Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SNAP Challenge: A dietitian's challenge

By Gwenda Hill

I hate ramen noodles. They are squishy and salty and I don’t like them.

I ate ramen noodles on Monday and Tuesday for lunch. I saved more than half of the flavor packet to use on my beans/rice/veggies dinner the past two nights. I am grateful that all of my ramen is gone and that I am having a peanut butter sandwich and raw carrots for lunch today.

I am bored with the repetition of meals. I’ve had peanut butter toast and a glass of milk for breakfast each morning. I’ve had beans, rice and frozen vegetables for each dinner. I was fortunate to have one piece of fruit for a snack each afternoon. Those are decent meals that I might have from time to time on my normal diet, though they are not nearly as tasty or fun to prepare as something similar ... like jambalaya ... with andouille sausage. Yum.

My nutrient total averages for the three days: 1,450 calories, 60 g protein, 205 g carbohydrate, 21 g fiber, 43 g fat, 13.7 g saturated fat. I was about 500 calories short of my 1,950 calorie target to maintain my current weight. Every week of maintaining this caloric intake would equal to one pound of weight loss ... but please keep in mind that not all weight loss is healthy weight loss. I could stand to shed a few pounds, but I certainly would not do it by being so restrictive with my calories. But that’s another discussion...

I met, exceeded, or was close to meeting recommendations for: protein, carbohydrate, total fat, fiber, vitamin C (on the orange day), vitamin A, all B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and calcium. I met the dairy and grain recommendations set forth by the USDA.

I also exceeded my sodium recommendations with an average of 2,800 mg each day, which is not a good thing. I did not add any salt to meals. It came purely from the packaged food that I ate.

I was short on: calories, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin C (on the banana days), iron, and potassium. I fell short on fruits, vegetables and meat/beans from the USDA recommendations.

Continuing on this plan would cause me to be at increased risk for heart disease, cancer, anemia, and a myriad of other diseases.

During this challenge, I have been surprised by how much I’ve thought about food. I am usually pretty good at not snacking at work. I have an emergency food drawer at work- peanut butter, rice cakes, raisins, and Triscuits- but I rarely dip into it. This week, I’ve been very tempted to eat “just one rice cake.” The reason I don’t think about food at work is that I usually start out my day with a bowl of Greek yogurt and Kashi Go Lean granola, which has lots of protein and fiber to keep me satisfied until my next meal. In the afternoon, I am treated to a variety of food from our very talented culinary team for lunch. At dinner, I am often spoiled with delicious food prepared by my husband, who is a wonderful cook. And I almost always meet the USDA dietary recommendations for the five food groups. I rarely have to think about food in the way that I’ve had to the past few days.

I thought that doing this challenge for only three days would not be enough time for me to get the point. I was REALLY wrong. I get it. Food insecurity is horrible. Food insecurity with an illness that has a diet associated with it is probably a lot worse. I’m glad I don’t have to be reminded of this everyday in my personal life ... but am more motivated than ever to help others survive with it in my professional life.


  1. GREAT post. Well-written and very eye-opening. What better time than Thanksgiving to post this...

  2. did you get so smart???