For My Japanese Sweet Tooth: Azuki Cream.

After moving to Cambridge in August, I began to inquire about Japanese restaurants in the area.  My investigation led to vague responses about Porter Square, an inside mall, a small Japanese grocery, and other recollections of forgotten street names.

Today a friend took me to this mysterious location.
Porter Exchange Mall, a retail space inside Leslie University, has a hidden alcove of Japanese shops!  It is a small space.  Although the Japanese grocery is gone, there are half a dozen ramen shops, sushi bars, or casual eateries.  We had sushi at Bluefin, which was traditional and friendly.  After lunch my feet led me to Japonaise Bakery and planted me in front of the display case.  I tried to convince myself that I was not interested, but then I saw a delectable treat called "Azuki Cream."   When I see azuki, I can't help myself.  Azuki is the Japanese name referring to a small bean found in East Asia.  They are usually red in color, and are commonly sweetened for use in various desserts.  I love it!   
Azuki Cream

Sink or Swim, Social Media Pulls Out to Sea

In September I interviewed Rebecca Scritchfield, a Registered Dietitian who has a Washington DC based private practice.  I used the interview to write this article for the All Access Internship's October newsletter, which published last week.  All Access Internships is an online community for dietetic students and dietetic interns.  (They have some awesome resources for the dietetic internship application process.)  Even though I wrote this article for a dietetics student audience, I think the benefits of social media can apply to all professions.  
Read the article here, or go to the AAI website to see the full October newsletter.

Sink or Swim, Social Media Pulls Out to Sea
Imagine one enormous room with a host of dietitians, a crowd of dietetic interns, and a gathering of dietetic students.  Now imagine the multiple-noisy-animated conversations filled with nutrition news, recipe swapping, career advice and DI suggestions as everyone talks together.   That is the place to be!  Bingo: that is social media.
What is social media, and how can I get involved?  It seems overwhelming.  Help!  Thankfully Rebecca Scritchfield is here to translate.  Rebecca is a Registered Dietitian in Washington D.C.  She has her own private practice specializing in sports nutrition and weight management.  Rebecca is a certified Health and Fitness Specialist and also holds a Masters degree in Communications from Johns Hopkins University.  During her Masters program in 2007 she started a blog for one of her classes (Balanced Health and Nutrition).  Since then Rebecca has continued blogging and has been steadily building her social media presence.
According to Rebecca, social media refers to specific mediums (such as text, photos, and videos) through which people interact.  She shares, “Social media requires two-way collaboration.  A website is one-way.  But a blog is engaging, and readers can become participants.  Twitter [allows] people to follow each other.  In social media we all connect and generate content [together].”
You may be thinking, “Sounds swell, but I’m only a student.”  No no no!  Rebecca stresses, “It’s never too early to get started.  If you know how to send an email, then technically you are involved in social media already.  No need to wait for a job or a dietetic internship.”  
If you’re still wading in the shallow end, let me splash a little more encouragement.  Number one. The world is online, and as future dietitians we must ensure that our profession stays at the forefront.  It’s time to get tech savvy so we can market new skills and fresh ideas in the field of nutrition.  Number two.  Social media offers a chance to be known.  Connect with experts in your areas of interest and keep in touch with classmates and peers.  Social media has upgraded the art of networking.   It’s free, it’s convenient, and it’s an ocean of opportunity at your disposal.
Are you wondering how to start your social media presence?  Just dive in.
Here are three tips from Rebecca to push you over the edge:
1. Be an Explorer.  Find organizations on Facebook, follow professionals on Twitter, and post your resume on LinkedIn.  Read blogs, listen to podcasts, and post comments.  As a student, this is the time to experiment with the tools of social media. 
2. Try Guest Blogging. If you have been following a certain blog and commenting, then this may be easier.  Introduce yourself and offer to write something.  Don’t expect to get paid.  Test the waters; you might enjoy it.
3. Create Your Own Blog.  If you’re passionate about something, have an opinion, and like to write, then maybe it’s time to swim further and create a blog.  Realize that a blog is essentially your own personal space on the world wide web.  Exciting! Evaluate the time commitment, and plan to set aside at least 3 hours per week to write and comment.  

Rebecca concludes, “Social media is just a technology.  In the end it’s always about the relationships and networks and connections.  Social media merely allows you to catch a wider net in the relationships you can make.”  Thanks Rebecca! 
Dive into social media. The learning curve is steep, but it’s worth the plunge

British Chef Takes On America's "Unhealthiest Town."

Last week The New York Times Magazine published its Food Issue .  I didn't have a chance to skim it until this afternoon, but I have to share this picture and story!
Featured cover story.   
Putting America's Diet on a Diet
Just finished the article.  Inspiring!  British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver (from The Naked Chef) seeks to change eating patterns in the town of Huntington, West Virginia.  Huntington is the home of the Hillbilly Hot Dogs, where they serve the famous 15-pounder (pictured on the left).  Jamie Oliver will convert the city community center into a kitchen, where he will teach basic cooking skills to adults and children.  He will also work to improve the quality of school lunches and eliminate junk food in school vending machines.  Yay, good luck!
Read the full article by Alex Witchel.  Published October 6, 2009.
picture by Mark Peterson, from the The York Times

Boston's First Snow, and Warm Curry!

Today is the first winter snow in Boston!
I will always remember this rainy afternoon.  My friend and I were enjoying a lovely chat at our new favorite coffeeshop, Athan's Bakery.  I almost choked between a sip of tea and a bite of fig cookie when my friend suddenly stated, "It's snowing."   Everyone in the coffeeshop turned to the front window.  Indeed, the rain had turned into visible white blobs.  Snow.

Good thing I had cooked up a hearty curry in the morning!  Yesterday I was ill with food poisoning.  The source remains a mystery.  However, the grim struggle with my intestinal tract from Saturday left me empty and crazed with hunger when I woke up this morning.  Potatoes, onions, carrots, chicken, and a fresh pot of rice!  It's time for something warm in my tummy: Japanese curry.

Cafeteria Memories: National School Lunch Week!

I think the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is one of the government's most effective use of our taxes.  

The NSLP is a government funded lunch program for school children.  Lunches (and even breakfasts) are offered daily to children at full price, reduced price or no cost depending on income status.  All meals are nutritionally compliant with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  It was created in 1962 and has been providing millions of lunches to children since then.  
Growing up I had varying affection for my elementary school cafeterias.  I rarely bought school lunch.  Some days I would walk by the "meatloaf" and canned peaches, then thankfully retreat to my home-packed PB and J.  Other days I was envious of the large square-cut pizza.  I remember one joyful day in 5th grade when my friend and I donned hairnets and aprons for our alloted monthly cafeteria duty.  After serving the food we got to take all the leftover packaged cookies.  We stashed them in our desks, and proceeded to discreetly eat them throughout the afternoon.  I think the steady crinkling of plastic wrappers gave us away.
Nonetheless, I never fully appreciated the policy behind the NSLP until college.  In my undergraduate food service class I spent time in the Davis Joint Unified School District kitchen.  There I saw the school recipe database and analyzed the nutritional components of the NSLP.  It's complicated!
My point: Did you know this week is National School Lunch Week?
October 11-17th.  Check out the USDA blog and President Obama's proclamation.
Kind-of cool!  
Yay for school cafeterias and those cafeteria ladies across the nation!  
Oh, the memories.  : )

Oops, A Dash in the 10k

I am forgetful.  I am absent-minded.  But today I really blew it.

It is a beautiful fall day in Boston, and I have a holiday from classes and rotations.  I decided to go on a long run and take my camera, something I have been hankering to do for a while.

Run run run.  *snapshot*  Run run run.
I was having a swell time.  Everyone in Cambridge seemed to be walking or running on Memorial Drive.  I suspected that people were enjoing the gorgeous weather and stocking up on Vitamin D.

Please visit my photoblog for a full glimpse of all my pictures.
Suddenly my serene jog was interrupted by a crowd of runners approaching from the distance.  Motocycles, polic cars, then a stampede coming staight for me.  What is going on?  I thought the Boston Half Marathon was on Saturday?

Of course.  I had no idea that today was the Tufts Health Plan 10k for Women.

My first thought: Yay, I have my camera!
My second thought: This is awkward.  Should I continue jogging against the crowd?  Should I stop and wait, pretending that I'm taking pictures for someone in the race?
My third thought: Woohoo!  Let's go.

So today I made a brief unplanned 2.0 mile dash in their 10k.  Then I turned off on Massachusetts Avenue.  I had forgotten that racing was such fun!

Go Runners, Go!  Thanks for letting me join you briefly!

Slurp! Noodle Soup Nostalgia.

I do not know why I woke up this morning with a craving for soba noodle soup.

Perhaps it was the realization that I had two carrots chatting in the fridge, waiting to be heard.  Poor guys, I had completely forgotten about them from 2 weeks ago.  Perhaps it was the surprise delivery of Hon-dashi soup stock in the mail yesterday.  Thank you Mom!  Perhaps it was the whispered hint of, dare I say it, homesickness?

I don't think I'm homesick.
I'm just aware of the fact that this past week I unpacked the wool socks and pea coats, all the while knowing that my family and friends are still romping in the warm California sunshine. (A day later.)  What am I saying?!  Boston in the fall is beautiful!  I can't stop looking at the leaves.  Orange, gold, brick red, pink red, caramel.

Soba is the Japanese word for buckwheat noodles.
A Sunday tradition at my home.
Simple, delicious, and dripping with memories.
*Itadakimasu* Let's eat!
Soba on Foodista

Swing it, Salsa!

Question: "[My friend] and I have been regularly eating lots of salsa at a nearby Mexican place.  I always figured that salsa was better for you than other snacks.  But how healthy is it for you?  I guess it'd depend on the brand too."

Short Answer: Yup, salsa has won the prize as perhaps the healthiest condiment.

Long Answer:   Salsa, unless eaten in very large amounts, is not a significant source of nutrients and vitamins.  But it adds a punch of flavor for very few calories. 
Salsa literally means "sauce," and it comes in many forms.   1/4 cup of a basic tomato, garlic, onion, and cilantro salsa will contain 1 gram protein, 2 grams sugar, 0.1gram fat, 0.4 gram salt, and a whopping 17 calories.  It has trace amounts of minerals and vitamins, but not enough to significantly contribute to the Recommended Daily Allowance.

Other variaties will have different nutrient information depending on ingredients and preparation.  The addition of black beans, corn, and peppers will increase calories.  Be aware of added sugar and salt in store-bought varieties.  Nevertheless, salsa is a low-fat, low-calorie, and flavor-bursting condiment.  Salsa is particularly useful as a replacement for higher calorie foods such as dips, dressings, sour cream, and ketchup.  Over the summer my favorite crunchy snack was baby carrots and salsa--the spicier the better!

All calorie and nutrient information are taken from the USDA National Nutrient Database.  Check it out and look up your favorite foods!

This is just for fun:  Here's some comparisons between the salsa and his side-kick burrito.     

1/4 cup salsa= 17 kcal
8" flour tortilla= 287 kcal
1/2 cup refried beans= 109 kcal
1/2 cup rice= 102 kcal
2 oz steak= 125 kcal
2 tablespoon regular sour cream= 46 kcal
2 tablespoon guacamole= 45 kcal (estimate)
1/4 cup regular cheddar cheese, shredded= 113 kcal
Total = 844 kcal

When it comes to salsa, I'm a fan.  So find me on the dance floor!
*If you have health or nutrition related questions, please comment or email me (  I'll try crack the coconut for you!*

Radiation Outpatient Oncology

Dietetic Internship Rotation #2: Radiation Oncology Clinic
The goal of this rotation is to work with the dietitian and become competent in the nutritional management of patients with head and neck cancers.  Patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation have compromised nutritional status.  They have increased energy needs due to disease and wound healing.  This is usually combined with decreased appetite leading to weight loss, fat los, and muscle loss (cancer cachexia).  Radiation to the head and neck often causes swallowing difficulties and taste changes.  Enteral feeding (liquid food sent into the stomach or intestine through a tube) requires the expertise of a dietitian.
September 23, 30, and October 7.
This brief rotation was filled with "firsts!"
I wore my white lab coat for the first time.
I conducted my first diet recall.
I wrote my first entry in the medical chart.
I witnessed my first nutrition assessment with a translator. 

I learned:
Always read the patient's medical chart before you go into the room for a nutrition assessment.  Try find out what the patient's concerns are, and how you can address those concerns.  Ask the patient why they are here to see you.  It is a horrible feeling to not know why you are talking to a patient, or if your words are relevant. 

Diet recall.  (A diet recall is a technique used to evaluate what a person normally eats and drinks in an average day.)  I remember my second diet recall.  The patient casually stated that he drank 1 gallon of milk per day.  Since I don't like milk, this was a staggering thought.  But a professional must keep a non-judgmental attitude.  Remember to ask portion sizes and use your hands and palms to estimate ounces.  Ask about the frequency of meals.  Detailed is better, but avoid neurotic. 

As a newbie, I'll share a memorable learning experience.  The dietitian and I saw a patient who had just started chemotherapy treatment.  She was not eating and needed to increase her caloric intake.  The dietitian left the room, so I was left alone with the patient.  We were talking, and I started suggesting ways to increase calories.  You know, the usual: drink whole or 1% milk instead of skim milk, don't hesitate with the spreads, switch from smartbalance to butter, try calorically dense foods like nuts, eat small frequent meals.  Later I learned that she is a fitness instructor.  I bet half of my advice went in one ear and out the other.  Lesson: know your congregation before you start preaching.

Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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