Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Future Registered Dietitians in the Kitchen at Riderwood

With the holidays quickly approaching, there is one thing that will be on everyone's mind, and that's food! I know that I have been thinking about all of the delicious food I will eat over the holiday season, and looking at recipes is becoming a hobby of mine. I also have been looking at traditional English recipes for our theme meal "English Grub in the Pub." Since starting our rotation at Riderwood, my partner, Colleen, and I have had the opportunity to work in the kitchen at Riderwood's Seasons restaurant. There is so much to learn about how the meals make it to the plate and then to the residents. We assist in the production of dinner for that evening and the preparation for the days following. I never imagined I would be learning so much about cooking! 

Colleen and I working in Season's Kitchen 

In order to prepare for our theme meal, we have been doing various tasks throughout the kitchen to get familiar with the facility so we are able to cook our meal successfully the week prior to the big day. I have learned how to trim a beef tenderloin, how to quickly chop many fruits and vegetables, how to get the nice grill marks on yellow squash, and so much more! We also have been working with Chef Victor and Chef Evroy to learn about the various roles they play in food service. We were able to practice ordering food and costing out our recipes to understand how much our own meal will cost per plate. 

Our Theme Meal Handouts

In the beginning of this rotation, I read over the projects to be completed over our six weeks at Riderwood. I began to feel incredibly overwhelmed, and did not know how we will be able to get everything done on time. With great time management and help from awesome employees at Riderwood, everything is coming together so well. It is crazy how fast the time goes when there is so much to do and fun people to work with! It's not all work and no play, of course! We had a great time with residents serving appetizers and hot apple cider during Winterfest.

Serving appetizers and hot cider to residents at Riderwood for Winterfest!

It is definitely going to be a lot of work, but there is so much to learn in the weeks leading to our theme meal. All of the hard work will pay off when we are serving our food to people who attend our meal. Food service is not just cooking food and doing dishes, there are many people who are essential in making a restaurant successful and wear a variety of hats. We have a great opportunity to work with all of them at Riderwood!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wellness Walls

What are Wellness Walls?

My partner, Ashley, recently explained our three-week rotation at The University of Maryland Dining Services. I am going to point out one of my favorite projects….The Wellness Walls! The Wellness Walls incorporated five main categories; healthy cooking tips, exercise tips, nutrition tips, a seasonal recipe and lastly, a healthy and unhealthy plate picture. My partner and I worked on creating material for the wall each day and were able to finalize and design a new board each Friday!
'Get Rooted In Fall'
'Fall Into Comfort'

Our rotation started October 6th and ended October 24th making ‘fall’ a perfect theme for our Wellness Walls.  Our first Wellness Wall was titled 'Get Rooted In Fall', which incorporated rooted vegetables in many of our nutrition tips and our in recipes. These tips allowed our viewers to gain ideas on how to prepare and cook rooted vegetables along with healthy ways to incorporate rooted vegetables into their diet.

The theme of our second Wellness wall was ‘Pumpkinfest’ which, if you couldn’t tell from the name, hinted on the health benefits of pumpkin and presented healthy ways to roast and cook with pumpkin seeds. Our exercise tips also included fall traditions for example raking leaves and getting pumped with pumkins! Who knew pumpkins could be used to intensify push-ups?

Our final wellness wall was titled ‘Fall Into Comfort’ which incorporated traditional comfort fall food with a healthy spin. For example, when preparing heavy fall dishes cooking with reduced fat and sodium brands will lighten up the dishes, yet still create the comfort flavor. We also created exercises that can all be done in the comfort of your own home!   

Overall, Ashley and I got great feedback from our Wellness Walls. We were told that because staff members speak both English and Spanish, having all the materials in both English and Spanish was visually appealing and clear to everyone. Another comment made by the staff was the importance of the pictures. Our healthy and unhealthy plates were clear and contained limited text allowing viewers to understand portions and food groups without reading text. The Wellness Walls were a great way to incorporate creative ideas with nutrition knowledge to promote a healthy lifestyle!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Is There a Formula for the Perfect Intern?

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark”

During orientation, my Internship Director provided the class with this powerful quote.  My director also told us to think about the internship as a 10 month long job interview.  This really got me thinking about what qualities and characteristics make up a successful intern.  With only a few weeks at each rotation, I realized just how important it would be to make the best impression possible with my preceptors and coworkers. 

Since beginning the rotation at the end of August, these past 3 months have flown by.  In this short period of time, I have had the opportunity to rotate through 6 of my rotations including: Prince George’s County Agency on Aging, Dining Services, DC Central Kitchen, Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE), International Food Information Council (IFIC), and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP). 

With nearly half of my rotations under my belt, I have come to realize that certain characteristics are essential if one wishes to be a successful intern.  So, what is the formula for a successful intern?  Two key components contribute to this formula:


The fast-paced nature of a dietetic internship makes it extremely important for an intern to be adaptable and maintain flexibility in these ever changing environments.  My rotation with FSNE required me to be flexible in many ways.  Each day’s schedule was different and required me to travel to many locations throughout Maryland and meet with a variety of nutrition educators. Being flexible helps to minimize stress and increase efficiency when working on projects and assignments. 

While it is important for adapting to changes, flexibility is also an essential part of adapting to the different personalities and work habits at each rotation.  Each of my 6 rotations so far have been very different from one another and required me to utilize different skill sets.  By tailoring my actions and behaviors to the particular environment I am working in, I am able to show my preceptors that I am capable of working as part of a diverse team. 


Thinking of the internship as a 10 month long job interview, self-motivation is one of the most distinguishable characteristics an employer would be looking for when hiring. Impress your preceptors by showing them that you can get work done in a timely and professional manner with little supervision.  Listening carefully and asking questions has helped me understand my preceptor’s expectations and stay on top of my assignments.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask if you can get involved with a project that you are interested in.  If something sparks your interest, see if there is any way you can help out.  This shows that you are truly interested in gaining a better understanding of what each rotation has to offer.  With numerous interns going through each of the rotations, it is easy for your preceptor to forget a lot about you.  However, if you work hard and stay motivated, you will be more likely to stand out from the crowd. 

Although there is not one perfect formula or equation for being the perfect intern, remember to stay positive and put 110% effort into everything you do.  Make the most out of any situation and don’t hesitate to get involved!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Healthy Cents: Saving Money on Food Away from Home

What is Healthy Cents?

Healthy Cents is a program designed to help participants save money while purchasing healthy food. Healthy Cents lessons focus on teaching seniors about making healthy and affordable food choices, reducing food expenses, developing a food spending plan, planning a meal, and saving money on healthy food shopping.

On several of our class days, we have had the opportunity to assist Phyllis in presenting these different nutrition education topics to seniors who are part of the Food Supplemental Nutrition Education (FSNE) Program in Baltimore. This past Monday, we taught the seniors about ways to save money when buying food away from home. Phyllis usually starts off the class with an activity or game to get the participants and interns interacting with one another... and this week was no different! We began the class by dividing into groups of 4 or 5 and were given a basket of cards describing a situation with a price. Working together as a group, we took turns reading the card aloud and discussed how to make less expensive choices in various situations. This activity was great way to practice choosing ways to save money on food as well as share our own experiences in similar situations. 

Following the activity, we tried a banana pudding that is affordable and easy to make at home. During the tasting, we discussed shopping strategies to save money when buying ingredients and ways to substitute other ingredients to change the recipe to your liking. This snack was delicious and everyone seemed to love it! Afterwards, we compared the cost of 4 food common food items at restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s with the same meals prepared at home. I think this activity was eye-opening for everyone because you may end up saving $128 a month just by making these foods once a week rather than buying them!

These classes have been a very enjoyable and beneficial experience for me because I am given the opportunity to interact with an older population. Moreover, I am able to practice tailoring nutrition messages to people from low-income communities. It is so rewarding to see how enthusiastic and happy the seniors are to be there! I look forward to our next class day activity at Healthy Cents!

Monday, November 17, 2014

FSNE and Me: My Rotation with Food Supplement Nutrition Education

After spending most of the internship in a clinical setting, moving on to community was quite a shock! During this rotation, I spent time in the state office, attended the FSNE fall conference, and helped educators present a variety of classes in elementary schools. Although I learned a ton, here are the top four things I learned over the past two weeks.

1) What is FSNE?

Karen reading "Up, Down, and Around" to a class of 4th grade
students participating in the "Read for Health" program.
Before my rotation, I had no idea what FSNE was all about. FSNE, or Food Supplement Nutrition Education, provides nutrition education to those receiving SNAP benefits (previously known as food stamps). Educators provide lessons to all age groups in SNAP-eligible community agencies, from schools to senior centers. These programs encourage participants to make healthy and affordable choices by providing tips, resources, and "tastings." A "tasting" provides a sample of a recipe associated with the lesson and gives the participant a chance to try a healthy item before making it at home. 

2) Kids can get excited about fruits and vegetables!

Most of my time was spent in elementary schools around Baltimore. Educators utilized story books and holidays to emphasize the importance of fruits and vegetables. After each lesson, the kids were able to taste a themed recipe. This week, we made pumpkin parfaits with yogurt, pumpkin, and pumpkin spice.

3) Documentation and Evaluation

I was surprised to learn that educators and state employees alike complete tons of documentation! Each program has a different mechanism of evaluation and documentation, ranging from class demographics to statements from participants. Pre and post evaluations are often employed to determine what each person learned from the program. These evaluations allow the state office to prove that these programs are essential in this population and petition for additional funding.

Here I am encouraging a "Read for Heath" participant to try
a new vegetable!
4) Social Media and Community Nutrition Collides!

Social media is used extensively by FSNE to reach the SNAP eligible population. From Facebook posts to Youtube videos, FSNE finds a way to provide additional nutrition tips to the community. Utilizing social media allows nutrition education to continue after programs end and draws more participants in to sign up for other programs.

Overall, my experience with FSNE was an amazing experience. I was able to see all aspects of the program by networking with educators and those who work “behind the scenes” at the state office. Good luck to the interns who are moving on to this rotation this week!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What's in My Bag?

One thing I have learned from my time in undergrad as a dietetics major is the majority of us have type A personalities. We love to get assignments done as soon as we get them, we put time into picking out our day planner for the next year, and we have special colored pens for taking notes. We are super organized, and we love it! Leading up to the start of my dietetic internship, I had no idea what I would need for each rotation. I knew it would be different from college, but having been in school my whole life, I needed an adjustment period to figure out my new organization system. 

Here are my organizational essentials for a dietetic internship:  

1. Red Phyllis Folder

Provided by Phyllis, the internship director, on the first day of the internship. In this folder, I keep all the important papers together that need to be handed into Phyllis. It is a similar system to when you start kindergarten and have a take home folder for your parents to check every night.

2. Small Wallet/Clutch

Some days we travel to other locations during the day, and I am able to leave my bag at the rotation site. It is nice to have a wallet that can hold your phone and keys. This makes it easy to carry want you need without having to bring your whole bag. Of course, I had to have the Stella & Dot one that matches my larger bag.  

3. Black Folder with Notepad

This is my version of a professional binder. One side has a notepad and the other side has a folder. I carry it to the meetings with my preceptors, so I can write down the details of each assignment. I keep continuous to-do lists for each rotation on the notepad. 

4. Business Card Book

Given on the first day of the internship. Provides a new way of competing with your peers, seeing who has the most business cards at graduation.

5. Professional Bag

I put a lot of thought into what type of bag I wanted for the internship. I wanted a bag that looked professional, had a zipper, and could hold my laptop. I settled for this Stella & Dot bag. I like the pocket on the outside that securely holds my SmarTrip card; it holds the fare for riding public transportation in D.C., making it easier when getting on and off the Metro.

6. iPad Mini

Provided by the internship. Every good dietetic intern needs an apple in her bag.

7. Charger & Headphones

Obviously these are needed for the iPad Mini.

8. Emergency Kit
I feel you can never be too prepared. I keep Band-Aids, hand sanitizer, tissues, Advil, lotion, Chap Stick, and mints in a Kate Spade cosmetic bag.

9. Calculator

A calculator is needed for basic calculations in clinical rotations and on occasional class days. I love school supplies and everything Lilly Pulitzer, so I clearly needed the Lilly Pulitzer calculator. 

10. Journal

I realized after the first week of the internship I needed to write down what I did each day as a reference for filling in my competencies, updating my website, and completing my self-evaluations at the end of each rotation. Being from Annapolis, MD, I always pick out nautical-themed things, and when I saw this Jonathon Adler journal, I knew it would be perfect.

11. Day Planner

Picking out my day planner is something I take very seriously. This year I chose the large Kate Spade 17-month agenda. I selected this day planner because I think it looks more professional than the Lilly Pulitzer agendas, but don’t worry, I have had those too. I keep a Thank You card in the front pocket of my day planner, as a just in case.

12. Colored Pens

Like every good dietetics student, I use different color pens.

13. Flash Drive

On the first day of the internship, everyone is given a flash drive with everything you need throughout the entire internship. It contains contact information of the preceptors, directions to rotations, homework assignments, and evaluations. This little flash drive is the lifeline to the internship.

14. Pencil Case

I use a Vera Bradley pencil case to hold my calculator, flash drive, and pens. It is just an easy way to keep things from getting lost in your bag.

Hopefully, this post makes your transition from college to a dietetic internship 14 times easier.  

These are my personal opinions on what I need for the internship and do not reflect the opinions of the University of Maryland.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ready, Set, Go! Campus Dining in 3 Weeks

For your average dietetic intern, 3 weeks at any rotation site can fly by in a blink of an eye! Over the last 3 weeks my internship partner Rory and I ended our food service rotation with Campus Dining at the University of Maryland, College Park. Although this rotation only lasted for a few weeks, it was packed with valuable learning experiences.

In the Beginning…

During the beginning of our rotation, we were introduced to several key players on the Dining Services team, including Sister Maureen and the marketing team, to learn the logistics of running an operation with the size and scope as College Park.  We were also given the chance to interview and shadow other vital members of the team to learn and observe their responsibilities including:

·         A Morning with Mario- Rory and I spent a morning learning how to receive, put away, and order new food products for South Campus Dining Hall. With over 20 years of experience he made it look easy!

·         Money Sense with Lorraine- One afternoon we spent time with the associate director, Lorraine DiPrima. Lorraine taught us about the importance of keeping a balanced budget for any business. She even taught us how to create a budget from scratch!

·         Human Resources with Shirlene- During our conversation with Shirlene, assistant director, we learned the strategy of hiring the best people. The hiring process utilized at Campus Dining is detailed to ensure quality people are chosen to create the feeling of home for College Park students.

As we learned the roles and responsibilities of the different team members, we also worked on our rotation projects.  We had several to complete in just 3 short weeks. Time management was key as many of our days were stop and go.  Our projects included creating multiple table tents, nutrition articles, wellness walls for employees, creating a sustainability poster, and several others; all of which will be used as nutrition education tools to reach College Park students while in the dining halls. By working with the marketing team I learned how important the health and well-being of students is to the Campus Dining team. Every effort is made to make education tools easy to read with the latest nutrition information. Dining Services uses multiple resources to help foster healthy habits and lifestyle choices in the College Park student.

Let there be Lobster…

My partner and I were also able to help and volunteer at two special events hosted by Campus Dining.  The first, Lobster Fest, was super fun AND delicious! Students had the option of using their meal plan for a traditional, freshly steamed Maine Lobster dinner. We served students on the buffet line which never seemed to end! The lobsters were huge and came with all the fixings, which students loved. We even took a picture with the only lobster lucky enough to avoid the steamer!

We also had the chance to volunteer at a food drive, Campus Pantry, during homecoming week.  Campus Pantry is a new initiative by Campus Dining to help reach students and staff in need of food assistance. We helped at the kickoff event collecting food. Bins and signs were set up at several locations around the campus mall.

On the Last Day…

The last day of our rotation was the most tasteful! We presented our theme meal to the Dining Services team along with a presentation of final projects. With the help of Chef George, we created a beautiful fall meal consisting of fall starter salad of multicolored baby potatoes in a vanilla vinaigrette; roasted pork with cranberry walnut stuffing with a port wine demi glaze sauce; roasted acorn squash with pear, quinoa, and kale; roasted asparagus, parsnip, and carrot wrapped in bacon; and for dessert, apple crisp parfait. Our presentation went very well and our meal was amazing!

Finally, although our time at Campus Dining was short we had the most amazing experience! We learned a great deal of information regarding the day to day operations of a food service system servicing over 40,000 students and staff! As a dietetic inter your rotation does not have to be long or lengthy for you to have the opportunity to learn. Campus Dining at College Park is one example of how quality can trump quantity. Whether your rotation is 3 days, one week, or ten weeks, make the best of it! Your rotation is what you make it!