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!

Personal Food Rules: Part I

As a dietitian I am often asked about how I eat and if I follow a vegetarian (used to), vegan (wouldn’t be able to – I love cheese and wearing leather), pescetarian (also used to), or paleo (no thanks, I like the encouragement of real, whole foods but too much meat for me) diets. Well while I subscribe in pieces to many different diets, these are my personal food rules that I live by:

  • Mostly choose water. I genuinely feel refreshed drinking water and I don’t want to waste any of my precious energy needs on sugary and calorie-filled drinks. They are not worth it to me. Plus staying adequately hydrated helps curb the appetite.
  • Keep at least half of meals plant based. I do 1-2 meatless days per week, eat lean red meat about once a week, and keep the rest of my protein sources to chicken/turkey/fish. I tend to pick out an animal based protein source for 1-2 meals per day (on my non-meatless days). All I can say is: mmmn, seafood in New England…
  • Save butter and cream based products for special occasions. I only cook in oils and I use the healthier spreads on toast (usually Smart Balance or Olivio).
  • No pastries, minimal candy/sweets. I am one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have a sweet tooth. I’d rather have a nice glass of wine with dinner instead of dessert any night of the week. This eliminates a lot of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, pastries, pies, etc. The only two things I will say I like are real chocolate (nothing waxy) and gummy candy such as Swedish Fish (in fact, I request these instead of cake for my bday every year).
  • No late night snacking. I’m rarely even tempted to do so because I have a good dinner.
  • No eating out of the boxes/bags. I always serve myself snacks in a small bowl to stay cognizant of portions. I also tend not to buy snack food items because I don’t want to have it around.
  • Fearlessness with trying healthy cooking modifications. I always put extra veggies in dishes, and I’m not afraid to try making substitutions in dishes such as using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. One of my best tricks is to buy the 97% lean ground beef and add (per 1 lb of meat) 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Make my everyday routine healthy. [Stay tuned for Thursday’s Blog Post!!]

I hope this gives some insight to the food voyeurs out there (present company included) that like to understand what others’ food choices are. Do you have any food rules you live by?

Personal Update: New Job!

I have an important update to share with everyone!  Frist of all, a huge thank you to you readers.  It has been a very fun ride to grow and write about nutrition for and with you so I want you to know that I appreciate the support and plan to continue my blogging journey.

I begin a new job today!  I am starting with Maple Medical LLP, a private medical practice in Westchester.  I will be the Registered Dietitian for their practice.  Transitioning into private practice and outpatient counseling has always been my career goal so I'm beyond excited to start on this new venture.  I feel lucky to be working with such a fantastic team of practitioners and will be sure to write about my experiences and best resources for outpatient counseling and RD billing [for you RDs and students out there looking to eventually do the same!].

So again thank you to my readers, my family, my closest support systems, and my incredible mentors (cough, Joan and Carolyn, that means you) that have helped to get me to this point.  I can't wait to continue to share it all with you!

Fall Goals: Up the Fitness Routine and Minimize Anything Processed

Fall is my favorite time of year!  As the summer winds down and the nights get chilly, I usually get into a much more consistent true exercise routine.  I say 'true exercise' routine because my summer is often action-packed: swimming, running outdoors, golfing, hiking, etc.  Not to mention more items on the social calendar that pull me in different directions...  So when fall rolls around and my days return to what feels like a more normal routine I like to make sure consistent gym time is part of the routine.

Personal photo: My friend Emily and I running in Warrior Dash last year!

Being physically active is so important in maintaining a healthy weight, building strong bones and muscles, and maintaining cardiovascular health.  Bonus: Better energy, feeling simply better day in and day out and sleeping soundly!  Now that said, exercise and diet go hand in hand.

That's where the next part of my fall goal comes into play: minimize processed foods.  I would venture to say that being a dietitian and foodie I probably do better than most in this arena, but there's always room for improvement.  I do fairly well with cooking regularly, utilizing whole and raw ingredients in doing so, and snacking on simple items.  While I've established good habits, processed foods are ever present in our lives.  Just look at the 40,000 products available on grocery shelves!  

It is with this understanding that I am going to challenge myself to identify the processed foods that are in my diet and truly focus on minimizing them.  I'll keep you updated on my progress as I read labels carefully, plan ahead, and try to reduce some of the 14-letter-worded ingredients that make an all too frequent appearance on food labels.  Just don't ask me to give up my (cough, chemical filled) coffee creamer!

Personal Update

Exciting Stuff!

Well the reason I have been busy busy and not focusing on my blog (sorry all three readers!) is because I have been experiencing a major transition.  I have started a new job as a Clinical Dietitian at White Plains Hospital in New York, which I am loving.  I also was studying like a mad-person last month because I had my credentialing exam... So at the end of February I took and passed my registration exam and I am now officially a Registered Dietitian!!

Wooohooo!  More initials after the name!

Thanks for the continued support in the blogging-sphere.  I promise that once that I feel trained and settled in at the hospital I'll be coming back full force.  I'm excited that I feel able to focus on my personal endeavors and interests and hope to bring about more interesting content!


A Little Story...

Hey everyone, lighthearted post this week!  I've been sifting through a lot of research recently for a couple of ongoing projects for my internship and I came across this little gem...  A report of a Joint FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation [you can see the citation here].  Well the report was done in 1985 and outlines protein and energy requirements in adults.  It's a lot of tables and prediction equations, but the best and funniest part about it are a handful of tables I came across towards the end of the document.  

They outline energy requirements (number of calories required in a day) by STEREOTYPE.  I couldn't even believe it!  Apparently being a dietitian is as simple as that, judging your clients and grouping them.  I'm sorry, my sarcasm can't escape my typing fingers, I just thought that this was one of the funniest things I'd seen in a long time.  

Below is a summary of their results, and I promise I took everything from their report verbatim.

  • Energy requirement of a male office clerk (light activity work): 2580 kcal/day  Age 25 years, weight 65 kg, height 1.72 m, BMI 22
  • Energy requirement of a subsistence farmer (moderate activity work): 2780 kcal/day  Age 25 years, weight 58 kg, height 1.61 m, BMI 22.4
  • Energy requirement of a healthy, retired elderly man: 1960 kcal/day   Age 75 years, weight 60 kg, height 1.6 m, BMI 23.5
  • Energy requirement of a housewife in an affluent society: 1990 kcal/day   Age 25 years, weight 55 kg, 1.5 m, BMI 24
  • Energy requirement of a rural woman in a developing country: 2235 kcal/day   Age 35 years, weight 50 kg, height 1.6 m, BMI 19.5

Take Home Messages

Housewives are usually under five feet and should be consuming about the same amount of energy per day as a healthy, retired man.  Don't worry ladies, these fine consultants of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Health Organization, and United Nations University already took into account "the extra hour needed to spend on household tasks and remaining household activities - such as sewing or knitting, ironing, some parts of food preparation, etc." and "included it in maintenance".  

Office clerks are young and healthful men that require only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich more per day than the slightly older rural women that are low-normal weight for height.  

No matter what stereotype was cast, everyone got eight hours of sleep according to the calculations, which is a lot more than can be said for the average person in the workforce nowadays!  


Hopefully someone other than me finds this amusing, otherwise it's a sure sign of too much PubMed and Web of Science.  I promise for a more nutritionally relevant and hopefully enlightening post later in the week!

New Years Resolution

New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year!  With a new year comes a clean slate, and let's face it, 2009 was kind to few.  So with 2010 getting into gear, how about a little bit of brainstorming for new years resolutions?!

Whether you believe in them or not, the idea behind it is that a new year breeds new habits, so now is the time to try to improve your old ways (present company included).  One way to start is to think back on the past year and generalize a few areas that you might feel need some improving.  

Once you've come up with a topic or two to focus on, brainstorm some realistic, clear, and measurable resolutions for the year.  For example, I have two resolutions, to stay better hydrated, and to blog more often.  But simply saying those two things to myself won't lead to action.  So instead, my resolutions are to drink at least 2-3 glasses of water a day, and to blog a minimum of once a week (but really to try to blog 6+ times/month).  

When we put realistic numbers into our resolutions, we are more likely to reach our aspirations.  Keep this in mind while setting your goals for the year.  

Happy New Year!  May we keep our resolutions together!

Personal Update

Hey everyone!

My apologies for not posting in so long...  August was quite a busy month.  I am now settling into Boston, here for the MS/DI program at Boston University, and starting up classes.  I am greatly looking forward to this year and may update this site with more personal and academic based tidbits along the way in addition to the typical nutrition writing you see.

Hope that you're enjoying your Labor Day!


Diving Right In...

Welcome Photo courtesy of Gracemagazine

Welcome to my very first blog online... ever.  I'm not going to lie, it's a little bit nerve-wracking.  But regardless of that fact, let's go!

This blog is meant to serve as a means for me to provide nutritional advice or tips, hone my writing and communication skills, and have a little bit of fun spending time on the field which I am studying and love.  Nutrition!  I am fortunate enough to be passionate about my classes and prospective career, and to have found that passion early on.  

I hope that this becomes for you a place of information and interest.  If you ever have any questions or topics you would like me to touch on, by all means ask them!  I would appreciate honest and candid feedback on all levels, so please don't be shy.  

The First Order of Business

Some of the most recent and slightly depressing news just released by the government shows us that we are still up against this obesity epidemic.  There are both some negatives and positives to highlight.  

On the negative side, 66% of adult americans are overweight or obese with the rates within each state holding steady or rising.  Perhaps even more troubling is the fact that the population of overweight children has exceeded 30% in 30 states.  The fact that children are starting out behind the eight ball is leading to chronic disease, higher healthcare costs, and an incalculable number of social, mental, and emotional effects.  

On the positive side, the rate at which the obesity epidemic has spread over the past 15 or so years seems to have slowed down.  We are starting to see a change in the landscape of nutritional standards in schools.  While the bar is not set very high, the standards are being met in more schools every year and 20 states even have weight screening programs for children and teens.

I don't personally believe that the scale or BMI is the be-all-end-all measure of health but it is a good tool to use to measure health at a population level.  While it seems a daunting task I do believe that through education, community programs and support, and self-discipline we can reverse this trend and implement a healthier image of America.  

But How?

The first thing you can do is to begin enjoying and tasting the food you're eating.  This probably sounds easy when you first read it but it can be hard!  How often do you graze food while watching tv?  Or grab stuff straight from the box/bag instead of putting on a plate or in a bowl?  Or eat on the go as we're so prone to do in this multitasking world?  You can start to break these habits (among others you may start to notice) by sitting down without noise and distraction (except good company of course) and tasting and enjoying your food.  It's a nice way to take a break from everything else that's going on.  Plus you'd be surprised at how you can enjoy all the flavors of food more.  

Another thing you can do is to set a healthy tone in your home.  Remember that your family picks up on your food habits and vice-versa.  Sitting down to a family dinner, snacking on real foods instead of processed items, and even drinking water will become the habits of your children/siblings/relatives.  Knowing that your actions are affecting more than just yourself might help you to make healthier choices on a daily basis.

These are just two things to think about the next time you're making food and nutrition decisions.  Sometimes we get so caught up in the nitty gritty of nutrition (the calories, the grams of protein and fiber, the exercise regimen) that we forget to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.