Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fun Food-Related Stuff I Stumbled Upon

I'm feeling like sharing a smile - so here are some fun things I came across while on a break from writing my research proposal. Enjoy!!

Mini Food!

Van Gogh Cake

Rice Krispie Square Watermelon

"Never eat more than you can lift." 
-- Miss Piggy, Muppet extraordinaire

The "Absolutely Ridiculous" Burger weighing in at 338 lbs, 540,000 calories.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wheat is the Devil: A Resurgence of My Former Frustrations

My Aunt Kathy sent me a birthday card with an article in it she photocopied from Maclean's Magazine, and asked for my opinion on it. I had read it, was slightly outraged, gave it to one of the Public Health Nutritionists at work to also have a wee giggle at this Doctor's extremist view. Then I forgot about it. 

Today, on Facebook, a holistic nutritionist who taught me while I attended the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN) posted this article in support of it. A resurgence of all the fear mongering and lack-of-research based instruction I received while attending this school came flooding back. For the record, I enjoyed the experience but am still questioning the information I was taught - I crave factual backing to my education and they were unable to provide it. With that said, I have no problem with views that are different than mine - to each their own. What I do take issue with is when those views are published in widely circulated magazines and presented as fact (people will believe what they are told if they perceive the person doing the telling to be a professional).


Okay... so,

I am hesitant to promote an idea that could potentially scare people away from consuming foods that have nutritional value to them. Whole grains contain important nutrients such as B-vitamins (breads and cereals are largely enriched with vitamins that help to prevent health problems such as those developed by deficiencies like neural tube defects in newborns with a folate deficiency), vitamin E,  and soluble and insoluble fibre. The consumption of whole grains is recommended by such health bodies as the Mayo Clinic, Health Canada, the Harvard School of Public Health, Dietitians of Canada - and more! It is true that some people have food sensitivities and allergies and perhaps that is why they gain weight when consuming grains (as per the claims in the Maclean's article), although with celiac disease, people tend to be underweight, but celiac disease is just one type of allergy-related (gluten) health condition. Sensitivities and allergies present with numerous different signs and symptoms, so narrowing down which type and to which food (or other factor) a person might be reacting to can be tricky and require some allergy testing (although sensitivities may not show up in allergy testing). 

But I digress.

I think energy would be better spent focusing on the bigger picture - high cost of healthy foods, low cost of unhealthy foods, high fat high sugar foods, physical inactivity, obesogenic environments such as drive thrus... the list goes on. The scare tactic used to compare the consumption of wheat to tobacco use is, I believe, only hindering the progress of the credibility of the field of nutrition. Readers will see that the interviewee, Dr. Davis, is a medical doctor and will therefore believe, without question, that he is presenting research-supported facts. Some people can be sensitive to components of grains - and of many other foods as well - but the extremist view that wheat is largely responsible for present-day obesity, I feel, is unjustified. I had a biology teacher in high school who presented in class his idea that the reason North Americans have such a high rate of heart disease, is that we have flush toilets. His theory was based on the fact that people living in remote arctic regions do not have indoor plumbing and have also very low rates of heart disease. Therefore, they have a causal relationship.

Oh my. 

Perhaps if my teacher had done his research, he would learn that this relationship is actually correlational and not causational (if it is causational, I'll need to see the peer-reviewed research to prove it), and that perhaps the high quantity of healthy fats in the diets of Inuit peoples, healthy fats which have been proven to help mitigate atherosclerosis, are actually responsible for the low heart disease rates. Additionally, I do believe that there are fewer fast food restaurants in the arctic, restaurants, and grocery stores, so perhaps there is an absence of obesogenic opportunities to partake in up North. But regardless of what my biology teacher believed to be fact, at least his idea wasn't published in a national magazine.

I agree with the idea that wheat products are no longer the original crop that our ancient ancestors grew and consumed. However, I am interested to know why Dr. Davis isn't attacking the other 70-75% of foods that are in some way, shape, or form influenced by genetic modification?

Nutrition and Dietetics is a field where misinformation and incomplete information runs rampant. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, author of the blog Weighty Matters, said it best when he commented on how some people feel they are qualified to provide nutrition advice simply because they eat. It is necessary for nutrition professionals to step-up to the plate to bat away... clarify... what is factual and what isn't. Not long after Dr. Davis' interview was published in Maclean's, a Dietitian was interviewed on CBC Radio and was given the chance to more calmly explain what Dr. Davis was talking about - better explaining his logic and whether or not she supports it. The PH Nutritionist whom I shared the article with originally heard this interview on CBC Radio and said she did a good job of talking down the accusations in Dr. Davis' interview and stating that she doesn't support his overall opinion of whole grains, including wheat, though agreed that it is no longer the same crop that it once was. However, in comparison to the viral spread of the Maclean's magazine, and my inability to find the CBC Radio interview online, I fear that this Dietitian's interview will not be heard.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Welcome to Public Hell-th

This morning in Public Health we decked out the office with Hallowe'en related paraphernalia.

Here are some of the ideas and themes we decided to use --> good for an end-of-week smile!

Witch's Brew: Alcohol Strategy, SWNDHA Public Health
Some other ideas for posters we had were:
  • Let's Rot Your Teeth: Dental Hygienist
  • I Want to Give You a Virus: Communicable Disease & Prevention Control
  • The More Sugar, Fat, and Butter, the Better to Kill You With: Public Health Nutrition Services

Sugar Coma: Public Health Addiction Services

Mummy's Milk is Best for Babies: SWNDHA Public Health

"The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line
between work and play." 
~Arnold Toynbee

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aaaaaaaaaand We're Off!

Foodservice assessments in 7 schools in the Tri-County District here in the South West Nova District Health Authority has begun!

Over the next month, myself and 3 others (only one other and I assess a school at a time) will be doing a foodservice assessment of 7 schools who have been identified to be most likely to benefit from some one-on-one attention. We will be using a tool I developed with the help of the Public Health Nutritionists and will be focusing on areas such as food safety, compliance to the NS School Food and Nutrition Policy, and how much time is required by the foodservice worker to successfully prepare the food.

Today myself and my preceptor observed the breakfast and lunch programs in a local elementary school, and it went beautifully. The foodservice worker was an absolute delight and was extremely helpful. She admitted to being stressed about the idea of us coming in to do the assessment today as she had initially perceived our choosing her school to visit as a negative. However, she said after a few days she rethought it and instead decided to make it a positive situation and use the opportunity to ask us questions about the School Food and Nutrition Policy (SFNP) and her menu.

How did the assessment go?

Very well!
We were able to see that food safety was a priority to the foodservice (FS) worker through her actions, signage, and method of food holding and storage. We were able to answer her questions regarding the menu and she requested some healthy (and enticing) recipes to serve the students for dessert. We highlighted a few areas that will need to be improved, such as no longer serving chocolate cookies or pudding (as chocolate is not permitted by the policy), reducing the quantity of moderate snacks being offered for sale for recess snack, and removing a non-baked nacho chip from the menu. Otherwise, the meals are largely made from scratch by the FS worker (students purchasing meals vary from 30-70 students daily depending largely on when payday is for the parents versus what is being served). These freshly made items include: homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and wraps. Other items include mostly from scratch components, such as pizza where the FS worker purchases a frozen whole wheat pizza crust but then prepares the rest herself. I think she is doing an excellent job and shows a great interest in ensuring that she is complying with the policy and providing the students healthy meals, while trying to keep costs down.

We identified some supports that we could offer the FS worker including the aforementioned resource of healthy/yummy dessert recipes for kids that follow the policy.

I hope the other FS assessments go this smoothly. Next FS assessment is next Monday.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Away Goes the Once Healthy Breakfast

Tina holding up a box of oatmeal on sale at the Superstore.
Enter Quaker Oatmeal Cookies 'N Creme! 

Oatmeal is generally an excellent food to start the day with (or to consume at any meal). Consuming pure oats can help to lower LDL cholesterol (the "lousy" or bad cholesterol), decrease bowel transit time thereby assisting with regularity, can make you feel fuller longer due to the high fibre content (thereby can help with weight loss), can help reduce one's risk of developing heart disease (picture of a heart is even on the box) and type II diabetes, and so much more! But there are better ways to make oatmeal tasty (as oatmeal without anything added is quite bland and boring, I'll absolutely admit it) than to heap sugar and fat into it. Perhaps it was added in an attempt to "disguise" the actual product in hopes that it will entice, or perhaps trick, children into eating it - or at the very least, hope to induce "mommy mommy buy this for me" behavior in children. 

To keep oatmeal healthy one can add fresh or frozen blueberries, or other fruits to it, toasted almonds, cinnamon and raisins and/or cut-up apples, even adding a tsp of brown sugar with milk would be by-far more desirable than this fare offered by Quaker. Buying the quick rolled themselves would be cheaper to buy in bulk than in the boxed individualized packages and would be much healthier! Encouraging families to make their own oatmeal would be in the better interest of health versus encouraging and promoting the consumption of cookies to start the day. Quaker should put more effort into promoting their regular rolled oats - perhaps even team up with a frozen fruit (no added sugar) company. But instead of promoting health, Quaker opted to support the growing rate of childhood obesity.

Thumbs down, Quaker, thumbs down.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating System: Increasing Confusion in Already Confused Consumers?

On Friday, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released Phase II of their recommendations for Front-of-Package Nutrition Labeling (FOP). Essentially, the IOM want to put a universal rating of stars on the front of each grocery store item (produce included!) according to the level of calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats the product contains. Products can "earn" a total of 3 stars if they fit the nutrient criteria. However, if a product, such as a cola drink, exceeds the requirements by a certain amount, they will not be granted stars in the areas that it does pass.

Is this new FOP a good idea? 

Will this not confuse already confused consumers who are trying to figure out the many different FOP labeling offered by different companies? Sensible Solutions, Heart Check, Blue Menu, etc. have dominated the FOP in grocery stores and the grocery store shelves appear to be a endless ocean of nutrition and health claims. There has been such a great push, perhaps it has even blossomed in a fad, to make it easier for consumers to make better food choices, but very little effort put forth by these companies (in respect to the intensive marketing campaigns involving their own FOP nutrition labels) to educate on the basics of healthy eating. Why not educate consumers on who to properly read nutrition labels? They are already present on the packages of foods - except those that do not come in packages, like fruits and vegetables! With that said, I'm not even confident that if the money spent on these type of gimmicks, as good in intentions as they may be, were put into education of the already existing labels or even into a basic how-to-eat-healthy guide, that it would reach more people. Consumers, for a large part, know that items such as Pork Rinds are unhealthy, but people are still buying them. The question then begs to be asked, "will another package label actual bring about behavior change?" Should companies be forced to instead promote campaigns already in existence such as Canada's Food Guide and or My Plate put out by the USDA? Although I agree that it may be out of the scope of feasibility to further promote these government health documents on the population, and looking at the front of a food package is easier - how much of the original document put forth by the IOM will actually come into fruition? My guess is that a companies will do the bare minimum to follow the guidelines, and do their best to find loopholes (as I've learned with the School Food and Nutrition Policy, people are more apt to search for loopholes than abide by recommendations, perhaps as a way of rebelling against them).

My recommendations as a Dietetic Intern are as follows:
  •  Push nutrition education! Start educating people about healthy eating, and this should start when they are young, when good habits can be easily formed. 
  • Governments need to start making harsher regulations for what can be passed off as "food". Artificial fruit snacks and jube jubes are, in my opinion, not food as the only semblance to food on their nutrition label is the corn found in the high fructose corn syrup.
 Le sigh.

You can read more about the FOP nutrition labeling at the ScienceDaily website.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Healthy Eating Nova Scotia

In a discussion I had today with one of the Public Health Nutritionists, she revealed that her job is very much dictated by the Healthy Eating Nova Scotia (HENS) strategy. HENS outlines four areas of priority: breastfeeding, children and youth, fruit and vegetable consumption, and food security. Concentrating on these areas would allow for blanket of health promotion interventions to reach as many people as possible in an attempt to lower the occurrance of chronic diseases, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. I knew that her job was focused on these areas, but I hadn't made the link that it was due to this document and the strategic plan outlined in it. HENS strategic plan was released in 2005 and statistics have since revealed that improvements are being made in these four priority areas in the public through policies, programs, regulations, etc., thereby showing that Public Health Nutritionists were an effective and necessary asset to Public Health.

It is really fascinating and inspiring to hear how dietetic professionals are making such incredible positive changes to the health of the public, and makes me excited to be involved in the field.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

"The Mind Knows Not What The Tongue Wants"

TED Talks is a guilty pleasure of mine. This talk was recorded in 2004, but remains a favorite of mine. If you have yet to see it, I strongly recommend spending the next 17 minutes and 34 seconds of your life doing so. You will not regret it.

Such a simple concept that ended up changing the world - extra chunky tomato sauce.

If you're interested in seeing more, here's the link to the TED Talks website:

Enthusiasm for New Breakfast Program

Last night I attended a menu-planning session for a school's breakfast program that was just starting up. The school provided the parent volunteers with a snack... it was cake.

On a refreshing note, however, last night's menu planning session went incredibly well! The parent volunteers were extremely excited and positive about the idea of offering a healthy breakfast free-of-charge to children. I found their enthusiasm and positive energy so infectious that I found it hard to sleep when I got home because I was so excited for the program to be started. Myself, Tina (fellow Dietetic Intern), and Lori who works at Tri-County Regional School Board office, each helped out a table of parents plan a week-long menu (to have three weeks of menus in total) consisting of maximum foods from the NS School Food and Nutrition Policy with each meal being comprised of at least 3 of the 4 food groups from Canada's Food Guide. Discussions from my table included how to get kids eating new and different foods, such as mango, papaya, and tofu. Conversations also touched on the current lunch menu served by the cafeteria with a specific example being the pancake lunches and how the son of one of the parents present refuses to eat this lunch since it is "swimming in butter". This school is one that I will be focusing on for my foodservice assessments and will be focusing on their menu content in order to provide supports to help the school better follow the School Food and Nutrition Policy, and apparently it is needed.

It was extremely interesting to discuss healthy and non-healthy foods with these parents as they genuinely want to provide healthy foods for all children in the school. I am excited to see how this new Breakfast Program advances in the next couple of months.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Close, but Missed the Mark...


Each morning I eat my breakfast in the hospital cafeteria, and today was no exception. I got my boiled egg, milk, and cereal that I top with ground flax seeds (I keep a baggy of ground flax in my purse - just one of the interesting items I keep in there) and went to sit down. Upon setting my tray down at a table I looked up to see a banner advertising "Healthy Workplace Month" and not 10 feet away was remnants of massive sheet cake (offering slabs of both chocolate and white cake) that had been put out the day before. My mind chose to block out the safe food handling issues related to leaving this cake out all night and focus on the fact that a healthy workplace, to whomever decided to include such a massive cake, did not include healthy eating. Perhaps the organizers thought that the healthy lunch specials served in the cafeteria each day this week would "cover it", even though for dinner the cafeteria still offers high fat, high sugar, and deep-fried fare. My disappointment lies not only in the fact that a cake was present, but also in that the organizers probably didn't even think of not having a cake. In my 6.5 weeks working in Public Health, I've learned that people are extremely attached to cakes and that any sort of celebration requires and is expected to have one.
Battling the unfortunate mind-set of the necessity of having cake is something that I'm currently trying to do, along with the Public Health Nutritionists, through tackling the NS School Food and Nutrition Policy. Fundraisers are common-place for schools to hold and one of the most popular and successful fundraisers, as reported by principals and parents, is a cakewalk. For those of whom are unfamiliar with what a cakewalk entails, it is essentially a game similar to musical chairs. Music is played and people walk around on squares with numbers on them. Music stops and if whichever number you're standing on gets called by the announcer, you win that cake. Seems like fun, however inappropriate especially considering all fund-raising activities by schools must abide by the School Food and Nutrition Policy (SFNP) Guidelines: all foods sold for fundraising purposes must be of "maximum" nutritional value. The SFNP classifies foods in three categories according to nutritional content guidelines: maximum, moderate, and minimum. Cake is in the minimum category and can only be served on special occasions such as Valentine's Day. Cakewalks were brought up at a Principal's meeting I was attending (Principal's from every school in the Tri-Counties were there) and the negative and borderline violent uproar that we received when it was mentioned that these were no longer to be accepted in the Tri-County made me speechless!  This came even after presenting every person in there a page full (front and back) of acceptable fundraising ideas. It all boils down to people's readiness to change: despite that the principals are all educated professionals and that they had in front of them resources to help them with changes to better follow the SFNP (including the person representing Public Health standing before them), they were not ready to even hear about the need for change. This is going to make our job of reinforcing the policy that much trickier.

Perhaps education in the form of an email informing the SWNDHA Workplace Wellness Committee of their faux-pas would allow for change for next year - this is definitely something I'm willing to find out. But as far as this year's Workplace Wellness Month goes... at least they tried.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Six Weeks Down!

Whilst at the Yarmouth Farmer's Market today, I decided that I was going to post some pictures to help show my journey as an intern, including the photos I've taken of the past 6 weeks that I've been in Yarmouth. 

The first two pictures were taken at the World Breastfeeding Week Celebration on October 1st at the NSCC Burridge Campus gym. We had a few hiccups, such as the radio announcer getting confused and announcing that we were having "free breastfeeding activities" for the whole family, and fighting the battle of whether or not to have cake (thankfully the popular vote was to veto said cake and have fresh healthy foods instead). Overall, we (the Baby Friendly Initiative committee and the Make Breastfeeding Your Business subcommittee) felt it was a success!

My task during the event was to prepare the trays of food (wash, cut, arrange) and then stay at the snack table (as I was the only one on the committee with an up-to-date Food Handler's Certificate) refilling and making sure foods were kept food-safe. It was great to hear the fantastic feedback regarding the healthy snacks (the presence of watermelon excited numerous families).

 I have volunteered for the Canadian Cancer Society for 4 years now. Previously, I was the Health Promotion Team Lead when I lived in the Valley, but now I'm a Health Promotion volunteer as I don't have an abundance of time anymore. This is a picture of me at the beginning of October at the Ye Olde Argyler Lodge in Lower Argyle, NS at the tiny wedding show they were holding. Fellow dietetic intern and good friend, Tina, accompanied me to help out at the booth. It was a pretty slow day, so we followed suit when other venders packed up an hour early. We then went to dinner at the Red Top in Pubnico as we were starving and opted not to eat the hot dog and fries offered to us at the wedding show. Fun day all-in-all and as it turned out, also my 27th birthday! Pretty neat to spend it surrounded by bridal bliss!
The following week I was honored to be asked to attend the Recreation Nova Scotia Conference in Digby for a session to hear the third dietetic intern, Lindsay, present on her research. The location was a beautiful golf and spa resort called Digby Pines. Here is a picture of Lindsay near a banner advertising the supporters of the conference. Lindsay's research was to identify if the public would purchase (and if there was a demand for) health foods to be sold at recreation centres and community centres. Her results were quite exciting in that they showed, by a significant difference, that the public did in fact want healthy foods to be sold! 

 Today Tina and I went to the Yarmouth Farmer's Market to get some tasty and inexpensive veggies and fruit. We both tried Macoun apples for the first time today - they are a cross between a Macintosh and Jersey Black. The vender who gave them to us as she wanted us to try them (another reason why small towns trump cities, but I digress) was not over-exaggerating when she said they were juicy. Delicious!

Also at the market we stumbled upon a 26lb squash. So I clearly had to take a picture of it. If you look closely, you can see a regular 3lb squash on the shelf below it.   
Now that I have finally overcome my intense feelings of homesickness and my public health rotation half complete, I believe I have found my groove and am set to give the remaining part of my internship (all 9.5 months of it) my all!

Tonight, I'm going to watch Forks Over Knives, a documentary that discusses what the state of the world's health would be like if we rejected animal-based and processed foods. I have tried to avoid hearing people discuss this movie and haven't read any synopses of the film as I want to watch it to form an opinion for myself first. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Prefer to Dive-in Head First

Life experience has taught me that I learn best by doing.

Certainly, I still get good grades while in a classroom setting (or I wouldn't currently be a dietetic intern), but for me, the true educational experience lies in doing. I love starting a new job and being "thrown in head first" so-to-speak, where it is necessary for me to quickly get my footing, relying on me, my background knowledge, and my resourcefulness in order to succeed. For instance, when I started my first cooking job out of culinary college, my first day was spent preparing for the grand opening party that was a huge undertaking, to say the least. I was giving a list of what foods I had to prepare by a certain time and then was left to my own devices. I quickly learned where utensils, the walk-in refrigerators, dry storage, knives, cutting boards, etc. were located. Instead of panicking, I embraced the challenge and let my adrenaline, knowledge, and confidence in my skills carry me to successfully completing that list with enough time to help a fellow cook with his tasks. At the end of the shift I was pulled aside by my Sous Chef who complemented me on my ability to swim, and then he walked away. That was all he said. Puzzled, I thought about his comment for a few days, but then it finally occurred to me what he meant by that statement: he was referring to the phrase "sink or swim", and how I was thrown into the deep-end head first, but managed to not only keep my head above water, but was able to swim to shore.

I am inspired to learn when I encounter experiences, tasks, or themes that are new to me, but complement my knowledge-base. I get excited when I can apply a learning experience to my own life (allowing me to apply the principles of adult education to myself). My desire to learn by doing is directly applicable to my dietetic internship. Finally I am able to apply the knowledge that I have built through years of university to a real-world setting. Speak with real patients, interact with other health professionals, and interact with, learn from, and benefit from the experiences of Dietitians (which I have been aching for since my first year at Acadia). I very much believe in the tutelage style of: "see one, do one, teach one", which I actually believe I have taken from an episode Grey's Anatomy. But it is fully applicable to my internship, and my preferred learning style. First, observe to understand the steps. Second, actually do the steps. Third, teach how to do it - even if it's simply explaining to my supervising Dietitian what I did, as I fully believe that teaching allows for a higher level of understanding and comprehension. With that said, I also believe an important part of the learning process is the very unpopular topic of...


Feedback is something that I have trained myself to appreciate and use constructively. Through my career as a student, I have had positive, negative, constructive, and useless (when the feedback consists of vague, unspecific phrases which doesn't reveal how to change or even if it's necessary to change). I have learned to accept all types, and turn them into learning experiences - though the useless feedback still frustrates me, I know seek out my reviewer to clarify the comment, which has to this day, resulted in useless feedback being converted to constructive. For example, the feedback I received from the presentation I gave to the nursing students on Nutrition for Childbearing was incredible! My usage of the word "incredible" is meaning that it was filled with ways in which I could have changed certain aspects of my presentation so I could better influence and teach my audience; filled with constructive comments allowing me to benefit from the experiences and knowledge of the Public Health Nutritionists. I look forward to my mid-point evaluation set for next week to hear more of their suggestions.   

So how is my preferred method of learning applicable to my internship?

It is completely applicable in that I am given daily opportunities to expend my knowledge base through creating presentations, chatting with co-workers about their job roles and various committees they are on, attending meetings and taking the minutes, and so many more opportunities. Additionally, as a dietetic intern, it is expected that I will produce a high quality of work and I find that this expectation makes me strive to learn more and to challenge myself to a greater degree in order to meet or exceed these (and my) expectations.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Willing is not enough we must do. - Goethe

This blog entry is a required component of my Internship Reflections as outlined by Acadia University. Part 2 of 2.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

From Kitchen to Classroom: My Journey with Food

I love to eat.

My journey to dietetics began with a passion I share with many foodies worldwide - a passion to eat. Now, I should specify, that this passion to eat involves good food, not the packaged, highly-processed food-stuffs found in the majority of grocery stores, but food that is lovingly created by culinary artists who are also commonly referred to as chefs. I, Stephanie Robinson, am a Food Enthusiast. I am continually refining this self-appointed role of Food Enthusiast (capitals are necessary as I believe this is a title to be proud of) through my travels all over the world - feasting my way across the globe. I can recall specific destinations by the foods I consumed there. For instance, I remember the incredible split pea soup I had in Paris, France near the Notre Dame Cathedral (by this point in my journey I had eaten my weight in French Onion Soup, so I was branching out). I look forward to the tastes I will experience in other countries as my passport stamps amount.

Out of high school, I went to Queen's University, and after being pumped full of how I was attending the "Harvard of the North" and having my ego inflated to the size of a Goodyear Blimp, I started classes and realized quite quickly that the Arts and I was a relationship destined for failure. I expressed my prediction of my impending doom in post-secondary education to a friend in my Intro to Sociology class. He asked when I liked to do, and I said simply, "cooking". The next day I heard an advertisement on the radio for the Liaison College for Culinary Arts, which luckily was also in Kingston, and I immediately set-up an appointment to check them out.

"You're leaving Queen's to go to a cooking school?" - My mom when I told her my future plans. She needed time, but eventually she and my dad got on-board with the idea.

I loved culinary college! Studying each night about specific cooking techniques and terminology, and then spending my days in a classroom sent from heaven decked out with every kitchen luxury one could dream of was the perfect fit for me. I graduated at the top of my class and was hired immediately to work as a Chef de Partie and Tournant at the Four Points Sheridan Hotel's brand new restaurant, the King Street Sizzle. I enjoyed working at the Sizzle, however, working Christmas day with people who had spouses and children made me reconsider wanting to be a Chef. I gave my notice soon thereafter and enrolled in a Holistic Nutrition course at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN) also conveniently located in Kingston. While attending this CSNN, I worked as a prep cook full-time for the Grizzly Grill, and found that even though I have mad knife skills and can prepare the majority of prep for a 200 person/night restaurant, it was not my calling in life. After the first couple of months attending CSNN, I found that the material I was being taught was not to the depth that I desired, so I applied to Acadia University and was accepted on the grounds that I complete a high school calculus class. I think the groan I made upon reading that statement was heard around the world, but after months of being tutored, hours of crying due to frustration, and praying to every god in every religion that Google could locate, I passed with an extremely proud 72%.

Orientation to Acadia introduced me to the fact that to be a Dietitian, I had to first get then complete an internship. "What had I gotten myself into?" I thought. However, after the first year (and an amazing chemistry tutor), the idea that I might get one of these coveted internships came a reality, and then a motivation. I was no stranger to volunteering as in my home town of Ear Falls, ON., I was a Girl Guide for about a decade and the Student Rep of the township's Recreation Committee, so I loaded up with whatever opportunities I could find: Wolfville Nursing Home, the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Obesity Network - Students and New Professionals, and many more.

I would like to say that my journey has been effortless and clear-cut, but that is definitely not the case. I had a disappointing medical diagnosis which could have easily deterred me from pushing as hard as I did in my attempt to succeed. Being diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer June 2008 sucked, to say the least. But through this sucky experience I have learned about my emotional and physical strength, and forced myself to reflect upon what is important to me in my life and the personal and professional goals I want to (and will) achieve. This diagnosis was not entirely a bad occurrence as it struck an interest in me; I am interested in oncology dietetics. I have since volunteered at the I.W.K. job shadowing Oncology Dietitians in Halifax, NS as well as at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre (TBCC) in Calgary, AB.

Additionally, I had encountered another road-block when I was unsuccessful in my application for Acadia's Integrated Dietetic Internship. This disappointment hit me hard. But eventually, I was able to learn from the experience and move on. I am delighted that the next time I applied for internship - Acadia's Graduate Internship - that I was successful! I will be a Dietitian! My journey from the kitchen to the classroom and then eventually an internship has been lengthy, but I am grateful for each experience as they helped form the person I am today: happy, relatively healthy (I am battling hypothyroidism but hope to get my meds balanced soon, in-love (I'm set to marry my best friend 09/01/12), and positive.

History and logic show me that challenges and road-blocks will happen, but I believe that being aware that they will most likely occur, will help me to keep focused on my professional goals. An "inner" challenge that I will need to overcome is my need to succeed immediately. Patience is definitely a virtue and something that I need to work on. I realize that I won't become an Oncology Dietitian immediately, but accepting that fact is much tougher. I must remember to not be hard on myself if I don't leave my internship and get hired immediately at the TBCC or in an oncology unit at a hospital in Calgary (where my post-internship life shall unfold). Additional challenges include my level of education - will it be enough or adequate to obtain a job in oncology? Even if the answer is yes, I will remain skeptical until I am gainfully employed as an Oncology Dietitian.

So what is my game-plan to help better my changes of landing my dream job in oncology?

Work and work hard.

I have done research on requirements and qualifications for roles as a RD in oncology and have expressed an interest to my Internship Coordinators to learn about and observe specific procedures in oncology above what I would receive in the traditional internship. I am prepared to do a Masters, but hope it doesn't come to this as I'm a wee bit tired of classroom learning. I will do my very best to educate myself and provide myself with learning opportunities that will help me to succeed in my professional quest. That sentence sounded like a pledge, because in all honesty, it was.

My passion for culinary delights was transformed into a passion of using food for health - but I am still a Food Enthusiast at heart.

This picture was widely circulated as an ad for King Street Sizzle. I (at the far right) was cropped out after I quit.

This blog entry is a required component of my Internship Reflections as outlined by Acadia University: Part 1 of 2.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Study Finds that a Healthy Diet is Important to a Healthy Pregnancy

Bravo researchers!

Finally a study was conducted to determine if women's diets before and during pregnancy had an influence on the health of a fetus. The study which was written about in ScienceDaily on October 4, 2011, interviewed thousands of woman, who had given birth to either healthy infants or those born with a cleft lip or palate or a neural tube defect, about their dietary habits prior to and during pregnancy. These diets were compared to both the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as well as the Mediterranean dietary pattern which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats found in fish and olives (including oil). This is the first study to actually assess the diet as a whole versus singling out the necessity of ingesting a single nutrient, such as folic acid and the necessity of it to assist in the closure of the neural tube. Prior research had been searching for a quick fix or "magic bullet" that would lead to the key to giving birth to a healthy infant. Low-and-behold, the magic bullet is simply eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, fibre, and low in saturated fats and processed foods. Seems like common sense to this dietetic intern, but now that a healthy diet has been shown to reduce the risk of birth defects, health professionals finally have some backing to reinforce the necessity of eating healthfully.

The actual published article can be found here in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Friday, October 07, 2011

My Challenge

As a dietetic intern, I am assigned projects, tasks, and roles daily that challenge me to learn; learn about specific techniques and methods in dietetics, learn different methods of teaching, and learn new things about myself. So when I was challenged by a former professor of mine, who is also currently one of my internship advisers, to officially document - or reflect, if you will - upon my experiences and learnings in my internship, it stirred up feelings of excitement and anticipation within me. In my 3rd year at Acadia, I was in this prof's Leadership class and had a semester-long assignment to continually reflect on my daily experiences - this was a project I took great pride in and enjoyed thoroughly! So when I was told that I had creative freedom with this assignment as I did with my Leadership class's reflection assignment, to the web I went! A devote reader of Weighty Matters a blog written by a physician and Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa, Yoni Freedhoff, I jumped at the chance to create a blog of my own through which to share my experiences as a dietetic intern. Additionally, my hope is to incorporate articles and videos I come across that may interest fellow "nutrition-ees". 

So where am I presently in my internship?

I have just completed my 5th of 12 weeks in my Public Health (PH) rotation at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. So far my major projects and assignments have consisted of attending and preparing food for a couple prenatal classes using recipes from Strive for 5 (Pepita Pumpkin Bread is a winner!) and researched nutrition/ingredient information for foods served in child care settings to ensure that the NS Child Care Regulations are followed. Additionally, I researched and presented information on Nutrition for Childbearing to a 3rd year nursing class from Dalhousie University at the Yarmouth Campus. That experience was a great learning opportunity which I will go into shortly. I frequently divide my time amongst meetings for everything I can wiggle my way into: Baby Friendly Initiative (branching from this committee is the sub-committee of Make Breastfeeding Your Business in which I helped plan, promote, and execute a World Breastfeeding Week celebration event, which according to the botched radio announcement by rushed announcers offered "free breastfeeding activities". It is a wonder we got people to show up at all.), Group of 9 Tobacco Strategy, Active Transport, Healthy Communities, and Health Promoting Schools (and more specifically in this area, the School Food and Nutrition Policy). I have found it quite beneficial and interesting to chat with other Public Health employees besides the PH Nutritionists whom I work with daily one-on-one. These such professionals include PH nurses, a dental hygienist, communicable disease control nurses, home visitors, lactation consultants, and many others. 

Next on my list to discuss, that presentation I gave on Nutrition for Childbearing. I've had more successful presentations in my career as a student:

I spent weeks preparing for this presentation as I was terrified of presenting out-of-date or inaccurate, vague, or incomplete information. I received an outline from the professor of the class on what I was to include in my presentation focusing on nutrition for pregnancy and for breastfeeding. Now, I learned a great deal from researching the content, but the bulk of my learning came from getting feedback from the PH Nutritionists and Prenatal Nurse/Lactation Consultant on my PowerPoint presentation and speaker notes. Giving presentations in university seemed to be straight forward to me - give a lot of detailed information and present in a way that my peers could understand, learn from, and easily follow. Well, the latter was consistent with presenting on behalf of PH, but the former not-so-much. Without being able to gauge how much prior nutrition knowledge the nursing students had, I was forced to limit the information I was presenting, while still providing nutrient specifics for those who will be working in maternity. Furthermore, I had no clue as to what could and couldn't be present in the presentation. For instance, the mere mention of formula was quickly removed to abide by the World Health Organization (WHO) code of breastfeeding that basically goes like this: only promote breastfeeding - do not speak of any alternate sources of infant feeding. For interest sake, here is the link to the actual code from the WHO's website. Also, pacifiers are a no-no (I had an image of a cartoon baby with a pacifier in her mouth that had to be removed). Those were a pretty eye-opening learning experiences but definitely beneficial ones. The length of my presentation was set for 2-hours which is a VERY long time to fill. So it was necessary for me to incorporate many group activities and do my best to facilitate participation to keep the students awake. This proved quite difficult as getting the students to speak during my presentation and answer my questions was like trying to co-hearse a mule to move by politely asking him questions. Futile effort! But eventually I was successful in getting a couple of the students to speak (I resorted to bribing them with the promise of a prize in the form of a dollar-store pencil), but needless to say, the class ended 30 mins early. Le sigh. Perhaps in a few months I'll be able to better facilitate conversation or ad-lib information to fill empty air - something to work on. Feedback I received from a few of the nursing students in that class was quite positive though - two even stated that the class is usually very quiet so I did a good job getting them to speak at all. If only I had known, I wouldn't have stressed so much that day (and days following) about my inability to induce discussion. But it was a very good learning experience from every angle - I definitely recommend future interns diving in head-first with this experience!

I have been working on much more, but will save that for another day. To close, here is one of my favorite quotes:

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ La Rochefoucauld