Health and Nutrition

My First FNCE: Learning about the Field of Nutrition and Dietetics

Me and my nutrition friends pose for a photo at FNCE 2016.
Me and my nutrition friends pose for a photo at FNCE 2016.

In the Fall of 2016, I began my journey to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) in the Coordinated Program in Dietetics. It was a busy semester—a full course-load plus my introduction to supervised clinical practice in a long-term care facility. As the semester kicked into gear with exams and projects, I—like many students—put all my focus into simply studying and getting good grades.

In October, all of the students in my program were encouraged to attend the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Boston. It was a treat that the conference that draws nutrition professionals from across the country was going to be held so close to UConn. As the conference approached, we all worried about the time taken out of our studies. When were we going to study for that microbiology exam? When is that lab report going to get done?

On the first day of the conference, I watched the President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics speak.  She spoke of how far the field of dietetics has come since its advent, and the importance of the work that dietitians do.  It struck me how proud I was to be entering a field dedicated to helping people become healthier in diverse ways— Continue reading

10 Ways to Have a Successful Second Semester

  1. Mindy and her fellow College Ambassador helping out at a food waste seminar on campus.
    Mindy and her fellow College Ambassador helping out at a food waste seminar on campus.

    Let go of last semester – First semester is over, let go off all the stress and bad experiences you’ve had. The best thing about second semester is that it gives you a clean slate and new opportunities. Take advantage of all that UConn has to offer.

  2. Get Involved – A new semester means another involvement fair, another Greek week, and more possibilities. If you aren’t a part of any clubs or organizations step out of your comfort zone and sign up for some. Even if you only go to one meeting you are at least trying out new things. If you are already part of some clubs/organizations, join another if you have time! It never hurts to make friends and be involved in the UConn community. You can also try going to body wise classes that UConn Recreation offers. They are organized fitness classes ranging from yoga to HIIT. Getting involved and trying new things helps you submerse yourself in all UConn has to offer. It will make you feel more comfortable and a part of the community.
  3. Eat breakfast – Eating right gives you the energy to make it through the day. I always eat a balanced breakfast with eggs, toast, and some form of fruit. Last year I always skipped breakfast and found myself getting tired and taking a lot of naps. Now that I make time for not only breakfast, but also lunch and dinner, I feel like I have so much more energy.
  4. Fix your sleep schedule – Along with getting up early enough for class and having enough time to eat breakfast, you want to make sure that you’re getting a good amount of sleep each night. After winter break your sleep schedule is probably all messed up. People sleep until noon maybe even 2pm during break and stay up late or go to bed too early because they’re bored. Being back at school you need the break the habits you just made and fix your sleep schedule. Getting 6 to 8 hours a night gives your body enough of a break to relax and get ready for the next day.
  5. Breakfast at McMahon dining hall.
    Breakfast at McMahon dining hall.

    Plan ahead – After syllabus week you should gather all the important dates from each class and transfer them into your agenda pad/planner. Having exams and quizzes written down will help you plan for studying and plan for weeks that are “free” enough so you can travel that weekend without having a load of homework. Planning ahead is also beneficial not just with course work, but also courses in general. Planning out your semesters in advance will help ease the course picking chaos and allow you to put courses together like a puzzle in terms of labs, discussions, and hard/easy classes. It is good to have a mixture to not overwhelm or underwhelm yourself.

  6. Apply to internships – I don’t know about you but I procrastinate so much during winter break, I don’t want to do anything. However, when I go back to school I need to make sure I’m productive by applying to
    Mindy and her sorority, Sigma Alpha, at the homecoming parade in Fall 2015.
    Mindy and her sorority, Sigma Alpha, at the homecoming parade in Fall 2015.

    internships because they are very important. They provide you with real world experience in your field of study and can be a stepping-stone toward your future job. If you haven’t already started looking I recommend you do so soon! Summer internships normally have their applications open from early January until mid-February and require information like transcripts and letters of recommendation. UConn’s Center for Career Development has a lot of awesome information and advice that helped me when I applied.

  7. Apply for scholarships – Scholarships are so important these days because college is so expensive and debt is piling up. There are thousands of scholarships that can help lessen the financial burden. Topics range from being within your major all the way to writing an essay about a certain book or living in a certain town. UConn has an Office of National Scholarships, which is very helpful in finding specific scholarships, but a classic Google search is also informative.
  8. Find the right ways to study for class – Doing well in your classes is an essential part of having a successful semester! However, all classes and professors have such different teaching methods and testing strategies. Students can go talk to their professors about what material they should be studying, which is very
    Mindy visiting Hammonassett State Park over spring break.
    Mindy visiting Hammonassett State Park over spring break.

    helpful. And sometimes the first test or quiz might not go to well but when you get the hang of how your professor tests you can find the right ways to study for future assignments. Different ways to study could be how you take notes in class. Some people handwrite notes, print power points, type notes, or just listen. Another way to study would be to rewrite your notes or study every night for a single class for a certain amount of time.

  9. Spring Break!!! – Working hard in school is very important, however, relaxing and having fun is important too. Going somewhere for spring break gives you something to work towards and look forward to for the first 2 months of the semester! It’s also a great opportunity to relax for a week and clear your mind before you finish off the year.
  10. Budget your money – it’s so easy to spend over a thousand dollars a semester on food, clothes, and other random things. Then at the end of the semester you are going to wonder where all of your money went and wish you saved it or spent it on something else. It is important to budget your money and realize how much you’re spending when you order/buy something.
  11. Overall, keep going – On the days when you feel like you can’t look at another textbook or hear about another rare bacteria found in the middle of the rainforest, just breathe. Course work can be so stressful and overwhelming, however, it will get done and you will be okay. The key to a successful semester is to not give up and to keep going.

Food Waste – Moving Toward Greater Sustainability by Recovering Perfectly Good Food

One of the greatest challenges facing the world will be how to feed the 9 billion people anticipated to be on Earth by 2050.  There are essentially 3 major approaches that can be used to improve the likelihood that we will be able to meet the most basic of human rights, the right to food:

  1. Increase the productivity per unit of land on a global scale (science has helped accomplish this over the past century but by 2050, this challenge will be too great for this approach).
  2. Increase the quantity of land/space on which agriculture practices can take place (this essentially means deforestation, which has significant negative environmental ramifications).
  3. Reduce the level of food that is currently and unnecessarily wasted (recent awareness of just how much food is wasted nationally and worldwide makes this an option through which significant progress can be made).

Food Recovery HierarchyWithin the United States, 40% of the food produced becomes waste.  This amounts to more than 133 billion pounds of food annually and 97% of this amount ends up in landfills.  This can occur because of over-production, cancelled contracts, poor cold chain management, non-ideal sizes and shapes of fruits/vegetables, failed quality control goals, over-shopping by consumers, confusion resulting from inconsistent date label messages, lack of portion control, and/or lack of creativity in the kitchen. The environmental impact of wasted food is significant as well.  Every item of food that is discarded requires farmland, water, and fertilizer for its production; these resources are lost each time food is wasted.

What Can Be Done?

A significant amount of food that is currently wasted can be recovered to feed hungry people, supplement livestock diets, produce bioenergy, or compost as a soil amendment.  The US Environmental Protection Agency has Continue reading

Let’s BBQ: The Flaming Burger

Spring has finally reached the icy tundra of Yukon…I mean UConn. Winter is not coming, it has finally ended. With the arrival of spring climates, students and faculty alike have been flocking outdoors to eat lunch, play Frisbee, or study for finals. While we enter this era of warm temperatures that so many of us have forgotten, one thing keeps coming to mind: barbecues. In search of the ultimate burger, I have created something that will satisfy any hot food lovers’ need. Here’s my recipe that makes up to 4 burgers:

Burger

What you need:

For the Burger:

  1. 2 lbs of ground beef (80/20 lean) (substitute with a turkey or veggie burger if you’d like)
  2. salt and pepper
  3. 2 thinly sliced jalapenos
  4. 2 pickles sliced
  5. shredded lettuce
  6. pepper jack cheese (4 slices)
  7. 4 hamburger buns of your choice

For the Chipotle Mayo:

  1. ½ cup of mayonnaise
  2. ½ cup of sour cream
  3. 4 teaspoons of chipotle powder
  4. ½ lime, juiced
  5. (Optional) ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  6. (Optional) ¼ teaspoon oregano
  7. (Optional) ¼ teaspoon paprika

For the Fried Onion Strings:

  1. Vegetable oil (enough for frying)
  2. 1 cup whole milk
  3. 1 cup flour
  4. 1 tablespoon of salt
  5. 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

Continue reading

How to Maintain a Healthy Weight on Campus

While studying Dietetics at UConn and practicing my skills in a hands on clinical environment, I have learned the importance of nutrition outreach and education to the community. What better community to spread nutrition knowledge to than my fellow Huskies! I hope these tips help you to maintain a healthy weight to prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Let’s all work towards being Healthy Huskies!

How to Build a Dining Hall Meal

Tips for Dining Out

This includes the dining hall, as it is buffet style!

  • Box your leftovers before eating, in order to better portion your meal
  • Ask to make exchanges in your meal such as a side of vegetables instead of French fries or dressing on the side
  • Plan your meal ahead of time using
    • MyFitnessPal
    • The restaurant’s website
  • Survey any buffet style restaurant before getting in line to build your plate

 

How to Build a Dining Hall Meal

  1. Plan ahead
    1. UConn Dining Services Website
    2. Look for the Smart Check icon on food items
      1. These items are low in sodium, low in calories from fat, and are more healthful options overall
  1. Survey the dining hall

Continue reading

It’s Getting Crisp in Storrs!

With the fall temperatures finally arriving to Storrs, it is time to start drinking pumpkin flavored coffee and eating everything and anything that starts with “apple”. So what better is there to do after your Saturday apple picking adventure to Buell’s Orchard in Eastford, CT, than to do some baking? Personally, Apple Crisp has always been my favorite. Top it off with some vanilla ice cream and consider it game over. For years I have been trying to perfect the recipe (but let’s be honest, anything involving apples and cinnamon is already pretty perfect.) The best thing is that all the ingredients needed should already be in your tiny college pantry! It is simple and I can promise, everyone will be flocking to you from across campus because it will smell like autumn itself was born in your kitchen.  Here’s how we do it!

Apple Crisp

Filling:

5 to 6 medium-size apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1.5 tsp cinnamon

 

Topping:

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour Continue reading

Summer Meals Program

Summer Meals Program
Summer Meals Program

The summer is a time of experience for all university students. Some would say that it is an extension of them as a person; others would say it is a time to do something that is out of their comfort zone, few would say that it was a waste of time. Personally, summer is a wonderful time to pursue an opportunity that I am not able to partake in due to attending UConn during the school year.

In the Spring 2015 semester, I was taking Food Policy with ARE Professor Adam Rabinowitz. One day he mentioned an opportunity to work with an organization called End Hunger CT! as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate. I leapt at the opportunity to try something new, and in this case it was hunger related issues. Additionally the job would have me working out of New Haven and Hartford which sparked my interest due to how unfamiliar these places were.

Colin, mobile Summer Meals Program
Colin, mobile Summer Meals Program

I worked with End Hunger CT! to expand the Summer Meals Program in New Haven, especially the newly developed mobile meal sites to reach as many children as possible. In the issue of food, access tends to be a huge factor in feeding people. Not everyone has a car, some people are located in “food deserts”, getting to healthy, nutritious food is not accessible for everyone. So the New Haven Public Schools Food Services along with a variety of partners, decided to bring the food to areas where concentrations of kids could access a healthy breakfast, lunch or supper throughout the school-less summer. It was successful and the entire summer experience had a lasting impact on me.

Many of us take food for granted. It is a daily normality, eating three (or more) meals a day. Whether it is swiping into a dining hall to experience an unlimited banquet of food or cooking in our own homes, food is not something we worry about. This summer was an eye opening experience for me. Not only the time commitment of being in AmeriCorps VISTA but also the effect that not having food would have on a person’s day. Imagine trying to study for finals without food in your stomach, playing intramural sports while craving sustenance. Now picture a child trying to learn while hungry. How productive could they be, how much would they enjoy doing work, would they be able to learn while hungry?

If this post has sparked your interest, go to http://www.endhungerct.org/ to learn more about Hunger in Connecticut and check out the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet which will happen next semester and will be sponsored by The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources College Ambassadors.

Calorie Counter

Have you ever looked at a bag of baby carrots, and wondered what makes them so different from those “100 calorie” snack bags advertised throughout the supermarket? Well, 100 calories of carrots is not “equal” to a 100-calorie pack of Oreos. Every day you see and hear ads for different foods plastered throughout the digital world insisting, “calories count”, so be sure to eat the 100-calorie snack packs, and drink Diet Coke. Yes calories count, but what matters so much more are the nutrients that come along with them- or lack thereof.

Nut Butter Blueberry Muffins
Nut Butter Blueberry Muffins

Plants take up nutrients from the soil. Then those plants- fruits, vegetables, and even herbs, serve as vessels for our bodies to take in these nutrients from the dirt. Everyone’s body needs an array of nutrients to conduct specific metabolic reactions in order to breath, speak, and live. If we aren’t able to reach the threshold of all the nutrients needed, we certainly won’t be in immediate critical danger. Our bodies are smart enough to have programmed certain mechanisms that will kick into gear in case we become low on certain nutrients. For example, if you’re low on calcium, your body may suction a small amount of calcium from your bones to continue the use of nerve signaling. If you’re low on biotin (B-vitamin), your body will use what it has for the important function of energy production and sacrifice providing it to bright eyes, shiny hair, and long nails. There are millions of reactions that happen inside of us everyday. Heck- we have about 37 trillion cells in our body that take part in these reactions! Food is just one special part that provides the tools necessary for us to make these reactions happen. What you eat matters. Continue reading

SURF’s Up: Undergraduate Research

As I looked through my grant proposal for the 7th time, I reflected on how far I’d come since the beginning of my experience as an undergraduate research assistant. I had been working at the Agriculture Biotechnology Laboratory for 2 semesters before I started becoming curious and developing research questions of my own.

When I first heard about being involved in research, I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I thought I would give it a try. I worked with a graduate student who was my main mentor and taught me everything I know about procedures, problem solving, and analyzing data. I ended up loving research so much that I thought I could find ways to become even more involved. I was introduced to the concept of undergraduate research grants at the Career Night hosted by CAHNR, but I was hesitant to apply due to the competitive nature of funding. Never would I have imagined that my research proposal would be accepted!

I applied for a SURF or Summer Undergraduate Research Fund award, in January 2014. The application consisted of Continue reading

Working for the Best Kept Secret

With summer quickly approaching, I was still unsure what I was going to do for the next three months. Understanding the importance of gaining real world experience in my field of study, I applied to a number of nutrition related internships throughout the semester. I was hoping to find that “perfect fit.” Alas almost all of the programs either had chosen their summer interns or were deemed too impractical for me to commit to (i.e. traveling to DC). I was in a tight spot… But the last week of school changed that for me; I received an email regarding a “Paid Summer Internship” with the UConn Extension Department. I always knew Extension existed but wasn’t really aware of its significance. I did some research, decided to apply, and within a few weeks was asked to join their team. Still with limited knowledge of what Extension did or was, I committed to the summer internship.

Aaronpic1
Left to Right: Aaron Plotke, Linda Castro, Stacey Sterns, and Rineicha Otero posing with Lever and Smith at the Centennial Dinner.

As I learned more about what is considered the “state’s best-kept secret,” I was amazed at what I found. Extension is compromised of a vast network of outreach programming across every state in the U.S. including our own state of Connecticut. With the passing of the Smith-Lever Act in the early 1900’s, each state’s “Land Grant Universities” were tasked to run their own Extension programs. Then, as now, the objective is to empower communities with the knowledge and expertise of major research universities in the areas of food, health and sustainability. UConn is Connecticut’s Land Grant University with an Extension program that has over 282 active initiatives. Strong local ties have been established with communities across the state, with every county having a dedicated Extension office.

During my internship I worked with the New Haven County Extension Office and learned Continue reading