Random Day Off = Fun

Happy Thursday afternoon!

I thought I’d write a little about vacation days today. Next week will mark my one year anniversary at work, my first “real” job. I have been told that the number of PTO days I received was very “generous”, compared to other of my new-grad friends.

Still.. anything less than 30 seemed rough. Think about it – when you’re in college, you must have at least 80 days off from school. 1 week for spring break (5 days), 2-3 weeks for Christmas/winter break (10-15), 3 days for Thanksgiving (3), we had a 2 day fall break (2), a good 3 months for summer (60ish), and a few random holidays throughout. So the thought of going from 80+ days off, to less than a quarter of that… well, it’s an adjustment.

Being the Type A person that I am, I immediately started planning how to use my PTO days, and used them sparingly – only really for recognized holidays and travel. Luckily, I haven’t been sick in the past year, so no sick days were needed.

With my company, our PTO days expire at the end of September, which is roughly 2 weeks from now. According to my “PTO tracker” in the back of my planner, I still have 4 days unused. Wow! I was impressed with myself for being so careful, yet a little regret crept in for not using them all. There’s no saving or cashing in for unused PTO days; they just go to waste.

And so…. I decided to take today off. It was the first day I’ve taken off work for no real reason. It’s been fun so far!

Unfortunately, there was no sleeping in, as I had a 7:30am appointment at the Toyota dealer for Matrix’s big 75,000 mile service. Luckily, he passed with flying colors. I brought a bag armed with Rachael Ray magazines, some new books, and a snack of Quaker Oatmeal Squares to keep me nourished :)

After the car dealer, I headed to Hobby Lobby to stock up on supplies for some Christmas crafts/gifts, Panera to cash in on my free cookie (sign up for a MyPanera card if it’s available in your area!), and TJMaxx for… well, just to look around :)

At lunchtime, I met up with my Coordinated School Health colleagues at one of our local elementary schools for their Go, Slow, Whoa Kick-Off celebration. We had staff dressed up as Grapes (GO), Mac’n’Cheese (SLOW), and a stick of butter (WHOA), and got to talk to the kids and make sure everyone knew about the program.

I was impressed that most of the kids had already heard about the program from their teachers, and many could even identify/categorize the items on their lunch tray.

The fact that a super majority of kids were drinking chocolate milk instead of white milk didn’t surprise me, but still disappointed me. There were just a handful of skim-milk-drinking-kids – and I wanted to go hug them all. And then, for the kids who brought their lunches from home, they all had Kool-Aid or Capri-Sun pouches. What happened to a water bottle??

But overall, at least the kids were getting a balanced lunch, with all food groups represented. It’s better than I can say for my lunch (the Panera cookie….). I promise my dinner will be better, with lots of GO items!

Now we’re in the middle of a nice afternoon outside. The dogs are enjoying me being around, and have been sleeping out in the yard. I’ve enjoyed an episode of American Pickers, an old Julia Childs show, some cross-stitch, and of course catching up on blogging. Sorry there’s no exciting pictures for today.



Giving Back

I had a great meeting today with the local school district, basically a progress meeting on our Go, Slow, Whoa program. You can read more about the program here. Last school year we implemented the program in 3 elementary schools, and we’re launching it in 4 more within the next few weeks.

My part is the menu analysis – deciding which menu items will count as Go, Slow, or Whoa. I think that’s everyone’s favorite part of the meeting – always an eye opening experience to see what’s being served (and how much butter is in it!).

For me, however, my favorite part was hearing that we are, in fact, making a difference. I loved hearing a story from a grandmother that her son took no trips to her candy jar at a recent visit after learning that candy is a WHOA food. The UT Extension agent who teaches nutrition lessons in one of our pilot schools says that the kids are talking about the new healthy foods they’re trying and eating at home. Success!!

I also brought along to the meeting the new Chop Chop magazine.


If you haven’t heard about Chop Chop, and you live/work with kids, you need to check it out! It’s a nonprofit, kids magazine all about nutrition, food and cooking. There are no advertisements, and it’s full of great recipes, color photography, and nutrition lessons. AND it has a great advisory board (included one of my food heroes.. Walter Willett from the Harvard School of Public Health).

We’d love to get this magazine into the homes of all our students, but we’re stuck with budget issues (with over 8,000 students K-8!), so now I’m seeking funding from community partners/sponsors. Always fun asking for help!


To balance out asking for help from the community, we should all make sure we do something to contribute our service/time/skills to the community. I applied today to be a mentor for a new initiative in our county, pairing mentors in the community with high school seniors who are the first in their family to go to college. As mentors, you help motivate, encourage and aid in the student’s application process.

I know The Boy has talked about how difficult an environment his home town and high school was when he was applying to college. There wasn’t a lot of support or expectations for students, so he was dependant on his parents’ support. For those who don’t even have support from their own home, it must be a daunting experience. That’s where super Elizabeth comes in! haha. But I think I’ll make a great mentor. I can bring them pumpkin chocolate cookies when they ace the ACT :)


On a completely unrelated note: We had a dog party last night – celebrating Neuman’s and Sheff’s birthdays, and Bess’s departure to Kentucky. She’s meeting her new Dad tomorrow at 3pm, so we have approximately 20 hours left with Little Miss Bess. Aww… she’s been fun for the last 7 months, but it’s time for her to move to her forever home :)

DSCN0800 The dogs share my love for cupcakes, but they prefer american cheese and filet mignon-flavored canine pate to chocolate

Precipitating Tuesday

Rainy Tuesday – not a bad day to be stuck inside the hospital instead of wishing I were outside in the nice spring weather (or at least wishing for a window to see the nice spring weather).

Exciting news — Looks like I have some work lined up with yet another nearby school district. Met with some of the staff yesterday to discuss nutrition initiatives that we might be able to put in place. I’m enthusiastic about it, and they seemed mostly excited (we had a Debbie Downer teacher in the classroom). It’s unfortunate to not have everyone on board – the only way we can ever make true change in the school environment is to have complete support from all members of the community. One dietitian coming in and making handouts or analyzing a menu does not guarantee anything. But I try :)

Still no pictures to show you of card catalog. We’re going to stain the legs soon, and get it all put together. I’ve started trying to make a list of 45 drawer categories – so far only have 10! Haha. I know more will come to me as we go along. Oh, and watching last night’s Big Bang Theory made me infinitely more excited about having a card catalog – there is one prominently displayed in Sheldon and Leonard’s apartment! How did I never see that they owned a card catalog too!?


Garden is moving along nicely. My dad pulled out the monstrous tiller from the shed yesterday and got the big garden prepped. All that compost we’ve been chucking out on the ground has rewarded us with nice rich soil (as well as mini potatoes that had been growing!). We got onions and tomatoes in the ground yesterday, and will follow-up soon with strawberries, bell peppers, zucchini and yellow squash. I think I’ll also add sweet potatoes to the mix. Delicious!

And of course – Earth Day is just 2 days away. I feel compelled to do something particularly Earthy on Thursday, but haven’t figured out just what I want to do. Any ideas?

Go, Slow, Whoa!

Work was a little on the slow side, so I did some research for my school nutrition projects. I’m currently working with some local schools here in East Tennessee on implementing the NIH’s “Go, Slow, Whoa” program. A really fun and easy concept – foods are categorized into the color-coded Go, Slow, Whoa, and kids learn to eat more green foods, less yellow, and even less red. You can read about it here.

Basically, the GO foods are what some of us call “Real Foods” or “Whole Foods”, unadulterated, good for you basic food ingredients like fresh fruits/veggies, lean protein sources, and whole grains.

Once you start processing, adding sugars/fats, foods become SLOW, and if you take those food products even further from mother nature (i.e. a french fries) you’re now in WHOA land.

GO foods – eat as often as you want (technically.. although I guess it could become WHOA if you overdosed on anything)

SLOW foods – every few days

WHOA foods – reserved for special occasions

The cafeteria will place color-coded circles next to each item in the lunch serving line, so students will be able to see the colors/categories as they choose their lunch. Hopefully the program will have great success. We’re due to start in less than 2 weeks now.

To see how my day’s eating has added up, I though I’d run my meals through the color-coding and see how much green/yellow/red my day had:

Breakfast: whole grain hot cereal, almond butter, coffee with creamer (just a tsp)

Snack: Hershey kiss from nursing station, 1/2 banana, oatmeal squares cereal

Lunch: potato soup, apple, low-fat chocolate milk

Work Snack: donut from nursing station (ahh nurses you’re killing me!), skim milk

Home Snack: light string cheese, whole-grain crackers

Dinner: roasted broccoli, chik’n patty, whole-wheat bread, light laughing cow cheese

So, moral of the story: stick to foods from my kitchen. Most of the reds came from hospital territory today, with the exception of my daily coffee creamer. haha.

The program has really opened the staff’s eyes as to what they’re serving the kids (obviously no school wants to have 80% WHOA foods, with just a few GO options mixed in). After analyzing the schools’ menus, it’s been fun to educate the staff about healthier GO substitutions.

Now I will say that this program does not address portion control at all. You could eat a completely green/GO diet, and gain weight. But I think it’s a very simplified, easy-to-understand method to teach nutrition to young kids.

Today’s Lesson

I’ve been doing lots of reading/researching today on nutrition news, partly for my high school presentation that I’m still working on.

Some really interesting things I’ve come across:

A study out of Austria has shown that young adults with beginning signs/symptoms of schizophrenia might benefit from taking fish oil, possibly prevent psychotic episodes. That would be such a wonderful alternative prevention, rather than relying on antipsychotic meds that all my patients take, with such messy side effects. High cholesterol, obesity are my #1 reason for doctors to call me in for a patient… and yet those are all side effects of their drugs. Not that I think we could prevent everything (and certainly not reverse schizophrenia) with fish oil, but it’s such a healthy and simple thing to try!

We’ve seen girls reaching puberty at earlier ages these days… seems to be affected by the obesity epidemic, and possibly on the hormones in our food production (although that’s fairly controversial). A study shows that obesity may actually have the OPPOSITE effect on our young boys – by delaying their onset of puberty. So now we’ll have even more mature girls, and even less mature boys. Oh this is so not going in the right direction!

Today is day 3 of Snobby Joes week. Loved the tater tots last night, but loved tonight’s roasted broccoli, perhaps even more. I chopped up one crown of broccoli (probably 3 cups raw florets) and ended up eating the whole thing… roasted vegetables are so much better than any other prep method!!

I wonder if I could introduce roasted vegetables into the local schools here. I’ve spent most of tonight analyzing the elementary school menu, reading through their recipes and scrutinizing their food labels. I was impressed to see butter buds in place of butter for their vegetables, but I wonder if the kids would try them roasted. I was semi-impressed to see their choice of bread “made with whole grain” (it’s a step in the right direction at least… although I bet we could get the kids on 100% whole grain). But definitely NOT impressed by their using full-fat mayonnaise in coleslaw, tuna salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, etc; full-fat cheese (come on!! there are so many 2% cheese slices out there), full-fat salad dressings, and margarine filled with trans-fat. Those are some seriously easy and important changes to make!

Alright, Sheff has been whining at me to stop work and watch last night’s episode of House with him on the couch. Sounds good to me!