“Gut health”. We’ve all heard it, the latest buzzword that is trending all over the internet. But what’s good about this trend is that it’s not your regular ‘fad diet’, in fact the research is growing exponentially and has shown that your gut microbiome plays a really important role in our physical and mental wellbeing. The gut microbiome is found in the large intestine and describes the diverse ecosystem of bacteria that resides here. Each of us consists of about 100 trillion microbial cells, 10 times more than the number of human cells in our body! They do lots of great things for us, such as digesting food and absorbing nutrients, in particular dietary fibre and keeping our immune system healthy from any harmful pathogens. The most important discovery in the field of research is that individuals who ate more than 30 different plant based foods a week had a more diverse colony of gut bacteria than those who ate less than 10. We all know that on a student budget it can be difficult to get diversity in on a budget, so here are my top tips for feeding your gut bacteria at a lower cost.
Bulk out meals with cheaper cupboard staples, such as chickpeas, lentils or beans. On average tins of these tend to be around 50p and contain all the gut loving fibre that your microbes will enjoy. You don’t even have to remove the meat from the dish if you enjoy this, it just makes sure you’ve got more fibre and plant based protein. Also, the more vegetables you bulk out the portions with the more food you will make so even if the vegetables are a little more expensive you may save in the long run
2. Rotate your fruits and vegetables. If it’s hard to eat 30 plant based foods a week, just try not to stick to one food all the time. One challenge I’m doing at the moment is to try and get one fruit and vegetable in my shop that I don’t usually go for. This week’s is pineapple and sweet potato! Even using different colours of the same vegetables, such as peppers or onions, each different colour counts as more variety.
3. Try buying frozen vegetables. Lots of people have the misconception that frozen fruit and vegetables are less nutritious, but sometimes they can actually be higher in nutrients as they are picked and packaged and frozen in hours which retains the nutrients more than storing at room temperature. These options can be very cost effective and last longer than fresh vegetables.
4. Plan your meals for the week so that you know exactly what you need to buy and are less likely to shop. If you write everything down in a list, you are more likely to stick to it, rather than buying lots of random expensive ingredients and not knowing what to cook. I am a serial meal prepper so I love to make big batches of meals, so I find it really helpful to have a plan when I go to the supermarket so I know what I’m eating for the week.
5. Have a go at experimenting with more herbs and spices. Did you know they also count as a ¼ of a plant point? If you add herbs and spices it can really make a dish more flavourful as well as being flavourful for those gut microbes to digest!
I’m Anna, a stage 2 Dietetics student and a social media intern for the Biomedical, Nutritional and Sports Science school. Before Christmas we took part on a few placement experiences at care settings and also Simply Food Solutions, a company that specialises in making texture modified foods. As part our degree, we must partake in 1000 hours of voluntary placement to help teach us important skills and expertise to help us become better dietitians. During these two days I learnt values that are important to use when working as a dietitian, particularly with those who have dementia.
The care setting I was placed at is called St Anthony’s of Padua community centre for a day, which is a charitable organisation providing a wide range of care and support services enhancing the social and physical wellbeing of adults with mild-complex care needs such as dementia or impaired mobility. In the morning I was placed in the Day Service, where the service users come from 9-3pm for Breakfast and Lunch and to socialise with the other service users. We spoke to the chef in the Day Service kitchen and she discussed all the conditions she had to cater for. They had different rimmed plates – green and yellow. The green plates were for service users who had dementia, because it makes it easier for them to see the food on their plate. The yellow plates were for those who had to have levelled diets based on the IDDSI framework (International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative). The IDDSI framework describes a levelled system of food and was created for patients who have been diagnosed with dysphagia, which means they have swallowing difficulties.
The highest levelled diet they had to cater for was for a level 4, the consistency of which being pureed so they don’t require any chewing and promotes safe swallowing for the service user. The chef would purify the foods herself using a blender and would make sure that he had lots of food options that the service user could enjoy whilst maintaining a safe swallow. One of the service users was a type 1 diabetic who was injecting insulin, so they had to make sure that they had sugar-free options for dessert. I felt like this was a valuable experience because I really learnt how to communicate with empathy and how to approach conversations with people who have difficulty conversing. It was clear the positive impact that St Anthony’s had on the quality of life of the service users, and keeps them being able to socialise.
After lunch, I joined one of the staff members on their home visits. We went to a few houses with service users who had chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes or who had had falls. The purpose of the carers was to assist the service users to check in on them and make sure they are eating, taking their medication, and also to help with any basic needs such as showering or washing. My role here was to ask the service user questions about their diet and how they manage their condition.
We then had a morning placed at the Simply Food Solutions factory in South Shields. Simply Food Solutions is a company that create texture-modified foods for patients with dysphagia. Dysphagia is a condition where the patients has difficulty swallowing. The main consumers are hospitals where they provide these products so the patients have a more enjoyable eating experience. The company’s primary objective is to produce food that meets home-cooked standards, making sure they are authentic and tasty. Each dish complies with the IDDSI guidelines for texture. We were given a tour of the factory, and we were required to wear protective gear including hair nets, shoe covers and special white coats, to comply with strict food hygiene regulations. You can see the outfit in its full glory in the picture below, and all layered up prepared for the cold freezer rooms!
The first part of the factory was a huge cold storage freezer, which was a whole room! Separate freezer rooms were designated for meat, vegetables and dairy. It was so cold when we went in them, so it was a good job that we had layered up! We were then showed where the meals were prepared and cooked, and there were huge ‘kettles’ which held around 300 litres of water. The meals were cooked in these kettles, and then underwent a rapid cooling process in a blast chiller. Following this, they were transferred to large blenders equipped with blades designed to ensure that the food met the specified texture. Post-blending, the food was sent to packaging where individual workers carefully weighed each portion before automated machines sealed the packages. The final step involved placing the packaged items into blast freezers, preparing them for shipment to consumers. After the factory tour we were able to test the meals to make sure they met the necessary requirements by using certain utensils and seeing how the food behaved. We were given checklists that matched the IDDSI framework, and using forks and our fingers we had to assess the texture, appearance and thickness of the foods. We then tried to recreate these back in the food labs at university inspired by the foods we saw at Simply Foods Solutions.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed these placement sessions, and I learned a lot about the importance of texture modified diets and how they can improve the quality of life with people with dysphagia. Despite the texture being different, the taste and appearance of food still has a huge impact on the enjoyment of eating. The more appetising the food looks, the more likely it is that the patient is going to eat it, which is very important to maintain a healthy weight and to avoid malnutrition, which is common with dysphagia. The texture is also important to prevent choking hazards. For me it also highlighted the importance of care settings like St Anthony’s providing places where older and isolated people can come together and socialise, which greatly improves their quality of life and morale. The most valuable skill I gained was the ability to communicate with all the service users and approach conversations despite certain barriers. These were two very enjoyable sessions and I am looking forward to my 1-week NHS placement in Easter, where I will be based in St Nicholas’ Hospital in Gosforth, where I will get a greater insight into what a Dietitian’s role within the hospital entails.
Hi – it’s Georgia the Student Dietitian again! So on the last blog post I talked about what it was like to be on placement in a secure inpatient unit. I said I would also give some insight into my day in the life in an Eating Disorder unit – so here it is!
Background context – Eating Disorders is an umbrella term that can describe many different disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia and others. The patients in my care ranged from 18 to 75 years old and covered all genders. There is lots of psychology often required within Eating Disorder services, so Dietitians work alongside other healthcare staff to provide a holistic form of care to patients. For my placement I worked across inpatient units (on a ward within a hospital), community, and day service. This gave me a really good insight into all of the different areas you could work in as a Dietitian in Eating Disorders.
The different types of services: So i mentioned that there are three different types of services. I am just going to explain a tiny bit about each one so that you are aware of the difference.
Inpatient services – This is where patients are on a ward and have their own rooms. They are monitored and supported 24/7 by staff and are sometimes allowed leave off the ward. Patients on these ward often get their weight and bloods monitored more often and can be put onto a feeding tube if necessary.
Community – This is a service which manages and supports Eating Disorder Patients within the comfort of their own homes. Dietitians will often visit patients where they live and provide advice and support around meal plans and cooking facilities etc.
Day service – Day service is a service which allows patients to attend a clinic for the whole day or half the day to have their meals and be supported by cooking for themselves. So patients tend to spend the whole day at the service and they will have supervised breakfast, lunch, dinner and 3 snacks. They are also supported to cook for themselves in order to mimic what it would be like for the patients at home.
My day to day experience:
As all of the services were very different, I unfortunately do not have enough writing room to describe all of these (plus I think you would probably get bored!). Therefore, here is a day in the life of a student on an inpatient ward….
Morning: I usually arrive at the hospital at 9am to prepare for the day. The Dietitians have their own office where they can produce resources, write up notes and host team meetings with other healthcare professionals. The start of the day I would usually read about on patient backgrounds and fill in my patient notes based on what I can already access (for example recent weights and blood results). I would then find out what diet plan they are currently on and assess whether this would need changing (diet plans are often progressed step by step to gradually increase intake). After this, I would then usually see around 2 patients for lunch to discuss their progress and come up with future action plans.
Afternoon: After the patients (and staff) have their lunch, we usually continue consultations with patients throughout the afternoon. We do have to be careful to not interrupt snack times however as this is obviously a very important part of their day. Often patients are very visibly upset during consultations as the last thing they want to discuss is food, so showing lots of empathy and understanding can really go a long way during these sessions. Again, my communication skills in this sector definitely developed further as it was very different to what I had learnt at Uni! After my consultation sessions, I would then make any changes to diet plans if this was necessary that day and would add this to the patient notes. I would then head home for a good sleep as I am usually very tired by the end of the day!
As always, if anyone has any questions about what it is like to do Dietetics and what placement is like, please leave a comment! Thank you 🙂
Hi everyone! My name is Georgia and I am a 4th year Dietetics Student. When people ask me ‘so what do you do?” I dread it, because the conversation normally goes like this: “I do Dietetics at University” “You do what now? I’ve never heard of that! Do you just tell people to not be fat?”.
So, in order to give a bit of an insight into what Dietitians do, I have decided to describe a day in the life whilst I am at placement! My placement is split into two sectors – Forensic Secure Inpatient Service and Eating Disorders. I am going to give you a bit of an overview of what it has been like in both, however I will do a separate post for my experience in Eating Disorders otherwise this could be quite a lengthy post!
Secure inpatient services
As the name suggests, Secure Inpatient Services is a hospital for people with mental health illnesses who have committed crimes. Rather than going to prison, people are admitted into a secure hospital for psychiatric treatment. You might think – “How does a Dietitian fit into a secure unit?” – I thought the same thing! The main role that I had during my time at this service was educational sessions regarding cardiovascular disease.
Unfortunately in a service such as this, many patients are on antipsychotic medicines which can often have a significant side effect of weight gain. Due to this, many of the patients within this unit had a BMI of over 45 (for reference, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9).
So now I have provided some context, welcome to my day in the life!
Morning: I wake up at about 7:30 to make sure that I have time to have a proper breakfast and get prepared for the day. I then drive to the hospital and often join a team ‘huddle’ in the morning. Huddles are a meeting with all the Dietetics staff (including Nutritionists and Dietetic Assistants) to discuss how we are getting on with the patients and if we have any new referrals. After this meeting, I would then go down to the ward to see a patient for an education session. To get onto the ward you have to go through an airlock system with lots of security measures in place. Once on the ward, I would normally have an educational session regarding the consequences of high saturated fat and sugar intake on our cardiovascular health. Some patients who I was giving education sessions to were in ‘seclusion’, which is a separate room from everyone else that most people are not allowed to enter. This made communication fairly difficult, but it was a great learning curve!
Afternoon: After lunch, I would usually prepare for the patients that I was seeing that afternoon. I would read through all the patient notes to gather a background on the patient and produce any resources which I may need for the sessions. Many of the patients that I was working with could not read and the only resources we had available were lengthy written resources, so I spent a lot of time producing easy read, pictorial resources for patients which seemed to go down very well. After my sessions with the patients, I would then attend a basketball session with a patient with a BMI of 54 to encourage physical exercise. This was a great session as it also allowed the staff to participate and build rapport with the patients. I really enjoyed this! Finally, I would go back to the office and write up all of my notes from the patient consultations so that other health professionals can be aware of what we have discussed.
I would then tend to go home, cook something quick because I was tired and then watch Netflix until I fell asleep!
I hope you find this useful and if you have any questions please feel free to comment. I really enjoyed this placement and would recommend it to anyone doing Dietetics as you learn communication skills that you probably wouldn’t learn anywhere else. So if you get allocated this placement welcome it with open arms! You may love it like I did.
Hi everyone! My name is Georgia and I am a third year Dietetics student currently on my B placement. I thought I would give an overview of what you can expect from your B placement on the Dietetics course – I hope you find it helpful!
How are placements allocated?
At the beginning of my third year, at around September time, we are all given forms to fill out which we can fill in our Trust preferences. So you don’t really choose your preferences based on location as you could be placed anywhere within a Trust. For example, I received my 2nd choice which was Tees, Esk and Wear Trust. I chose this trust as it is a Mental Health Trust, which was something I was super interested in! So I was excited to get started.
Where was I based?
A few months after receiving our Trust allocations, we were contacted by our placement supervisors to let us know where we would be based. I was allocated Roseberry Park in Middlesbrough (which is a forensic unit) and community eating disorders (so I was based in different areas around Teeside).
How did I feel about my allocations?
At first, when I realised that I was going to a forensic unit where people had committed crimes, I was nervous but also excited. I had no idea what a forensic Dietitian did or what the job would entail. I decided that it would probably be best for me to move to Middlesbrough so that I didn’t have to travel everyday. In hindsight I probably should have visited Middlesbrough before choosing my accommodation, however at least I can pass on this wisdom to the later years! So just to reiterate – please check out the accommodation that you are going to book in person before you book it!!
My experience in the Forensic Unit (Secure Inpatient Services)
As previously mentioned, I was so nervous to go but also so excited to see what it would be like. From the first day that I arrived, the staff were so friendly and made me feel at home within an hour. This was a really promising start and made me so relieved. I was nervous to meet the patients as I had never had any experience with people in prisons or secure units, however to my surprise everyone was so nice to me! We even had a Medieval fun day, which included games, a banquet and craft stalls. It was super fun and I would go back in a heartbeat! So the main takeaway from this experience is to never judge something before you try it – I could definitely imagine myself working in this sector in the future.
My experience in eating disorders
This was completely different to my previous placement in secure inpatient services (SIS). In SIS, the majority of the patients were overweight, some of who had BMIs over 40. Going from that to seeing patients with a BMI of 13 was a very dramatic change and took some getting used to. Again as this was predominantly community, it was very different again as I was hardly seeing the same patients twice. This made it slightly harder to build up the same kind of relationships with patients, but I think this will be the case no matter which sector you are in. All patients are different and that is all part of the learning experience! I think this is another benefit of having 2 different 6 week placements instead of one 12 week placement in one area.
What are my top tips for students starting placement?
I could go on and on about different tips I would give to students starting placement, so I will try and keep it quick. First, as previously mentioned I would definitely say don’t judge a sector before you try it. I had no idea what to expect from forensics and now I love it. Also, and I will say it again, check out the area that you are moving to before you move there! Placement can be hard so it is important to make sure you have a nice supportive environment for when you get home. Finally, make sure you get enough sleep because I won’t sugar coat it, placement is exhausting! You are constantly learning and meeting new people so making sure you prepare the best you can for the day will make all the difference.
So good luck with placements, and remember to not be so hard on yourself. The whole point of placement is to learn so don’t worry if you make mistakes. That is the reason you are there! Most importantly enjoy it and take on every opportunity you can.
Hi, my name is Laura and I have just completed my second year of the new 4-year Integrated Master of Dietetics programme at Newcastle University. Last semester we were lucky enough to have a selection of medical nutrition companies visit us at university to showcase the range of products they can supply for various dietary requirements.
I have been leading the Partners programme in the School of Biomedical Sciences (as it was then) since 2014 – and have enjoyed every moment.
In “normal times” it’s a great opportunity for students to come onto campus and experience university life in a “snapshot”. It’s my ideal that the experience will minimise fear of the unknown, seeing that Newcastle University’s School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences is a place where students can feel at home, see themselves thriving and anticipate a great 3 or 4 years ahead.
Obviously, last year and this year things have changed, and we’ve had to move the provision totally online, but hopefully there is still a chance to see what university life will be like, meet future colleagues in studies and members of staff, and get to know each other.