PhD at Columbia Summary!

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I’ve received a lot of questions about my PhD in Behavioral Nutrition at Columbia – here’s a little more about it for those of you who are interested!

Many people who go into dietetics are interested in MNT or “medical nutrition therapy”, i.e. helping individuals in a hospital who are sick with a certain disease, such as kidney failure or congestive heart failure.

But I was always interested in mass change – and changing what I felt mattered the most to our nation’s health. Particularly, this focused on decreasing our obesity rate (currently 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese). Obesity is the leading cause of most of our chronic diseases – heart disease, some forms of cancer, etc.

In order to evoke mass change, I wanted to understand systematic ways to change people’s behavior on the large scale. This drive led me to pursue my next degree in applied nutrition research – to better understand how to develop and evaluate evidence-based programs for changing behavior.

At Columbia, I studied Behavioral Nutrition, which is a mixture of psychology and nutrition. We aim to better understand how to educate different groups of individuals in systematic ways – to help them improve their diet and physical activity habits for the long term. My advisor was Isobel Contento, and I also worked closely with Pam Koch.

Our projects used a variety of methods for changing behavior. I led projects on implementing worksite wellness programs at the University level, poster campaigns aiming to improve water fountain usage, and classroom implemented programs in New York City public elementary and pre-schools.

For most of my time at Columbia, I worked at the Mailman School of Public Health with Heather Greenlee, who is now at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. We also worked on a variety of educational programs, but her focus is on cancer patients and survivors. These programs combined online and classroom based education. Her NIH-funded grant, which is what I worked on for my dissertation, is a randomized controlled trial with Latina breast cancer survivors. The study is ongoing. I took a small part of the study for my schoolwork. For those of you interested, you can read my dissertation here.

Tips for Becoming a Registered Dietitian

Hi guys! I get a lot of questions on becoming a dietitian. I did my Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Here are some of my top tips and resources!

What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a nutritionist?

Great question. In sum, a Registered Dietitian (also called Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) has gone through extensive training at a university levels, has completed a supervised Dietetic Internship (DI), and has taken and passed a national exam. RDs must complete a number of continuing education each year. Nutritionist, on the other hand, is a general term that can apply to a number of individuals, with no specifications on their training and education.

Where to Start?

In order to become a dietitian, you must go through an accredited program. Not all universities and colleges offer an accredited program, so be sure to choose wisely. In addition to nutrition courses, a certain number of science courses are also required.

Here’s a great article on what is required: https://www.eatrightpro.org/about-us/become-an-rdn-or-dtr/high-school-students/5-steps-to-become-a-registered-dietitian-nutritionist

Top tips

I highly recommend a number of things to do in your RD training, before and during your Dietetic Internship (DI):

1.    Talk to as many people in the field as possible. You’ll not only make connections (which can help down the line when you’re looking for jobs), but you’ll be able to see the wide world of nutrition and what job opportunities are available. You have the benefit of being a student here – reach out to different professionals on social media and on LinkedIn and ask for an informational interview.

2.    Intern & work. Get a variety of actual experiences in a number of food & health-related industries – volunteer at a hospital, work at a restaurant, intern for a public-health agency, etc. The more different experiences you have, the better prepared you will be. In undergrad, I worked as a research intern at Cleveland’s Prevention Research Center, volunteered in University Hospital’s foodservice center, interned at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Healthy Weight Program, interned at Cleveland’s Department of Public Health (which led me to a TV role as a nutritionist on their weight loss program for government employees), and worked at a smoothie restaurant on Case’s campus.

3.    Get involved. Serve on your school’s nutrition or cooking club’s leadership team, get involved in your state or city’s dietetic association, or get involved in other related leadership organizations in your area. In undergrad, I was the president of the Student Dietetic Association.

4.    Get to know your professors. Your professors will ultimately be writing you letters of recommendation. Make sure they know you as a person, outside of your grades alone. Book some of their office hours and ask them about their recommendations for getting ahead in the field of nutrition, and keep them informed of your progress at school.

Meal Plan with Summer Squash

GROCERIES FOR THE WEEK (5 DAYS) 

  • Summer squash, 3 medium 
  • Eggs, 1 dozen
  • Salmon, 5 filets 
  • Walnuts, 1 bag
  • Snap peas, 5 bags
  • Spring greens mix, 3 bags
  • Milk chocolate, 5 bars
  • Oatmeal, 1 canister 
  • Yogurt, 1 large container 

BREAKFAST

  • 1/2 cup dry oatmeal 
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • Add cinnamon and berries if you like

Calories: 375


LUNCH

  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 cups snap peas
  • 120 calories of milk chocolate

Calories: 550


DINNER

  • 2 cups spring mix
  • 1/2 cup summer squash, sautéed with an oil spray
  • 1 salmon fillet baked at 425 degrees for 15 minutes
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Greek style feta dressing (I got this at Trader Joe's!) 

Calories: 350


NEED A SNACK? These meals are healthy, filling, and delicious, but if you find yourself needing a pick-me-up or two throughout the day try some of my personal favorites! Click here to see them. 

NEED TO ADD SOME FLAVOR? If you're looking to add flavor and variety to your meals throughout the week, check out some of my favorite options! Click here

Meal Plan with Tomatoes & Avocado

GROCERIES FOR THE WEEK (5 DAYS) 

  • 2-4ct bags of avocados
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 15 tomatoes
  • 5 seaweed snack packs
  • 1 container blue cheese
  • 8 bags of greens
  • 1 guacamole packets
  • 1 packet of string cheese
  • Skinless chicken breast

Total Cost: $58.49


BREAKFAST

  • 1 whole avocado
  • 5 crackers

Calories: 337; Fat 22 gm; Protein 4 gm; Carbs 17 gm; Fiber 10 gm


LUNCH

  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 tomatoes 
  • 3 1/2 oz dark chocolate 

Calories: 550; Fat 30 gm; Protein 25 gm; Carbs 67 gm; Fiber 6 gm

Note: this is without the chocolate! 


DINNER

  • 2 cups iceberg lettuce
  • 4 tbs guacamole
  • 1 whole tomato
  • 2 tbs walnuts
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese
  • 4 oz skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tbs greek goddess dressing

Calories: 563; Fat 33 gm; Protein 47 gm; Carbs 15 gm; Fiber 6 gm


SNACK

  • 1/8 cup walnuts
  • 1 seaweed package
  • 1 string cheese

Calories: 245; Fat 20 gm; Protein 10 gm; Carbs 4 gm; Fiber 3 gm


NEED A SNACK? These meals are healthy, filling, and delicious, but if you find yourself needing a pick-me-up or two throughout the day try some of my personal favorites! Click here to see them. 

NEED TO ADD SOME FLAVOR? If you're looking to add flavor and variety to your meals throughout the week, check out some of my favorite options! Click here

WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT AND FEEL AMAZING?

SIGN UP FOR FREE STRATEGY SESSION WITH ME HERE

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Mediterranean Diet 5-Day Meal Plan Featuring Walnuts

May is Mediterranean Diet Month! What exactly IS the Mediterranean diet? :) It’s based on foods commonly eaten in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea – like Italy, Greece, and Spain. The main foods of attraction in this way of eating are vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts (such as walnuts), fruit, and extra virgin olive oil. AND, many research studies have indicated that the Mediterranean diet may be related to weight loss and the prevention of heart attacks, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. 

Here are some good resources for more information if you’re interested:

Even though many of us don’t live in the Mediterranean area - we can still enjoy the benefits :) I partnered up this week with California Walnuts (at https://walnuts.org/) - and tailoring my weekly meal plan to the Mediterranean way of eating. Walnuts have historically been a key part of the Mediterranean diet – US walnuts are primarily grown in California because the climate is similar to that of Mediterranean countries (should we all move??).

You’ve probably heard walnuts associated with "brain food” – or being good for the brain. Walnuts are the only tree nut that is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid (2.5g of ALA per 1 oz – or ¼ cup - of walnuts). Omega-3s are found in our brain cells, and help our brain cells communicate with each other. We need em in the diet – and walnuts are a fab way to get them. Finals coming up anyone?

Also, an important note: sticking to a Mediterranean diet does NOT mean you have to spend a lot on groceries! This whole weekly meal plan is only $48.18. Let’s get cookin!


Groceries

  • Walnuts, 1 3.75-cup bag
  • Eggs, 2 dozen
  • Canned roasted tomatoes, 2 15-oz cans
  • Tomatoes, 10 medium
  • Cucumbers, 5 medium cucumbers
  • Feta cheese crumbles, 2 6-oz tubs 
  • Dark chocolate, 5 280-calorie bars
  • Spinach greens, 5 4-cup bags
  • Canned salmon, 1 15-oz can
  • Avocados, 3

 

Breakfast Shakshuka

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup canned, roasted tomatoes 
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1/8 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/8 cup feta cheese
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste

Instructions: Spray pan with olive oil spray. Add tomatoes. Crack eggs into pan. Cook on medium heat covered, for ~8 minutes. Top with feta and walnuts.

Cost: $1.47

Calories: 350; Carbohydrates: 14gm; Protein: 19gm; Fat: 22gm

 

Mediterranean Lunch Box

  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 1 cucumbers, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • ½ bar dark chocolate
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste

Instructions for Israeli salad: mix tomato & cucumber; top with seasoning to taste

Cost: $2.27

Calories: 525; Carbohydrates: 72gm; Protein: 24gm; Fat: 27gm

 

Dinner Greens & Salmon Patty

Greens

  • 4 cups spinach greens
  • 1/8 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/8 cup walnuts
  • ½ avocado (for on the side)

Directions: spray pan with olive oil spray; sauté greens on medium heat for ~4 minutes until desired consistency. Top with walnuts and feta.

Salmon patties – makes 5 servings

  • 1 can salmon
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup crushed walnuts

Directions: drain salmon in can. Mix salmon and egg in large bowl. Create 5 patties. Press patties on both sides into crushed walnuts until coated. Spray pan with olive oil spray. Cook patties on medium heat in a covered pan, ~7 minutes on each side.

Cost: $3.69

Calories: 450; Carbohydrates: 13gm; Protein: 27gm; Fat: 33gm

This post is sponsored by California Walnuts. As always, all opinions are my own. 


NEED A SNACK? These meals are healthy, filling, and delicious, but if you find yourself needing a pick-me-up or two throughout the day try some of my personal favorites! Click here to see them. 

NEED TO ADD SOME FLAVOR? If you're looking to add flavor and variety to your meals throughout the week, check out some of my favorite options! Click here

WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT AND FEEL AMAZING?

SIGN UP FOR FREE STRATEGY SESSION WITH ME HERE