My dietetic internship (DI) is in full swing, folks! It’s been a wonderful change of pace to be practicing all that I’ve learned for the past 6 or so years, and to feel like a professional in my field. While I do miss my leisure mornings where I drink coffee out of my favorite mug instead of a travel thermos, it is wonderfuly nice to be on a schedule again and I truly look forward to going to work each day where I am learning, observing, and practicing what I love.
My first internship placement is at the Institute for Family Health, a group of health clinics throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, and upstate New York. We provide care to the most underseved populations of New York and I have been a grateful witness to the triumph of so many people who face real adversity every day of their life. The role of a dietitian at the Institute is to provide nutrition therapy and counseling for a number of issues, including weight loss, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, kidney disease, disordered eating, pediatric weight management, prenatal nutrition, food assistance, and many more. Patients often come to the Institute for primary care, psychiatric, gynecology, or dental visits and are then referred to see a nutritionist/certified diabetes educator if the doctor thinks it would be beneficial, or sometimes patients request an appointment with us on their own, which is great!
I’ve really loved working in this setting, where I feel as though I am utilizing my clinical nutrition knowledge base every day, but I am able to spend 30-40 minutes with patients (compared to 10 minutes max in a hospital setting) discussing their barriers to eating well and working with them to eat healthfully despite constraints from their immediate and larger environment. I have learned so much in these first 9 weeks and I know I will be sad to leave in December, but I’m excited to apply all that I’ve learned during this first rotation to my new experiences in the spring!
Not only have I been learning while on the job, I’ve also been learning a lot off the clock about how to plan and prepare for healthy meals as a workin’ girl. Before starting the 9-5 grind I don’t think I fully understood how some office workers would eat lunch out every single day- I mean, how hard is it to just throw together a PBJ in the morning, toss in a snack bag of carrots and be out the door?! Well, let me tell you, it can be darn near impossible for some people to do even that, especially those who have other responsibilities after work (kids, family, second jobs, etc.) or who aren’t very savvy or creative in the kitchen. So, at lunchtime they turn to the nearest deli or China Latina restuarant (a favorite of the nurses in my office) and grab a cheap, filling, and often unhealthy meal for lunch.
Even with all that I had going on (9-5 work, internship class and assignments, grading papers, and babysitting) I made a promise to myself to bring lunch to work every day and not fall into the office lunchtime trap. Are you wanting to turn around your lunch habits as well? Read on for my top tips to becoming a smart shopper and menu planner extraordinaire.
- Go big or go home- if your fridge space allows, make big batches of everything! Soups, stews, and grain salads can easily be doubled or tripled to feed your throughout the week. Yes, you may get tired of one recipe after a few days, so plan on freezing one or two portions.
- Prep in pieces- prepare one ingredient that can be used for multiple meals. By prepping pieces of meals, you will easily be able to combine a few different ingredients, and voila, you have a complete lunch ready to go. I suggest batch preparing grains (like wheat berries, quinoa, brown rice, cous cous, or barley), roasted vegetables (like cauliflower, winter squash, and eggplant), and salad dressings (olive oil, herbs, and a vinegar of your choosing come together for a simple dressing to be stored in the fridge).
- Packable proteins- I often find myself making up a filling salad of veggies, sometimes with grains or nuts on top, but forgetting to pack myself some sort of protein to sustain my energy levels post-lunch. I’ve recently started hard-boiling a half dozen eggs over the weekend and tossing one in my lunch bag. Rediscover your inner child and pack some mozzarella string cheese or Babybel Swiss cheese rounds for a low-fat, protein boost. Portable nut butters are all the rage- try one of the many varities of Justin’s nut butter packets with your sliced fruit or some wheat crackers.
What tips do you have for packing your own healthy lunches?