Photo Credit:Cabot Cheese
By: Nikki Nies
As of 5/4/15, I can proudly call myself a Brinkerhead! A head of what, you say?! You heard me, I’m a Brinkerhead, otherwise known as an employee at Brinker International! While you might not be familiar with the company Brinker International, I’m sure you’ve come across the restaurant name Chili’s or Maggiano’s once or twice! Brinker International is the headquarters of said companies, priding itself as a multinational hospitality company.
I’ve been at Brinker for almost 2 months and have taken advantage of every learning opportunity that has come my way or which I’ve saught! What I’ve learned so far:
- My primary role at Brinker has been to provide nutrition information for Maggiano’s banquets. While I had previously been to a Maggiano’s for a business event, I wasn’t aware of all the menus that Maggiano’s has: delivery, carry out, children’s, dessert, wine & beverage, family style, family style lunch, all day meeting, breakfast & brunch, etc. There is some crossover from the dining room, but a good portion of the banquet menu items need their own nutrition analysis as portions are different (i.e. Banquets uses a lot of ‘mini’ versions of dining room menu items).
- Brinker uses ESHA Genesis Food Processor as the primary tool of nutrient analysis. Working with my supervisor, Ms. Alisa Via-Reque, RD, we’ve consulted with the chefs numerous times to better understand the recipes. I’ve had the opportunity prep materials for lab testing, which requires everything from coordinating the lab’s courier, to weighing the raw weight of the tested item, with breading, the edible portion (i.e. with shrimp’s tail off) and vacuum packing the products for delivery to lab.
- I had the opportunity to partake in a ‘Culture of Accountability’ workshop, which enlightened me on the values and culture of Brinker. We’re all here to obtain desired results and obtaining results requires providing and obtaining feedback. Yes, feedback can be a sore subject, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Called the ‘ops experience’, I was able to work the Back of the House and the Front of the House of Maggiano’s Willow Bend in Plano, TX. I have a greater appreciation of all the work that goes into delivering a quality, fresh meal! Many restaurants claim they’re making homemade, scratch kitchen meals, but when you can take the ‘processed’ ingredients, the credibility of chain’s claims fall through. Not at Maggiano’s! I wish everyone could see what the kitchen is like! As someone said, the restaurant business isn’t ‘for the lazy.’ I’ve been working closely with the recipes, which I was proud to see that the kitchen staff follow to a tee. This brings me great pride as I know that the nutrition information that is being provided by Brinker is credible and there aren’t any ‘add ons’ being put in by the staff themselves.
- While Maggiano’s is in a mere 47 locations, as of July 2015, it does extremely well for itself! In comparison to Chili’s 1500 locations, Maggiano’s is able to hold its own, with its banquets driving a good portion of the business! Professional meetings and socials are equally a favorable outing to gather at Maggiano’s. With buffet lines, omelet, pasta and/or carving station, there are menu items for all to enjoy!
I’ve learned so much in the past couple months and have enjoyed soaking up as much of the corporate culture as I can. Brinker knows how to have fun while getting the serious work done first! My kind of life! Can’t wait to see what the next few months bring, I’ve been blessed!
I recently had the pleasure to interview Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, CSSD (DJB), a sports dietitian based in Chicago, Illinois. On behalf of We Dish Nutrition (WDN), I enjoyed checking out what Dawn’s been up to and learning more about what a sports dietitian does! Thank you Dawn for taking the time to chat with me!
WDN: How do you approach or respond to others that seem to have a different food philosophy from you?
DJB: I trade judgment for curiosity. I ask questions, point out similarities to find common ground and I respectfully disagree when diet principles are based in fad instead of facts. I believe in real food, more fun and no B.S.
WDN: When you hear the word “Flexitarian” what immediately comes to mind?
DJB: Flexitarians are pro-plants, not anti-meat. I wrote The Flexitarian Diet because it’s how I eat. I’m a plant-loving vegetarian who is flexible enough to enjoy meat, poultry, and fish occasionally.
WDN: What are your key responsibilities as the nutrition consultant for the Chicago Cubs? How did you go about becoming a consultant for them?
DJB: This is my 6th season as the Chicago CUBS nutrition consultant and every season has been so different. Here are some examples of what I do: Develop recipes & review menus, meet with players individually, give team talks, post inspirational nutrition signs, and create fun ways to present healthy food such as a superfood smoothie station & superfood travel packs.
I love this saying: “Let success find you based on your incredible energy for serving.” I got the initial job interview because the team doctor heard about my hard work & enthusiasm for helping people (word of mouth). I got the job because I was authentic – honest about what skills & passions I have (and don’t have).
WDN: What advice do you have for students and other RDs looking to enter the sports nutrition field?
DJB: Start now! Start doing sports nutrition for anybody. Write about it in your gym’s newsletter, donate a handout for a kids soccer league, create presentations for your yoga studio – get creative. Jobs come to those who are DOING – it doesn’t matter where you start – just start serving. Also, get INVOLVED in the Academy’s SCAN DPG to be around inspiring people & events.
WDN: While each athletes’ nutrition needs may differ, what is one core recommendation you provide to all your clients?
WDN: What do you find to be the biggest barriers for people to overcome unhealthy eating habits in the time crunched, rushed society we live in?
DJB: Biggest barrier: They don’t make it fun. Magical things happen when people are excited about what they are doing. “Saying you don’t have time is like saying you don’t want to.” So, I encourage clients to think about what they actually WANT to change…and then it’s easier for them to make the time.
WDN: How do you juggle all of your responsibilities? As a nutrition consultant for the Cubs, as a food and nutrition blogger with Huffington Post, as a nutrition expert on the advisory board of Fitness Magazine while maintaining a fantastic website and balancing work and life responsibilities?
DJB: I slow down, to do more. I used to feel panicked and anxious. Now, I breathe & mindfully prioritize one thing at a time. Advice I follow: Enjoy the process of work, don’t just work for the outcome. Meaning, instead of just rushing to check things off my to-do list, I enjoy doing the little daily tasks. Makes for much more joy in work & life.
DJB: I just finished my new book featuring a new, FUN approach to eat more superfoods (out in 2016). I’m currently working on an interactive online nutrition course for clients who want my philosophy in a self-study format instead of private sessions. Oh and I launched my new website, I’d love for you to check it out: www.dawnjacksonblatner.com.
Photo Credit: Dawn Jackson Blatner
I’ve been in the Greater Atlanta area for less than two weeks, but I’ve attended my first Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics state conference this week! I didn’t plan the move to coincide with this conference, but not bad timing, if I do say myself! The Georgia Annual Conference & Exhibition (ACE) was on Wednesday March 18th and Thursday March 19th in Augusta, Georgia and was not only a great wealth of information, but had a bountiful of opportunities to connect with fellow colleagues and nutrition leaders.
During the conference, I scribbled pages of notes, as I wanted to retain what I learned and I knew I wanted to share with you some of the emerging trends. The conference was refreshing, with me returning home recharged with ideas and information! Some of the information I learned:
- ~25% of those with eczema develop food allergies, as eczema’s known as the “Allergic March”;
- Registered Dietitians are equipped with the necessary food science lingo and but are not taught as much about representing themselves well. For those considering entering private practice, hiring a(n) (entertainment) lawyer to review contracts between two parties can help protect a brand and make sure both parties are on the same page;
- While ongoing and continued research is a must, a lot of digestive and nutrition issues are being found to be related, exacerbated and/or due to altered microbiome. I have a lot of reading to do to catch up on the latest science, but it’s not a coincidence that the gut keeps popping up in conversations!
- Office Ally is an user friendly free online billing system that provides interactive internet based solutions, allowing for patient care from the point of contact in the physicians office to receiving payment from the insurance companies and providing overall care management from the IPAs and Health Plans;
- While my time in Georgia has been short, I’m appreciative of the great network of RDs! In particular, Ms. Sherry Coleman Collins, MS,RDN,LD, the founder of Southern Fried Nutrition, has embraced me, introducing me to fellow RDs, sitting down with me to give suggestions on how to start my career and sharing how she juggles her business and passions in nutrition! My point is, I met Sherry via Twitter while I was still residing in Illinois, but felt more at ease coming to GA knowing there was at least one friendly face in the area! She’s a great advocate of the nutrient field and I’m proud to call her a colleague!
- Emory Healthcare has been an advocate of sustainable food practices, enlisting a chef that has a flare for sustainability, creating their own garden and educating their staff on the importance and the how to of composting.
- Many complain about the average salary of RDs, but there may be more harm than good that comes with RDs providing services, such as presentations, reviews and/or counseling at a lower rate than deserved. By knowing one’s value, what unique qualities they bring to the table can help RDs identify what ratio of services to charges they should be providing. Also, by talking to fellow colleagues about fee standards can give one the confidence needed to charge the appropriate price.
Where ever you may be residing, I hope you have the opportunity to attend a local, state and/or national conference, like FNCE, to connect with others in the industry and to learn what the latest news and trends are. These conferences allow you to use your networking skills to the fullest and potentially ignite new projects and ideas! I’m excited to get back to the drawing board and put into action all that I’ve learned in the past two days! Happy learning!
Disclosure Agreement: Review of VV software was due to compensation from the company’s whose products were reviewed. We Dish Nutrition tested each product thoroughly and gives high marks to only the very best. Opinions expressed at We Dish Nutrition are our own.
Visual Veggies Software created by Ryan Hartz MS, RD, CSSD
Review by: Nikki Nies
Use: Practice exam questions and tests to help study for the licensure exam to become a Registered Dietitian
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Are you familiar with Visual Veggies (VV) software? There is a large following and use of the Visual Veggies software, with universities around the country either using the software in the application and/or recommending it to students.
The VV Registered Dietitian (RD) Practice Exam allows one to study for the RD exam at own pace, using multiple choice quiz application that resembles the RD Exam format. The software provides immediate feedback of selected answer and detailed explanations.
The founder, Ryan Hartz, is a graduate of Marywood University in Scranton, PA. covering for several temporary maternity leaves, as of 2006, he is a full-time Registered Dietitian with Nestle Nutrition. The software idea came to fruition after the summer months following his internship, with a demo launched three short months of writing the program. As Ryan proudly states, he has been “Helping Nutrition Students Pass Their Registration Exams Since 2005!”
Since the development of the RD Practice Exam, Ryan has developed the DTR Practice Exam and RD/DTR Hanging with Nutrition. However, the main focus of today’s review is on the RD Practice Exam. After extensive use of the RD Practice Exam this past week, I’ve been impressed by the array of features and thought out layout of the programming software.
- Enclosed step-by-step YouTube tutorial provided when the software is initially downloaded!
- Breakdown of strengths/weaknesses of RD exam via Progress Tracker
- Provides an extensive, thorough explanation for why the answer is correct. It includes a picture, % of correct
- Ability to adjust text size
- Illustrations to expand on some questions and ability to enlarge picture view
- Ability to enable or disable timer
- Provides explanation of all multiple choice options
- Clever way of encouraging one to retake tests—“Redeem yourself”
- Practice Exam Monitoring Tool: allows instructors and/or students to monitor progress of software use; pretest scores, average scores overall; individual test results and overview snapshot of how well student is doing in each domain is provided
- Option to purchase Student and/or Academic Edition of the software. The Student Editions are intended for individual students, while the academic edition is designed for colleges, universities or other academic institutions that would like to install the software for multiple users
- Option to pay for software via check or credit card
- Ability to share results with others
- Mac and PC compatible, and soon for iOS devices
The VV software has evolved into a great medium to study for the RD exam. There is still room for improvement in future versions of the software. For example, it would be helpful if one could “save” explanations to add to library for further studies, such as bookmarking and/or copying and pasting explanations into a Word document. It would also be beneficial to be able to disable or enable the feature of sharing the answer while taking the practice exams. In addition, it can be hard to scroll through the entire “explanation” of the correct answer, with the program not instantly “registering” that scrolling down to the bottom portion of the explanation is requested.
There are always opportunities for improvement and enhancement of a product, with VV launching timely updates of its software and Ryan is receptive to constructive criticism. In fact, due to student demand, VV is underway to go mobile! The goal is for the RD and DTR Practice Exam mobile versions available on iOS App Store by end of the first quarter of 2015. The Hanging with Nutrition mobile version will be launched shortly after.
Want to contact the founder? You can reach Ryan Hartz at 570-814-6665 or email@example.com
If you find you can’t get enough of VV’s software, check out its supplemental software, RD Hanging with Nutrition, which is an additional interactive study tool hangman style.
Interested in getting your own version of the VV software? Buy the software by December 31st, 2015 and receive $20 off the software when you use the code: WEDISHNUTRITION
Photo Credit: Visual Veggies
Are you a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)? AND is the largest American organization of food and nutrition professionals. If so, do you actively read their published Food & Nutrition Magazine? It’s a fantastic, evidence based bi monthly magazine that is created and written by Registered Dietitians Nutritionists (RDNs) for RDNs.
Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Blog, Stone Soup, is a guest blog written by members of AND. Some of the latest posts include Shaved Carrot and Fennel Salad, how to get ready for National Kiwifruit Day and Winter Running Essentials.
I’m a huge fan of Food & Nutrition magazine due to their immaculate content, collaborative efforts and last, but not least, their dazzling pictures. If you’re a fan of the magazine, why not try your hand at becoming more involved in the production and creation of the magazine? To pitch a story, Food & Nutrition Magazine welcomes engaging, dynamic journalism about food and food trends, innovations in research and practice, and explorations of the cultural and social factors that shape Americans’ diets and health.
Photo Credit: Food & Nutrition Magazine
Since moving to the Greater Chicago area, I can’t applaud the value of the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND) valiant efforts to provide resources, connections and some good ‘ol fun to its members!
Recently, We Dish Nutrition (WDH) had the pleasure to interview CAND’s President, Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, LDN, a Registered Dietitian at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Skokie, IL. In addition, she’s been busy coordinating future CAND events, getting ready for the holidays and has even squeezed in a trip to Myanmar!
WDN: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a RD?
GH: I love being a dietitian so much. Working closely with clients over time, I get to see the amazing changes they can make. Gaining or losing weight, getting a clean cancer scan, improving labs or curing nutritional deficiencies…any of this is possible when I get to work with someone and see them often. It’s rewarding to see someone empowered that they can improve their health through nutrition!
WDN: What is some of the background work that goes into being a RD at the Block Center? [i.e. what are some responsibilities and/or duties one may not realize is part of your job?]
GH: The Block Center is a very unique place to be a dietitian, but one that allows me to use the skills I worked to develop at Bastyr University where I did my graduate work. For example, the dietitians cook four days per week for our patients and their families; we have a fantastic demo kitchen and I develop recipes and cook for 10-30 people when I’m there! I also specialize in supplementation, namely vitamins, minerals and other natural products that are research-based to help treat deficiencies, lower inflammation, stimulate the immune system or whatever else my patients might need (based on blood labs, of course!). Having a background in research is critical to working in oncology environment and this is another big part of my job. Cancer research changes constantly so combing articles daily is part of what I do to stay current.
WDN: For those interested in learning more about the oncology concentrated aspect of the nutrition field, how can they learn more?
GH: I would start by joining the Oncology Dietetic Practice Group: http://www.oncologynutrition.org/. They are a fantastic resource for new research, webinars, an annual symposium and nutrition resources. Other than that, I love the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics book Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice, published in 2013. It gives a broad approach to all aspects of nutrition oncology including medical nutrition therapy for different types of cancers. Finally, as we know that people with cancer are hugely interested, statistically, in complementary and alternative medicine, I use Natural Medicines Database almost daily in my practice: http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/home.aspx?cs=&s=ND.
WDN: What exciting things are planned with CAND for 2015?
GH: The Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has been on fire this year! We have National Nutrition Month events in March with a special meeting to celebrate “RD Day” mid-month. Policy leaders from our organization will be attending Illinois State Advocacy Day in Springfield and we have a fantastic line up for the State Spring Assembly in April where several of our members will be earning prestigious Academy awards at a special educational dinner. CAND has two more education dinners for our members and I’m hoping that we can participate in a spring run or walk to help raise money for a charitable organization – with all of our physically active members, I think it makes sense to set a positive example in the community, as we have been doing all year at nutrition events around the city. I’m also really excited about CAND’s social media – we have a strong presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest to help connect our members in so many ways.
GH: Great question – there are many! First off, aside from the educational meetings, all members are always invited to attend board meetings. It is more exciting than it seems to see how the organization is ran and also a great way to become more involved. Our website is really a wonderful resource that we’ve worked hard on; we have an active blog (which members can post to!), a speakers bureau, and job/volunteer postings which we update weekly both on the website and in e-blasts. Some of my members miss out on the e-blasts when they go to “Social” boxes in Gmail so be sure to pull over those important pieces of CAND communication. Joining a committee is easy; all you have to do is reach out to me and I can connect you with the next meeting of whichever group you are interested in becoming involved with. We have about 10 very active committees within the organization that are always looking for new talent
WDN: You recently spent three weeks in Myanmar, what made you choose to visit this country as your vacation? What was your impression of the culture, food and the people?
GH: Myanmar was an incredible experience. As the country very recently opened to tourism due to a change in government control a few years ago, we thought it would be an opportunity to experience a somewhat unchanged culture because of their limited access to outside influences. The culture is predominantly Buddhist and this is a very important aspect of daily life for Myanmar. Myanmar is also one of the safest places I’ve ever traveled; we had so much fun taking pictures with curious local people and experiencing their daily lives. The food was absolutely delicious – noodle and rice based, they have an emphasis on vegetables including different greens, cabbage, broccoli and hot peppers and serve egg in almost every dish. They offer a lot of seafood dishes including fish-based soups and have the most delicious tofu which is made from chickpeas instead of soybeans.
WDN: What was your most memorable meal in Myanmar?
GH: There is a state in Myanmar called Shan State and the people there are Thai decedents. Shan noodles are a staple dish served with tomato sauce, crushed peanuts and lots of garlic. The noodles are spicy and served with broth on the side, and even though the daily temperatures reach into the 90’s and above, eating hot soup for lunch and dinner is strangely satisfying. I hope to learn how to make Shan noodles at home if I can.
WDN: What do your future travel plans entail?
GH: I have a lot of US travel planned this year; I try to go somewhere new every month if I can. Also, I cannot WAIT to go back to Southeast Asia. I would love to visit Myanmar again, maybe to stay and work in a school there for awhile. I am also fascinated by Vietnam and Cambodia. I have a dream of visiting China as well, hopefully in the near future.
WDN: What’s a holiday tradition that your family continues today?
GH: We always play board games! Now that we’re adults, this might also include drinking red wines from Washington State, where I’m from originally. It’s fun to try new games each year – the ones with a lot of interaction are best and I really enjoy spending this time with my parents, brothers, husband and close family friends.
GH: Spicy food – Pho, enchiladas, tofu, pizza….I love it all! I am a veggie so I’m always trying new vegetarian restaurants around Chicago. Being from Seattle, coffee is important to me. I have a cup or two a day and take just a splash of almond or soy milk on top.
Thanks Ginger for this enjoyable and informative interview! We sincerely appreciate your hard work and dedication to the dietetics profession!