Can Dietitians Write Prescriptions?

claim formWhen I started out in college, I began as a premed student.  Then, I took my first nutrition class.  While I had been very interested in nutrition even in high school, as I matriculated through my first college level nutrition class, I quickly realized that the potential to “treat” people with food was significant.  It was at that point I decided to give up the idea of being a doctor, and then chose the path of dietitian instead.  Bottom line, in the traditional sense, dietitians do not write prescriptions, but we do effectively treat people with diet and lifestyle modifications. That’s not to say we can heal everyone with our strategies, but usually our strategies are effective enough to impact the course of traditional physician management.  Here are just a few examples from my own practice:

  • “Ray” is referred for weight loss in order to be ready for a heart transplant. He loses 100 pounds, and in the course of the weight loss process, his cardiac enzymes return to normal and he is no longer in need of a transplant.
  • Countless diabetics and prediabetics have been able to stave off treatment with medication by tweaking both diet and lifestyle. There are so many “dietary” bullets and lifestyle strategies that these patients can use which are both effective and tolerated by the client.  Why go the route of medication if you can tweak your diet and physical activity to lower your blood sugar level?
  • Want to lower your blood pressure?  Did you know that most of your sodium intake is from the restaurant and carry out food you consume?  A dietitian can help you curb your sodium intake by making suggestions on how to limit sodium while dining out or suggest alternative eating strategies to eating out which are easy to implement and healthier for you. Did you know your potassium intake can drastically affect your blood pressure?  A dietitian can help you with your potassium intake as well!
  • And your cholesterol?  If you are concerned about heart disease, there are so many dietary manipulations that can be suggested to lessen your odds of death from heart disease.  Dare I say, I have had numerous clients basically save themselves with the proper diet and lifestyle recommendations that began in my office.

It’s a good feeling helping people with dietary and lifestyle “prescriptions”.  While in some cases it is tougher to follow through on a dietitian’s suggestions than taking a traditional drug prescription, for those that can work with a dietitian, the benefits are boundless.  You might even look and feel better, as well as be healthier!

To find a dietitian to work with in your area, check out http://www.eatright.org/programs/rdfinder/

Keep Your Grilled Food Safe at the Plate

With Memorial Day around the corner, grills will be fired up.  Grilled foods are usually considered healthy because they are cooked without fat. For instance, a typical 4-ounce chicken breast cooked on the grill contains about 7 grams of fat, while a 4-ounce serving of fast-food fried chicken contains about 17 grams of fat.Corncobs and meat on grill

Although your waistline is better off with grilled cuisine, the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) points out that grilling might increase the risk of cancer. Cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are produced when meat (eg, fish, beef, and chicken) is cooked at the high temperatures used in grilling and broiling. Other cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed when meat fat drips onto hot coals. As food cooks on the grill, flames and smoke help deposit the PAHs onto the food.

What You Can Do to Be Safe

There are steps that you can take to lower your risk of these potentially cancer-causing chemicals:

  •  Trim the fat. To minimize the PAHs from forming, trim as much fat as you can from the meat.
  •  Marinate. Some studies suggest that marinating meat before grilling may reduce the formation of HCAs.
  •  Precook. Pop the meat in the microwave to partially cook it before grilling.
  •  Use smaller cuts of meat. Smaller cuts take less time to grill. You can also flip your food often, which can further shorten grilling time.
  •  Remove charred parts. After grilling, cut off any charred parts from the meat.
  •  Eat your fruits and veggies. Add variety to your meals by grilling fruits and veggies instead of meat. Vegetables do not produce HCAs.

Other Ways to Be a Safe Grillmaster

  •  Frequently wash your hands and surfaces. This can prevent cross-contamination of bacteria, like E. coli.
  • Use separate plates. Use one cutting board for raw meats and a clean one for other foods in order to reduce bacteria crossover. Be sure to use separate plates, utensils, and platters for raw and cooked foods. For instance, if the raw  steaks are carried out on a platter and tongs are used for placing them on the grill, you must use a new clean platter and tongs for taking the cooked steaks off the grill when they are done.
  •  Keep the temperatures appropriate. Meats should be refrigerated while marinating and up to the point of being cooked. When the grilling starts, be sure the internal temperature of meats is appropriate to kill bacteria . Use a meat thermometer to check proper internal temperatures. Leftovers should be refrigerated immediately and tossed if left out more than one hour in hot temperatures and 2 hours in cooler temperatures.

A little precaution goes a long way in keeping your grilled food safe at the plate, both on this holiday weekend and all grilling season.  Happy Memorial Day!

Mother’s Day Reflections from a Dietitian Mom and Grandma

Mother Kissing Her Daughter for a Present and Red RoseAs I contemplate the upcoming weekend and Mother’s Day, I realize that I know and respect an awful lot of amazing mothers. These mothers are my clients that I have come to know very well over the years, my friends, my relatives, and finally, my children.  These mothers always put mothering at the top of the priority list even as they pull off multi-faceted roles as wedding planners, secretaries, doctors, teachers, nurses, dentists, lawyers, administrators, and so on.  The similar theme with these strong women who are amazing moms is their tenacity in nurturing and their instincts for being the driving force and support for their children.  It does not matter how old those children are, the “force” is still there. That “force” exhibits itself in various forms for various situations, but it is ever so present.

So to all those amazing mom’s out there, mom’s of little babies and adults already on their own and out of the nest, please take care of yourselves.  Remember YOU are worth your weight (no pun intended) in gold, and you deserve to replenish yourself to continue giving all that you give to others, including your babies of all ages.  Over the decades of counseling clients (as well as being a mother myself), I have realized that we can get “spent” very quickly as we go about our daily tasks of keeping our lives in line with ideals, and juggling all we do in a 24-hour period.  To keep up your pace, remember some guidance of self-care for YOU:

  • Mange your diet as you would manage your business, your children, and careers!  Eating is meant to keep you well, strong, and the best you can be.  It needs to be planned out as the rest of your life is planned.  The outcome of this planning makes the effort worth it!
  • Feed yourself the same quality of diet you want your babies and older children to eat. Kids of all ages have a keen eye on what you are doing, and will learn to imitate your food behaviors and patterns of eating eventually, be it good or bad.
  • Take the time to eat; it is the only fuel and nutrients you will take in.  Just thinking you should eat, or taking supplements, will not give you the energy to carry on, only good quality food will do so.
  • Make sure you take the time to actually enjoy your food.  Sit down at the table and teach your toddler that mom needs to enjoy her meal.
  • When sharing your meals with your children, enjoy the experience.  One day they will cook for you and they will pick up the dishes without being asked, because remember, you are a role model and what goes around comes around!

If you are reading this, you are probably a mother or know a wonderful mother.  I salute you all and wish you a wonderful day and upcoming week.  Happy mother’s day to all those truly remarkable women called “mom”.