Becoming a DTR

CDR Score

Sometimes it seems crazy the lengths we go to in order to be able to put some letters after our name. In my case, after I had worked through a Master’s program in German to acquire the letters “M.A.,” I thought if I ever went back to school again, it would be to add three more letters: PhD. I never could have guessed that in fact the three letters would be totally different…a combination of letters I had never even heard of: DTR.

This all started a little over four years ago, when I was deep in the trenches of stay-at-home motherhood with children ages 1, 3, and 5. While in theory I believed (and still do) that me staying home with my kids was the very best thing for them, my days were often long, frustrating, and devoid of that “thing with feathers that perches in the soul”: hope. The road of raising my children seemed so long, and quite honestly, being on it in the first place had taken me by surprise. As an ambitious young thing going through high school, college, and my early adulthood, I had truly never thought about what I would do work-wise if and when I had children. So when they came along and my husband and I decided it was best for me not to work, I had a pretty big chip on my shoulder about shirking my big-deal education. Even if I chosen to work, however, the trouble with my education was that it was so specific as to be obscure. There really weren’t a lot of options for meaningful work in my field, at least not where we live.

All this led to the feeling of being back at square one when I thought about that all-important question of WHAT I WANT TO DO WITH MY LIFE, both in the moment and down the road when my kids got older.

Around this time, our family had started gardening and I was doing a lot of reading of books about food. My husband Anthony had brought home a copy of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, from his then-employer, a book publishing company. I devoured it (pun intended), then moved on to other, similar reads like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, What to Eat by Marion Nestle, and Gulp by Mary Roach. Since, as a mom of young kids, I was already motivated to feed them well, these books both met me where I was at and gave me interesting, challenging information on an adult level. That felt  good.

The more I read, the more focused became my priorities for my family’s nutritional well-being, and the greater grew my concern for public health issues like obesity and type two diabetes. A plan began to form in my head. Nutrition, it seemed to me, was a much broader job market than German could ever be anywhere outside of Europe. After all, everyone eats, right? Could there be a career for me in this wide-open field?

Casually, I looked up my local community college’s nutrition program. Maybe I could take a class, just to check it out. That’s what I said out loud, anyway. My school-loving, accomplishment-driven inner self was already hatching plans for exactly which classes to take every semester, and calculating exactly how long a whole degree would take.

So, in January 2013, I registered for FON 142: Applied Food Principles. With my oldest son in kindergarten, my middle son in preschool, and my daughter at the home of a helpful friend, making it to the Friday morning class wasn’t a problem. I must say, being a 30-something mom walking into a community college class full of hipster 19-year-olds, I felt utterly self-conscious, but that insecurity soon fell away as I embraced the treasure of having something for myself again in the midst of giving and giving to my little ones–something that could possibly turn into a fulfilling career.

Little by little, semester by semester, I added more classes, often taking them online so as not to have to leave my kids. Every class brought me closer to my goal: to become a Registered Dietitian. Eventually, though, the realities of the R.D. loomed large before me: a LOT of coursework, a commute to downtown Phoenix to finish the degree, and the extreme competitiveness for R.D. internships (for which many people have to leave the state). It didn’t take long to realize that it all added up to a major mountain to climb for my relatively small goal of finding likable part-time work in the field of nutrition.

So I switched gears and decided on the associate’s level credential of DTR: Dietetic Technician, Registered. A DTR is able to hold many of the same responsibilities as an R.D., and the credential comes with its own 9-month internship–the difference being that the DTR intern is placed by her college, rather than having to apply for rare and highly sought-after R.D. internships. I like to tell people a DTR is like a junior R.D.

Having finished all my coursework by the end of 2015, in 2016 I launched into the requisite internship rotations of clinical, community, and food service. Let’s just say there were good times and bad times, and in the end, my heart was drawn more than ever to finding work in some type of community nutrition or public health.

And then it was finally done! My last day of internship was at the end of October 2016 and I graduated sometime in mid-December. (I think? I didn’t walk at the ceremony.) It all felt like a huge relief, and an accomplishment I’m very proud of. Pretty much immediately–and definitely by the hand of God–I landed a part-time job with an awesome schedule at a museum run by the American Heart Association, where I wear a lot of different hats, including teaching kids and adults about heart-healthy eating.

But…

There was one last step. To be an actual, licensed DTR, one must take a Big, Hairy, Snaggletoothed Monster of an exam. An exam for which people tell you things like, “Just study everything you ever learned in your whole program” and “There’s really no way to prepare.” Yeah, thanks a bunch. To give myself some time between finishing school, adjusting to a new job, and taking the actual test, I scheduled it for April 1st. (Not a joke.) I studied everything I could think of to study and took numerous practice exams using a software program my wonderful former classmate lent me. By the day of the test, I was just ready for it to be over! I felt very confident that I had studied enough and that everything would be fine.

Well, all those good vibes went swirling down the drain as I sat taking the exam. My friends, I tell you, this was the hardest test I have ever taken in my life. And I am including my “comps” written for my Master’s. Aside from maybe that one geometry test I failed in high school, I have never had the feeling during a test that I wanted to simply get up and walk out, give up. This exam had me wracking my brain with critical thinking questions, doing some pretty convoluted math, and (frankly) wishing I had attended a better community college that would have educated me about many of the questions I simply knew nothing about. When I finished question 110 and a little hourglass icon appeared frozen on the screen, waiting to give me my result, I was wracked with anxiety.

And then it said, “Congratulations!”

And I was like…

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To pass the exam, you need a score of 25. (The scoring is mysterious and makes no sense, by the way. I have no idea what 25 means.) I got a 31. I passed, and that’s all I care about!

So I am now, officially, a DTR. If you’re reading this as someone interested in beginning a career in nutrition, I’d love to chat. It’s been a long road, and I am so thankful to be an actual, bona fide nutritionist!

 

White Bean Hummus

White Bean Hummus

We need to talk about beans. If I’ve never mentioned it before, allow me to say right now, standing tall with my hand over my heart, that I believe beans may be the perfect food. I say this not only because it will earn me points with other nutrition professionals (though they are pretty unanimously also in love with beans, as far as I’ve seen), but because beans are…

– High in fiber

– Low in fat

– Plant-based protein

– High in iron

– Super versatile

And, if you ask me, they taste pretty darn good, too. So I generally try to include them in my diet on a frequent basis. Casseroles, soups, tacos, salads, and even certain pasta dishes are great food items to drop some beans into. And I do mean that literally, not euphemistically.

White Bean Hummus

Lately I’ve been on a homemade hummus kick, but since I balk at buying any actual tahini (have you ever bought tahini? You have to buy like gallon at a time and it’s hella expensive!) I’ve been experimenting with recipes that don’t call for it, like this garlicky version with plenty of my dear wonderfood, beans! With two full cans of cannellini or Great Northern beans, this recipe makes a big batch, perfect for sneaking off into a closet with the bowl clutched to your bosom so no one else can eat it. I mean, for parties. PARTIES is what I meant to say.

White Bean Hummus

Seriously, though, this white bean hummus is my new favorite snack/appetizer/side. Even though I’ve scoffed in the past about how hummus and pita chips is everyone’s go-to, last-minute, classier-than-chips potluck contribution, the deliciousness of this version kicks it up into “bring this any time” territory. Mild white beans mixed with punchy garlic, lemon juice, cumin, pepper, and parsley creates the perfect edible yin and yang.

And finally, because beans didn’t have their own theme song, here is Brak from the ’90s Cartoon Network show Space Ghost to sing you a very special tune about them:

 

 

Print Recipe
White Bean Hummus
Mild white beans mixed with punchy garlic, lemon juice, cumin, pepper, and parsley make for a uniquely delicious hummus!
Course Appetizer, snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Course Appetizer, snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, cook garlic in olive oil over medium heat until garlic begins to brown. Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, scoop garlic into the bowl of a food processor.
  2. To the food processor bowl, add drained beans, lemon juice, cumin, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Process until smooth.
  3. Carefully pour in reserved olive oil while the machine is running and process until well incorporated.
  4. Serve immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container. Enjoy with pita chips or fresh veggies!
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Bush's Beans.

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Milk

dairy products

The definition of milk is a “pale liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals,” which, on paper, doesn’t exactly capture the essence of the creamy substance that plays such a major role in the American diet. Then again, that may be because most Americans are drinking not just any mammals’ milk, but specifically the kind that comes from cows.

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I mentioned in my recent Almond Milk Nutella Pudding post that I attended a fascinating conference presentation on dairy from Harvard nutrition expert Walter Willett, and between that and another talk I heard from the dietitian who represents the Dairy Council of Arizona, milk seems like a topic hot on my radar. So join me as we dig a little deeper–or squeeze a little harder?–to learn some intriguing and novel facts about everyone’s favorite “pale liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals.” Without further ado, here are…

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Milk

1. You don’t have to moo to make milk

While most Americans equate milk with cows–and possibly goats and sheep if we’re trendy or selectively lactose intolerant–there are numerous other animals that produce milk suitable for human consumption. Worldwide, cows are responsible for 83% of milk production, but coming in at a strong second are buffaloes, with 13%! (Anyone for a buffalo milkshake?) Various cultures across the globe consume milk from camels, yaks, horses, reindeer, and even donkeys.

2. Local milk within reach

If you live in Arizona like I do and you want to buy local milk, you don’t have to look for anything fancy or expensive. Because Arizona has its own Dairy Council, milk produced in the state stays in the state. In general, all grocery store milk in Arizona is “local.” Inquire of your state’s dairy council to see if the same applies where you live.

3. Lactose intolerance vs milk allergy

Lactose intolerance is not the same thing as milk allergy. Lactose intolerant people lack a digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose (the sugar in milk), while people who are allergic to dairy have an actual allergic reaction to the protein in milk.

4. The good thing about lactose intolerance…

Many lactose intolerant people can actually eat yogurt and cheese because the process of turning milk into either of these products has done some of the work of breaking down the lactose, leaving less for the body to do.

5. Carbs in milk?

Milk (and therefore all dairy) contains carbohydrates. Lactose is a disaccharide, meaning it is composed of two simple sugars joined together, and sugar, as you probably know, is a carbohydrate. So if you were thinking that diary products are carb-free, think again. While we’re on the subject, milk is in a sense a “complete” food, since it contains all three macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein). One cup of 2% milk is made up of 12 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, and 5 g fat.

6. Milking it in Scandinavia

Finland consumes the most milk per capita of any country in the world, followed by Sweden and the Netherlands. The United States is 17th on the list.

7. No mo’ moo…

Milk consumption in the U.S. has decreased 37% since 1970. Experts believe that this is due to the introduction of a plethora of new beverages onto the market, as well as concern over the obesity epidemic. (If only it had helped…)

8. Skim, 1%, 2%, and 4%?

The percentage given to milk is an indicator of its cream content. “Whole milk” is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s nowhere close to being wholly made of cream. If we called it by its rightful name, percentage-wise, we would call it 4% milk, as it contains 4% cream.

9. Acid + protein = clumps

If you’ve ever found yourself without buttermilk when making a recipe that calls for it, you may have made your own substitute by adding vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk to curdle it. But why does this work? When acid comes into contact with the proteins in milk, it unwinds them in a process called denaturing. Once freed from their original form, proteins can bind with each other to form clumps. The result is what is sometimes called “a dairy version of scrambled eggs.” But let’s not call it that, because that sounds gross.

Oh, and fun fact: the skin that forms on top of heated milk has a name–lactoderm! Its appearance also has to do with proteins becoming denatured.

10. Milky white vites

How much calcium does milk have, really? Are dairy products the highest dietary source of calcium? In short…yes! Or at least one of the highest. Collard greens, spinach, and sardines are other options that come close. Additionally, milk has been the only food routinely fortified with Vitamin D in the U.S. since the 1920s as a prevention measure of the vitamin D deficiency disease called rickets.

And finally…ever notice how many Calvin and Hobbes cartoons have to do with milk?

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Spiced Applesauce Bread

Spiced Applesauce Bread

It’s spring break in our household, and in true spring break tradition of lazy days at home (not true spring break tradition of topless in Mexico, if that’s what you were expecting), my kids and I have mostly been hanging out with friends in the neighborhood, lounging around, and enjoying leisurely time on blankets at parks.

resting at the park

And today, as a last hurrah since it’s Friday of our break, we went out to lunch at a ’50s diner, where my kids were FASCINATED by the concept of a jukebox at the table.

kids jukebox

“What IS this ancient artifact?”

With the extra time on our hands, we’ve been able to enjoy some special breakfasts as well, from baked goods to scrambled eggs. (Yes, scrambled eggs is a special breakfast in our house because of how much I can’t stand cleaning the sticky web of egg remnants off my nonstick pan.) As for baked goods, this spiced applesauce bread is a perennial favorite.

Spiced Applesauce Bread

It’s a no-frills breakfast or brunch item that uses a whopping 1 and 1/4 cups of applesauce, an entire grated apple, and half whole wheat flour to make it healthy, and vegetable oil and plenty of aromatic spices to make it tasty. I’ve been making it for years, and it’s a great stand-by recipe for your bread arsenal. Give it a try for your next weekend breakfast or brunch!

Spiced Applesauce Bread

And now, in true lazy spring break fashion, I’m going to stop writing and go watch a movie. 🙂

Spiced Applesauce Bread

Print Recipe
Spiced Applesauce Bread
A better-for-you spiced quick bread that's chock full of applesauce!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, mix applesauce, brown sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and milk.
  2. In a separate bowl (or the same bowl, if you want to be lazy like me), mix all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Stir with wet ingredients until just combined.
  3. Using a cheese grater, grate peeled apple directly into bowl, then stir briefly to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 60-65 minutes.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

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Almond Milk Nutella Pudding

Nutella pudding

Are you a milk drinker? If you are, how much milk do you drink a day? If you’re not, how much dairy do eat in a day?

At last year’s Nutrition and Health Conference in Denver, I heard a fascinating talk from Walter Willett, Department Chair of Harvard’s School of Public Health, about how much dairy we all actually need on a daily basis. The marketing messages we grew up with that milk “does a body good” and to get “3 A Day” servings of cheese, milk, or yogurt may have been simply that: marketing. Willett’s conclusion, based on numerous studies, was that one serving of dairy a day is probably plenty for most adults. We do of course need to be mindful of consuming enough calcium and vitamin D overall, but as an animal product, dairy has a pretty high calorie and fat price tag for the delivery of these vital nutrients.

While there’s still more research to be done on the merits (or pitfalls) of eating lots of dairy, and what fat percentage to choose when we do, since hearing Willett’s talk I’ve tried to simply become more conscious of how much dairy I consume daily. It’s led to the discovery that I’m a bit of a dairy-oholic. While drinking straight milk frankly grosses me out, my daily cheese/yogurt/ice cream consumption can overstep its bounds even before lunchtime.

Yesterday, for example… I was craving something sweet. The jar of Nutella in my pantry was seductively calling my name, but, wanting to at least maintain my illusion of refinement, I thought, what if I make something with the Nutella instead of just eating it straight from the jar like a desperate PMS-ing college student? Something like a pudding, perhaps! As I thought about my day of eating up until that point, however, I realized it had already been pretty dairy-heavy. So, while there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with dairy, would it be heretical to make a pudding without something other than regular milk, thereby cutting some fat and calories? Could it turn out creamy and delicious if you made it with, say, almond milk instead of cow’s milk?

Why yes, it could!

I didn’t miss a thing in this Nutella pudding using almond milk in place of regular dairy. When I asked my husband for his thoughts, he said it was very tasty, too, and didn’t realize it didn’t contain regular milk. (Though it should be noted that there is a small amount of dairy in Nutella itself. If you absolutely need to be 100% dairy-free, you would need to find a different chocolate hazelnut spread than Nutella–which is possible!)

So whether you need to limit dairy in your diet for some reason, or just don’t mind shaving off a few calories in your dessert, this pudding is your answer. Dollop with a dairy or non-dairy whipped topping to your preference.

Nutella Pudding

By the way, recently on one of my tours at the Halle Heart Children’s Museum where I work, I asked a group of second graders which animals provide dairy products. With utmost confidence, one kid raised his hand and shouted: “Ducks!” If duck milk ever becomes a thing, I’m gonna call it non-dairy and say you can make this pudding with it, too.

Print Recipe
Dairy Free Nutella Pudding
A Nutella pudding made with almond milk that's still creamy and smooth!
Course Dessert
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Course Dessert
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn starch, cocoa powder, and salt. Add almond milk and bring almost to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently to break up any lumps.
  2. When the mixture begins to thicken and almost boil, turn heat to low, add Nutella, chocolate chips, and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
  3. Pour into 4 individual bowls or ramekins, or one large bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve chilled with non-dairy whipped topping.
Recipe Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

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