poultry/meat/fish.  And the list goes on... All great.  The awesome bonus to this is the role that good food can play in meeting health goals.  That means that your health goals can be reached by eating real, whole foods.  This is not an accident.  I always joke to patients that if they were busy eating their recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, they'd have little room for 'the crap'.  We laugh together, but I mean it.  

Learning how to properly grocery shop, stock a pantry, make a meal out of a few basic ingredients, and utilize a few basic knife and cooking techniques are essential life tools.  Essential life tools that become part of your roadmap to 'eating right'.

Some great resources I love to help get you there!

  • Supermarket Savvy: A virtual tool for healthier shopping aimed at consumers, chefs, and RDNs!
  • Meal Makeover Moms: Two RDN's that have dedicated their careers to developing family-friend cookbooks and spreading the news on necessary tools for a healthy kitchen.
  • MyPlate Healthy Eating on a Budget: From the MyPlate messaging, tip sheets and tools to help with meal planning for the budget-conscious household.
  • Fruits and Veggies More Matters: This public health campaign is the most important thing you can learn for meal planning.  And seasonality matters.  I beg you to check out the site and use their tools!
  • Whole Foods Healthy Cooking Guide: Great tools for the visual learner - watch their healthier cooking videos to master new kitchen techniques and use their whole grains guide to rotate in new options.
  • Healthy Aperture: A foodie-nutrition community of health & food bloggers that have uploaded their recipes with beautiful photos.  Your new free cookbook complete with professional input.
  • Fruitable: Ever wonder how to pick and store fruits and vegetables?  Use this website (launching an app soon!) to figure it out!

Have any other ones to add to the list?!  Happy cooking, and more importantly, happy healthy eating!

Nutrition Labeling: Time for Change is Now

The Nutrition Facts Panel

The nutrition facts panel is a sorely underused bevy of information for consumers.  It is something that I regularly counsel clients on how to use as a tool and how to apply their individual needs to the information on the panel to make balanced decisions at the point of purchase.  It can be overwhelming to apply at first, but hopefully with some changes to make the label a bit easier to understand, the habit of using labels to impact consumer decision-making will become more routine.

Check out the press release from the FDA regarding the changes: FDA proposes updates to nutrition facts label on food packages 

What's Changing?

  • Serving Sizes and Calories are going to be more reflective of what people are actually eating and more prominently displayed
  • Added Sugars are going to be added to the label under the Sugars (under Carbohydrates) to clearly identify sugars that are not naturally occurring
  • Vitamins A and C are out, Vitamin D and Potassium is in as there are rarely deficiencies in the former, and the latter play larger roles in the development of chronic disease

Other Ideas?

First of all, the comment period is open right now regarding the proposed changes.  If you are interested in making a comment (I made mine!) please visit the following sites:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (yes, love them!) has been on the forefront of this issue for years now and had come up with an interesting proposal regarding the changes.  See page 10 of this report for the best visual and explanation.  Personally, I prefer their changes to the current changes proposed by the FDA, but I understand that that would require a huge overhaul.  Not only is the FDA careful to not make major changes for fear of further confusing consumers, but many manufacturers are very resistant to these changes.

I honestly feel that the big change that is missing is requiring all sources of sugars to be listed together in the ingredients list to open up consumers eyes to just how haphazardly and insidiously processed sugars are added into the food supply.  I feel that adding them to the label as added sugars is a step, but unfortunately I'd bet we're going to find food manufacturers going the 'route of trans fats' and keeping the limits per serving just low enough to be able to label them as 0g.  There is also no reference for the consumer, so listen up!  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams daily for women and 36 grams daily for men.

What's the Deal with Coconut Oil?

Coconut Oil: Friend or Foe?Image reprinted with permission from www.coconutandberries.com and www.healthyaperture.com

Tropical oils (namely coconut oil and palm kernel oil) continue to grow in popularity as they become more mainstream options in the grocery store.  If you're looking for cooking-stable alternatives to traditional butter and shortening, coconut oil may be a great option for you.

These are very high in saturated fats (at about 92% saturated fat), so they must be treated this way in terms of planning your overall diet.  In other words, continue to try to keep them to about 7% of total caloric intake to stay within recommended guidelines to help reduce risk of heart disease. Here is that 7% of total calories translated into quantity of coconut oil (just remember this is for the entire day!):

  • 1500 kcal diet = 12g saturated fats = 1tbsp (3 tsp), 117 calories
  • 1800 kcal diet = 14g saturated fats = 3.5 tsp, 136 calories
  • 2200 kcal diet = 17g saturated fats = 4.75 tsp, 166 calories
  • 2600 kcal diet = 20g saturated fats = 5.5 tsp, 195 calories

Now that said, coconut oil consists of largely medium chain fatty acids and has a higher content of lauric acid than most other oils.  What this means for you is that the fats are more easily digested, and actually have a big impact on increasing HDL cholesterol, or the good cholesterol.  Don't be fooled though, because they increase LDL, or the bad cholesterol, as well but to a lesser degree.  This can actually improve the ratio of your good:bad cholesterol on your lipid panel.

I think we are going to see a rise in consumption of these as consumers (as well as possibly the FDA!) continue to move away from relying on hydrogenated oils for shelf-stability.  We will also continue to see the conversation morph on this topic because as these tropical oils become more popular, more research studies regarding health effects will be conducted, and more health organizations are going to add tropical oils to their formal recommendations.

My position: Friend when consumed in appropriate amounts.  Yeah, that moderation thing again.

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And please click on the photo to be taken to a recipe for Apple and Raisin Oaty Breakfast Cookies.  Recipe discovered by clicking through the amazing site Healthy Aperture.

International Food Information Council Foundation Fellowship

What a Fascinating Opportunity!

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) - the wonderful people we can thank for bringing science-based nutrition and food safety information to a multitude of stakeholders in policy, journalism, and healthcare - have released their annual application for the Sylvia Rowe fellowship.

The fellowship gives the opportunity to one individual to intern (for pay) in Washington, DC with the IFIC to help enhance their communication skills, specifically in the field of nutrition and food safety information.  The Fellowship lasts from 6-12 weeks and must be completed within the calendar year.  Application deadline is February 14th, 2014. 

Very cool!  I wish I had been able to take advantage of this program.  :)

See website here: http://www.foodinsight.org/About/Career-Opportunities/Sylvia-Rowe-Fellowship.aspx