Dietitian Talk

10 Things To Know BEFORE You Become a Nutrition Major

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With  hundreds of colleges to choose from, and hundreds of majors to declare…it all comes down to the questions of: What College? And most importantly, what will you study?

I lucked out and knew what I wanted to do from a fairly young age, so choosing a college that carried the major of dreams was simple. For many (and most) people out there that are still questioning what path to take, don’t rush it! Having to select a major and then switch over halfway through can be a long and grueling process.

Among the long list of majors…if you scroll down to the “N” section, you might find something along the lines of “Nutrition” or “Nutrition Sciences” or “Nutrition and Health Sciences”

When I first started my undergrad career, I had a decent amount of students enrolled in the major of Nutrition. By the end of the first year, many ended up switching majors or dropping out altogether. I’m not saying nutrition is a walk in the park (hello there biochemistry and organic chemistry) but you will find a lot of concepts quite easy to grasp and understand as well.

As a Nutrition Alumni to IUP who will still be on campus working with the undergrads, I have a lot of incoming nutrition freshman asking me questions regarding tests, classes, social life, study life, etc.

So, to all of you considering pursuing a major in Nutrition:

Here are ten important facts you need to know before selecting nutrition as your major:

 

 

1) You need to know more than just the food pyramid:

Be prepared for in-depth science courses regarding enzymes, digestion, bacteria/viruses, the chemistry of food, as well as classes regarding business/management, counseling patients/clients, the mathematical equations used in food service functions.

 

2) You’re entering a competitive field

If you are choosing to major in nutrition in the dietetics track, you will basically feel as though you’re competing against everyone in the room. Upon graduation when it’s time to apply for internships, it feels as though it’s a dog eat dog world. The match rate for receiving an internship is about a 50-55% due to the increasing number of students with a lack of internship opportunities.

 

3) You’re going to school for at least five years

If you’re majoring in nutrition and going down the “dietetics” track, chances are you’ll take 4 years to complete your bachelors + a fifth  year to complete an unpaid, 8-12 month long internship in which YOU have to pay them. It’s necessary to become a dietitian, so sadly you can’t skip that last part.

4) You’re going to have the stigma of being a food nazi

If I had a dollar for the amount of people who were afraid to eat with me, claim I only eat salads, or tell me “not to judge their food” …. I’d be out of college debt.

5)  You’re going to learn more than just the five basic food groups

A lot of misconception regarding classes has become prevalent to me. I get asked all the time if I learned about food labels and the food pyramid (now known as MyPlate). Of course we do, but we also learn about vitamins and minerals, how the digestive track works, the monotonous glycolysis and TCA cycle lectures and also medical nutrition therapy. If I don’t stress this enough, I probably should…but nutrition is not a walk in the park as it may seem.

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6) You’ll probably get mistaken for being a “chef”

 

I’m not the best cook—I swear. I can probably estimate the amount of carbs, fats, and protein in your meal using the exchange list, but I probably am not the best cook you’ll meet.

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7) Be prepared for everyone asking you for a meal plan/diet evaluation

Most people assume that because you’re majoring in nutrition you can whip up a meal plan and that’s all you’re good for—haha! Our courses range from microbiology to anatomy/physiology, to organic chemistry. We know a lot more than just what a person should eat.

8) Expect to have specific GPA minimum requirements

Nutrition isn’t the major you should choose if you plan to just snooze through class. For my school we had to maintain a minimum of 3.0, which sounds quite easy but the fact that most internships won’t even consider you unless you have a 3.25 is something else you have to think about. If a specific course is a prerequisite to another course needed for the major, you have to get at least a C in the class. My tip is to take class seriously—it’s going to be your profession!

9) Start looking for volunteering opportunities as soon as you can (if you haven’t already started)

Start building your resume as soon as you can! If you’re heading down the dietetics track of nutrition, volunteer and work experience in the field of health/nutrition is ranked high the list the internship coordinators want. Whether it’s a job/volunteer work at a local hospital or nursing home, teaching children about fruits and vegetables, or being able to shadow a dietitian for a few weeks, anything counts!

10) You will have endless opportunities to do with your degree:

Do you want to be a registered dietitian? Or maybe you want to start a health and wellness business. How about opening a gym? Doe working with athletes in the collegiate and professional level sound enticing? Or maybe you’re leaning towards research and labwork. There are ENDLESS opportunities, and the great thing to know is that our field is expanding every year!

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Most importantly, know that if you’re passionate about health, wellness, and nutrition, you ARE on the right path by choosing this career! Smile

contact me with any questions/advice at: tdaley91811@hotmail.com

Dietitian Talk

My Experience with the RD exam

So, after years of schooling…and an internship that consists of over 1000 hours of supervised practice in long term care, acute care, management, and intervention rotations, it all comes down to passing or failing the 125-145 question exam.  Now of course I’m not going to go and tell you whats on the exam, because everyone’s is different. Before I took my exam, I went online to look up “how to breathe during the exam” and “how not to puke while taking the RD exam” because in my opinion, it’s a really HUGE deal. Yes, you totally can take it again. and again… but the $$  you spend taking it plus the time you spend studying…let’s just say it’s better to pass it come the first time around.

So I’m just going to give a brief perspective of my experience taking it and how I prepared for it myself!

My class graduated from the internship on Wednesday May 25th and I took my exam Tuesday July 19th. That gave me about eight weeks to prepare, but realistically I didn’t start preparing until say 3-4 weeks out. I enjoyed my Memorial Day weekend (Shawn left for basic that weekend so I was glued to HIM, not so much my notes), and I did take a spontaneous trip to Florida with Christyna for a week, in which I didn’t study at all for the exam. Originally I scheduled my exam for August 9th, but when June 15th hit I was like okay Tabitha, let’s start studying and move your date closer. By making my date sooner it really got me to studying and actually not procrastinating.

 

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How I studied:

  • I am SUCH a visual learner; listening/audio never helped me. I was lucky enough to go to one of Jean Inman’s 2 day course in  Pittsburgh and be given her book of information regarding what to study and know for the exam (essentially a bible for any person who is taking the RD). If you can go to, her course OR simply purchase the jean inman book (pricey I know, you will be happy you did so.
  • I went through Jean’s book and everything she told us to note or highlight I put on flashchards. I had over 500 flashcards! Writing the notes on the flashcards helped me remember it better than simply reading the book over and over.

 

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  • After all my flashcards were made I had about 1.5 weeks until my exam…so I really had to kick it in full gear. I spent 5 days doing the 1000 practice questions and reviewing the answers from the Jean Inman book she had given us. I circled the ones I got wrong and went back to see why I had gotten them wrong.
  • The last 4 days before my exam I spent reading each of the four domains out of that book of hers. Each day I read 1 domain each and made sure I understood the concepts. Reading outloud to myself was very helpful.
  • The morning of I had to drive 1 hour to my closest testing center and my heart was just beating the whole time. I arrived 45 minutes early (they recommend 30 minutes early) and I was able to sign in and wait outside the door. The room I would be using consisted of several people, yet I was the only one sitting for the CDR exam. Everyone else were waiting to take their 7 hour surgery board exams (thank god my exam was only 2.5 hours!!)
  • I had to lock up all my stuff, turn my phone off, have my finger prints and palms scanned and then she let me begin my exam at 8am. She provided me with headphones and ear plugs, which ever I preferred use. The headphones worked so well.
  • During the entire exam I was just clicking the next button and wanting to cry because I felt like each answer was wrong. 80% of me thought I failed, and the 20% was just hopeful I passed. As I finished the exam within the hour, I clicked finish and had to take a short survey at the end regarding my exam and man…although It was “short”, it felt like FOREVER since I couldn’t get my results until the end of the exam.
  • I got my results saying pass and I just sat there in shock, and rose my hand to be dismissed. She came in and asked “all done?” and I just looked at her and said “….I passed……” still in disbelief!!
  • She printed out my results and I called my mom right away crying as I walked to my car. I sat in my car for about ten minutes because my hands were still shaking from the fact that my ten year goal of becoming an RD was accomplished!!

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What’s on the list for the next goal I need to accomplish?? Hopefully this helps anyone considering the exam!

Dietitian Talk

Things NOT To Say to an RD/RD2Be

Since I was 12 years old, I knew what I wanted to do with my career path: I wanted to be a registered dietitian. After going to one myself, the passion was instantly instilled in me. Throughout the course of nine years, I’ve come across SO many new areas of interest with the nutrition field. At first, I thought I made up my mind: a private practice. Yes thats’s exactly what I wanted to do and no one will stop me!!!

 

Well, times can change. Opinions can change. Goals, motives, and desires….those can all change as well.

I’ve learned how important the clinical side can be. How important knowing your lab value ranges is, knowing how certain vitamin and macronutrient intakes can affect the disease of a patient.

I’ve learned how incredibly AWESOME research is!! I remember sitting in a class as an undergraduate snoozing through my research class, memorizing the material just to pass the final exam. But seriously, dabble in a topic that you really like. For me, I’ve become invested in looking up topics regarding athletic performance and diets, or supplement use versus non supplement use on the athletic performance, or simply…how beneficial is fasted cardio?

 

I’ve learned that having clients can be super exciting, but at the same time super difficult, especially if they have their “my way or the highway” attitude.

I’ve also learned that managing and being in charge is extremely fulfilling to me; I like to be in control, so possibly managing a business or food service is in my future? Who knows.

 

Another thing I learned throughout my many experiences in the food and nutrition field…..what NOT to say to RDs and RD2bes.

We’re human too…we don’t eat perfectly or know everything by heart, but here are a few things that really get under our skin:

1. Can you make me a meal plan??

We do more than just the stereotypical meal plan. Sometimes this isn’t even a part of the dietitians job. We asses, diagnose, treat, and evaluate patients depending upon the career we choose to enter with our credentials and degrees. Meal plans are more than just “okay let me tell you what you should eat and write it up in ten minutes”. It’s a lot more complicated than that. Instead, we can help evaluate your current diet and help you make better choices depending on your needs.

2. What’s the healthiest fruit I could eat?

No such thing as the “healthiest” fruit, and don’t even get me started on this “superfood” rant. All fruits have benefits to them, some more than others. Incorporating fruit in your diet is important, the recommended amount being about 2 cups for women/men under 50.

3. I just started this drink detox….

We have a liver to do the detoxing for us. Drinking, whether its fruit juices, broths, smoothies, or what have you, still contains calories. You might lose a little weight if that is your goal, but it’s potentially water weight, plus chances are once you go back to consuming whole foods (cleansing/juicing is not a sustainable, healthy diet plus chances are you are doing this as a 3-7 day phase and are not learning proper eating  techniques), your weight will be gained right back. Talking to a dietitian about healthier lifestyle changes would be much more beneficial.

 

4. Oh don’t look at what I’m eating!

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It might have been funny the first time, but it’s not funny after every person says it. It’s frustrating going out to dinner with friends when they think we’re going to judge every bite they take. We aren’t –we’re just as human as you are!

5. I only buy natural products

natural products do not mean “healthy” or “calorie free” or “sugar free” or even, ‘better’ for that matter. Natural products can still contain sugar, because sugar IS natural. Be sure you are reading the nutrition label when buying products, not just the health claims on the front of the package.

6.  I only eat gluten-yeast-dairy-free

gluten, yeast, dairy, and all of the other trending “free” diets aren’t necessary for the average american unless you have to follow these diets due to medical reasons. Cutting food groups out of your diet can be detrimental to your health if you aren’t making up for it in other areas. For instance, cutting dairy completely may decrease your intake of calcium, vitamin d, and protein. It’s important to go through your health care team if you decide to omit certain food groups from your diet.

7.  I avoid carbs, they’re bad

Women below 50 needs about 6 one-ounce portions of grains while men below 30 need 8 one-ounce portions and men 30-50 need about 7 one-ounce portions. Carbs are not the enemy, it’s excess calories and refined carbohydrates that we need to be weary of. Make sure half of your grain intake is whole grains. Great choices would be whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, and oats.

8. I’m starting my diet tomorrow!

Diet is word that means a short lived food intake. Dieting is only for a period of time, and something we definitely do not recommend. How about starting your “lifestyle” change NOW. Why wait for tomorrow? There is no time like the presence. Sure, may you have plans to go out tonight or go to a party or whatnot, but you can still make healthy choices no matter what.

9. I can eat whatever food I want as long as I burn it off in the end, right??

Errr, essentially, when you burn more than what you eat, you do lose weight. But we as dietitians aim for quality over quantity. So that means, yes you can have 300 calories worth of chocolate chip cookies (about 6 cookies), or you can have 4 oz of chicken breast, 2 cups leafy greens, and one baked potato which will completely fill you up and satisfy you all for the similar amount of calories PLUS loaded with nutrients! Choosing healthier food choices will help you feel better mentally and physically. On a side note, eating your days worth of calories in cookies, for example, versus a balanced diet of carbs, protein, and fats, will affect your body on a chemical level differently.

10. Eating healthy is expensive

Sure, buying everything organic, gluten free, and fresh everyday can be pricey…and that’s because many Americans feel that is what “healthy” means. But healthy does not equal pricey. Buying frozen vegetables and fruit, and not purchasing pre-cut, pre washed produce can cut down on costs. Plus, medical bills from an unhealthy diet are WAY more expensive than buying and planning healthy meals…am I right?! Winking smile 

11. Dr. Oz said that…

All I have to say to this comment is the following: