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Eat to Boost Immunity: Tip # 5

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Here is the final nutrition strategy that will help boost your immune health.  Along with the previous four:

  1. Consume a diet that is adequate in overall calories, balanced among carbohydrate, protein and fat and rich in nutrient-dense foods.
  2. Swap unhealthy (saturated) fats in your diet for healthy (unsaturated) fats, which are both anti-inflammatory and immune boosting.
  3. Ensure adequate vitamin D intake for optimal immune strength.
  4. Consume foods with naturally occurring probiotics to improve gut health.

Flavor your foods with healthy herbs & spices

Many of the herbs and spices that we use to flavor our foods also have potent anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties. Garlic, onion, turmeric, ginger and cinnamon are a few herbs and spices that top the list.

  • Garlic is not only known for it’s unique and pungent flavor contribution to many dishes, but also it’s role as a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and cancer preventative food. Garlic’s numerous beneficial immune benefits are due to sulfur compounds and being a quality source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and manganese.

 

  • Onions are not only a quality source of Vitamin C, but also one of the richest sources of flavonoids, especially quercetin, which has been shown to inhibit inflammation. Onions also contain the trace mineral selenium, which helps to initiate the body’s immune response.

 

  • Turmeric, commonly found in curry spices and dishes, contains curcumin which gives the spice its distinct orange-yellow color. Curcumin is traditionally known for its anti-inflammatory effects but in recent decades has also been shown to be a potent immune-modulating agent. Pair with black pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin.

 

  • Ginger, more commonly known for its anti-nausea benefits, also boosts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity within the body. Ginger is best consumed uncooked in it’s natural form, so aim to buy ginger whole and use a grater to include it in your dishes where possible.

 

  • Cinnamon is another spice that is not only rich in antioxidants, but also a quality source of manganese, calcium, fiber and iron. The essential oils found within cinnamon have also been shown to boost the immune system since they have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Wintertime doesn’t have to inevitably spell out cold and flu season. To boost your immune system and decrease your chances of getting sick aim to follow some of the tips above, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water and aim to get plenty of sleep each day too!

About the Author

Kristen Chang
Kristen Chang

Kristen Chang is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics and triathlete, currently serving as the President of the Southwest Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. She works as the owner of the nutrition private practice Real Food For Fuel, LLC. and adjunct instructor for Virginia Tech and Radford University. Kristen lives in Blacksburg, VA with her husband, Jordan, and dogs Kenya and Sunny.

Eat to Boost Immunity: Tip # 4

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Here is the fourth nutritional strategy that you can share with clients to help ensure optimal immune health during these cold winter months.

Consume foods with naturally occurring probiotics to improve gut health

New and emerging research regarding gut bacteria shows that our gut microbiome has a direct impact on brain and immune health.

While a probiotic supplement is one way to build up healthy bacteria within the gut, first start by incorporating foods with natural probiotics into your daily regime.

These include: yogurts and aged cheeses, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, sour pickles and kombucha.

By consuming 2-3 probiotic-rich foods daily, you are feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut that in turn can lend to a stronger immune system.

Kristen Chang
Kristen Chang

Kristen Chang is a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics and triathlete, currently serving as the President of the Southwest Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. She works as the owner of the nutrition private practice Real Food For Fuel, LLC and adjunct instructor for Virginia Tech and Radford University. Kristen lives in Blacksburg, VA with her husband, Jordan, and dogs Kenya and Sunny.

Eat to Boost Immunity: Tip # 3

Nutr and Immune Health Tip 3 graphic

We are still in the thick of the flu season.  Immune health is very important during this time.  I’m back again to provide you with yet another nutritional strategy that supports the immune system.

Ensure adequate Vitamin D intake for optimal immune strength.

While we are able to naturally synthesize Vitamin D through sun exposure, it’s not uncommon for Vitamin D levels to drop off in the winter when colder whether forces us inside more.

Low Vitamin D levels have a direct effect not only on bone health, but immune health as well, and it’s never a bad idea to have your levels checked by your primary care physician.

To ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D through diet, aim to consume a few of these foods daily: Cod Liver Oil, oily fish (trout, salmon, swordfish, mackerel, tuna and sardines), mushrooms, fortified cereals, tofu, dairy products, pork and eggs.

About the Author:

Kristen Chang
Kristen Chang

Kristen Chang, MS, RDN, CSSD is the current President of the Southwest Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, an adjunct instructor for Virginia Tech and Radford University and the owner of the nutrition private practice, Real Food For Fuel, LLC.

Eat to Boost Immunity: Tip # 2

Nutr and Immune Health Tip 2 graphic

As a sports dietitian, I am often counseling athletes on the importance of a healthy diet in maintaining a strong immune system to ensure consistent training year round.  Today, I am going to share a second nutritional strategy that has been shown to boost immune health.

Swap unhealthy (saturated) fats in your diet for healthy (unsaturated) fats, which are both anti-inflammatory and immune boosting.

Instead of aiming for low-fat foods, aim to replace sources of saturated fat in your diet for healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, which support hormone production and help fight inflammation in order to keep our immune system strong.

More specifically, essential fatty acids (omega-3’s and Omega-6’s) play a role in the production of eicosanoids, a class of chemical messengers involved in your body’s immune and inflammatory response.

These healthy fats can be found in avocadoes, nuts (especially walnuts!), sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds, olives, flaxseed and wheat germ, chia seeds and fatty fish varieties.

About the Author

Kristen Chang
Kristen Chang

Kristen Chang, MS, RDN, CSSD is the current President of the Southwest Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, an adjunct instructor for Virginia Tech and Radford University and the owner of the nutrition private practice, Real Food For Fuel, LLC.

Eat to Boost Immunity: Tip #1

Nutr and Immune Health Tip 1 graphic

With the arrival of colder temperatures in the winter months also arrives cold and flu season. While it may seem like getting sick at some point is inevitable, there are many nutritional strategies that can be applied (year round, really!) to boost the strength of your immune system and decrease your chances.  Today, I am going to share the first of many top nutritional strategies that have been show to boost immune health.

 Consume a diet that is adequate in overall calories, balanced among the all three macronutrients, and rich in nutrient dense foods.

Chronic calorie deficit over time, whether through failure to meet needs or intentional dieting for weight loss, can lead to impaired immune health in that it decreases the energy available to support normal bodily functions. Calorie deficit without careful consideration of diet quality can also lead to insufficient intake of vitamins and minerals related to immune health, including vitamins C, E, B6, A and D, Folate, Iron, Selenium and Zinc.

Aim to include not only fruits and vegetables with each meal, but also quality lean proteins and whole grains too. A few high antioxidant foods to consider in boosting immune health include grapes, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, nuts and seeds, any dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes and other orange vegetables, beans, fish and whole grains!

About the Author

Kristen Chang
Kristen Chang

Kristen Chang, MS, RDN, CSSD is the current current President of the Southwest Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, an adjunct instructor for Virginia Tech and Radford University and the owner of the nutrition private practice, Real Food For Fuel, LLC.

Your Dietetics Career Plan

Your Dietetics Career Plan

Its best to think of a career plan as a continually evolving structure.  Our perspective and goals change as we gain experience over time. We need to continually evaluate our values and skills. Developing a career plan every couple of years is a way to explore available options and make desirable life changes.

The following is a summary of the five main components of a career plan.

1.      A self-assessment

We need to learn about ourselves and the ways in which we have changed over time. Developing a new career plan allows for this by beginning with a self-assessment. Answer questions such as:

  •     Which aspects of dietetics/nutrition interest me the most?
  •     What skills have I acquired over the past few years?
  •     What do I value most in my life?
  •     How could my career address my top values?

2.      Determining career goals

At this step, we will determine 2 to 4 career goals. This is an extension of our self-assessment and includes visualizing the future. Where do we want to be in 2 years from now? 5 years from now? and 10 years from now?

One easy way to do this is to imagine a typical day in our future.

  • How will I describe to friends and family what I do for a living?
  • Who will I work with?
  • How much time will I spend working?
  • What will my role be at work? (Will I be an administrator or an employee, a leader or a follower, overseeing or enacting?)
  • What will I love about my job?
  • How much money will I earn? (What kind of lifestyle will I be able to afford?)
  • How much responsibility will I have? (A lot, moderate amounts, or very little?)

Completing a small job search is helpful in expanding our perspective. Even if we are not currently looking for a job, this kind of search helps us recognize unique opportunities. After contemplation about the information we collected, we can develop our career goals. Here are some examples:

·        Career Goal 1: My career will allow for work-life balance in that I will never work more than 40 hours per week, have flexibility to tend to family, have all major holidays off, and have 4 or more weeks of paid vacation per year.

·        Career Goal 2: I will specialize in diabetes management. 

3.      A gap analysis

After we determine our goals, we need to determine the gap between ‘where we are’ and ‘where we want to be.’ This will help us determine education, experience, and skills needed to meet our goals.

  • Complete an online search and interview a few role models to determine the education, experience, and skill criteria needed to meet your goals.
  • Rate your current level for each of these criteria.

Here is an example: I want to be an expert in diabetes management.

a.      I need formal/certification training, 1500 hours of experience working with patients with diabetes, and honed nutrition counseling skills.

b.      I do not have formal training (CDE). I have ~50 hours of experience. I am new to nutrition counseling and would rate my skills as low.

4.      Identifying needs

Apply the results from the gap analysis to identify training and experience needs. We may need more exposure to a particular clientele. We may need more education. We may need more leadership experience or to hone our communication skills. Review your gap analysis and identify at least 3 needs to work on.

Remember that we need support in order to grow. Some of our needs will include time, monetary support, and social support. Always ask employers for assistance to improve your professional expertise. Presenting them with a plan and a list of ways in which they will benefit are useful negotiating tactics.

5.      Developing a plan

Finally, we will use all the gathered information to develop a plan of action. Now that we know our needs, we will find ways to meet those needs. We will research the steps it takes, the resources, and the pathway that is best suited for us.

Answer the following questions to help develop a plan.

  • How do I get certified as a diabetes educator?
  • How much does it cost? How much time does it take? What steps are required?
  • Where can I find the time, money, and self-guided experience to complete the certification?
  • Who will support me during my growth period?
  • How can I include this in my CDR Personal Development Plan?

Start planning today to obtain your dream career tomorrow!

 

Devon L Golem PhD RD

 

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD is the founder of the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals. She has spent over a decade providing education and career guidance to nutrition students, interns, and professionals.

Connect with Devon on LinkedIn and ask her for a career plan template.

How Interviews Can Make You Sick

How Interviews Can Make You

Here are several ways that interviews can make you sick and how to avoid them:

Anticipation Anxiety

In our anticipation for the interview we worry, we stress, and we overthink. It is super easy to get nervous several days or weeks in advance. This anxiety leads to sleepless nights, skipped workouts, and stress eating. Our minds are filled with chatter, questions, and doubt. During this time, we stop taking care of ourselves, physically and mentally.

Making a plan and scheduling time to prep every day prior to the interview is the best way to reduce interview anxiety.

Our confidence grows with practice and education. So, learn about the organization/employer, the position, and yourself. Practice interview questions and answers aloud.  Getting used to hearing your own voice aloud while honing the answers you provide builds interview confidence.

Interview Diet & Dehydration

Not only do we fill the days before the interview with an “off-brand” diet, but then we tend to eat abnormally on the day of the interview. Some of us eat a larger breakfast than normal while some of us skip it completely.

During the interview, we act as if we are on a first date and eat scarcely. We avoid any spills, slops, and unsightly mouth wrestling while chomping on our food. Since we spend most the time talking, we eat and drink sparingly. (It’s always best not to choke or hack up food when on an interview.)

This leaves us undernourished and dehydrated. Not ideal for performance time. To counteract, eat all meals and snacks as usual prior to the interview. At the interview, bring your own water bottle filled with a sports drink. A little extra glucose, electrolytes, and fluid will help handle the elevated cortisol levels and increased energy needs.

Playing the Quarterback

The mind games that we play afterward can make us sick. Like a quarterback, many of us tend to replay scenes of the interview over and over again. “Should I have said this? Did they find my joke funny? Was I wearing the right clothes? What did he mean by…?”

Many questions circulate in our heads. If we spend too much time dwelling, we can make ourselves sick. The best way to handle this is to schedule a time immediately after the interview to give yourself a synopsis or summary. In your car, put a 5 min timer on your phone and answer these questions:

·        Overall, how do I feel?

·        Do I think I got the position?

·        Do I want the position?

·        What did I learn from this interview that I will use in future interviews?

If you keep your thoughts on the big picture and focus on your gut feelings, then you will be able to avoid the hours of mental torture on trivial aspects. In the grand scheme of things, you either feel good or you don’t. Learn to trust your gut and accept what you cannot change.

Doubt

The underlying issue behind interview illness is doubt. Self-doubt leads to impulsive behavior and bad decisions. Your overall goal prior to the interview should be to build your confidence. There are a few ways to do this.

  • Recognize your ability and drive to learn. You are not supposed to know every aspect of the position at the interview. Employers would rather have someone who is eager and able to learn than someone who knows it all. Believe it or not, good employers want to train you and shape you. They want to know that you are flexible in learning and using their protocols and procedures.
  • Remind yourself that things always work out. Life is not going to end if you have a horrible interview. Applying for several positions and taking several interviews is going to help reinforce this notion. Remind yourself that you have always succeeded and overcome challenges in the past and you always will in the future. Your mind believes what you tell it. So, tell it that you are a wonderful person who always succeeds.
  • Do not limit your opportunities. Check out all of your options and compare them. Apply to several positions. Do not retract your application unless you had a dramatic life change since you applied. You can reserve your decision until after you are offered the job. If you are offered a job before you have completed other interviews, then ask for more time to decide (or request earlier interviews). It is okay to let your interviewers know that you have other interviews. You are not obligated to any one job until you accept it.

Notice that all of these requires certainty. Be certain in your decisions. Take your time, trust your gut, and do not get caught up in the small details. Have confidence in yourself. You will take care of yourself. You will be prepared. You will do well and you will make the right decision.

About the Author

Devon L Golem PhD RD

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Dr. Golem is the Professional Education Chair of the VAND.  She has founded the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals this summer.  She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Lunch Lady Doris.

What is Gut Health?

GUT Health

Gut health is becoming more and more popular these days, but, what really is it?

The gut is referring to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  This tract starts at the mouth and ends at the…other end.  So, it includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.

The main function of the gut is to absorb nutrients from the food we consume while ridding the body of solid waste.  Yet, it has many other important functions like keeping harmful substances out of our bodies and cultivating a bounty of useful bacteria.  If it does these things well, then it is healthy.  If it does not do these things well…illness ensues.

Bacteria is normally thought of in a negative manner, but a healthy gut is filled with millions of different types of healthy bacteria.  This bacteria can aid with the digestion of nutrients, support a healthy immune system, and even stimulate the nervous system to function properly.

Negative bacteria does find its way into the gut and when it does, it cause some major symptoms…diarrhea/constipation, excessive gas, intestinal inflammation, and even acne.  More and more research reveals a connection between negative bacteria in the gut and conditions such as depression, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity.

How to avoid negative bacteria in the gut

There are many causes of an imbalance between positive and negative gut bacteria.  Some of them cannot be helped such as aging or being ill.

Stress, unhealthy dietary habits, and the use of antibiotics are among the causes that can be helped.  Reducing and managing stress does wonders for gut health.  Avoiding antibiotics unless absolutely necessary saves healthy bacteria from being wiped out for months to years.  That’s right…one week-long treatment of antibiotics can clear out all the good going on in the intestine.

Healthy eating is key to good intestinal health.  A variety of plant foods is necessary to have a variety of strains of health bacteria in the gut.  Consuming prebiotics and probiotics promotes gut health too.  Prebiotics are food components that promote bacterial growth. They are found in a lot of plant foods including asparagus, onions, garlic, and some legumes.  Probiotics are foods that contain live bacteria such as yogurt and kefir.

Conclusion

More and more evidence indicates that a healthy body is dependent on a healthy gut which is dependent on a healthy diet.  Eat well!

About the Author

Devon L Golem PhD RD

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Dr. Golem is the Professional Education Chair of the VAND.  She has founded the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals this summer.  She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Lunch Lady Doris.

Combining Services to Increase Access to Local Produce

Summer Vegetation for Everyone

Summer is a wonderful time to buy fresh produce- everything seems to be in abundance! The juicy tomatoes are making their mark on every sandwich and salad, the summer squash add their bright color and flavor to any dinner dish, and the bountiful fresh herbs can be thrown into every single meal to add a flavor profile that is complex in taste but easy in practice. What an opportune time to fill up on the local Virginia produce!

But, what about those that cannot always afford to purchase fresh produce or shop at local farmer’s markets?

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program

The Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) is supported by the VA Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services-Division of Aging, the VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the USDA. The FMNP provides checks to Seniors and WIC families for the purchase of local produce at Farmers Markets. The Augusta-Staunton Health Department, one of seven serving the Central Shenandoah Health District, began issuing Farmer’s Market checks 2 years ago to their WIC participants hoping to enable them to obtain fresh fruit and vegetables. This Health District is in fact the largest in Virginia, in terms of square mileage, and is filled with rural areas.

Another Challenge – Access

For some living in rural areas, access to food assistance programs is a major challenge. Through a survey the Augusta-Staunton Health Department conducted with their WIC clients, they came to understand that while their clients were enthusiastic about the possibility of receiving local produce, many did not have the time nor means of transportation to travel to their nearest Farmers Markets during their operational days.

Increasing Access – The Farmer’s Market Initiative

To address this issue and increase access to produce, the Augusta-Staunton Health Department WIC Program decided to bring the farmers market directly to the WIC location. The goal is to bring the local farmers to the Health Department on a day when WIC clients will already be coming to the Health Department for other WIC services, thereby reducing the difficulty of transportation issues.

Along with several partners:

  • Project GROWS, a non-profit farm located in Verona
  • Troyer’s Produce located in Waynesboro
  • JMD Farms located in Staunton

Project GROWS, who acts as the Fiscal Manager, was chosen for this joint venture

  • both Project GROWS and the WIC Program have common goals of improving the health of young children through access to nutritious foods
  • because of their experience is successfully running two other Farmers Markets in Augusta County.

 

The WIC participants are able to come in for their appointments, check-ups and nutrition education programs, receive their Farmers Market Vouchers, and then proceed to spend their Farmers Market checks to purchase fresh produce from the farmers right there on the Health Department property!

Since the start of the Health Department Farmers Market Initiative on July 8th, the return rate of the Farmers Market checks has increased dramatically. This successful initiative means that

  • WIC participants are able to have easier access to fresh produce that promote their good health
  • local farmers are finding a new way to increase their selling capacity, which ultimately enhances the local economy.

You can find pictures from their Farmer’s Market on Facebook at the Central Shenandoah Health District and you can contact the Staunton Health Department at (540) 332-7830 to find out more information on who is able to receive these Farmers Market checks as well as ways you can help enhance their initiative.

You can also contact Project GROWS at http://www.projectgrows.org if you are looking to volunteer your time on the farm harvesting and tending to their beds!

It always feels good doing something to help out your community and volunteering with a local farm can provide a whole new appreciation for the fresh local food we are able to enjoy here in Virginia!

Jenna Clark from Project GROWS

Photo 1: Jenna Clark, from Project GROWS, sets up for the first Health Department Farmers Market. Credit to the Facebook page of Central Shenandoah Health District.

 

Trayers Produce and Project GROWS

Photo 2: Troyer’s Produce and Project GROWS attract some happy clients during the Farmers Market. Credit to the Facebook page of Central Shenandoah Health District.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kat Huntley

Kat Huntley is a senior at James Madison University, where she majors in Dietetics and serves as the Vice President of the Dietetics Association. She enjoys being an engaged community member and looks to stay active in her volunteer work geared towards improving the equity of healthy food access. She has a passion for advocating for the health of the vulnerable and believes that food is a fundamental part of life that has the power to bring people together! Contact: huntleks@dukes.jmu.edu

Kids Eat Right in August

Kids Eat Right logo

This infographic is from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Visit eatright.org for more information on healthful eating or to find a registered dietitian nutritionist.

August is Kids Eat Right month!  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation sponsored this campaign to promote public education.  The Foundation is dedicated to providing  new resources to help kids eat better and move more.  Funding and resources are provided to active members to use in schools and in the community.  Take a look at some of these resources.

Many of these resources are available online.  Take a look at these links to learn how to encourage children to live healthy.

Webinars  (Free CPEU opportunities for dietetic professionals!)

Toolkits (Learn how healthy living is incorporated at home, school and during recreation.)

A Kids Webpage  (For all ages.  Tips, recipes, and helpful information.)

May you have a happy and healthy August!

 

About the Author:

Devon L Golem PhD RD

Devon L. Golem, PhD, RD

Dr. Golem is the Professional Education Chair of the VAND.  She has founded the Institute of Continuing Education for Nutrition Professionals this summer.  She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her husband, Alex, and their dog, Lunch Lady Doris.