Work Life & Social Life

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.

9 Tips For Sticking To A (Realistic) Food Budget

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Hi everyone! My name is Becca Booker and I’m a freelance social media manager and lifestyle blogger over on Instagram @bbooks and at accordingtobbooks.com, where I not only give tips on social media management, but I also blog on how to run a freelance business while living a healthy life. Since quitting my full-time job in October of 2017, I’ve quickly had to learn how to stick on a budget, eat well, manage stress, and take care of my skin while I’m home alone and working my butt off haha.

Rachel & I “met” online via a Facebook group for bloggers called “Blogging4Keeps” - I want to say it was a “follow for follow” thread and somehow we both found each other and clicked! I probably have over half of her recipes saved to my Instagram, and love that she focuses on healthy, easy, and affordable eating. Which brings me to... 

Budgeting! Yikes. Spending less money doesn’t necessarily get people excited, especially when we’re going to be talking about spending less money on things you buy everyday - food! After having a full-time job to being self-employed, I’ve learned a thing or two about budgeting and I wanted to share with you guys some of my tips.

From grocery store savings to budgeting while eating out, I hope these help!

 

1. Determine A Comfortable Percent Of Income To Spend On Food

I use app Mint to get an idea of what categories I spend the most in and to get an idea of my spending patterns. Mint has a category for Food that you can further break down into groceries, eating out, and coffee/drinks. In total, most people will find they spend between 6-11% of their income on food in general (USA Today). The key is to grocery shop with your week’s schedule in mind so that you can buy just the right amount of food for at-home meals and to leave any “gaps” in your meal planning for nights you know you’ll eat out.

2. Realize Budgeting For Groceries & Eating Out Will Change Over Time

When I was in college, not only did I have a dining meal plan, but I also had a kitchen in my sorority house where I could cook. At the time, my parents paid for my grocery and eating expenses - so I ate out all the time AND cooked - resulting in a ton of wasted food. Once I graduated & got a job, all finances obviously fell back on me and I started to get much more conscious of how much money I was spending on food.

3. Pay For Groceries With Credit

While I’m not a financial professional, I always pay in credit. Not only do I get points for my purchases (I get flight miles with my Southwest card) but my bank also sends me a year-end statement with my spending for the year in each category. Also, if you use the Mint app (or Mint.com) your spending will automatically sync and you can set up automatic emails to let you know how much you spent in each category from the week before.

4. Staying On Budget WHILE In The Store

Yikes, this one is hard! I would say my grocery bill varies by like $50 each week depending on what I need. Some weeks, when I need to stock up on pricier items like coconut oil and protein powders my bill is over $100. Most weeks, I keep my bill between $50-75. To stay in budget, I would stay always start in the produce section. If you’re mainly stocking up on fresh fruit and vegetables, it’s easy to stay within budget. It’s all those snacks and pre-made food items that will start to add up! I always “splurge” on organic, cage-free eggs, organic cheese, and organic almond milk.

If you live alone like me, I also try to avoid produce that goes bad really quickly (looking at you, raspberries). Especially during the winter months, try to stick to produce like:

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Frozen organic green beans

  • Beets

  • Apples (granny smith ages the best ;) )

  • Eggs

  • Canned beans

  • Parsley/basil/cilantro

  • Gourds

  • Cabbage, kale, or romaine (on the head)

  • This will ensure that you aren’t wasting any food that goes bad before you can even eat it!

5. Stick To A Budget Even When Eating Out

There are two “techniques” to consider when eating out: 1) ordering plenty to save for leftovers, and 2) ordering a small soup, salad, or appetizer on the more affordable side. If you’re over 21 and are getting a drink, always ask for the house wine or beer or just order the “well” vodka soda.

If you’re eating with a group, always tell your waiter or waitress prior to ordering that you intend to split  the bill. This will avoid that awkward “let’s split it evenly!” convo when you just ordered an appetizer.

6. Know When To Buy Organic

I try to buy organic whenever possible! If I can’t buy organic, then I just stick to the dirty dozen’s guide and at least try to avoid that produce if I can’t find it as an organic option.

7. Freeze Your Produce Before It Goes Bad

If you can’t use it all before it goes bad, always remember most foods can be frozen! For example, I’ll peel and half my bananas and them freeze them for smoothies. Same with fresh spinach and zoodles! Both can easily be kept in the freezer and cooked or added to a smoothie later.

8. What are your Favorite Websites or Apps for Budgeting in General?

  • Mint - Full budgeting and financing tool with both app and desktop versions. Automatically syncs with all of your purchases to easily stay on budget and track spending trends.

  • Honey  - Is a Google Chrome Extension that notifies you every time you’re on the checkout page of a website of any potential coupons that may bring the cost of your order down.

  • Drop List - Add online items to your ‘watch list” to be notified if their price is lowered!

  • Flipp - Helps you price match to ensure you’re getting the best deal

  • Target App’s Cartwheel Offers - Search for coupons for items in the Target store to redeem at checkout

  • Amazon Pantry - An exclusive benefit for Amazon Prime Members that allows you to shop a wide range of items including heavy and bulky items in regular pack sizes that are often costly to ship.

 

 

I hope these tips are useful (and practical) in helping you budget with food! Remember, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution to saving money, so try different things out and keep what works for you.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Rachel for having me contribute! You guys can find me (and ask me any questions) at www.accordingtobbooks.com and on Instagram at @bbooks.

XX Becca

Fave NYC Restaurants

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Hey guys hey! I get a lot of questions on my favorite NYC spots - so here are some that come to mind! 

1. Citizens of Chelsea 

The food is great, but really the ambiance of this place is the best! It's decorated floor to ceiling with plants - and the food is delicious! My fave thing to get a plate of sides - smoked salmon, avocado & bacon. 

2. Spunto, Tappo, Posto, Vezzo 

This pizza chain is my absolute favorite! It has whole wheat thin crust - and the toppings are amazingggg. Plus! It's pretty cheap! AND if you buy a bottle of wine (which are pretty inexpensive) you get a free pizza (!!). (That was a 21-year old+ comment friends.) The mushroom pizza on whole wheat thin crust is my go-to. 

3. Chick-Fil-A 

I know I know - this is not a NYC-only restaurant haha. In terms of fast food, this is one of my faves! Zak and I go at least once a month - if you get their calendar in December it comes with a special VIP card to get a free food every month. My fave item to get is their grilled nuggets - which are pretty much impossible to find at any other fast food chain! 

4. Meatball Shop 

You guys know I love my protein & veggies - so The Meatball Shop is one of my fave go-tos. I like to get the "Kitchen Sink" where you can choose which meatballs and sauce you prefer. There are a lot of different meatball options - beef, pork, chicken, and veggie. The veggie sides change pretty frequently. My fave sauce is the Parmesan Cream. 

5. Anywhere with Cucumber-Wrapped Sushi 

Did you guys know you can get cucumber-wrapped (instead of rice) sushi now at a lot of sushi restaurants?? Sometimes it's called "naruto". You can easily cut a lot of carbs and cals this way! 

6. SweetGreen & Fields Good Chicken 

I only want to spend money on a salad if I know it's going to be FILLING! Two of my fave places to go are SweetGreen - I like the Kale Caesar which is low-carb and topped with "Parmesan crisps" (just baked cheese!) instead of croutons. At Fields Good Chicken - I love the Cobb salad! 

7. Gramercy Bagels 

These bagels are the chewiest, most scrumptious bagels I've found in NYC! I love the whole-wheat everything bagels with the low-calorie smoked salmon cream cheese! 

8. Chloe's Fruit 

Need a treat? Chloe's frozen fruit "soft serve" is the best feel-good treat for winter and summer. 

Cheap Foods Please

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The most common excuse I hear from college and graduate students for not eating as healthfully as they'd like, is the idea that "healthy food is expensive". While it is true that some higher quality food comes with a higher price, absolutely NOT all healthy food is expensive. In fact, some of the healthiest foods out there are the cheapest!

Below I have a list of affordable options that you can find anywhere from the convenience store to your laptops! What are some of your favorite cheap, healthy foods? Leave me a comment! 


Oatmeal 

Incredibly nutritious source of carbohydrates and fiber. Rich in antioxidants and great source of quick energy - but energy that lasts for hours. Shelf life is very long! I like to buy single-serving packets or little containers like these to help with portion control. 

 

 

Nuts

Protein packed and full of healthy fats. Long shelf life and can be eaten as a snack or added to meals for texture. I like to buy nuts in single-serving packages, even if it's a bit more expensive, to help with portion control. Nuts may seem expensive from first glance, but they keep you FULL for a long time - so you don't waste $$ buying a second snack! 

 
Goya

Canned Beans

Talk about cheap! High in antioxidants and fiber. Very versatile and affordable food to have in the pantry. Long shelf life and can easily be incorporated into dishes. 


Free meal plan HERE