Fall-ing into place

October was such a crazy month, that I didn’t get a chance to write a blog post, so consider this post an extended update.  In addition to starting another rotation of the dietetic internship (DI), I moved into a new apartment in October.  Needless to say, I’ve been a very busy girl these past few months!

I’ll start by sharing some updates about my latest rotations.  I’ve been interning in a long term care facility for the past two months.  My experience at this facility has been divided into two parts:  institutional food service management and clinical long term care.  The food service management rotation was surprisingly fun.  It takes a lot of work and organization to oversee the management of a food service department, especially in a residential/long term care facility.  I learned about forecasting, budgeting, purchasing, and how food is stored and prepared in this facility.  I also got to know the food service staff and presented an inservice on food sanitation and teamwork, which are essential in a food service kitchen.

My second rotation at this same facility has been in the clinical area.  I’ve been working on nutrition assessments of residents in long term care (LTC) while getting to know the residents, their health conditions, and and how to address health problems using evidence-based nutrition interventions.  I’ve found the clinical aspect of this rotation to be a little more challenging than food service, mostly because assessments need to be written in a very particular way and I’m still finding my voice when it comes to making recommendations and writing evaluations.  My advice to anyone else going into a clinical rotation of the DI is to learn from each preceptor and try to see everything as a learning experience, especially if you don’t have much clinical experience prior to starting the internship.

Like I mentioned above, October was super busy due to transitioning from one rotation to the next, all while moving my life into a U-Haul and changing homes.  I absolutely love my new apartment– it’s so roomy, light, and has such a great energy about it.  Growing up, I wanted to be an architect or an interior designer, so I’m having a lot of fun trying to make the best use of space and decorating (on a budget!).

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My new room 🙂

In addition to moving, October brought a lot of personal realizations and change for me.  During the summer, I ramped up my exercise and started to restrict my food a little bit (or, a lot based on my actual energy needs).  I think I was just stressed from this past year being such an intense year of change (writing my master’s thesis, applying to and getting into the DI, leaving my job as a WIC nutritionist, getting ready to move, etc.) that exercise and diet became a welcome distraction.  I lost weight pretty quickly (even though I really didn’t need to), but I also became really moody, on-edge, and exhausted at times.  As someone who is well aware of disordered eating and eating disorders, it didn’t take me long to realize I might be heading down a dangerous, unhealthy path.  The past few weeks have been spent reflecting on how to manage stress better, increase my calorie intake, and not do so much intense exercise.  I feel so much better now that I’m fueling my body correctly and taking it easy.  I’ve realized the importance of taking a break when needed.  Sometimes we’re so busy and wired to achieve that we forget to take care of ourselves, or resort to unhealthy habits as a means of escaping overwhelming feelings.  I feel it’s important to share all of what I’ve written because food is fuel and life becomes a lot less fun and a lot harder when you’re under-fueled and hungry!

I’m hoping the rest of November will be a little more calm now that I’m settled into my new home and in December, I’ll get a short break from the internship (which is definitely welcomed, because every intern needs a break now and then!).  I’m looking forward to sharing more updates and info when I start my next rotation 🙂

-Jess

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Diary of a Dietetic Intern

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My life right now summed up in a picture- Dietetics Manuals, case studies, and healthy brain fuel!

Hello again readers!  I’m so excited to write this post/update as an RD-to-be/Dietetic Intern!  My Dietetic Internship (DI) officially started a few weeks ago with a two-week orientation that was jam-packed with projects, assignments, and learning all about what’s to come during the internship.  In case you’re reading my blog for the first time, I’m currently a Dietetic Intern and on my way to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).  The process of getting accepted into an internship was extremely competitive (my internship has an 11.8% acceptance rate!).  Not only was the application process competitive, but it was also stress-inducing, and time-consuming because I was working on my master’s thesis and working full time as I applied, so I’m elated that I even get to call myself a Dietetic Intern.  Still confused as to what the DI entails?  The DI is a commitment of supervised practice in a variety of rotations, such as clinical/hospital settings, long-term care, community nutrition organizations, renal/dialysis centers, and specific areas of nutrition/dietetics in order to train graduates to enter the field as health professionals (Registered Dietitians/Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists).

I started my first rotation this week at a Long Term Care facility gaining experience in institutional food service management.  It’s been so interesting to learn about food service management and how much work goes into budgeting a menu, planning, overseeing a kitchen, and keeping guests happy.

While I’m not going to share too much details about the specifics about what I’ve been doing while in the internship, I will share how I’ve been managing my time/stress levels and trying to remain sane outside of the DI.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love running and yoga, so I’ve been making it a point to continue doing these things to manage stress and keep fit during this crazy process.  I’ve also been sticking to a food budget and meal planning for myself (…or trying to) because the DI is an unpaid program and a girl’s gotta eat, but also watch her wallet (and waist!).

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Trail running is my go-to stress relieving activity (and how cool are my tie-dye socks?!)

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A typical lunch on the go during this crazy time- Wasa bread sandwiches, raw veggies + hummus, and a fresh, crunchy apple

One thing that really stood out to me during orientation before the rotations actually started was some advice from the DI director– she advised us all to practice self-care in order to help us de-stress.  I really believe self-care and relaxation are so vital to health.  I also think it’s important to make time for friends, relationships, and family, especially because life is so much more than just school + professional commitments.  A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I went apple picking and it was such a a nice way to spend the day while enjoying the outdoors and getting some delicious, locally-grown fruit.  How do you stay sane during busy/stressful times?  I hope whatever  you’re working towards also brings you happiness and (some) time to relax.  I’ll be sure to keep this blog updated throughout the internship, so stop by soon for another post 🙂

 

-Jess

 

 

Balanced on a budget

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My balanced food haul on a budget using the tips below

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to budget and plan a healthy, plant-based diet.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I work as a nutritionist for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which helps low-income women and children get access to healthy food.  I really love educating and helping my clients make the best food choices, especially because many people think eating healthy is expensive.  Although it can be pricier if you shop at exclusively organic health food markets, healthy eating does not have to cost you your entire paycheck.  Today I’m sharing some tips on how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to food.  Feel free to share any of your tips or advice by leaving a comment on this post or via facebook or instagram.

1.  Plan your meals

Before you do any food shopping, have a plan of what you’ll be preparing and eating for the next week or weeks to come.  This is super helpful because you don’t want to buy a ton of food but have zero recipe ideas or inspiration.  For inspiration, I like looking at vegan food prep ideas by searching the hashtags #veganmealprep, #veganmealplanning, or similar phrases.  Be realistic with how much time you want to put into preparing your meals and whether you want to prepare your meals for the week ahead of time or on an as-you-go basis.  Keep in mind that some food (especially fresh fruits and veggies) will only stay fresh for several days.

2. Stick to the basics

If you’re on a budget, now is not the time to buy several different varieties of truffle oil and exotic $30 tropical fruits.  Stick with produce that’s in season, and stock up on items that you use on a daily basis (for me, my staples are whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereal).  If you feel like treating yourself, choose one specialty item that you’ll use sparingly.  For my “treat”, I like to buy a pint of chocolate coconutmilk vegan icecream, which is about $5-6/pint and treat myself to a serving once a week or less, which really does make it feel like a special occasion treat.

3.  Canned + Frozen are your friends

Fresh produce can be more expensive in the winter months, which is why canned and frozen produce can be more economical depending on the season.  You’ll typically find the prices of canned and frozen peas, broccoli, spinach, peppers, and berries are less expensive than the fresh varieties when it’s cold out.  If you’re buying canned goods, you can cut down on the sodium by rinsing your veggies before you use them.

4.  Befriend your local farmer (or become a regular at the Farmers Market)

During the warmer months, you’ll often find that locally grown, fresh produce is a lot cheaper than going to the supermarket (although it depends where you live).  Locally grown fruits and veggies have so many benefits to both you and your community.  Not only can it be the more economical choice, locally grown produce is typically higher in vitamins, minerals, and taste due to less time in transit from the farm to where it’s being sold.  If you have space and a green thumb, you might also want to try your hand at growing your own fruits and veggies (but be patient, all good things take time and skill!)

5.  All hail dry beans

I used to be intimidated by dry beans because I heard they were really labor intensive to prepare.  While it’s true that dried beans require soaking (usually overnight), the actual cooking process is pretty simple (just bring water to a boil, add soaked beans, lower the heat, and in 2 hours you’ll have a big batch of delicious plant protein!).  Dried beans tend to be cheaper per pound than the canned variety.  Another benefit to dried beans is that they don’t contain added salt or preservatives and you can control the amount of seasonings you add as you cook them.

6.  Shop around

Become a master at shopping on the cheap.  Compare prices at several stores.  Some stores may have inexpensive produce, but other items may be more costly, which is why it’s totally ok to do your food shopping at a few different stores (hopefully they’re close in location though).  If you don’t have a car, you may want to do your shopping in one location, so feel free to skip this tip.  In my experience, items like peanut butter, cereal, grains, and (some) produce like bagged spinach and baby carrots are less expensive at my local Trader Joe’s, but for other items, such as apples, cucumbers, dried beans, I’ve found them cheaper at my local non-specialty store.  I also like to visit local farms whenever I can and this tends to result in the least-expensive produce finds.

 

These are just come of my tips that I’ve found the most useful from my experience.  I try to practice what I preach and I know I’ll be using this advice throughout the next year as I do my (unpaid!) Dietetic Internship.  Happy shopping, eating, and occasional treat-ing to you!

-Jess

Protein-packed pasta with veggies

Sometimes when I tell people I’m vegan, the first thing I’m asked is “where do you get your protein?”.  I’m not alone, most of the vegans I know have been asked this question at some point.  I actually love answering this question because there are so many sources of vegan protein!  Beans, tempeh, tofu, seitan, whole grains, veggies, brown rice, vegan protein powder, and the list goes on.  In the recipe I’m sharing today, I used a pasta made with lentil beans, and for even more protein, I added veggie “meat” crumbles (which have a similar consistency to ground meat minus the cruelty, and cholesterol).

I discovered the lentil bean pasta at Trader Joe’s, but feel free to explore other pasta brands and types if you don’t love lentils.  Banza brand has a line of chickpea-flour based pastas which are so good and rich in protein.  If bean-pastas aren’t your thing, you can use a whole grain pasta.  The veggie “meat” crumbles can be found at most grocery stores.  I typically see it being sold next to the tofu/veggie burgers at conventional supermarkets.

I love making this pasta because it goes well with any veggies and I usually make a big batch of it and eat the leftovers as my lunch at work for the next few days.  I hope you enjoy this deliciously plant-based, protein-packed pasta!

Protein-packed pasta with veggies (makes 4 servings)

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So many plants on my plate!  I ate my pasta with some steamed broccoli in this picture

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (dry) Trader Joe’s organic red lentil sedanini (or your favorite pasta type)
  • 1/3 of a package of Lightlife smart ground original veggie crumbles (or 1 cup)
  • 1.5 cups Trader Joe’s organic spaghetti sauce or use your own homemade tomato sauce (I sometimes like taking the easy route and using jarred sauce)
  • 1 medium bell pepper- orange, yellow, and red go best with this recipe
  • 1 cup baby portobella mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • other veggies of your choice
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • pinch of oregano
  • pinch of basil

Directions:

  • Place water in a medium-size pot and heat on high-medium, bringing to a rolling boil
  • While waiting for the water to boil, chop veggies
  • Place veggies in a large non-stick saucepan and heat on medium until lightly browned/softened
  • When the water in the pot has boiled, add the pasta and boil for ~8 minutes
  • Lower the heat on the saucepan to low and add veggie crumbles and continue to heat for about 2 minutes (the veggie crumbles are already cooked, so no need to overcook)
  • Add tomato sauce and spices
  • Drain the pasta and let sit for a minute or two
  • Add the cooked pasta and turn off the heat
  • Mix and allow to sit for a minute or two
  • Serve warm, share, and enjoy!

Nutrition facts: (per serving)- 316 calories, 0.5 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, 650 g sodium, 335 g potassium, 53 g carbs, 8.6 g fiber, 7.6 g sugar, 24 g protein. 12.5% DV vitamin A, 79% DV vitamin C, 5% DV calcium, 22% DV iron.

Happy eating!

-jess

 

Relaxing and Running

Greetings readers!  It’s been a little while since I last wrote a blog post.  May was a pretty busy month for me because I graduated with two degrees!  I officially have a second bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in nutrition!  Graduating was such a huge accomplishment and a proud moment.  School has been a big part of my life for the past several years, so it feels a little weird to not be in class right now.  In September, I start the dietetic internship in order to become a Registered Dietitian, and I’ll have to take classes as a component of the program, so I should feel like my normal “academic” self in the fall.

Lately I’ve been relaxing as well getting back to some of my favorite activities that I didn’t have as much time to do this past year.  One of these activities is running.  I started running for fun and fitness in high school and it became a major stress reliever, until I got injured when I was 17.  I took a break from running and then started up again in my early 20’s, but this past year, doing cardio wasn’t my first priority.  Now that I have more free time, I’ve been running outside a bunch and going for trail runs, which I love because trail runs are challenging and I get to be surrounded by the beauty of nature.

A few weekends ago I even did a 5k race in a nature preserve with some friends, but it was definitely not my best race time!  The weather that day was 90+ heat and the humidity was high but it was fun, and that’s all that counts.

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Before the race started 

In addition to relaxing and running, I’ve also been cooking a ton and taking advantage of the farmers market season by using locally grown fruits and veggies in as many meals and snacks as possible.  If you want to see more details on my running hobby or my food creations, follow my instagram account @vitaminvalentine or keep checking my blog, as I intend to share a delicious recipe or two in the coming weeks.  Thanks for stopping by and reading my update!

-Jess

Such great heights

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The title of this blog post captures the natural high I’m currently experiencing due to so many amazing things that have happened over the past month.  I’ll start by saying that I’m officially an RD-to-be!  After years of hard work, I was matched to a super-competitive dietetic internship and I couldn’t be more elated.  In case you have no clue what I’m talking about, in order to become a Registered Dietitian in the US, you have to be accepted and complete a dietetic internship.  All applicants rank their choices of internships (similar to how med students rank their residency choices) but not all applicants get accepted.  The acceptance rate for all internships across the US is something like ~49%, so the competition is fierce and the stress during the waiting period is intense.  I’m so excited for the internship and the learning opportunities I’ll be exposed to.

The period of time leading up to “match day” (April 2nd-the day all applicants find out whether they matched or not) was quite an emotional roller-coaster.  In addition to applying to internships, I was also in the midst of writing my master’s thesis.  I was feeling really overwhelmed, but luckily I have really supportive friends and family.  One of my family friends noticed that I could use a vacation and suggested we go to Sedona, Arizona and my response was a loud “YESSSS!”.  I had been to Sedona once when I was 15 and although it was only for a few days, it left a lasting impression on me.  We booked the trip for the end of March-early April, so that I could be in full-on relaxation mode on match day.

The trip itself was in a word, magical.  No written description of Sedona can do it justice, it’s the kind of place that you actually have to go to in order to experience the beauty.  We spent roughly 75% of our waking hours outside exploring nature by hiking and meditating outside.  I found out that I got into the dietetic internship on our second-to-last day in Sedona, so that night we celebrated and it was the perfect ending to an amazing trip.

I can’t wait to share more exciting updates about the internship when it starts, and hopefully I’ll be doing more traveling in the future when my schedule allows.

-Jess

Island Inspiration

A few weeks ago I was spending some time scrolling through Instagram and I stumbled upon a Caribbean chef’s delicious food creations.  The flavors seemed to permeate through my phone screen, as I could almost taste the delicious dishes pictured in his photos.  I was also reminded of my childhood trips to Jamaica and how much I loved trying new things and exploring with my tastebuds.  I felt inspired to recreate some plant-based versions of what I saw on my screen and remembered from my past travels.  I headed to the closest ethnic market and picked up a bunch of exotic fruit and vegetables.  It was time to get cooking!

At the ethnic market, I bought up some yuca (a starchy root vegetable), plantains (similar to bananas but higher in starch and not as sweet), some brown rice, pinto beans, canned peas, green tomatillos (similar to tomatoes), and pre-seasoned barbecued jackfruit (jackfruit is a delicious, bubblegum-tasting fruit).

To cook the yuca, I first peeled it, cut it in half, and then boiled it for about 15 minutes-20 minutes.  Then I let it sauté with some onions and tomatillos in a skillet.  In a separate skillet, I sautéed the plantain with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.  The rice and beans were super easy to make (I cooked the rice according to the package but used vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavor, and then added canned pinto beans and canned peas).  The jackfruit came already seasoned so I just heated it up for a minute or two.

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Although this meal is very high in carbohydrates, it’s also high in fiber.  This meal was so tasty and it was so fun to work with new flavors.  I’m looking forward to my next cooking inspiration, so if you have a delicious, unique meal or cuisine you’d like to share, leave a comment of connect with me via Facebook or Instagram @vitaminvalentine 🙂

-Jess