Dietetics: The Why
As I start the dietetics program in August, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the “why” behind my choice to go into this field! Oftentimes when I tell people I am a dietetics major, they are confused or uncertain what that entails. Explaining some reasons for choosing dietetics may clear up some of that uncertainty and hopefully inspire others to consider choosing nutrition as a career!
Since middle school, I knew I wanted to go into healthcare. At first I thought I wanted to be a dermatologist, but soon realized medical school was not the path for me. The summer before my senior year of high school, I was dead-set on physical therapy and got a job as an outpatient therapy aide, which had me cleaning and stocking equipment at a clinic here in Columbia. But being exposed to therapists and what they did on a daily basis caused me to change my mind. I realized I did not want as much direct patient contact. During senior year I became interested in nutrition and started looking into options. I had originally thought I wanted to be both a physical therapist and a dietitian (oh, my naïve high school mind!). Once I learned about Mizzou’s Coordinated Program in Dietetics, I realized that becoming a dietitian was more demanding than I expected, causing me to focus on earning one degree instead of two. When I found out I could get my bachelor’s and master’s degree in 5 years, I was hooked! I applied to Mizzou and the rest is history.
Now that you know a little bit more of my background, let’s talk about some of the reasons dietetics stuck out to me. As someone who wants to work in healthcare but doesn’t love some of the icky parts that can come with, I struggled to find options where I could have interpersonal patient contact while keeping physical contact to a minimum. In dietetics, I could work in a hospital environment with critically ill patients while also catering to my more office-minded side. A second reason for my interest in this career is the flexibility. Dietitians can work anywhere (think schools, grocery stores, hospitals, nursing homes, private practice, etc) and have the ability to be salaried or hourly workers. I could easily work part-time hours when I have a family. Lastly, I take a strong interest in dietetics because I find the science of nutrition fascinating, as well as the effect food has on our physical and mental health. As a dancer and a Jazzercise instructor, I know that I perform better when I am fueling myself well, and I want to help others find a balance that works similarly for them.
I am ecstatic to be starting the dietetics program this August, and can’t wait to graduate in a few years and start practicing as a registered dietitian. If you are interested in nutrition and want to make it a career, I highly encourage you to look into dietetics. Nutrition is still a young science, and we are learning more about it every single day. I look forward to being a part of that growth in knowledge, and who knows, maybe even spearheading advances in nutrition science someday!
Miss Missouri Recap
Hello everyone! I hope you have all been enjoying your summer and spending time doing the things you love. This blog post will be slightly unconventional as I will be focusing less on the topic of nutrition and more on sharing with you all how my experience competing at the Miss Missouri competition was!
As many of you know already, this blog was born in January of 2020 as I was competing to win a local title that would qualify me to compete at the state competition for Miss Missouri. My social impact initiative, Healthy Nutrition for a Stronger Generation, is the name of this blog site and what I have spent time developing and promoting since the beginning of my Miss Missouri journey!
On June 13th, I arrived at the Missouri Military Academy to stay in the dorms and experience one roller coaster of a week! The candidates competing had rehearsals all day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and our first night of preliminary competition was Wednesday. The week was filled with luncheons, cocktail parties, learning opening/closing numbers, and of course the actual shows themselves! After all of the preparation I have put in over the past year and a half, I can confidently say that I showed the judges every piece of my personality and my mission to highlight the importance of nutrition shined through in each phase of competition.
After competing in private interview, evening gown, talent, and social impact initiative pitch/onstage question, I am proud to say I was called in the Top Ten contestants, earning me a $1500 scholarship and memories that will last a lifetime. Through this organization, I have learned the life skills of professionalism, public speaking, and stage presence that I will carry with me forever. I also gained some unique friendships that I look forward to maintaining for years to come! I have included the social impact initiative pitch I gave onstage below, which I feel is a great summary of my goal to educate others about nutrition through this experience:
"The new American Heart Association guidelines call for less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for children aged 2-18. But the average teenager consumes more than 28 teaspoons of added sugar every single day! One bottle of ketchup is 25% sugar, and no, that doesn’t count towards your child’s daily allowance of vegetables. As a dietetics student with a strong passion for nutrition, I am excited to educate others on what a proper plate of food looks like. Youth of today need to know what a healthy diet consists of, and childhood nutrition needs to be revamped with better choices. Join me in advocating for healthy nutrition for a stronger generation!”
To conclude, I want to say this: if you are considering stepping out of your comfort zone to have an opportunity to grow and build on important skills-do it! I am so glad I took that step with the Miss Missouri Organization, and I look forward to carrying what I have learned into my future career as a dietitian. And of course, if you are thinking about competing for Miss Missouri, please reach out! I would love to talk to you about it and share my tips and tricks for success! As for this blog, I will continue writing about nutrition topics that are close to my heart, but this time without the crown!
Thank you for joining me on my journey!
-Ashley Voeller; Miss St. Charles County 2020/2021
I’m sure you have all heard of my social impact initiative, “Healthy Nutrition for a Stronger Generation”, which I created originally for my involvement with the Miss Missouri and Miss America Organization. After all, it’s the name of my website! My purpose in writing this blog is to give you a general overview of my main objective and vision for Healthy Nutrition for a Stronger Generation, so you are able to understand it yourself and maybe even pass it on to your friends/family!
Back in the summer of 2019 l watched Simone Esters win the Miss Missouri competition and decided it was something I wanted to pursue myself. Every candidate has a social impact initiative, so with some brainstorming and the help of my mom Teresa, Healthy Nutrition for a Stronger Generation was born. My inspiration stemmed from my passion to pursue dietetics at Mizzou (fast-forward almost two years and I am starting the Coordinated Program in Dietetics this fall!), but my platform wasn’t fully developed quite yet.
It took competing in a couple local pageants to understand what I wanted to convey in my message, so I started a website and began blogging about why I wanted to do Miss Missouri, different recipes I enjoyed, and any topic related to nutrition that interested me. Over the past year-and-a-half as a local titleholder through the Miss Missouri/Miss America Scholarship Organization, I have come up with one sentence to describe what I want Healthy Nutrition for a Stronger Generation to be both now (for the state competition in June!) and for my future career as a dietitian:
Healthy Nutrition for a Stronger Generation is an initiative to educate children and adults from all backgrounds on why nutrition is important and how it can fit into their everyday lives both simply and affordably. Now that you know my main objective, let’s dive a little deeper into this concept of nutrition education.
Since I have become interested in dietetics, I have learned so much about society’s outlook on nutrition and what is/isn’t common knowledge when it comes to food and fueling our bodies. There are so many factors that affect nutrition, but one that comes to mind immediately is socioeconomic status. This can be a huge barrier to having access to education about food and the ability to buy simple groceries. Many people live in areas called “food deserts”, which are neighborhoods and even whole cities that are in a location lacking a fully stocked grocery store. Those living in these areas oftentimes must rely on convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, and occasional food pantries to meet their nutritional needs. Unfortunately, places like these almost always fall short. Helping people understand what a food desert is and how they can help with this problem is so important!
Another huge issue is learning how to shop affordably. Many people I talk to have told me that eating healthy is too expensive, and it’s easier to choose prepackaged foods that are quick and cheap. This is where education comes in. It is so important that people understand how to navigate the produce section without getting overwhelmed by all the labels for “farm fresh” and “organic” options that don’t necessarily provide you with anymore nutrition than regular brands, but cost twice as much. Teaching people how to shop smart and look for in-season produce can make all the difference.
I will talk more in later posts about the different aspects of nutrition education, but to keep this blog from being too long I’ll stop with this: I plan to continue making Healthy Nutrition for a Stronger Generation a reality even after my involvement with Miss Missouri/Miss America has come to an end (whenever that may be!). As a future dietitian, my career will be centered around nutrition education and I am so excited to continue this journey towards making this generation (and the ones that come after!) as healthy as they can be!
Food & Family
Family meals…why are these important and how can it change our perspective of nutrition and the purpose of food? Many people these days say they haven’t had a family meal in a long time, and rarely eat with others or on a regular mealtime schedule. This is becoming an increasingly common behavior and has long-term consequences that many of us don’t even realize!
Busyness is a common theme amongst American families these days. With work, school, and extracurricular commitments, there ends up being a lot more rushed meals in the car on the way to soccer practice than sitting around the dinner table. Regardless of whether you live in a one or two parent household, family meals can be beneficial physically, relationally, and developmentally.
The study I am basing this blog post off of is a peer-reviewed article from the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. This is a long but very intriguing article that I encourage you to read if you have further interest in this topic! The main finding of this research is as follows: sharing meals with family results in better dietary outcomes across the lifespan than those that eat alone. Let’s explore this more.
1.Physically: It is well known that eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins and dairy products are good for our health. Eating meals together as a family oftentimes means that more meals will be cooked at home, and home-cooked meals are generally lower in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat than fast-food or takeout. Cooking meals at home can be a fun way to explore new ingredients and recipes with your loved ones that you otherwise may be hesitant to try on your own. Implementing a variety of nutrient-dense foods can be critical in reducing our risk for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Who doesn’t want that?
2.Relationally: Sharing meals together as a family allows time to have a conversation about each others day, which especially provides an outlet to children and adolescents to vent their frustrations in a healthy and supportive environment with trusted adults. Knowing that you can express your feelings to someone else who has taken the time to listen and respond is extremely comforting and can create a strong bond between you and your child, roommate, significant other, or whoever you are sharing a meal with.
3.Developmentally: Focusing on children, family meals can be a defining factor in their development relating to food. As we have seen in previous blog posts, having a healthy relationship with food is crucial to becoming an intuitive eater who views food as a positive thing and not something that creates anxiety. When children are able to see adults demonstrating healthy eating patterns and conversation around food, they are encouraged to imitate the same behaviors. Of course, starting at a young age can make a huge difference in teaching children to trust their bodies to respond to food in a way that is healthy and nourishes them best.
If you are having trouble finding ways to create space for family meals in your life, start with baby steps. Can’t cook from home? That’s okay! Picking up food from a restaurant and taking it home to eat at the dinner table is one way you can cut back on preparation time while still being able to have quality time together as a family. This not only helps support restaurants during the pandemic, but also helps you eat mindfully instead of sitting in front of the TV and grazing after a long day. This may be one habit you want to keep from having extra time at home due to the pandemic. Start where you can and be aware of areas that you can improve upon for the benefit of you and your whole family!
This may come as a surprise to some of you, but my life does not solely revolve around nutrition! Although I love food and the science of how it affects our bodies, I wanted to write a post on incorporating movement into your life as well.
Notice how I am using the term “movement” here rather than “fitness” or “exercise”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using the terms fitness, exercise, working out, etc. In fact, I use those the majority of the time I talk about the topic of movement! However, for the purpose of this blog I have chosen to use the word movement. Here is why- oftentimes people say they do not have the time or energy to incorporate a workout routine into their day-to-day lives. I completely understand this! America leads a busy lifestyle and adding another thing to your growing plate can be stressful and intimidating. Fitness/exercise can often cause feelings of anxiety in people when they hear it, making them think they have to do a super intense, 60-minute workout every day to be considered “active”. This is far from the truth. When I use the term movement, I am referring to the entire spectrum of things you can do to stay active- from hitting the gym for a lifting session to taking your dog for a walk outside and everything in between. I find that busy people have a more positive reaction to this term because it does not imply they have to make a huge life/schedule change to make it happen.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the average adult get “at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination each week.” This is a good way to estimate just how much you should be shooting for on a weekly basis, but what is aerobic activity?
Enough exercise education, how can I make moving my body feel good and not like something I have to do? Well, the first thing to do is change your mindset:
The second thing to do is find activity that you really enjoy:
The most important thing to remember is that movement should be a positive thing in your life. If it is causing you stress, anxiety, or pain, please reconsider what you are doing and choose something that feels better physically and emotionally! Just like intuitive eating, intuitive exercise is something that should be a sustainable, natural, and beneficial part of your life!
Hey there! My name is Amanda Lewis and I am Miss Spirit of St Louis 2020. I am lucky enough to be one of Ashley’s sister queens! As we have spent the last year together, we have realized that we are both passionate about the same things. Ashley is studying to be a dietitian with goals of working in the eating disorder field, while I am a strong advocate for eating disorder recovery. 2 years ago I spent a month in residential treatment for anorexia. Since then I have started a blog, an Instagram and Facebook page, and an advocacy campaign. I hope you enjoy an interview between Ashley and I about my story and some common eating disorder stereotypes!
1.How did you realize you were struggling with anorexia?
Thank you so much Ashley for letting me be a guest author on your blog and I am beyond excited to keep advocating for eating disorder awareness with you!
Intuitive Eating 101
It goes without saying that I am extremely excited about this blog post. Like, so excited it will probably be longer than you want to read. But bear with me, I promise it’s worth your time!
Intuitive eating is something I practice daily and wish more people knew about and implemented into their lifestyle as well. It has completely changed my attitude around food and allowed me to live a life full of freedom and enjoyment. So what is intuitive eating and where did it come from?
What is it?
Intuitive eating is a way of eating that focuses on a mindfulness-based approach, allowing you to tune into your body’s needs and avoid restricting certain foods entirely or completely overdoing it. In a nutshell, it is eating when you are hungry, stopping when you are full. Sounds pretty simple...right? Unfortunately, our culture and current food climate has not allowed the majority of people to do that. We are either told we need to totally cut out certain foods because they are “bad”, or go way overboard because “life is short, have a cookie”. Well, neither of these mindsets really work, and I’m sure most of you have figured that out after falling off your latest New Year’s diet craze as we head into February.
How did it start?
The term “intuitive eating” was first introduced by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, two registered dietitians with years of experience who co-authored their now-famous book Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Program That Works. It was originally published in 1995 and now has been updated to the 4th edition, used by dietitians all over the country who want to practice an intuitive, mindfulness-based approach with their clients. They have a great website that gives more background into their lives and explains everything you would ever want to know about intuitive eating. I encourage you to check it out! Within the book there is a lot of awesome advice about beginning and maintaining your intuitive eating journey, but there are 10 key principles Evelyn and Elyse have come up with to help the average consumer get a handle on the concept. I have added my own two cents after listing each principle:
Hopefully this has been a good intro to intuitive eating that causes you to stop and think about what mentality you truly want to pursue. I am very eager to learn more as I get further in my education and pursue the path to being the best dietitian I can be!
New Year, Healthy Me 2021
Wow, it has been one full year since I started this blog! It goes without saying that 2020 has been one for the books in a not-so-enjoyable way. I never imagined the curveballs that would be thrown at all of us when I wrote my first blog entry last titled “New Year, Healthy Me.” Regardless of the past year’s events, I am grateful to still be blogging and want to use this post to write the 2021 version to focus on how we can all sustain a healthy diet through the new year.
I’m sure many of you tried a new diet last January with hopes of changing your eating habits and possibly reaching a long-desired weight goal. Maybe you stayed on track longer than you originally expected, breezing through January and February like it was no big deal. But then…March hit. The spread of Covid-19 shook the world and changed everyone’s daily routine drastically. Diets were likely not at the forefront of your mind, and your eating habits may have taken a turn from what you so carefully planned for yourself at the start of the year.
So here we are at the end of December, looking around the corner to 2021. Many people see this as an opportunity to start fresh, especially when it comes to their food routine. I suggest you take a non-traditional route and don’t plan a rigid diet that will make you feel like you failed after a few weeks. Instead, begin your own journey with intuitive eating and mindfulness. Here are a few benefits of choosing intuitive eating because we can all agree DIETING STINKS!
-Eradicate the stress of keeping track of exactly what and when to eat.
-Enjoy spontaneity when it comes to eating out with friends, family, or coworkers.
-Boost your self image because your worth is no longer found in what and how much you eat.
-Learn to trust your body around food, which in turn will help you focus on enjoying other areas of your life.
This year, in my own life I want to focus on creating a balance between intuitive eating and healthy nutrition. Through blogging, I hope to teach others how to listen to their bodies and reject diet culture while learning to love nutritious food that fuels our everyday tasks. My next post will further explain intuitive eating and how it works. Thank you for sticking with me in 2020, and I hope you will continue reading into 2021!
Squash the Winter Blues!
Hello! Long time no blog. This past semester has been a busy one as I have been taking classes full time and preparing to apply for the coordinated program in dietetics at the University of Missouri. My months have been filled with studying, working, and building my experiences to ensure I am a good fit for the program. After a lot of time and effort, my application is finally ready and will be in the mail first thing Monday! I have enjoyed my nutrition classes immensely and am looking forward to my future academic career. Although it’s been a busy season, I’ve had some time to enjoy the experimental side of nutrition in addition to learning the science behind it. Recently, I have been trying out different seasonal vegetables to make creations that are both delicious and cost-effective. One of these is a chipotle squash chili that is originally vegetarian. I add in ground beef because my family runs a small cattle operation and making chili without meat is foreign to me! Squash have many health benefits, and just one serving includes necessary dietary fiber and over a full day’s worth of Vitamin A! It’s a great dish for winter, and the squash combines nicely with the other ingredients to add in a unique twist to a classic chili. The recipe below is courtesy of Chef Kenny Williams, a metabolic research chef at the University of Missouri. I have also included his roasted squash medley recipe. I have found that butternut squash is the most common winter squash to find, but if your local supermarket carries other varieties feel free to try them and see what you think!
Roasted Squash Medley
You will need:
· 2 T maple syrup
· 2 t minced garlic
· 2 T olive oil
· Salt and pepper to taste
· Butternut squash and any other squash you like (butternut is the easiest!)
1. Cut off both ends of squash and peel entirely. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut into small bite-sized cubes.
2. Toss squash with maple syrup, minced garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Roast on baking sheet in oven at 400 for about 20 minutes until tender.
Squash Chipotle Chili
NOTE: This recipe does not originally include meat, but I usually brown 2 lbs of ground beef (or use shredded chicken) and add it during the 3rd step.
1. Start by preparing your roasted squash medley (recipe above). While it is roasting, in a large soup pot sauté the following until onions are translucent:
· 2 bell peppers chopped
· 1 medium red onion chopped
· 2 t minced garlic
· 2 T olive oil
2. Turn heat down to medium-low and add:
· 1 T chili powder
· ¼ t chipotle powder (you can leave this out if desired)
· 2 t smoked paprika
· 2 t ground cumin
· ¼ t ground cinnamon
· 1 t oregano
3. Stir constantly until fragrant, then add:
· 2 14 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
· 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes including the liquid
· 1 small can tomato paste (use as desired, I would put in bits at a time)
· 1-2 Cups vegetable broth (use as desired to develop a thicker or more liquid consistency)
· 2 lb ground beef or shredded chicken if desired
4. Stir to combine and cover for 15-30 mins, stirring occasionally.
5. Stir in roasted squash medley (about 2-3 cups or as desired) and cook until heated. Serve with garnishes such as avocado, tortilla chips, Fritos, or cornbread.
Hello all! I hope this blog finds everyone safe and healthy. As you all know, I am preparing for the Miss Missouri competition as Miss St. Charles County. My social impact initiative- Healthy Nutrition for a Stronger Generation, seeks to educate youth on what a balanced diet looks like and the importance of it in their everyday lives. As we have all had to stay home over the past month, I have had to get creative with ways to share this initiative!
This week, I had the opportunity to prepare and distribute craft kits to the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia. These kits came with instructions and materials for the kids to build their own “MyPlate” based off of USDA guidelines. Sponsored by Hyvee, I was able to create 150 of these! I can’t wait to make more, but for now I thought I would share this craft with you all so you could try it out for yourself. This is perfect for teaching young kids to get excited about nutrition!
MyPlate Craft: How-To
-30% grains (whole grains are best!)
MyPlate also shows a small circle for dairy products, you can choose to add this too if you want!
Step 2. Cut out your foods
Take your magazine or circular and start looking for foods that meet these requirements. The more color the better!
Step 3. Paste these foods onto your paper plate according to the MyPlate proportions
If you are anything like me, your artistic skills may not be the most organized, but we aren’t striving for perfection here!
Step 4. Print off the MyPlate Pledge certificate and take a picture with your plate! Then, send me the photo on social media @Miss St. Charles County 2020 and I will post it with the hashtag #MyPlatePledge.
I have really enjoyed doing this in the classroom with kids and although I am sad that I can no longer do it in person, but I am so excited about creating these kits for people to take home and enjoy! If you know of any clubs or organizations that would like some of these kits, please contact me and let me know. Even though our normal lives have been put on pause, it’s still important to find new ways to complete our goals. This is such a fun activity for kids to teach them how to build a balanced plate. Parents, I hope this craft will be a good use of some of that extra time at home and gives you an idea of how to teach your kids about nutrition! Now get crafting and have some fun!
-Ashley Voeller is a college student, future dietitian, dancer and blogger