Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Internship Begins

It's been about a month since my first day at the internship and I LOVE IT!

I don't know what I was so worried about... I spent the greater part of July freaking out over a number of issues.  I actually spent equal amounts of time at Target (stockpiling toilet paper) and the library (stockpiling nutrition facts into my brain.) Would I be prepared? (Yes.) Would I have time to still have a life? (Yes.) Would my classmates be cool? (Yes.)  Would I be the oldest person in the class?  (Well, yes... but I don't feel old most days.) I anxiously counted down the days.
And then I started.  And I was blown away. Blown away by what an amazing, fantastic, fabulous place UCSF is.  And how smart and passionate and skilled the staff is. And how welcoming everyone from the CEO down the the cashier in the cafeteria has been. I am both in awe and in good company with my classmates. In fact, if I had to sum up my internship experience thus far, the one word I would use would be "supportive." 
Many of you have inquired about what it's like. Well, the days go from 8-5 but they just fly by because I am so into what I am learning. ... And my, how we are learning! It's simply amazing how you can earn a degree and still not know even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to clinical practice. I have loved being up on the floors and interacting with patients. I am currently on a 5 week clinical rotation of neurology, general surgery and obstetrics. I will continue with clinical practice for the next several months, but will switch up my services between transplant, cardiac,oncology and the like. 

From the very beginning, we interns have been treated as equals and professionals. We follow patients from screening to discharge. We interact with them and their caregivers, we educate, we chart, we go to rounds, and we give nutritional recommendations to doctors and nurses. In addition to patient care, we have a few classes a week to learn the finer point of topics such as phamacology, specific diseases, or how to best read lab data. We read current research articles related to our particular service, and we also are responsible for case studies. It is a comprehensive and engaging curriculum. We carry clipboards, calculators and pens, wear nursing clogs and have pagers. In other words, we are very fancy and look very grown up. I fear I may look far more knowledgeable than I am at this point. But I totally look the part!
I am really looking forward to what promises to be a terrific year.  Thanks as always to friends and family for being so supportive. Keep reading to hear about my next rotations...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Elation of Preparation... Are you Ready for Disaster?

One year ago (on our wedding anniversary no less) my husband and I were jolted awake at 3:00AM by our very first California earthquake. First, we were terrified, then we laughed hysterically, and eventually fell back to sleep.

The next morning,as the novelty wore off, the reality of the situation sank in. We live in an earthquake zone. Should we be more prepared?

I did a quick check with my locals friends. Yep, they had bottled water ready to go. And blankets. And kits. One friend is so prepared she's got 3 kits-- in the car, at work and at home. Another friend poured over geological maps of the area to ensure her "family meeting spot" was on solid bedrock. Gulp. Turns out my family "spot" was on landfill. And nowhere near public transportation. Oh, and we'd have to drive through a tunnel and over a fault line to get there. Whoops. My friend tactfully suggested I pick another spot.

There have been several other little tremors since our first on July 16, and with each one, I kept reminding myself to put together a kit. But then the quake would pass, and school and work and life would get in the way. Somehow, preparing for disaster kept falling off my "to-do" list. Thinking about Armageddon just didn't seem to be a pleasant way to spend a day off. However, since finishing school in May, I've had a little extra time on my hands. And today was the day I decided to tackle this task once and for all. You know what? It feels GREAT to now be prepared.

You may not live in an earthquake zone, but disasters come in all shapes and sizes. All of us are potential victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, fires or power outages during heat waves (a very big hug to my DC friends and family currently dealing with this situation.) While I normally blog about food for fun, today I was reminded that clean water and food aren't for pleasure...they are required for survival. It's not a pretty thought, but what would you do if disaster struck?

I urge you to take a day to gather together your kit. Below, I've compiled a list of helpful food items that store well, and provide what you need in an emergency. For a full list of ALL the items one should keep in a kit, check out the American Red Cross website or I hope you never have to use it, but luck favors the prepared.

 - Drinking water is by far the most important item to have on hand. Store enough for 3 days, keep a minimum of 1 gallon per day per family member. (We have 8 gallons for 2 adults and a cat.)

- Once drinking water runs out, water can be purified using plain, unscented chlorine bleach. Keep Clorox in you kit and tape this recipe to the bottle: Add 16 drops per 1 gallon of water. Shake vigorously.

- Store stable foods. Any canned fruits, veggies, meats, pastas, chilies or fish are good options. Include a few cans of beans. Also consider UHT pasteurized foods liked boxed milks and soups, or vacuum packed shelf stable meals like lentils, rice and ramen noodles. Don't forget to keep a manual can opener in your kit.

 - Choose high protein, calorie-rich foods. Store peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, granola bars, protein bars, Laughing Cow cheese wedges and beef jerky. Also consider packaged whole grain crackers and cereals, but avoid salty snacks... they'll just make you thirsty. Also avoid foods that might melt, like chocolate.

- Yes, you can buy emergency rations from camping stores or military surplus outposts. But remember your 3rd grade school field trip? To NASA? That freeze-dried space ice cream tasted like crap. Buy what you know you and your family will eat.

- Got kids? Be sure to store formula, powdered milk, and a few "comfort foods." Will that Oreo make it all go away? No, but it might hold back tears for a little while.

 - Consider adding camping basics like waterproof matches, a utility knife, and mess kits.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Graduate

Well, it's official. I took my last final on Friday, and graduated with a Bachelors of Science from San Francisco State University. Yes, a big leap, but no... still not done. I'll be starting my Dietetic Internship at UCSF Medical Center in July. UCSF is considered one of the most prestigious dietetic internships in the country. I am tremendously excited for this next step, as I'll finally be in a hospital setting, applying all that I have learned. I look forward to blogging about the whole experience, as I know so many of my friends and family want to know what I'll be doing. I also look forward to meeting my fellow classmates and teachers. Ooohh! And I get to wear a lab coat if I want! (How professional! How fancy! How much easier to get dressed in the mornings!!!) In the meantime, I am sneaking away for a quick vacation with the husband, and we plan to sample every pastry shop in Paris. When we return, I am looking forward to a little downtime to do some organizing around the house, a little cooking, and of course, continuing to enjoy the bay area. Many thanks to the friends and family who have been (and continue to be)so supportive during my education. And congratulations to my classmates and fellow graduates. I expect great things from this very talented and dedicated group of food and nutrition lovers. Keep in touch...

Monday, March 19, 2012

March is National Nutrition Month

Happy National Nutrition Month! This year, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) has urged Americans to "Get Your Plate in Shape!"

RDs and RDs-to-Be have been asked to blog about what that means to us. What does a healthy plate look like? For me, the idea is simple. Be sure at least half your plate is full of fruits and vegetables. I try to live by this simple rule every day, at every meal. Yep... breakfast, lunch and dinner! I keep a running log of "recent eats" right here on my blog, but if you are looking for ways to get more fruits and veggies into every meal, here are some ideas:

For Breakfast:

- Add sliced strawberries or bananas to cereal. (No time to cut and dice? Add blackberries or blueberries instead.)
- Instead of eating fruit flavored yogurt, try plain or vanilla, and add your own fruit. This works great with frozen fruit that's been defrosted and is extra juicy.
- Toss a big handful of spinach into your morning smoothie. The color will be a little off, but trust me, you'll never taste the greens!
- Top your 100% whole wheat bagel with a little light cream cheese and a lot of sliced cucumbers or fresh green or red peppers.

For Lunch:
- Heating up soup? Add some diced frozen mixed veggies as well for a heartier and healthier bowl.
- Top your sandwiches with sprouts, spinach, pickles, onions, tomatoes and peppers. Think Dagwood-- stack it up!
- Pack a piece of fruit for desert. Oranges already come wrapped.

For dinner:
-Start with cut fruit, a green tossed salad or a light vegetable and broth based soup before the meal even begins. This gives you additional fruits/veggies AND fills you up.
-Serve a side. Serving chicken, pork, fish or beef? Choose a vegetable that compliments it well. It can be fresh, steamed, roasted, canned or frozen. And don't be afraid to try new vegetables when you are stuck in the "green bean" rut. Roast parsnips, steam purple cauliflower, or pop halved plum tomatoes under the broiler.
- Into one-dish dinners? Casseroles, Stir-frys and stews offer a great opportunity to throw in whatever vegetable happens to be on hand. Veggies like celery, onion, peppers, carrots, beans and mushrooms blend well and play nicely with lots of flavors, whether you are cooking Indian, Italian, Mexican or Mediterranean.

For more information on how to get YOUR plate in shape, visit

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Queen of the Green

Over the semester break, my husband paid me the highest of compliments. He called me a Salad Jedi. I was delighted to be recognized as one of a privileged group in the galaxy able to create master salads. How thrilling! Yes, the force is deep within me...I live for a tasty salad.

My elite stature was once again proven yesterday on lunch break when at school, my fellow classmates all "oohh-ed" and "ahhh-ed" over my delicious salad. I'm not bragging. I'm just saying I know how to craft one heck of a salad.

Be it chopped, tossed, warm or cold, salads are one of my favorite foods. They pack well, are cheap, and make a great lunch or dinner. They are a fantastic way to ensure you are eating your 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies per day, and they fill you up without weighing you down.

All to often though, folks get confused when they step up to the salad bar. While salads can be a healthy food choice, not all salads are. In other words, just because one calls it a salad does not make it a healthy choice. It's all about what you put in it. Let's talk about what makes a salad great. Learn from me, young Jedi...

1. Greens. Let's start with the leaves. This is the foundation of your salad, and a great place to take a generous portion. Green and dark is better than pale and light-- you just get more nutrient bang for your buck. So, choose spring mix, baby spinach or arugula over iceberg, or mix a few different types.

2. Protein. Without a little bit of protein, a salad might leave you hungry in a few hours. Pick one or two, but that's really all you need. Putting fried chicken on top of your greens? Not the best idea. Consider 3 oz of lean meat, low fat cheese, a hard boiled egg, or some flaked tuna instead. And don't forget that beans and legumes make for a terrific protein source too, so consider inviting half a cup of chick peas or lentils to the party.

3. Veggies. Speaking of parties, veggies are your honored guests. Go crazy and invite as many as you'd like! I've yet to meet a vegetable that didn't work well in a salad. Go for mushrooms, peppers, asparagus, celery, cucumber, tomato or any other favorite. Starchy veggies like peas and corn make great additions too, but keep portions in check. 1/4 cup is probably enough. Fresh fruits can work well on a salad too. Try blackberries or strawberries, citrus or chopped apples in half to 1/4 cup portions.

4. Toppers. This category tends to be the zone where a salad can go from "healthy" to "unhealthy" rather quickly. Salad bars are filled with tempting things like nuts, croutons, avocado, olives, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, bacon bits, fried noodles and cheeses. Limit your toppers, as most are very caloric. Pick one, and just add a sprinkle, especially if you've added two protein sources already.

5. Dressing. You have just crafted a lovely plate of salad. Why drown it in fat and calories? Would da Vinci have smeared black paint all over Mona Lisa? Would Michelangelo have thrown a bathrobe over David? Of course not, so don't ruin your masterpiece either! Go sparingly. Select a dressing and eat it on the side, dipping as you go. Choose a low fat option, a light vinaigrette or your own mix of vinegar and oil.

When done right, salads can provide an endless variety in a multitude of combinations, and they hit the spot no matter what you might be craving-- sweet, crunchy, salty or hearty. I hope you are inspired to have a tasty salad soon, wherever your travels in the galaxy take you. May the force be with you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wishy Washy about Washing Veggies? Don't Be!

I recently got a question regarding food safety. A friend of mine had heard about the cantaloupe listeria outbreak, and asked me about washing fruits and vegetables.

How important is it to wash raw fruits and veggies?

The Short Answer?

Very important.
Do it.

The Longer Answer?

Washing fruits and vegetables is just one step you can take to keep you and your family safe from food-borne illness. It is especially important for those who prepare food for little ones, older folks, pregnant gals, or friends/family with weakened immune systems.

I recommend that all your fruits and veggies be washed prior to eating. Even those with peels and skins like avocados, melons, and kiwis. While we don't eat the outsides, it is easy for icky stuff to travel to the parts we do eat. The icky stuff can simply hitch a free ride on your knife, your hands, or the cutting board. So be sure to wash prior to any food prep.

What does washing do? First, washing removes dirt, and no one likes gritty mashed potatoes. Second, the friction of washing reduces bacteria. Not all the bacteria on your produce is the scary kind we hear about in the news... sometimes it's just an average bug. Let's imagine for a minute, shall we? ...Clark Customer heads into his local grocery store, where a delightful array of produce greets him at the door. He picks up an apple, inspects it, then puts it back before picking a bigger,shinier one that attracts him more. Then he sneezes. Achooo! Thank goodness he has a tissue in his pocket! Now Clark heads over to select an eggplant. He thunks on three before making his final selection. Wait a minute... didn't you have eggplant last night for dinner? Gulp. Hope you washed it.

Washing also reduces the amount of pesticides, grime and guck that can end up on our food during picking, processing, shipping and stocking. This is why all produce should be washed-- conventional, organic, local, even your own stuff from your garden.

What's the best method? Delicate items like berries and lettuce just need a light wash and a quick dry right before eating. Invest in a salad spinner for leaves, herbs and lightweight produce. For heartier produce such as potatoes and carrots, give a good scrub with a clean wire or plastic brush. Additionally, a small sprinkle of baking soda can help clean produce better, but skip the high-priced fruit and vegetable wash. Baking soda's been proven more effective, and way cheaper.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Top Chef?

Fall semester is in full swing! I am thrilled to be back on a campus with a full-fledged nutrition department, taking full-fledged nutrition classes again. Anatomy and Biochemistry have their positives, but it's nice to be working with food again ...and will I be working with food! Making food, serving food, experimenting with food, putting food into menus, and of course, eating food! Every campus I've been on runs their nutrition department a little bit differently. Some campuses focus on research. Other campuses have their own hospital, so the classes are more clinical. My current campus has its very own, very fancy, student-run fine dining restaurant, because both Dietetics and Hospitality Management are offered as majors. We share many classes. And when you put students who love food together with students who love high-end customer service, magic happens! This semester I will be learning about both the "front end" and the "back end" of a restaurant. The front end consists of serving in the dining room. The back end consists of cooking in the kitchen. This past week I was assigned to the kitchen, and randomly put on pastry duty. Those who know me well will find this amusing, as I am a much better chef than baker. To put it more bluntly, I am a TERRIBLE baker. The head chef did not seem to care as I mumbled my feeble excuses about how I'd be so much more helpful chopping onions or washing dishes. Nope. "You'll make pastry," was all he said before leaving me in the company of a convection oven, a 45 pound bin of flour, a mixer the size of a bathtub, and a recipe for cookies. For 100. By the time the pastry bag was fearfully gripped in my little hand, I had re-weighed the macadamia nuts twice, almost ruined the chocolate ganache, and dropped a sheet pan on my foot. Imagine any crazed cooking show on the Food Network, and that's pretty much the scene. I am sweating from the heat of the ovens. There is pastry dough in my hair. I am barking "Yes, chef!" each time he has told me--and rightly so-- that my cookies must be uniformly sized. (For the record, it was only 6 times.) Totally drained, I was thrilled to sit down and have lunch at the end of my shift. Oh, and in case you were wondering... the cookies were delicious! Chef sent me home with a box.