Happy New Year!

Hi Everyone!

Many apologies for the lack of updates lately — Michele and I have been swamped with internship responsibilities.

It’s so hard to believe that it’s 2012 already!  A lot has happened this past year, and I’m excited to see what’s in store this upcoming year (specifically RD credential and hopefully first “real” RD job!).

Many people often make new year’s resolutions, but I’ve never really been that into making them. But, this year, I hope things will be a little different!  I have a few food-related new year’s resolutions that I’ll share here, and please feel free to keep me accountable.

1. Visit the farmer’s market more often.
I love the farmer’s market – there’s one a short MUNI ride away from my house that I occasionally visit on Sunday. It’s so fun to see the beautiful produce, families with strollers and dogs, and people excited about supporting local farms and businesses. It takes some careful budgeting and sacrifices, of course, for an intern getting a stipend that barely covers rent. But, it’s always fun to see what’s there, get to know some of the vendors, and enjoy the fun cooking projects that follow.

2. Cook more.
I’ve been trying to experiment in the kitchen more these past few months. I got a food processor, and have loved making hummus, shredding zucchini and carrots for bread, and making black bean burgers, among other things!  It’s been a good way for me to de-stress after a busy internship day. Of course, I really believe that dietitians should be able to find their way around a kitchen, too!

3. Post more frequently on the blog
No need for further explanation.  🙂

Finally, there aren’t any citations in this article (sorry), but I thought it was interesting nonetheless. It’s about the reasons to not diet, and instead the importance of adapting a healthy lifestyle in general. My preceptor and I were talking about how many people think that something like a gastric bypass surgery is a “quick fix” to their obesity issue, but fail to realize that whether they’re getting a surgery, or following a healthy eating pattern, it’s a lifelong commitment.

What are your 2012 (or lifetime!) resolutions?

Food Day + Hospital Food Service

Last week, Monday, October 24, was the “first” annual Food Day.  In case you didn’t hear, Food Day (sponsored by CSPI) is meant for everyone who eats, and the purpose is “to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.”  Institutions across the country changed their menus for the day, and special speakers and events were scheduled in most major cities.

At the hospital I am interning at, there were a few special events – a local CSA had a table in the cafeteria, with a beautiful display of produce and encouraging people to sign up. There were special menu items, featuring more whole foods/meatless options (more than normal Mondays).  This hospital already practices “mostly” Meatless Mondays, meaning that the hot entrees are all vegetarian, and all specials (pizza, grill) are vegetarian.  The “standard” items at the grill/sandwich bar/etc are still present, but there are many more vegetarian options.

But then…on Tuesday, everything went back to “normal.”  How do we make the principles of Food Day a daily change versus an annual (or weekly, if Meatless Monday is observed) event?  In other words, how does a conscientious eating pattern become normalized?  And how does one encourage people to make changes at home?

During the past few months, I have been wondering about the role of hospital food service in promoting long-term healthy eating.  I recognize that many of the patients who are in the hospital are having trouble keeping their weight stable (e.g. they have unintentionally lost 50# in the past 1-2 months due to failure to thrive/cancer/etc) and many times are malnourished. I’m all for pushing the Scandishakes (900 kcal!) and Ensure to these patients, because of the caloric density and improved outcomes for the patient if they don’t keep losing weight.  But…what about the standard meals offered?  The “regular”/standard menu has an average of 4g of sodium/day, which is much higher than the recommended 1.5-2g sodium/day.  How do you balance making sure people eat when they are very ill, and providing the healthiest meals possible?  And how does one do this in mass production?

Patients at this hospital can typically eat a very balanced diet according to the Plate Method (half plate veggies, one-fourth protein source, one-fourth whole grains) if they make the proper menu selections. When I was entering in the menus, however, many of the patients were not doing that – most were not selecting vegetables, and most opted for the cake/pie (in the hospital’s defense, the dessert slice is literally about 3 bites) instead of the fresh fruit for dessert. The MyPlate image is even printed on the paper menus!  And for the pediatrics floors — is it okay to have hamburgers/french fries/hot dogs/chips/soda/etc on the menu, if it ensures that kids (who, remember, are in the hospital because they are very ill) are eating?  Is this making the assumption that kids will not eat healthier alternatives?

What are your thoughts?  Did you do anything to celebrate Food Day?

Community Kitchens

I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the new Community Kitchen at SPU (if you’d like more information: visit our Facebook page).  One of the *many* reasons why I’m sad to leave Seattle is that I can’t stay to watch it grow and develop even further!

In case you haven’t heard about community kitchens, they are basically a place where people gather to cook, build friendships, and eat!  This concept started in Peru, during a time of political unrest and extreme poverty, about 40 years ago.  The women began to start community kitchens, where they could buy in bulk and cook meals together for their families.  As time went on, the women were even were able to start mini take-out places, to sell the leftover food and supplement their income.   Those running for political office in Peru would even come to community kitchens, to get to know the people in their district.

The movement has since come to Canada, and is slowly spreading through the US (primarily Pacific Northwest – but hopefully will spread further soon!).  There is usually a coordinator (or two), who is in charge of creating the menu and doing the grocery shopping.  Then, all of the participants pitch in money (usually $10-25, depending on amount of food prepared/if there is grant support), time, and cooking skills (or willingness to learn!).

What I love about community kitchens is how everyone is on the same playing field.  Very rarely can one have such a diverse group of people, all with such unique experiences with food, come together to make delicious food and enjoy each other’s company.  It doesn’t matter the individual’s education level, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or any other thing that usually divides people.  Everyone needs to eat, and everyone at the kitchen is there to cook and make new friends.  We all learn from each other, whether about a new cooking technique, social services available, or about each other’s lives.

For more information: Community Kitchens NW coalition