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Intuitive Eating: The Only Answer to Losing Weight and Keeping it Off Forever

Bonnie R. Giller, MS, RD, CDN, CDE

Featured imageYou don’t have to dig too deep on the internet to come up with an answer to the age old question “what’s the best diet to help me lose weight”. A quick Google search comes up with 102,000,000 results. And most of these diets promise you quick results without having to put in too much effort.

Will these diets work? Well, probably yes, if you follow them to the T.

Will you keep the weight off forever? Well, probably not.

Yet, you go on diet after diet, losing weight and regaining the weight (plus more) over and over again. This puts a lot of stress on your body physically, psychologically and emotionally. I’m willing to bet that you continue to put yourself through this vicious cycle because you don’t realize that there is another way.

That way is through Intuitive Eating. Let me explain.

Intuitive eating is eating based on your physiological need to eat, based on your inner signals of hunger and fullness and NOT based on situations or emotions. Being an intuitive eater means that you eat all foods without first checking the list of “good” or “bad”, “legal” or “illegal” foods that you have set up for yourself, or that the diet of the day tells you to eat or not to eat. You trust your inner wisdom to know when to begin eating and when to stop eating. Through this process, you achieve your natural healthy weight, without deprivation and restriction.

You were born an intuitive eater and unfortunately the diet industry has played a huge role in moving you further away from trusting your inner wisdom. The journey towards reclaiming what you were born with requires a few key steps to start.

1) Commit to never dieting again. Yikes, this sounds scary doesn’t it? It’s very important to make the commitment to live diet free so that you are not influenced by the next great diet miracle that comes on the market. Remember, there will always be another gimmick that pops up to tempt you. But, if you make the commitment to yourself, and every morning when you wake up remind yourself of this commitment, you will protect yourself from falling prey to those false promises.

2) Throw away the scale. As a dieter, you probably measure your success based on the number on the scale. If the scale shows a weight loss, you view yourself as being “good” and successful. If the scale shows a weight gain, you are “bad” and unsuccessful. The tone of the day is determined by what the scale reads. An intuitive eater does not measure success based on external factors. An intuitive eater thinks about the “non-scale successes” that they are experiencing. These can be physical, emotional or spiritual. Maybe you are able to bend over and tie your shoes whereas before you couldn’t. Or, you can walk up and down the stairs at home without getting out of breath. These will help you to see that the lifestyle changes you are working on are making a difference and you no longer have to be fixated on the scale.

3) Seek the support you need on your journey. Sometimes going it alone is, well, lonely. There will be bumps in the road and it’s important to have the right support behind you to guide you over these bumps. It’s best if you combine professional support, such as from a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified intuitive eating counselor, along with a social support network. Knowing you are not alone on this journey inspires you to keep moving forward. Intuitive eating is not a diet and is not a quick fix. It’s a process and a journey of growth and learning. It’s the answer you’ve been waiting for.

Bio:

Bonnie R. Giller helps chronic dieters break free of the pain of dieting and get the healthy body they love. She does this by creating a tailored solution that combines three essential ingredients: a healthy mindset, caring support and nutrition education.

Using her signature Freedom to Eat ForeverTM system, Bonnie helps her clients support and honor their mind and body. The result is they lose weight, keep it off without dieting and live a healthy life of guilt-free eating.

Bonnie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and has her Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition. She has worked in medical nutrition therapy and counseling for over 26 years.

Bonnie is very passionate about helping her clients regain the trust in themselves and their bodies so they can shift away from a diet mentality and learn to listen to their inner hunger signals. She is known for providing caring support and motivation as her clients reacquaint themselves with their inner wisdom.

Get a copy of Bonnie’s Free e-Book, “5 Steps to a Body You Love without Dieting” at www.DietFreeZone.com  To learn more about Bonnie, visit http://www.brghealth.com

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Plant-Based Eating: The Path to a Healthy, Sustainable Diet

Sharon Palmer, RDN

Eat more plants.  That’s the simple advice coming from everyone’s lips, from best-selling authors like Michael Pollan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  For the first time, the nutrition establishment, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and registered dietitians, researchers, and academics in the field of nutrition are in agreement that the diet prescription for optimal health and well-being is one that focuses on whole plants.  Scientific research is accumulating on the health benefits of a plant-based eating style, which include the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and obesity.  Throw in the environmental benefits, such as fewer resources required to produce food, and a plant-based diet seems like the clear winner in the race for defining the optimal diet for today, as well as the future.

Plant-based Eating on the Rise

Plant-based diets, such as veganism, have grown in popularity, thanks to the attention from stars like Oprah, who requested her entire staff to go vegan for one week on her television show last year; Alicia Silverstone, actress, vegan and author of The Kind Diet; and Ellen Degeneres, the popular talk show host who enthusiastically supports a vegan diet.  Yet, plant-based diets are very personal and unique, covering a wide range of dietary preferences and observances.  The definition of a plant-based diet is one that focuses on plants, which leaves room for a spectrum of choices, including vegan (no animal foods), lacto-ovo vegetarian (no animal flesh, but allows for dairy and eggs), pescatarian (no animal flesh, except for fish and seafood), and semi-vegetarian (small amounts of animal foods).  Adding to the mix is today’s generation of plant-based omnivores—those that are not interested in giving up animal foods completely, but recognize the health and environmental advantages of reducing their animal food intake.

You can thank the Meatless Monday program for fueling the idea that everyone—not just vegetarians—should eat less meat and more plants.  Their message is sweet and simple:  You and the planet can benefit by eating less meat, so just shun it one day a week.  Why not Monday? Countless organizations, restaurants, schools, and hospitals have jumped onto the Meatless Monday bandwagon to celebrate this simple concept.  While the number of vegans and vegetarians is still relatively low—about 5% of U.S. adults are vegetarians, and about half of those are vegans—16% now report eating no animal flesh at more than half of their meals, according to a recent Vegetarian Resource Group poll.

Plants Provide Optimal Health for Humans

Getting back to our roots by eating more whole plants in their natural form has a multitude of benefits for humans.  Since the beginning of time, we’ve enjoyed a unique relationship with the plants that surrounded us.  From the first time our early ancestors plucked wild seeds, grasses, herbs, grains, and fruits and saved them in pouches for the future, they realized that these powerful plants had the ability to nourish and sustain them.  Just like humans evolved over time to better suit their environment and survive threats, so did plants.  These remarkable, living plants built up defenses against forms of pestilence, such as the harmful effects of UV radiation, disease, and predators.  Plants developed thousands of phytochemicals, such as flavonoids and phenols, often concentrating them in the colorful outer skins of their fruits.  These compounds provided a self-defense system that ensured the species survived the test of time.  Today, scientists know that we have a symbiotic relationship with the plants that nurtured us over the melenia. We plucked their fruits, feasted on their nourishing properties, and spit out their seeds, thus helping the plant to propagate and survive.  This simple act helped to ensure the survival of both humans and plants, but we got something else in the bargain besides sheer calories to fuel our bodies.  All of those defensive compounds in the plants seem to confer similar properties to humans when they eat them.

It’s only been in the last few decades that scientists have begun to understand how the thousands of bioactive compounds found in plants, from resveratrol in grape skins to anthocyanins in blueberries, protect health.  These compounds, which are often the pigment responsible for the plant’s brilliant color, offer a range of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and unique therapeutic benefits.   Both oxidative stress, the damaging effects of free radicals on body cells, and chronic inflammation, when the body’s natural defense mechanism is triggered and doesn’t “shut off”, are at the root of today’s modern day chronic disease killers, such as cancer and heart disease.  Indeed, study after study has linked consuming plant foods—rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties—with lower disease risk.  And beyond that, particular plants and plant compounds have special activities.  For example, lutein and zeaxanthin found in yellow and orange vegetables like corn and orange peppers protect against advanced macular degeneration, the number one cause of age-related blindness in older people.  And tomatoes, rich in the ruby red pigment lycopene, show promise in the prevention of prostate cancer.

It’s important to note that the benefits found in plant foods are related to eating the whole food in its unique, complex form—fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and all.  A synergy is found among all of these nutrients in plant foods; when the nutrients are isolated and consumed individually in the form of a supplement, we don’t gain the same benefits.  Something special happens when we eat the plant food in its whole form, whether we chew a kernel of whole grain with its bran coating, endosperm and germ, or bite into a fresh strawberry and savor its skin, flesh, juice and seeds.  Unfortunately, our diets have grown distant from the whole plant foods that sustained us; today we often feast on processed foods that are unrecognizable from their plant origins.  The health benefits found in a plant-based diet are not attached to a diet filled with such refined, carbohydrates such as sugars, oils, and white flour—all technically plant foods.

Most traditional diets around the world, from the Mediterranean to Asia to South America, are based on plants.  In many less developed countries, where people still eat their traditional, plant-based diets, chronic disease rates are very low.  But when people move away from these countries to the U.S. and switch to a Western diet, characterized with the inclusion of large amounts of meat, saturated fat, processed foods, and salt and low amounts of whole plant foods, they begin to experience a surge in chronic disease rates.  This has been observed in many populations; probably never as famously as in the Pima Indians of Mexico, who enjoy very low rates of obesity and diabetes in their native environment, but once the Pimas leave their homeland for the U.S. and consume a Western diet, they are rewarded with obesity and one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world.

Our Meat Lover’s Society

Americans love their meat; a large steak sizzling on the barbeque is practically a national icon.  The problem is the size of that steak has swelled over the years, according to surveys.  Many steakhouse menus proudly offer a 16-ounce cut—a full pound of meat—and call their 8-ounce portion the “petite” serving.  This oversized attitude toward meat also pervades American home-style cooking, where we plan our meals based on what animal protein will star at the center of the plate.  An 8-ounce steak may be an ordinary dinner in America, but it’s considered obscene in many parts of the world, where it would be the appropriate amount to feed an entire family for a meal or even a week.  According to the National Cancer Institute, the U.S. consumes meat at more than three times the global average.

Our meat obsession wasn’t always so grand—the last century was marked with periods of economic hardship and food scarcity during which meat was considered precious.  A small piece went into a pot of soup or beans for flavor and the best cut was reserved for Sunday dinners.  Meat consumption has most assuredly risen over the years—it’s doubled between 1909 and 2007.  Across the world, meat consumption is typically an indicator of economic wealth: As income levels rise, so does meat consumption.  Despite a current shift toward higher poultry consumption in the U.S., red meat—including beef, veal, pork, and lamb—is still the clear winner, representing 58% of the meat we consume.  Americans are eating on average eight ounces of meat per person every day.

So, what’s the big problem with eating so much meat?  Several well-designed studies indicate that a high-meat diet—especially red meat and processed meat, such as bacon and hot dogs—is likely to cause health problems down the road, such as the increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and metabolic syndrome—the clustering of several risk factors that put you at high risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease (Circulation, 2010; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009; PLoS Med, 2007).  The negative effects of this type of diet could be caused in part by the presence of carcinogenic compounds in cooked and processed meats and by the absence of health-protective plants in this style of eating.  In fact, researchers from the National Cancer Institute report that, given the plausible scientific evidence linking red and processed meats to cancer and chronic disease risk, it might be time for health experts to start working on bringing our levels of meat intake down.

At the same time, research supports a number of bonuses from taking on a vegetarian diet.  In a position paper published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in which an independent and systematic review of all the research on vegetarian-based diets was evaluated, the organization concluded that well-planned vegetarian diets are completely healthful and nutritionally adequate for people throughout all stages of life and that they have a number of health advantages, including lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure levels, and lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes.  In addition, vegetarians tend to have a lower body weight and lower overall cancer rates, lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol, and higher levels of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals.

A Healthier Diet for the Planet

There’s no doubt that our human ancestry withstood the test of time thanks to its hunter-gatherer traditions.  While we typically conjure up images of cavemen brandishing hand-crafted spears in pursuit of wild beasts, archaeologists like to remind us that early humans were probably prey more often than predator.  Plants were a much safer source of nourishment and early humans gathered an abundance of plant materials along their pursuit for survival.  Our early ancestors certainly relied upon animal foods such as game, fowl, and fish to supplement their plant food diets, but today’s world is vastly different.  The animal foods they consumed were wild, lean and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but today’s meat supply is based on a modern system of confined animal feeding operations.  In a CAFO, animals are pressed together so tightly they can barely move, where they will live short, miserable lives, caked in manure and fed a grain diet laced with antibiotics they were never meant to eat—all for the purpose of providing cheap meat to the masses.

Today, we consume billions of pounds of animal products, contributing to inhumane animal practices and the use of large amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers to produce animal feed, as well as large volumes of water and fuel to take animals to market.  Byproducts of animal food production include greenhouse gas emissions, toxic manure lagoons, deforestation, and pollution of groundwater, rivers, streams, and oceans.

You can make a serious impact on your carbon footprint by eating fewer animal foods, according to several studies.  Italian researchers performed a life-cycle assessment to evaluate the cradle-to-grave environmental impact of several dietary patterns (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006.)  They discovered that an organic vegan diet had the smallest environmental impact, while a conventionally farmed diet that included meat had the greatest impact on the environment—and the more meat consumed, the greater the eco-impact.  Additionally, beef was the food with the single greatest impact on the environment; other high-impacting foods included cheese, fish and milk.  In essence, animals make inefficient “food production machines,” using up lots of feed, water, and fossil fuels to turn plants into protein, said the scientists.  To produce 1 calorie from beef requires 40 calories of fossil fuels, whereas producing 1 calorie from grains requires only 2.2 calories of fuel.  Thus, plant-based diets can play an important role in preserving environmental resources and in reducing hunger in poor nations.

According to a recent analysis conducted by CleanMetrics for the public advocacy organization Environmental Working Group, greenhouse gas emissions generated by conventionally raising lamb, beef, cheese, pork, and farmed salmon—from growing the animals’ food to disposing of the unused food—far exceed those from other food choices like lentils and beans.  EWG found that eating less meat can significantly reduce your carbon footprint.  If you ate one less burger a week for a year; it would be the equivalent of driving 320 miles less.  And if your four-person family took steak off the menu one day a week for a year, it’s like taking your car off the road for almost three months.  If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be like taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

Sure, our country is facing runaway obesity rates, but keep in mind that one billion people around the world don’t even have enough food to eat—a fact that will become even tougher to deal with in 2050, when nine billion people will fill the planet.  Let’s face it:  Our current agricultural practices and diet patterns are unsustainable.  But environmental experts agree on one important principal that could increase the world sustainability of food for the long haul: Growing animal feed on prime croplands, no matter how efficiently, is a drain on the human food supply.  Dedicating croplands to direct human food production could boost calories produced per person by nearly 50%, according to a recent report from researchers from Canada, the United States, Sweden, and Germany (Nature, 2011).

When you put the evidence altogether, the argument is quite compelling.  While our dietary past focused on balancing a plate with animal protein at its center, today’s plate should be focused on a variety of whole plant foods—whole grains, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits.  This diet paradigm should help ensure the health of both humans and the planet for years to come.

Sharon Palmer, RDN, NCESSharon is an award-winning nutrition expert and author of The Plant-Powered Diet and Plant-Powered for Life (The Experiment). She also serves as editor of Environmental Nutrition, writes for her blog The Plant-Powered Blog, and is a judge for the James Beard Awards. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her family, she speaks on plant-based nutrition frequently.

Author: Sharon Palmer

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Celebrate RD Day with a Little History

As Americans we love to celebrate. At any given point in the year we are amidst a special month, week or day set aside for awareness, commemoration or remembrance for a variety of causes, events and people. Usually I shake my head in amusement at every passing holiday but my attitude quickly changes at the start of national nutrition month. One day in March, registered dietitians get a chance at recognition and a time to shine. This year, it’s Wednesday March 13th.

Nutrition has long been regarded as an important part of human’s well-being. Over 6,000 years ago the Egyptian people believed that food was crucial to overall health. The ancient Indian and Chinese cultures used food as a form of medicine.  One of the founding fathers of medicine, Hippocrates, stated, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”.  Leonardo Da Vinci compared metabolism in the human body to a candle burning. The now infamous first nutrition experiment done by the British physician, Dr. James Lind in 1747 found that limes prevented the deadly disease scurvy in sailors when included as part of their daily diet. Nutrition, however mysterious, mattered.

The science of nutrition and connection to health has been present much longer than the actual profession of dietetics. The 20th century was a time of great discovery in nutrition. The majority of vitamins and minerals integral to life were chemically isolated and named in the first several decades of the 1900s. As the science matured, the profession of dietetics broadened its reach. Dietitians were formally recognized as a profession in 1967 by the International Labour Office. And, yes, they declared the spelling “dietitian” not the nails-down-the chalkboard irritating “dietician”.

Even before the formal recognition of dietitians, the field was evolving just as fast as the nutritional breakthroughs in the early 20th century. In 1919, the first dietitian, Hallie Corsette, was hired by the US Public Health Service Divisions of Hospitals and assumed the title, “Superintendent of Dietitians”. Mrs. Corsette grew the division to include 85 dietitians whose focus was the food service operations of the Public Health Service hospitals.  World War II added more duties to the dietitian’s repertoire, including doomsday preppers and consultants.  For example, dietitians partnered with the Civil Defense Mobilization Program to protect the food supply and nourish the population if the United States were bombed. Dietitians were hired by state and local health departments to create nutrition clinics. By 1940 there was enough nutrition research available to establish the RDAs and dietitians subsequently began providing nutrition education to their clients.

As the demand for nutrition experts grew, the need for standardized education and training of dietitians became paramount. In 1974, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietetic Association) was recognized by the US Department of Education as the accrediting agency for dietetic internships and tasked with coordinating undergraduate programs. The responsibility of accreditation was shifted to the Commission for Accreditation in Dietetic Education (CADE) in 1994.

Registered Dietitians and the profession of dietetics is still in its infancy. Nutritional science is announcing new intricacies about the healing properties of food on a daily basis.   Treating disease with a healthy diet comes with the intrinsic benefit of prevention. Medical nutrition therapy is a powerful tool that lacks the laundry list of side effects seen in many pharmaceuticals treatments.  As registered dietitians we have every right to celebrate our leading role in combating chronic disease and translating the science into meaningful advice and guidance. Stand up and claim your day!

Lauren Pillar
Written By: 
Lauren M. Pillar RD, LDN
Public Health Nutritionist
 
Visit Lauren’s blog at
http://www.ImperfectNutritionist.com
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Reader Favorites: Top School Lunch & Child/Family Resource Blogs

We hope you all had a happy National School Lunch Week. Like we said in the NCES HealthLinks Newsletter, School Lunch Week is all about raising awareness for this cause and praising those that are doing a great job of actually improving school lunches for children across the country. In our last newsletter, we asked our readers to participate by submitting their list of favorite blogs or websites that they think are the best resources for packing yummy, healthy lunches. Here’s what we got from you! (In random order)

  1. TheLunchTray.comThe Lunch Tray is a blog all about food and kids, both in school and out. The blog has a big focus on school lunch reform. But, also is passionate about sharing ways to feed your kids healthy both in and out of school. From articles about current trends and issues to recipes that will help your family eat healthy, The Lunch Tray is a great source for healthy families.
  2. 100DaysofRealFood.com100 Days of Real Food has one goal: Eat without processed foods! It may seem like a lofty goal in today’s society. But this blog can help you do it. It’s full of tips, recipes and lots of resources perfect for someone that is just trying to cut out processed foods or a seasoned professional that just wants to stay on top of this industry. If you’re just coming around to the idea, 100 Days of Real Food even helps you with their ‘10 Day Pledge’ to help you get on the right track.
  3. FedUpWithLunch.comAre you a parent looking for ideas to help your youngsters be fit and active? If so, this is a great spot for you! You’ll find everything here from blogs about how to spend less at the grocery store to cookbook reviews to help you make buying decisions. Looking for more than just a blog? Fed Up with Lunch even has a self-titled book out. The tagline; “How One Anonymous Teacher revealed the truth about school lunches-and how we can change them”.
  4. ChooseMyPlate.govChooseMyPlate.gov is the official website for everything MyPlate. So, although their site covers a lot of topics outside of child nutrition, they offer great resources on school lunches, healthy snacks and even physical activity for kids. Have you seen the Super Tracker yet? The USDA’s super tracker allows you to track your food and activity to make sure they balance! Sounds familiar, huh! Learn about balancing Energy In and Energy out with the NCES EIEO handout.
  5. NourishInteractive.com/BlogGreat for parents, teachers and everyone interested in kids health and nutrition. Nourish Interactive’s ‘Nourishing Thoughts’ blog is here to help you dig through all of the news you hear about nutrition these days. With more and more studies, products and trends constantly being thrown at us, the goal of Nourishing Thoughts is to do some of the legwork for you and only bring accurate, relevant information to the table.

Well, there you have it; our reader favorites! Going through each of these websites to research their purpose, I found each one of them to bring their own special piece to the table. I guess what Simon Cowell would call their “X Factor”. Using the links above, you can go check out each of the blogs for yourself! From the blog, you can easily follow them on Facebook and other social networking sites. If you like this list, but feel like we left your favorite off, please feel free to leave it in the comments sections so that we can all check it out!

For more great resources, you should check out the NCES Educated Kids section. Here a couple of our favorite products from this section!

MyPlate Munch and Learn Placemat: 

Make eating out or in fun with these Placemats. Each one provides activities to teach young children about eating healthy and being active while waiting to eat their food. This placemat is great for in-home, restaurants and any school or hospital cafeteria. Grades Pre-K-6. Pkg of 50, 2012.

Easy Lunchboxes

Pack lunches fast with these sturdy and reusable containers. Great for work, school or travel and perfect for both children and adults. Dishwasher, microwave & freezer safe. Made of non-toxic, food safe polypropylene (PP) BPA, PVC & Phthalate free. FDA-approved.

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FNCE 2012: Are you Inspired?

The AND Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) is kind of like Christmas in the nutrition and dietetics community.  Four jam-packed days of interesting education sessions, networking and foodie events, and the inevitable attempt to fit as many free samples from the Expo into our bags as possible.  But aside from the whirlwind of activity, what has and always will make FNCE the extraordinary experience that it is every year, is the energy, the people and the newfound sense of drive you feel every time you leave.
As part of the Executive Board of the Nutrition Entrepreneurs Dietetic Practice Group, our theme at the conference this year was “Declare Your Passion.”  I had the amazing opportunity to meet and network with registered dietitians who have found a way to take their passions and incorporate it into a career that is both emotionally and financially fulfilling– I’m pretty sure not many other professions can say that!  From supermarket dietitians, to authors, to social media gurus, to research experts (just to name a few!) there was never a shortage of colleagues to talk to and learn from.

FNCE is about celebrating collaboration, not competition.  This weekend I saw friends reconnecting, long-lasting business relationships being formed, and students interacting with their mentors.  We shared ideas, we asked questions, and we motivated one another.  The one buzz word that kept being tossed around to describe the 2012 FNCE experience was “inspired,” and I couldn’t agree more.
In essence, FNCE to me this year served as a reminder of how truly lucky we are to be in a profession where we can make whatever career we want.  There are no limits, there are no boundaries–we get to wake up looking forward to going to work every day!  I’ve already started outlining my 2013 “career to-do list” inspired by my interactions with fellow dietitians this weekend, and I can’t wait to experience it all over again next year in Texas!

Kristen Carlucci, RD
Nutrition Expert for Pitney Bowes

NEdpg Director-Elect of Member Services