March is National Nutrition Month where loads of neRDs like myself celebrate healthy eating. Yesterday was Registered Dietitian Day. And due to a hectic schedule and poor planning, I’m a bit late on this post.
I’ve been fortunate to have a diverse career in dietetics, but it wasn’t always that way. I remember thinking I could never change jobs because there simply wasn’t a lot of things a dietitian could do. Even 20 years ago, most RDs worked in clinical jobs, long term care or food service. I loved my time as a clinical RD at the VA and learned a lot. But, also recognized, there was not a lot of movement for me there. When I left after 23 years, I had the same title, position and desk!
Dietitians now can work in industry with food companies, universities, hospitals, outpatient clinics, long term care, corporate venues and more. There are lots of avenues to take and it’s a very exciting field.
Here are my most rewarding things about being a dietitian.
- I love to help people. I love to see a person’s face light up when their blood sugar or cholesterol improved or they lose a few stubborn pounds. It’s in my nature to want to “fix things”, but really, I’m just the facilitator. The client is doing the work.
- I get to talk about food all day. We all eat and it impacts so much of our lives. I enjoy speaking with people about how they can make better food choices within their budget, culture, health issues and food preferences. My motto is “food should never be punishment”. If you have to hold your nose to eat something, pick something else to eat.
- I have a voice. I’m a silly person by nature and like to use humor when I write and counsel people. Being an RD has afforded me the chance to blog and write professionally.
- Science changes everything. We’ve gone from “eat frequent snacks” to maintain metabolism to “intermittent fasting may help with weight loss”. If there is one thing that is constant, it’s that nothing is constant in the nutrition world. Studies are coming out daily about food, nutrition and how if impacts our health. One thing is true- vegetables never go out of style unless there’s an e-coli outbreak.
- I am always learning. There is always more to read and experience in the nutrition world. New products are coming out and technology has changed the way we shop, cook and eat. Unless our food becomes pellets (God help us), dietitians will always have a place.
The teen years are difficult for any family. We often get in spats over semantics. I call studying, “homework”, my 13-year old doesn’t see it as “work” unless something is written and gets turned in. No family is perfect. Conflict, differences of opinion and other factors may play into issues. But there’s a silver lining. A recent study finds that families with teens that have dinner with each other are more likely to make healthy food choices, in lieu of parents and children that have problems talking or connecting emotionally. 1
The report in JAMA Network Open found that even when families had trouble juggling daily routines or were not exceptionally close to each other, more frequent family dinners were linked with more healthful eating among teens and young adults. 1
According to the lead author Kathryn Walton a doctoral student at the University of Guelph, Canada, “The big thing is that over and beyond family functioning, family meals still matter when you’re thinking about dietary intake for adolescents,”. Walton, now a research fellow at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto states several studies have evaluated the benefit of family meals. Time and time again, the have found that they lead to teens consuming more fruits and vegetables and less fast food and sugary beverages. 1
But, she said, “Critics have suggested that family dysfunction may interrupt the benefits of family meals because it may be harder for low-functioning families to organize and prepare meals or to have healthy foods available in the home . . . .” 1
Walton and her researchers reviewed data on teen and young adult children of men and women who were subjects in a large, long-term Nurse’s Health Study. The study included data on over 2700 young people aged 14 to 24 that were living with their parents in 2011. 1
Through a series of nine statements rated on a 4-point scale, family functioning was measured. The scale included: Individuals are accepted for who they are; I feel like I can talk about my problems or share a problem; I feel like I am heard in my family. 1
The researchers discovered that the more frequently teens and young adults ate dinner with their parents, the more often their overall diets contained fruits and vegetables and less fast food and sweetened beverages. The differences in healthy food intake were statistically significant despite being small. 1
The question now according to Walton is how to encourage more families to eat dinner together. She suggests that families who aren’t dining together can star with just one meal per a week and build on that success.
It may also be easier to achieve if parents don’t make dinner “a big affair”. Walton suggests using bagged salads or frozen vegetables as they’re just as healthy as fresh and simpler to prepare.
Another idea is to give teens meal prep tasks. Walton states this is really important in families that are extra busy. “Many hands make light work”. She notes there’s the extra bonus of kids learning food prep skills. 1
Dr. Mara Minguez of New York-Presbyterian in NYC, who was not involved in the study notes, “It’s really exciting to hear more evidence that eating together, along with decreasing risky behaviors and improving on mental health issues, such as depression, can also benefit overall health,”.2 One caveat to the study is that it was performed in a mostly white, highly educated population. Minguez works in NYC with many different cultures and wonders if “the findings can be generalized.” 1
Poorer families may find it more difficult to have sit down dinners as parents often work late. But they can compromise, Minguez says, by eating dinner later in the evening. “It’s just a matter of understanding why this is so important”.
“I love the idea of something simple for families to implement that has a substantial impact on health,” said Dr. Tammy Brady of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who wasn’t involved in the study. We need more research in more diverse populations according to Brady, but the study shows that “the family functionality piece isn’t that important.” 1
Here are some easy ways families can dine together more frequently:
- Make dinner a priority. Set a time when everyone is home together and stick with it.
- Ask older children and teens to help with food prep.
- Keep items like eggs, beans, rice and frozen vegetables on hand for fast meals.
- Re-purpose leftovers to save time in the kitchen. One cooked chicken may make multiple meals.
- Keep cell phones and other electronics away from the table so family can focus on each other and the food.
bit.ly/2DCWQxD JAMA Network Open, online November 21, 2018.
In the cold, gray days of winter, I daydream of warm evenings on my back deck with a cool drink. I’m particularly fond of anything with notes of citrus and have developed a taste for Moscow mules because I also love the kick of ginger. Thankfully, I don’t have to wait til summer to use my new Moscow Muled mugs! I received these from the company in Canada and think they are perfect for all types of drinks.
These handcrafted mugs are great for hot AND cold beverages. The interior of the mugs is different than traditional copper mugs because they’re lined with nickel as copper reacts with acids. The handles are welded instead of riveted, making the mugs airtight and leak proof. The mugs can be used for beer, fancy cocktails, kombucha, iced tea or seltzer water. With a 16 oz. capacity, they’ll hold plenty of ice in addition to your favorite drink.
The insulated linked makes them also great for hot beverages like hot cocoa, mulled cider, herbal tea or your favorite coffee beverage. The Moscow Muled mugs are not only functional, but beautiful. They will develop a natural patina over time which can be easily cleaned with a little salt and lemon. Let the salt dissolve and lightly rub it on the mug’s surface. The patina will be naturally removed with the lemon and salt mixture. Rinse with water and dry well after cleaning.
Here is a traditional Moscow Mule Recipe:
1 ½ oz. premium vodka
½ oz. fresh lime juice
½ cup ginger beer
Lime wedge for garnish
Pour vodka and lime juice into a Moscow Muled copper mug
Add ice and ginger beer and stir to combine.
Garnish and serve with lime wedges.
The copper mugs are not only functional, but beautiful. #free #samples #coppermugs #copper #mugs
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a fan of food restriction challenges. Hearing about the Whole 30, 21-day “cleanse” or Keto diet sends me over the edge. Giving things up for Lent is about as close as I would come to being that restrictive with my diet. In fact, I have given up, “giving up” things for Lent over the years. But for some reason, I decided to try “Dry January” and see how I’d feel being alcohol-free for a month. While I don’t drink in excess, I was drinking more frequently over the holidays than I’d prefer. Here’s what I noticed.
- Socializing almost always involves some form of alcohol. Dinner with friends, book club, happy hour with co-workers. It’s difficult to get away from. My book club friends didn’t even notice I wasn’t drinking except when a toast to the New Year was made. I raised my glass of seltzer, mentioned my dry intentions once and moved on.
- My sleep improved. I enjoy cocktails on the weekend for the most part when I can sleep in. I’ve found that the older I get, the less tolerance for alcohol I have. I woke up with more energy than I usually have.
- My skin looked brighter and didn’t break out as much. Alcohol is known to exacerbate rosacea. You’d think being 50+ would reduce my chance for breakouts, but alas, I have not been that lucky. Alcohol makes my face red, puffy and bumpy.
- I lost a few pounds. This was not my goal, though post-holiday, I was a fluffier version of myself. I noticed that my mid-section was a wee bit smaller. Alcohol makes our body store more fat and it’s typically around the middle.
- My mood got better. Most people don’t realize that alcohol is a depressant. Though we drink to “feel better”, celebrate, unwind, fill in the blank. While I would enjoy alcohol while I drank it, I would almost always be sulky and bitchy the next day. No fun.
- My memory improved. This is probably one of the most significant improvements in my overall health to me. My mother developed dementia at a fairly early age (mid 60’s) and I live in fear of losing my memory. I noticed I could recall names, places and things more easily than I had been.
Will I stop drinking forever? Maybe. To be honest, I didn’t miss it as much as I thought I would. I enjoyed knowing I won’t wake up feeling foggy and tired. I like feeling a little lighter in my clothes. I’m not worried about what people will think while I drink seltzer water. Giving up coffee is another story. And I just won’t go there.