Nutritious and Fit

Diet, Fitness, and a Healthy Attitude

The Fight Against Cancer

Hi everyone! It’s been a while, so I’ll begin with a mini-update. Last summer, I completed my dietetic internship and completed the registration exam so I’m officially a Registered Dietitian! In September, I began my first job in my new career as the Registered Dietitian in charge of clinical nutrition at a Long-Term Care Facility. So far, I love it!

In addition to my new job, I also signed up to run my first half-marathon in November! I’ve never done anything like this before, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge! I signed up for the race through a program called Team in Training (TNT) in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They gave me a training plan, coaches, and a group to train with on weekends, and in return I’m raising a minimum of $2000 for their cause.

In support of this cause, I have a post from a guest blogger about the important role that nutrition plays when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The proper nutrition can significantly affect your experience with treatment and your chances for remission.

The following post is written by Jillian McKee of mesothelomia.com. Revisions of the article were made by me, and please feel free to ask me any questions or for more details if needed.

Nutrition and Coping with Cancer

Dealing with a diagnosis of cancer isn’t easy. It requires acceptance and a strong determination. Part of that determination involves doing whatever is necessary to fight the cancer and heal your body. Whether you have recently been diagnosed, started treatments or completed them, adequate nutrition will help you feel well and give your body everything it needs. Although eating can often be challenging and difficult, especially on treatment days, eating nutritious food is what strengthens your both your body and your mental ability to cope.

When you’re tired or don’t feel well, it’s easy to slump into a depressive mood. Appetite fades, food loses its visual appeal and nothing tastes pleasurable anymore.  However it is essential to get pass these obstacles in order for you to get the nutrient-dense foods your body needs, especially when coping with cancer. When these needs go ignored, your body lacks the energy required to fight the disease.

Cancer treatments often harm the healthy cells that surround the cancer cells your physician is treating. These damaged cells need to be replaced, which the body does by breaking down proteins. This process requires extra calories, making requirements for both calories and protein significantly higher in cancer patients than for healthy individuals. In addition to the extra protein and calories your body needs to stay strong, adequate vitamins and minerals are also essential to coping with cancer. Even if you haven’t started treatment yet, these extra nutrients strengthen the immune system and prevent infection. The same holds true for those who have completed treatment. Good nutrition is essential no matter where you are in the process.

Improving your nutritional status can often help lessen the side effects, as well as significantly increase your chances of going into remission. It’s important to realize that this also means that poor nutritional status decreases your chances of going into remission, and consequently your chances of survival. This is why it is essential to find a way around any non-desire to eat.  Protein can be found in many foods other than meat. Cheese, eggs, yogurt, protein powder tucked into milk shakes, fruit smoothies made with milk and an instant breakfast powder can all give you extra protein and calories with often very little stomach upset. The key to better nutrition is to experiment and discover what you tolerate best.   

The cancer itself might have changed the way your body tolerates certain foods. In addition, the amount of nutrients you need to maintain your weight and help your body function at its best differs from person to person. Your doctor and dietitian can help you set appropriate nutritional goals and realistic ways of achieving them. 

For more information regarding healthy nutrition before, during and after cancer treatment please visit, The National Cancer Institute or www.mesothelioma.com.

I hope you found this article informative and eye-opening. I’m trying to raise both money and awareness for this worthy cause. Please join me in the fight against cancer by donating at  http://pages.teamintraining.org/nj/phil12/asajczuk

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05/28/2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Skim vs Whole Milk

Even with the nutrition facts label being right on the containers of milk, there seems to be a lot of confusion about which is healthier because of the differing opinions of  “experts” in the media, so I decided it was time to shine the light of truth on the subject.

Skim milk is the MOST nutrient dense of the milks, which means that there are more good-for-you nutrients per calorie (such as calcium and protein). In other words, by drinking skim milk instead of whole milk, you will be getting all of the good nutrients you need for much less calories and NO fat. On the nutrition labels to the right, you can see that both have 8g protein, but almost twice the calories in whole milk plus lots of unhealthy fat. This makes skim milk better for your heart AND your waistline. To also illustrate how bad whole milk is for you,  keep in mind that there is the same amount of saturated fat in 1 cup of whole milk as there is in 5 strips of bacon.

In addition, I recently heard that someone well-known in the media (not mentioning names for liability purposes) said that skim milk will make you fat vs whole milk because there is more sugar in skim milk. This is NOT TRUE. Notice on the labels above that there is the same amount of sugar in both types of milk (12g), so it’s a fact, not my opinion, that they have equal amounts of sugar. For that matter, I would also like to dispute the fact that this person also stated you should “stay away from fatty vegetables like corn and peas.” First of all, STARCH and FAT are two different nutrients that play two different roles in the body. These vegetables are considered starches because they are high in carbohydrates and should not be counted as your vegetables for the day, however they are not fatty. As long as you count them as carbohydrates in your daily intake and not your vegetables, they can definitely be included in your healthy lifestyle!

To eliminate further confusion about whole milk vs skim milk, I have listed the general guidelines for what type of milk is the most appropriate for each age group as stated in The Dietary Guidelines for Americans written by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA:

  • Infants 0-1 year =NO cow’s milk (will cause iron deficiency)
  • Toddlers 1-2 years= whole milk
  • Ages 2+ years= skim or 1% milk

09/08/2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Preventing Injury

Unfortunately, I recently hurt myself during a workout. I don’t even know what I did or exactly when, but I definitely pulled or strained a muscle. The pain starts near my shoulder blade and radiates up to my neck and around to my chest, and it feels paralyzing. You don’t realize how much you use a muscle until it hurts everytime you do! I feel that I may have over-stretched during yoga because my upper back and shoulder areas are normally tight which makes them more prone to injury, so this was definitely a red flag to pull back a little. You can also get the same injury by not stretching enough though, so it is really important to stretch properly.

How to Prevent Injury:

  • Never stretch a cold muscle: warm up before your workout using something called “dynamic stretching”. This means that you are moving your muscles to warm them up and mildly stretch them. For example, crossing your arms in front of you, back and forth repeatedly to stretch your shoulder and chest muscles. Another warm-up stretch you could do is called high kicks. You hold your arms out straight to the sides at shoulder-height and alternate kicking your feet straight out while bringing the opposite hand to meet it. This warms up your hamstrings, so it’s good to do before a run.
  • Always stretch after your workout, when your muscles are warm. These stretches are called “static stretches” because you’re stretching without movement. An example of this would be sitting in a straddle and leaning towards each leg, one at a time, for 30 seconds on each side. Don’t bounce when you do this, and pay attention to your body. When you start to feel the stretch, stop and hold. Click here for a website that has beginner stretches.
  • Make sure to balance out your muscles with strength training. For example, don’t work out your core and not your back. This leaves your back weaker and more prone to injury. Same thing goes for hamstrings (back of thigh) and quads (front of thigh).

What to do Post-Injury:

  • The two most important things are to 1) stop working out the muscle so you don’t further aggravate the injury, and 2) see your doctor. Your doctor will examine you to make sure it isn’t something more serious than a pull or strain, so it is very important that you go if your pain is anything more than a typical post-work out ache.
  •  I recommend taking Ibuprofin/Advil/Motrin while you are waiting to see your doctor because they are anti-inflammatories and will help to calm down the muscle. If your doctor gives you something else, make sure to talk to them about continuing use of the over-the-counter meds. Likewise, if you feel for any reason that you shouldn’t be taking the anti-inflammatories (such as allergies or other medical conditions), don’t! Also be sure to follow the directions on the bottle, and to read the warnings.
  • While you don’t want to continue working out the muscle, you also don’t want to stop all workouts unless you have to so that you can prevent weight gain while you’re healing, and so that it’s easier to get back to your old workouts once you are healed. You actually can get around an injury in many cases. Shoulder injuries like mine are the most difficult to get around, so I’m pretty much just going for walks.  For other upper body injuries, continue to do cardio by walking or biking (maybe jogging depending on the injury), and you can continue to do lower-body workouts such as squats and lunges. For lower body injuries, you can continue your upper body work outs. Cardio may be tricky with these injuries, but you can use a hand-bike if you have access to one. In some cases, you may still be able to walk or swim. However, before doing any exercises while injured, consult your doctor.
  • For further pain-alleviation, try icy-hot or a heating pad.

09/03/2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hungry Girl- Easy & Healthy Recipes

Last week, my family and I moved my sister into law school.  As sort of a “going away” present, I decided to buy her a cookbook. It needed to be one that has healthy and EASY recipes (love her but she’s kind of clueless about cooking), so I went straight for one that I had heard great things about. It’s called Hungry Girl: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories by Lisa Lillien. Lisa is not a dietitian, but I definitely approve of her recipes. They are easy and geared towards single women, so  you don’t have to worry about making extra portions that you don’t need. Plus they are under 200 calories and low in fat!

I stayed with my sister for the first few days to help her get settled, and while I was there, I made a few of the recipes from the book. The first was a low-fat/calorie version of fettucini alfredo. The recipe calls for tofu shirataki noodles, but I’m sorry, I just can’t give up real pasta so we used whole-grain fettucini. The sauce included Laughing Cow Light Swiss cheese and fat-free sour cream, and the recipe added some steamed veggies as well. I ended up using a little bit of extra-virgin olive oil to cook the veggies and added a little skim milk to the sauce to thin it up, but because the orginal recipe was under 200 calories, my modified version was still only about 450 calories. If your calorie intake was moderate throughout the rest of the day, your in good shape with only 450 calories at dinner! However, if you think you would like the tofu noodles, go for it- they are only 20 calories a serving as opposed to the 200 calories a serving that normal pasta is.

I also made a crust-less pizza. It’s basically just the normal pizza toppings, but on baked green peppers instead. It was actually really good!! Maybe not as good as real pizza, but definitely “stuffed-pepper good”.

One of my favorites was the dessert we made. It was basically a s’more sandwich, at only 133 calories per sandwich. It calls for Cool Whip Free, mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips. You mix the three of them together and sandwich it between 2 halves of a low-fat graham cracker, and then freeze. DELICIOUS.

Lisa Lillien has a few books, a show on TV, and a website. I definitely recommend buying her books, and her website has good information too, including weekend survival tips and new recipes. Check her out, and let me know which recipes you love!! I’ll check with my sister about her experience and report back in a couple weeks!!

08/26/2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Improving Your Fitness Level

I usually am always looking for ways to improve my fitness, however it was not easy during my internship.  I was able to keep up my fitness fairly well, especially after all of the winter holidays were over, by getting work-outs in when I can and by watching my portion sizes, but by the time spring and summer were approaching, I finally got to the point where I really wanted to take it up a notch.

I’ve been a casual/recreational runner for about a year and half now, but I decided to improve my running skills as part of my new work-out. I googled a beginner’s training program for a 10k, and decided to act as though I actually had a race since there weren’t any races in my area that fit my schedule and budget. I combined the routine I found with some strength training and yoga, which proved to be highly effective. Not only did I go from being able to only run 2 miles to being able to run 6 miles, but I was really able to tone up and slim down in areas I usually have trouble with.

The combination of cardio, strength, and yoga/stretching is ideal for losing and maintaining weight. Strengthening your muscles is very important as you lose weight because when you lose pounds, it comes from both fat and muscle. If you tone your muscles as you lose it, you will prevent the muscle loss making it easier to keep the weight off. Plus you have the extra bonus of a sexy, tight body! The strength and stretching is also extremely beneficial in improving your running and preventing injuries such as runner’s knee. I choose to do yoga as my stretching because it is so effective in creating flexibility and improving your posture, making you appear even slimmer. Incorporating the 10k training schedule I feel really helped in slimming down for a couple reasons. 1) The speedwork that I did once a week included interval and hill training which is great for revving up your metabolism, and 2) it was much easier to not skip work-outs because you have your goal as a motivator and if you did skip one, the next work-out was more difficult. Not to mention that at one point, I was running over 20 miles a week- talk about calorie burn!

Below is a sample week from my 7 week work-out. I used Jillian Michaels’s 30-Day Shred for strength training because it also involves cardio to increase calorie burn, and I used The Firm Power Yoga because it’s short but effective.

Week 3-

Sunday- 25mins of strength training; run 3.5 miles

Monday- 30mins yoga; 6x 400meter repeats (jogging before, after, and in-between repeats)

Tuesday- 25mins strength training

Wednesday- 30mins yoga; run 3.5 miles

Thursday- 25mins strength training; run 2 miles

Friday- 30mins yoga; run 4 miles

Saturday- REST

After the 4th week, I changed it up a bit  because the miles were getting longer, so it looked like this:

Week 5

Sunday- Run 4.5 miles

Monday- 30mins yoga; 2x 1600meter repeats

Tuesday- 50mins strength training (levels 1 and 2 of Jillian Michaels)

Wednesday- 30mins yoga; run 4.5 miles

Thursday- 25 mins strength training; run 2 miles

Friday- Run 5 miles

Saturday- REST

Each week, the speedwork got more challenging, and the miles got longer. I had planned on doing a full 8-weeks, but after the 7th week, I felt that I was ready for a change, so I’m currently working on a new schedule. It will involve the same resources, but will be more suitable for my current daily routine.

Tips for creating your own work-out:

  • Don’t overdo it: if you can’t run a full 2 miles without stopping at an easy pace, start with a 5k training schedule instead of a 10k
  • Use all three components: make sure to include strength and stretching with your cardio
  • Add variety: I could have done just 30-day Shred or Power Yoga because both have some degree of strength and stretching, but by doing both, I had variety which is more effective than doing just one work out plus you’re less likely to get bored
  • Eat a balanced diet: by including both lean protein and healthy carbs in your diet, you’ll give yourself more energy to complete your workouts
  • Stay hydrated!

07/06/2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Survived!

Well, I did it! My dietetic internship is over- I survived. It’s been a long, long road but 7 years, 2 loans, and about 100 tests/papers/projects later, I have finally finished! In a matter of weeks, I will be sitting for the registration exam, and will officially be a Registered Dietitian. “Amanda Sajczuk, MS RD”; It has a nice ring, don’t you think?

The internship was an incredible experience, and definitely a rollercoaster ride! I began in a hospital doing my clinical rotation. This rotation was the hardest, most productive, and most rewarding. I spent 5 months learning how to screen and assess patients for their nutritional status and then plan and make recommendations for their diet. It was not easy at first. There is so much information, and each patient is different, so it was like learning something completely new with every patient and every disease/complication I encountered. My preceptor was unbelievably smart and so patient! I learned so much from her, as well as the other dietitians. I am so grateful for everyone.

The last 3 months of the internship included a foodservice management rotation and a community rotation. I wasn’t crazy about the foodservice rotation, although I did feel that my preceptor was wonderful in helping me gain the leadership skills and experience that I needed.  I ended up liking community a lot more than I thought I would.  I had the chance to hold group lectures about kidney disease prevention, as well as teach nutrition and disease prevention. I also taught a portion of a home-health aide course, which included describing the different diets that patients are put on such as cardiac, diabetic, renal (kidney disease), and the different textures of the diets for patients with chewing or swallowing problems. While I don’t feel I learned as much in the community rotation as I did in the others, I feel that this rotation is just as important because of the experience it gave me. My preceptor planned so many experiences for me. I was able to use and apply all my previously-learned knowledge during this rotation, so I owe a lot to her for that.

As hard as the work I was doing on-site was, the hardest part was coming home to write a 42 page paper on liver disease! I also had many other projects which included creating a business plan, developing a nutrition-intervention program, and conducting research, which involved writing a 20 page proposal in addition to the rest of the 20 pages of methods, results, and interpretations.

Overall, the internship was hard, tedious, expensive, and AMAZING. When you love what you do, you can get through anything. I was so exhausted and emotionally drained, yet whenever someone asked me how I liked it, I immediately replied “I LOVE IT” without hesitation. I owe so much to everyone who helped me and taught me. You have a huge part in shaping me into the amazing dietitian I know I will be. THANK YOU.

Check back soon for another post! Now that the internship is over, I really hope to get on here more often.

06/30/2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cut Calories!

In my last post, I gave you a little push to work out for the new you in 2011, but as I mentioned before, weight loss is simply calories-in vs calories-out.  I thought the best advice I could give on dieting would be how to cut calories in a healthy, effective, and sustainable way. Even for those of you who don’t feel the need to “lose weight”, but still want to get in shape and toned up- changing your diet habits and burning some extra calories will be a huge help!

Portion Control-  The most important factor in cutting calories is eating less. Many people don’t realize what actual serving sizes look like. A serving of pasta and rice is 1/2 cup, a serving of bread is 1 regular slice or 2 reduced calorie slices, a serving of starchy vegetables is 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes, peas, or corn or 1 small potato, and a serving of meat is 3oz, or about the size of a deck of cards for those of you without a food scale. For the average sized woman, choose 1-2 of starch or grain and 1 serving of lean meat like chicken or fish. Don’t forget your green veggies!

Balance– The most effective balance for weight loss and control is 50% carbohydrate, 20% protein, and 30% fat.  This may seem difficult to monitor, but there a couple ways of simplifying it. The way I do it is just to think about all my meals for the day ahead of time. For example, I make sure to get some protein at each meal (milk with my cereal, nuts on my salad, chicken with pasta, etc). I also plan on eating a salad for lunch instead of a sandwich if I plan on having pasta as my main ingredient for dinner. You can also log onto myfitnesspal.com, which can count for you, or you can use the “plate method”. The plate method divides the plate into 3 parts: 1/2 the plate would be green or non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 of the plate meat, and 1/4 of the plate a starch or grain. (The plate method may seem like there is less than 50% carbohydrate, but keep in mind that vegetables and fruit also contain some carbs.)

Substitute- A great way to cut out calories is to substitue for low-fat versions of certain food items or condiments.  Aside from choosing lean meats like chicken and fish instead of steak and hamburgers,  you can also choose things like low-fat mayonnaise or light butter. I personally like Smart Balance Light butter and my family likes Olivio. Another great food to substitute is ice cream- it is my absolute favorite food and if you get a good brand you can’t even tell the difference! Lately I’ve been love-love-loving Turkey Hill; they have amazing flavors like Skinny Minty and Extreme Cookies and Cream. Substituting is a great way to cut calories- as long as you don’t have the mindset that you can eat more when you use these, so make sure to pay attention to the serving sizes! That’s the same reason why many people will try to tell you that diet soda makes you gain weight- it only will if you drink diet soda and then think “well i guess i can double up on dessert!” Trust me, if you’re just substituting your regular soda or other sugary drink with a diet version, and not eating more, it WILL help you lose.

Snack!- Many people try to avoid snacking but if you choose healthy snacks, it can actually help you lose weight. This is because it prevents you from becoming overly hungry for your next meal which ultimately keeps you from overeating.  Choose a healthy carb like whole grain bread or crackers or a piece of fruit, and pair it with a healthy protein like nuts, peanut butter, or low-fat cottage cheese. This helps pick up your energy and keep you satisfied and full longer. Stick to 1 healthy snack between breakfast and lunch and 1 between lunch and dinner. If it fits into your healthy plan, go ahead and have a small low-cal dessert after dinner like the low-fat ice cream I mentioned before!

These tips should help get you started! Keep in mind that change doesn’t happen over-night. Make these changes 1 or 2 at a time, along with gradually increasing your physical activity, to make your lifestyle a healthy one that you can sustain for the rest of your life!

01/24/2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m back!

Hey everyone! Now that I’m getting a hang of this internship and the long hours, I’m back to putting up new posts! I’m going to shoot for twice a week, but it may be only once a week for now.

As many of you know, I started my Dietetic Internship a couple months ago and by the end of summer I will be taking my RD exam! So far, it’s been a complete rollercoaster ride, but good and bad days alike, I LOVE what I’m doing! I’m looking through charts and talking to patients to determine their nutritional risk and make recommendations based on it, and I’m learning so much in the process.

Last weekend, I got to go to Boston for the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, or FNCE. It was absolutely amazing! I attended 2 lectures- one on vitamin D and one on dietary triggers of migraines. Both were very interesting, but the vitamin D lecture particularly fascinated me. It was by Dr. Michael Holick, a well-known dermatologist among many other qualifying professions and credentials. He wrote the book the Vitamin D Solution and was an excellent speaker.

While the lectures were extremely intriguing, the most fun you can have at FNCE is spent at the expos! There were a million of them! I went home with 3 huge bags of food samples, kitchen supplies, catalogs, educational resources, DVDs of educational resources, pens, tote bags, lunch bags, and books signed by their authors! Not to mention, all the free food given out while you’re walking around- the vendors want to make sure you taste how good their food is so that we (dietitians) can recommend them to clients. I tried so much gluten-free food, I’m not sure I’d remember which to recommend! They were all pretty good though! There were also booths giving out nuts, fruit, fish, weight loss shakes/smoothies, supplements, and so much more- I could spend all night listing everything!

Over the next few posts, I will type up my notes from Dr. Holick’s lecture and also talk about a couple of the food/products I was introduced to at the Expo.

Keep checking back!

11/16/2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

sorry!

I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while! It’s been a crazy life this past month, but it should slow down now! I got most of what I  had to get done for school, just found out that I got into my top choice dietetic internship, and I’ve started a new job that I love! Things are going fantastic, and I should be getting more time to write.

I’m going to keep this one short because I need some time to collect my thoughts before delving back in. Over the next few days, I’m going to post my first book review.  I just finished reading Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia for school. I thought it was really interesting, so I definitely want to share my thoughts with you.

I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! I’m heading back to Raleigh tomorrow, so check back on Thursday night for another post and the book review.

04/06/2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My first post ever!

Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m really new to this, so I would love any advice and/or help! On this blog, I hope to post information about how to live a healthy lifestyle through food choices, physical activity, and most importantly, a positive attitude!

Some areas I hope to cover are: healthy recipes and meal suggestions, exercise routines, menu choices/restaurant suggestions, book and diet reviews, and my obstacles and accomplishments in my career path as a dietitian and personal trainer.  I would also love to answer questions, and if there is any topic you’d like for me to cover please feel free to ask!

01/31/2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment