Introducing the UNLV Nutrition Sciences Master’s Degree

Ever considered getting a master’s in nutrition? Maybe it’s a clear “yes” (because you just love school and nutrition that much!), or maybe a “no way!”, or perhaps a “maybe someday”. For quite a while, though, UNLV did not offer a nutrition master’s degree and nutrition students were limited to pursuing a graduate degree elsewhere or otherwise settling on another area of study for graduate work. But thanks to the work of UNLV nutrition faculty, the Nutrition Sciences Master’s Program will be happening right here at UNLV, this fall. Dr. Laura Kruskall, Director of UNLV Nutrition Sciences and the UNLV Dietetic Internship, has devoted tremendous time and effort to establish this long-awaited program and proudly shares what the program will offer to prospective graduate students. With the master’s degree option, both future and current registered dietitians may enhance their skills and even pave the way for salary increases. Here’s what you should know about the Master of Science in Nutrition Sciences degree at UNLV.

It took a while (and lots of work) to establish.

A master’s in nutrition seems pretty essential to offer university nutrition and health students. Unfortunately, it took some time to convince administrators to see it that way. The process, according to Dr. Kruskall, was a long and tedious battle involving not only overcoming technicalities like paperwork but also persuasion. The first step was submitting a proposal to the Dean of Allied Health Sciences, explaining the importance of a nutrition Master’s program for UNLV students. Once the proposal was officially received, the faculty and administration voted to confirm the master’s program proposal– a nearly unanimous “yes”, according to Dr. Kruskall.

It will offer both research and clinical practice tracks.

Maybe you want to do research, or become a registered dietitian, or maybe even both– whichever the case, this program will work for you. The Nutrition Sciences Master’s Program will offer two distinct study tracks: an independent thesis track, geared toward preparing students to compose their master’s theses and conduct nutrition and health-related research; and a clinical case study track, in which students have the opportunity to learn about and practice nutrition interventions and prevention techniques in the community. The latter track, says Dr. Kruskall, is a unique opportunity for current and prospective dietitians to develop new clinical skills and refine existing skills. One of the overarching goals she intends for the program is a fresh emphasis on chronic disease prevention in the community, and by working with local hospitals and health centers students can practice this emphasis through the clinical case study track. On the other hand, nutrition students who may or may not aim for an internship, and current dietitians who wish to contribute more to the field, may apply for the research track. Dr. Kruskall believes that both tracks are excellent ways to “shape the expertise of the registered dietitian”.

It will offer a flexible curriculum tailored to the student’s interests.

This will be no rigidly structured program. Aside from the study track distinctions, the master’s degree curriculum will offer 9 elective credit courses teaching specialties in nutrition such as genomics, sports nutrition, and more, and core classes teaching a variety of nutrition disciplines such as clinical nutrition. Within the research track, there is even an entire course dedicated to writing research grants! Outside of these specific classes, however, a student may also complete courses from related studies, such as kinesiology and public health, provided they are approved by a program committee. “Within this program, there is room to allow you, the student, to develop expertise in in your area of interest”, Dr. Kruskall assures.

In 2024, all dietetics students will require a Master’s to sit for the RDN exam — meaning this will affect all students entering college this Fall.

That’s right: any student starting college this year who wants to become a registered dietitian will require a 4 year DPND bachelor’s degree, an internship experience, and a 2-year nutrition master’s degree to sit for the exam and become licensed. Very few registered dietitians in the state of Nevada hold master’s degrees, and only a fraction across the entire country hold doctoral degrees, Dr. Kruskall mentions, which limits both nutrition research and potential faculty for nutrition programs at colleges and universities. It is hoped that this new requirement will grow a new generation of advanced nutrition degree holders across the country.

Maybe you can be one of them, too! Are you planning to get a master’s in nutrition, and does the program at UNLV sound appealing to you?

Spring foods in season

Now that we find ourselves in the middle of spring (hard to believe since spring break has just come and gone!), it is an excellent time to share some yummy and healthful foods you can find in the spring months. Here are a few!

Artichokes

I’m sure at least a few saw the picture and thought “what exactly is that mythical beast?” In truth, that is an artichoke plant. The tender artichoke flowers can also be consumed, but it is the scaly bud of the plant we all know and love. You’ll love it even more when you see that they are also rich in fiber, thiamin, and vitamins A and C, and probably also when you try delicious garlic artichokes.

Arugula

Arugula, also commonly called “rocket salad”, offers a rather spicy kick to any salad. It is available year-round but at its best in the cool early spring months, and offers generous amounts of folate and vitamins A, C, and K. Those pretty flowers you see above? Those are also edible. You might have luck finding those at a local farmer’s market, and if you do, please do make a bacon arugula blossom salad and let me know how it is! (if I don’t try it first, that is…)

Fava beans

Favas are generally at peak between March and May, and offer much in the way of protein, B vitamins, and several minerals. Fava beans are fairly easy to cook up, especially when prepared fresh, and are great sautéed.

Purslane

You have likely never even heard of it, but purslane is an intriguing plant that has been in use as far back as ancient Greece. Purslane is also technically a weed, so cultures disagree on whether to burn it or eat it! However, if you break down and try it you’ll find that purslane is actually a great leafy green similar in taste to spinach and rich in many of the same vitamins and minerals. Best of all: purslane has more omega-3 than any other plant food. 

Go ahead and try some in this delicious purslane pesto recipe.

Rhubarb

CAUTION: These leaves are poisonous!

Rhubarb is often thought of as a fruit, cooked like a fruit, and is even legally considered a fruit in New York, but is actually a vegetable that looks almost exactly like celery. Because the stalks are so bitter, rhubarb is usually prepared with ungodly amounts of sugar (like in good old rhubarb pie). Here are a few healthier recipes, both sweet and savory, that will allow you to enjoy the great taste and antioxidants that these red stalks offer without the sugar crash (just don’t include the leaves: they contain oxalic acid and other poisons).

Nutrition in Archaeology

Food remains discovered at a Pompeii excavation site: grape seeds, fig seeds, fish bones, and a sea urchin shell.

Today I am sharing a post relating two seemingly unrelated topics: nutrition and archaeology. Last fall, I decided to take an archaeology class to fulfill my last social sciences credit, because why not? It turned out to be one of the coolest and most interesting classes I have ever taken. Even now, I still sometimes play out scenarios in my head where I am a part of a great archaeological team excavating something cool in Eastern Europe or Mesopotamia. Archaeology is seen by a lot of people as unimportant, and nothing more than interesting information about the past to waste our time on. Yet understanding the past is extremely important for interpreting our present, for finding out technologies that work or don’t work for us, and for avoiding some of the pitfalls humanity has faced in the last tens of thousands of years.

Can archaeology offer us anything insightful about nutrition? Definitely. One branch of archaeology, called bioarchaeology, studies the remains of plants and animals rather than the inorganic structures like tools and buildings that archaeology is known for. With bioarchaeology, scientists can determine the kinds of foods that people in the past ate and the effects of those foods on their overall health. And from this information, the archaeologist can determine the impact of diet on entire societies.

Reconstructing diet

Humans have been eating food since the day humans became a thing. With a variety of technologies, archaeologists can figure out the diet of even the oldest human remains. The process of interpreting the diet of past people is referred to as diet reconstruction. With more recently deceased bodies, or bodies that are well-preserved by mummification or peat bogs, scientists can assess nutrition status by looking at hair and fingernails, or even directly inside the gastrointestinal tract to find out their last meal.

But what about this guy?

How do we find out what they ate if there’s no intestinal tract left? One way archaeologists work with skeletons is with osteoarchaeology, which assesses the structure of ancient bones and teeth to determine the diet or diseases that have impacted them. Frail bones can indicate malnourishment while dental caries (or cavities) indicate the kinds of carbohydrates in their diet. Yet another method scientists use is called stable isotope analysis, which looks at the proportions of different elements left on a fossil to find out what plants or animals may have been consumed. Scientists also use this method to find food remains in pottery, cookware, and other inorganic objects.

A fragment of the oldest non-stick cookware ever found.

How does this help us today?

Nutrition is a pretty new science, as we may all be aware; there weren’t “dietitians” thousands of years ago (that we know of). Plus, archaeology doesn’t really function to tell us what proper nutrition is or what role the different nutrients play in our health. But one thing archaeology accomplishes so well is illustrate the impact of diet on entire societies and even cultures.

One example is the transition of human societies from hunting and gathering to farming. Back when humans hunted and gathered, or essentially got their food from the wild, they had survived on plant foods like berries and tubers in addition to animal meat, and very little on complex carbohydrates; this is referred to as the “Paleolithic” diet (which is where we get the “Paleo” diet from today). While very nutrient dense, these food sources weren’t very reliable, and often people would go days or even weeks without food. Communities could not grow very large due to competition for meals. It was a hard life.

Once humans learned to farm, though, the opposite happened. Grain was domesticated and farmers not only grew enough but even made surpluses. Finally, people had a reliable source of food and communities could grow into towns and then into cities. This is known as the agricultural revolution and has made humanity into what it is today. The big downside to surviving off meat and grains alone, though, is obvious: such little diversity leads to nutritional deficiency and many diseases. This change in the human diet affects many of us even today: it reduced the average human stature and may have influenced the development of certain chronic diseases.

But strangely, while Europe, the Middle East, and Mesoamerica suffered these negative consequences, the bad effects on human health did not happen in Asia after they took up rice agriculture. While it’s not totally clear why, this observation is leading some food scientists to conclude that rice may be a better carbohydrate source than corn or wheat for overall health, at least in some populations. Of course, this is just one important finding: you can find more info about nutrition-related archaeology findings here.

So archaeology is not just super interesting – it can also be incredibly important for the field of nutrition. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past… especially when it comes to our diets!

The Deal with Sugar

Lump Sugar, Sugar, Cubes, White, Sweet, Candy

Sugar is one of the hottest topics in the field of nutrition. Some say it’s fine, some say it’s awful, and some consider it literally the devil. One thing for certain is that sugar intake is an important issue that often poses many questions to the health-conscious. While the verdict has not been reached on all of these, here are some evidence-based approaches to these questions.

Is sugar “bad” for you?

The answer might be an easy “yes” but the truth is that it depends. Just like with other calorie sources, like other carbohydrates as well as fats and proteins, sugar itself is not bad but becomes a problem if you eat too much of it. Sugar is a large component of healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and is the primary source of energy for your brain. Unfortunately, sugar is very easy to overdo and has become almost ubiquitous in our food supply, appearing not just in desserts and soft drinks but also breads, cereals, and even sauces. Research links the overconsumption of sugar (more than 10% of calories per day) to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Is added sugar more harmful than natural sugar?

You’ve probably heard the claim that your body processes “natural” sugar differently than it does refined sugar. Sugars do exist chemically in different forms, as the monosaccharides glucose, fructose, and galactose, or as disaccharides that are a combination of the monosaccharides (sucrose, or table sugar, is a combo of glucose and fructose, for example).  But in truth, your body can’t tell the difference between the fructose from an apple and the fructose from table sugar once it reaches the liver and is metabolized. What does make the difference, however, is that foods with natural sugars are often rich in vitamins, minerals, and importantly fiber, which functions to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Added sugars, on the other hand, are “empty” calories, meaning they provide energy  but little to none of the nutritional value that the apple would provide. In this sense, natural sugars are definitely better than added sugars.

Fruits, Vitamins, Orange, Healthy, Food, Apple, Lemon

How much sugar should we consume?

The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar, and women no more than 25 grams of added sugar. One of the objectives of Healthy People 2020 is to limit the population’s consumption of added sugar to less than 10% of total calories; according to their data, however, in 2003-08 Americans consumed an average of 15% their daily calorie intake as added sugar (so someone consuming 2,000 calories a day took in about 75 grams of added sugar every day). It’s very clear that overall, people are far exceeding recommendations for sugar intake.

How can I limit my sugar intake?

First off, remember that if you’re eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables a day, you don’t have to worry about the sugar found in those because you’re getting so many nutrients! What is important to limit is added sugar, since it provides no nutritional benefits. One of the largest contributors to added sugar intake is soft drinks, which can contain as much as 40 grams of sugar per serving.  Swapping out soda with water is a great way to eliminate unnecessary calories; if you aren’t a fan of plain water, try flavoring it with lemon or low-calorie water flavors. You can also enjoy unsweetened iced tea or coffee, but keep in mind the caffeine content. Another source of added sugar to watch out for is “health” foods like fruit juices and granola bars. Often, sugar is even “hidden” in foods that we wouldn’t expect to have sugar at all, like bread and pasta sauce. So how can we pinpoint these hidden sugars? How can you tell if a food naturally contains sugar or has some added? The first place to check is the food label: sometimes, the label will state that the product “contains no added sugar”. Otherwise, your best bet is the ingredients list. Ingredients that indicate added sugar include corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave, brown sugar, honey, and fruit juice concentrate (note that even though some of these are natural, they are still types of added sugar). Also, an ingredient’s placement in the list indicates how much of the product it makes up, so if sugar is the first or second ingredient then you can expect a very sugary food item. Luckily, the FDA will be rolling out a brand new food label next year that indicates added sugars, making this process a lot easier for consumers!

What about zero-calorie sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, or stevia?

Noncaloric sweeteners can be a helpful alternative to sweeten up foods without adding extra calories. So far, studies have not found artificial sweeteners to be harmful to health or linked to diseases in humans. There are some drawbacks, such as potential headaches, increased appetite, and an unpleasant aftertaste. Most importantly, artificial sweeteners may not be safe for people with certain health conditions, for example people with the condition phenylketonuria cannot tolerate aspartame due to it containing the amino acid phenyalanine. But overall, noncaloric sweeteners can be a useful replacement for sugar in many recipes. The artificial sweeteners, like sucralose, are fine to use, but if you prefer a “natural” alternative you can try monk fruit or stevia extract.

National Nutrition Month: Put Your Best Fork Forward

National Nutrition Month 2017

It’s finally that time again! National Nutrition Month is the best month of the year, and this year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward”. Such a statement emphasizes that every one of us holds the power to make healthy food choices in our very hands, and those choices can start happening this month, right now. That is true whether you’re eating with a fork, a spoon, or just your hands!

What is National Nutrition Month?

National Nutrition month began in 1973 as National Nutrition Week, but expanded into a month-long observance beginning in 1980. National Nutrition Month is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is intended to promote public awareness of healthy eating and lifestyle choices, particularly showing individuals and communities the practical ways they can begin making healthy choices. Every year has its own unique theme (you can look at the past themes at the link above) that ties into a specific aspect of eating healthy and how it applies to anyone at any time.

How can I get involved?

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Volunteer for events

There are many events coming up, some in just a few days. SNDA will be deeply involved in promoting National Nutrition Month on campus over the next few weeks. You can volunteer with these events for a hands-on experience, or even just attend and hang out to get yourself in the NNM spirit. The following are just a few examples of what SNDA is organizing this month:

Tuesday, March 14: Juice and salad bar at Pida Plaza | Join SNDA as we serve up healthy food demonstrations, provide some information on nutritious and quick meals, and spread the word about healthy eating. You can volunteer, or just come hang out. It will take place from 11:30am until 3:30pm.

Tuesday, March 28: Farmer’s Market at Pida Plaza | Browse a selection of nutritious, local produce and take part in fun games and activities. This is also happening from 11:30am-3:30pm.

Many more to come! Keep checking the SNDA calendar to stay up-to-date on what will be happening on campus and in the community this month.

Eat, Carrots, Peas, Healthy, Of Course

Spread the word on healthy eating

We in SNDA have access to valuable knowledge about maintaining healthy diets — it would be a shame to keep it to ourselves! Outside of helping with events, there are other ways you can promote health and nutrition to your family and peers. The Academy shares videos, fact sheets, and activity ideas on their National Nutrition Month webpage. You can also share healthy recipes, including the ones shared on this blog, on the Academy’s website, or anywhere on the Net/anything you might come up with yourself!

Fruit, Dragonfruit, Pitaya, Pink, White, Seeds, Eating

Try a new food every day of the month

How many different fruits and vegetables do you eat? We might think we get quite the diverse selection in our daily lives, but the truth is that there are so many foods that a majority of us have even tasted. Consider just plant foods: outside of what we normally eat, there are hundreds of other different varieties of fruits and vegetables that provide beneficial nutrients. How about dragonfruit, dandelion greens, and countless other intriguing foods?  Some of these may be exclusive to cultural markets, but others can be found at grocers like Sprouts and Trader Joe’s. If you start now, you could have at least 20 new food items down by the end of the month!

So don’t even start on the laters or the tomorrows; now is the perfect time to begin educating our community about health and nutrition, to stop and consider our own food choices, and work together in putting our best forks forward. How will you get involved?

(Happy belated National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day!)

 

Fun Snack foods!

Very few of us strictly prescribe to a 3-meal routine. No matter how filling our meals may seem, the midday munchies still come around to haunt us. As you probably know, snacking has a pretty bad reputation and is even considered a “bad” habit. So why do we always want to snack? Is it some kind of temptation we must resist to test our character?

Actually, snacking is an incredibly important component of a healthy diet, especially if you maintain a busy lifestyle, are regularly moving, and constantly rack your brain to solve problems: so, especially if you are a UNLV student! The bad news is, a majority of the snack options we are offered — like cookies and potato chips — are full of calories and devoid of nutritional value. Yet if we try to wean ourselves off of them and head right for the baby carrots, we can become bored pretty quickly, too.

Don’t worry, friends; you  need not ever be bored of your snack options with delicious ideas like these.

Coconut Pumpkin Seed Bar

A simple recipe for Coconut Pumpkin Seed Snacks infused with lime and honey. Easy, delicious! Vegan and gluten free! | www.feastingathome.com

A mix of pumpkin seeds and coconut flakes drizzled with honey and toasted in the oven — sooo good! A batch takes about 30 minutes to bake, but are a great to snack prep for the week. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein and fiber and provide some minerals, and will keep you satisfied for some time.

Kale Chips

Kale chips are a way cooler version of potato chips and a much healthier way to get that crunch you desire. Just line them up on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the edges are brown. Enjoy the vitamins and fiber!

Peanut Butter with Anything, Really

Peanut butter, or basically any nut butter, is an excellent topping and counterpart to nearly any food, and its easy application makes it ideal for those of us on-the-go. As a plus, due to their rich protein and fat content, nut butters can lower the glycemic index of even starchy foods when eaten with them, which will help you avoid a draining blood sugar spike post-snack. So enjoy a spoonful with banana slices, spread onto whole grain toast or a bagel, or dip in celery sticks or carrots.

Decorated Deviled Eggs

deviled-eggs-861773_1280

Deviled eggs are the poster child of party hors d’oeuvres, but they also serve as a nice afternoon snack and pack plenty of protein to keep you satisfied until dinner. Boil a batch of eggs and whip up a delicious filling (you can use hummus instead of mayonnaise for a lighter version). Then garnish with an endless variety of toppings: bell peppers, olives, carrots, or even berries and pineapple! Here is a very unique recipe for pineapple deviled eggs.

Salted Caramel Popcorn

Popcorn on its own is great for a light snack, when it’s not drizzled with layers of butter and salt, that is. If you still want that salty kick, and maybe some sweetness, too, try this delicious salted caramel popcorn that delivers both without excessive sugar or sodium.

Veggies and Hummus

We all know veggies are just the best! But to make them more interesting, and to add some filling protein and healthy fat, throw some delicious hummus into the mix. Together, they provide fiber, vitamins, and energy to get through the middle of your day.You can spice up regular hummus with some cumin and cayenne pepper and squeeze a lemon onto the veggies for added taste.

We never want to get bored of eating healthy, so it’s always a great idea to try new things when it comes to snacking. Are there any snacks you enjoy putting together to mix up your routine? Share in the comments below!

 

Balancing a healthy (and busy) lifestyle

Do you ever feel like you’re just short on time? Like there are things you want to do, that you should do, or even that you need to do yet your everyday tasks leave you with no room to accomplish them?

I know this feeling all too well. Juggling a full course load, 3 jobs, and my volunteer responsibilities takes its toll on me daily. When I stop to look at what I’m really doing, I notice what I put first every day and what I sometimes end up putting on the back burner. What goes first is work, because money, and school, because I need to graduate and get a career someday to make more money (feels like there’s some kind of theme here…).

What goes on the back burner? Easy: working out. Eating healthy foods. Getting enough sleep. The things that don’t seem important immediately, but that we all know will catch up to us eventually. What makes it worse is that the very thought of trying to balance all those responsibilities stresses me out big time, which is obviously not healthy either. But living the healthy life isn’t just “good for us” in some otherworldly sense; being physically healthy can give us the strength and energy we need to fully balance our busy lives in the first place and to get through our everyday difficulties and struggles. Like the struggle of stressing about what little time we have.

So clearly, there’s some good motivation right there to at least try. But the question is, how can we balance a healthy lifestyle with work, school, and our  relationships without freaking out? There isn’t any easy answer to that question, and it will probably take some time. But I will share with you some of the advice I have been given and what has worked for me in my life. If you are short on time on a regular basis, here are a few suggestions for staying fit and healthy.

EATING HEALTHY

Be open to microwave meals

I’m not talking about salty TV dinners here. With a microwave, you can cook up oatmeal, scrambled eggs, rice, and even a salmon fillet in a fraction of the time it takes conventionally. By the way, there is no solid evidence that microwave cooking is harmful or linked to diseases and, in fact, the shorter cooking time may better preserve nutrients. Try adding some of these microwave recipes  to your busy day!

Invest in a Crock Pot

Instead of spending an hour or two cooking up meals, you can have dinner ready for later or lunch for the next day by slow-cooking your foods a couple hours or overnight in a Crock Pot. With a price tag of $20-$60 on average, they won’t necessarily bust your wallet, either. Here are several easy recipes to throw in a crock pot, some requiring only a few ingredients.

Meal prep (the easy way)

In a perfect world, everyone would meal prep and enjoy a full week of healthy, hassle-free, on-the-go meals. The reality is that we often drop this practice after getting sick of all the planning, cutting, and portioning it entails. But meal prepping doesn’t have to be as exhaustive as we sometimes make it. One suggestion is to not go crazy about cutting and cooking, but simply throwing whole foods together in creative combinations. For example, you can package a week’s worth of breakfast by pouring oatmeal and your favorite fruits into some mason jars for quick hot cereal in the morning or, my favorite, overnight oats.

(For overnight oats, a simple recipe combines ½ cup oats, ½ cup almond milk, a few teaspoons of honey, and a topping of bananas, blueberries, and chia seeds. You can also try some of these more creative variations).

Image result for meal prep meme

Pictured: not a recommended way to meal prep

 

STAYING FIT

Cardio: shorten your time and raise your intensity

If time is your dilemma, there are ways you can shorten your workout and still reap the benefits. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to go jogging for an hour in the morning to stay fit. You can hop on the treadmill for a high-intensity interval workout for 15-20 minutes, or onto the mat for a Tabata routine in even less time. One study found that just 10 minutes of a high-intensity Tabata style cycle workout  led to improved fitness in only a few weeks.

Get your pals in on it, too

This isn’t just major motivation, but also a good way to combine your social outings and workouts into one. Go for a relaxing, conversational jog with coworkers, or get friends and family together for a huge basketball or soccer match. You can even invent a contest for other non-sport activities: who will run the fastest, or do the most sit-ups? A little healthy competition is fantastic motivation to push yourself a little harder.

SLEEPING WELL

Set a schedule

Of course, we set a schedule for when we need to wake up and head to school or work, but do we ever think about scheduling when to fall asleep in the first place? Even with a busy daytime schedule, it’s pretty hard to resist watching Netflix or Youtube into ungodly hours of the night, slowly cutting into the valuable rest time that our bodies need. But following an appropriate sleep schedule will eventually make proper sleep patterns almost automatic. Pick a time of night that is reasonable for you, a time when you usually begin to feel fatigued and you generally finish your tasks, and aim to fall asleep within an hour of that time. Is studying keeping you awake at night? Try doing some of your studying between class periods or throughout the day instead: open lectures on your phone or use an app like Quizlet to practice terms.

Keep your sleep schedule similar on weekends or days off

It’s so tempting to hibernate on the days we actually don’t have to be anywhere for a while. However, that’s really not the best for us in the long run. There’s actually no way to “catch up” on sleep, and if you sleep several hours longer on the weekend or days off you may be messing with your biological clock and making yourself even more tired during the week. In general, if you have days where you can sleep longer try keeping it less an hour different from your normal routine, even if that routine is only around 6 hours.

De-stress before you rest

Maybe the issue is not about having time to sleep enough – maybe the issue is not being able to sleep enough. Believe me, even (and sometimes especially) after a busy day it can be difficult to unwind mentally even if you are physically exhausted.  Here is a simple relaxation technique  you can try implementing to work the tension and anxiety out of your mind and get ready for a good night’s sleep. Other techniques include yoga and stretching, rhythmically tensing and relaxing your toes, and playing some white noise or nature soundtracks.

The right foods for your workout

It’s a common misconception that exercising a lot will erase the impact of all our bad eating habits. In fact, it may be the opposite: not eating the right foods, and not eating enough of them, can impair the power of your workout. I know, all too well, the feeling of going into my workout feeling weak, shaky, and unmotivated and realizing that I haven’t eaten in over three hours. By the time it’s over, it feels as though the workout was more draining than it was empowering.

You’ve probably heard all about the right exercises to tone your abs, or the right intervals to improve your performance, yet few people have a clue about the foods they should be eating to get the most from their workout. Like many topics in nutrition, there is also plenty of debate around the “perfect” foods to eat just before you hit the gym. To be honest, there probably aren’t any perfect solutions. But let’s take a look at the roles of the macronutrients in our exercise routine and some foods that can be great fuel for physical activity.

Fats

Fats are our primary fuel source for low-intensity exercise, like endurance running, and for the activities of everyday life like walking, standing, and even sleeping. As the intensity of your workout goes up, your utilization of fats goes down. But fat is an important energy source for long-duration activities, and essential fats play a role in overall brain function and cardiovascular health, with some fatty acids having anti-inflammatory effects on the body.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the most important fuel source for exercise, especially high-intensity exercise. Carbs provide energy to the body when they are broken down into glucose, a simple sugar, and then metabolized. These carbs are taken up from glucose in the blood or from a form stored in muscle called glycogen. Have you ever been in the middle of a workout, going strong, when suddenly you feel so spent that you can barely hold your head up? This happens when both of these stores are severely depleted and sufficient energy can’t be drawn from them. Carbs are also necessary after a workout to replenish glycogen stores and aid in muscle recovery.

Proteins

Unlike the other two, protein is not a preferred fuel source for exercise. However, it is extremely important for many recovery functions, including our favorite: building muscle!  A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 20 grams of protein post-workout was sufficient for muscle gains in young men; a general suggestion would be 15-30 grams post-workout depending on your height and weight.

Good pre-workout foods

Pre-exercise, it is most important to consume ample carbohydrates to ensure you have enough quick energy to get you through. It can also be helpful, however, to add some protein to keep you satisfied. Here are a few suggestions for a pre-workout snack.

Bananas. Eating almost any fruit is a good way to fuel up for a workout, but bananas are special. They are rich in carbohydrates, including both simple sugars and starches, and provide fiber and B vitamins to keep you full and energized while you break some sweat.

Nut butters. Peanut butter, almond butter, and basically any nut butters are great sources of protein  (peanut butter provides about 7 grams) and rich in the “good” fats like monounsaturated fat. For a quick and delicious pre-workout snack, try spreading some on whole wheat toast and top with sliced banana, or onto apple slices and sprinkle with dried cranberries.

Oatmeal and cereal. Oatmeal is an excellent whole-grain source of complex carbohydrates and a good source of protein. It’s a good backdrop for berries and nuts, and sprinkling in some chia seeds will add additional protein and essential fats.

Good post-workout foods

Really, any of the above can also be good post-workout snacks as well. For optimum muscle recovery, however, it is suggested to eat a meal with a combination of carbs and protein within 3 hours post-exercise. Here are a few suggestions to amp up your protein intake post-exercise.

Grilled fish or chicken breast. Chicken and fish are nearly pure protein and contain all 9 essential amino acids. They make a nice, complete meal after a workout and pair nicely with green veggies and brown rice.

Eggs. An egg is almost entirely protein, packing 6 grams per single egg. Enjoy cooked eggs on toast after a workout for an egg-cellent protein and carb combo. Maybe throw some avocado on for healthy fats, too!

Protein shakes? There’s been quite some debate about protein supplements and whether we actually need them, even if we pick up a weightlifting hobby. If 20 grams of protein is sufficient, as discussed previously, it can be met by consuming the foods above or a combination of them. So in general, you’re better off eating foods that pack protein, carbs, and essential micronutrients as well. But protein powders can be helpful if you routinely have trouble meeting your calorie needs or are working out extensively throughout the day, and can be good additions to recipes like smoothies or oatmeal to add a protein punch. Just don’t overdo it, as some studies suggest that excessive protein intake may cause damage kidney damage. And, of course, eating more than you need can still lead to undesired  weight gain!

Medicaid MNT Letter

This is for RDs, dietetic interns and students, and concerned citizens! you can email or mail it in. It literally takes less than 2 minutes!

Former UNLV SNDA officer Elika Nematian asked us to share some information about the action plan sent out by NDA to contact our Governor, Brian Sandavol to support Medical Nutrition Therapy reimbursement for Diabetes and Renal disease for Medicaid recipients. What this will do is make sure people are covered when they see an RD and provide additional pay opportunities for dietitians seeing these types of patients.

Attached is the letter and we highly encourage everyone to participate and show support. You can email Health and Human services Policy Analyst, Elyse Monroy the attached this letter or a personalized letter with similar content by Friday, February 3rd. Her email is Emonroy@gov.nv.gov. Please let us know if you have any concerns or questions.

Click here for the letter: medicaid-mnt-letter

Help for the cold or flu

January is prime cold and flu season, friends! As you head to school, work, or the (especially filthy) gym, remember to wash your hands thoroughly and often and maintain your stellar sleep and diet habits. Of course, sometimes things happen and, even if you’ve done the whole sleep and diet bit perfectly, rhinoviruses may still sneak up on your immune system and hold you hostage. There is no cure for the common cold, nor for the flu, but there are steps you can take to bring yourself a little bit closer to tissue-free health.

Consume enough calories and nutrients. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the reality is that we often don’t feel like eating much when we’re sick, and that can be detrimental to getting better. When you are sick, your body’s metabolic rate may rev up, especially if you are battling a fever. This isn’t an invitation to stuff your face all day, of course, but simply a reminder that eating adequately is especially  important when you’re under the weather. Make it a priority to consume nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Drink fluids. Consuming clear, thin fluids is beneficial for maintaining hydration and thinning out mucous secretions, which may prevent or alleviate  congestion and other discomforts associated with an upper respiratory infection. Warm liquids are also soothing for the throat, so sip some warm chamomile tea or enjoy a quick homemade chicken noodle soup.

Take it easy. I know: it’s only day 3 of your training regimen and you just had to get sick. You might be tempted to tough it out anyway to avoid losing gains, but refusing to slow down and listen to your body could set you back more than a few days of rest would. Follow the general neck-down rule: if your symptoms are isolated above the neck (runny nose, sore throat), proceed with your workout without going too intense. But if your symptoms include muscle soreness or cramping, stomach distress, diarrhea, or a high fever, do yourself a favor and rest for the next few days.

Get rest. Studies have observed that poor sleep may elevate your risk of contracting the cold or flu, so sleep has a clear impact on the immune system. Despite the importance of adequate sleep, symptoms of the cold and flu like congestion and sore throat often make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. Some suggestions for alleviating congestion include using a humidifier, taking a shower before bed and breathing in the steam, or simply elevating the head with an extra pillow to relieve pressure on the nasal cavity. Throat lozenges, warm tea, and a salt water gargle before bed all may be effective for relieving a sore throat.

What about supplements? It’s widely claimed that mega-dosing on certain supplements, such as ginseng and vitamin C, can help cure or prevent the cold or flu. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to back up these claims for most supplements. In general, stick with fruits and vegetables for your nutrient needs; they won’t let you down, even when you’re sick!

*PLEASE NOTE THESE ARE ONLY SUGGESTIONS, AND NOT PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. See your doctor right away if you have a high or persistent fever, you have difficulty breathing, or your cough lasts longer than a week.*