Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}

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Alphabet Soup

I was sitting in on a Sports Nutrition class this morning, and was reminded of how complicated some of the terms and abbreviations used in nutrition recommendations are. So, I thought I’d take a few minutes to outline and explain a few terms. I’ll quote the textbook definition, and then try to explain it in even more simple and easy-to-understand words. I hope this helps you to make sense of out of some of the alphabet soup! AI: Adequate Intake.

“The average daily amount of a nutrient that appears sufficient to maintain a specified criterion”.

The AI is basically the same as the RDA, except that a specific value cannot been determined for that particular nutrient. The AI is a very educated guess. Well-known nutrients that have an AI are Vitamins D and K.

AMDR: Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range

This is a reference for the appropriate percentage of  daily calories that should come from each of the macronutrient categories (carbohydrate, fat, and protein).

    • 45-65% calories from carbohydrate
    • 20-35% calories from fat
    • 10-35% calories from protein

This amount can vary from person to person. For example, an endurance athlete would want to take in a percentage of calories from carbohydrates towards the upper end of that range, since carbohydrates are the fuel for activity.

DRI: Dietary Reference Intakes

“A set of nutrient intake values for healthy people in the US and Canada. These values are used for planning and assessing diets and include EAR, RDA, AI, and UL.”

So, DRIs is the larger category of references discussed in the rest of this post.

EAR: Estimated Average Requirement

“The average daily amount of a nutrient that will maintain a specific biochemical or physiological function in half the healthy people of a given age and gender group.”

You probably won’t come across this term too much, but it’s simply an estimate of what a typical individual needs. However, since this recommendation is not sufficient for potentially up to half of a population, nutrition guidelines typically use the RDA.

RDA: Recommended Dietary Allowance

“The average daily amount of a nutrient considered adequate to meet the known nutrient needs of practically all healthy people; a goal for dietary intake by individuals.”

In other words, if over the course of time you meet the RDA of the various nutrients, you’re almost certainly consuming enough for your body’s needs. I assume that the average individual is familiar with this term, and would likely equate it with the % Daily Value that is written on the nutrition facts label of the foods that you buy. The Daily Values used on labels are based on a 2000 calorie diet, partially derived from values from the 1968 RDAs. Since 1997, RDAs that reflect newer scientific research have been released, and efforts are being made to update the daily values on food labels.

UL: Tolerable Upper Level

“The maximum daily amount of a nutrient that appears safe for most healthy people and beyond which there is an increased risk of adverse health effects.”

Yes- it’s not a beneficial thing to consume nutrition supplements that claim to contain “300% of your Daily Value!” If they are water soluble, your body will simply excrete the excess vitamins, and if they are fat soluble you could easily approach toxic levels.

To help illustrate some of these points, I’m going to borrow Figure 1-6 from “Understanding Nutrition: 11th Edition” by Whitney and Rolfes.




Food: Fuel for Performance

This week I have been learning more about sports nutrition at my rotation with WVU.

I ran cross country and track in high school, and a season of each in college, so I knew from personal experience what sort of food worked well for me at competitions. However, I didn’t know very much about the science of nutrition as I was fueling myself. I would generally do a higher carbohydrate meal the night before a race, and then a piece of fruit an hour or so before a competition, with some sort of snack afterwards.

Nutrition is important throughout the training process, and athletes should emphasize small frequent meals, whole grain carbohydrates paired with lean protein or healthy fat with all meals or snacks, and drink plenty of water.

The main goal is to provide “sufficient energy for daily activity and extra energy expended in exercise, in addition to replacing glycogen (energy) stores and repairing lean muscle mass” (Sports Nutrition Care Manual).

Helpful daily guidelines for endurance athletes include:


  •  5-7 g/kg body weight each day for moderate duration and low-intensity training
  • 7-12 g/kg body weight for heavy training


  • 1.2-1.7 g/kg body weight


  • .8-1 g/kg body weight

Meals should be eaten 3-4 hours before exercise, and should be high in low-glycemic carbohydrates and lean protein, and low in fiber and fat.

A snack should be consumed 30 minutes to 1 hour before exercise, and should be high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat and fiber.

During exercise, it is recommended to consume 30-60 g carbohydrate per hour, spaced out over that time period.

5-10 oz of water or a sports drink should be consumed every 15-20 minutes to ensure hydration.

Within 30 minutes of completing exercise, a snack that contains a 4:1 ratio of high glycemic carbohydrates to lean protein should be eaten. Lowfat chocolate milk is actually a good post-workout snack.

In the past few years, I’ve begun to enjoy participating in 5K community races and even a few half-marathons. I love the extra daily motivation that comes with having a goal to work towards, and the  encouraging atmosphere at these events. Some participants are there to truly compete and win, but a lot of people are, like me, just out to test their personal fitness and enjoy the competition.

Today was a first for me- I competed in the Morgantown Healthcare Sprint, Splash, and Spin triathlon. Here are a few pics from the day.

If you want to perform well, you’ve got to give your body the fuel that it needs.

Source: ADA Sports Nutrition Care Manual

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BMI vs. Body Composition

I’m assuming that most people have heard of BMI- or Body Mass Index. It’s basically a ratio of your height to weight. In the metric system, this is calculated as your weight in kilograms divided by your weight in meters squared. In the English system, you multiply your weight by 703 and then divide by your height in inches squared. The resulting number, your BMI, then places you in one of the following categories:

  • Underweight: BMI < 18.5
  • Healthy Weight: BMI 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight: BMI 25-29.9
  • Obese: BMI 30.39.9
  • Extreme Obesity: BMI > 40



To test this yourself, plug your numbers in at the Mayo Clinic.

This is a very quick way to assess weight status, and can be helpful in certain circumstances such as reflecting disease risk. However, BMI does not always provide a true picture of health, since it does not reflect body fat. Therefore, very muscular people may be classified as overweight.

In order to assess lean and adipose tissue, several other methods are used by health professionals. Assessing the waist circumference is one of the most practical indicators of fat distribution. Intra-abdominal fat, or central obesity, is more closely associated with increased risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, gallstones, and some types of cancer. In general, waist circumference greater than the following values are at higher risk of the above diseases:

Women: Waist circumference > 35 inches

Men: Waist circumference > 40 inches

 Waist to hip ratio can also be used as a marker, but the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends circumference alone because the ratio requires extra steps and does not provide any additional information.

If you have access to it, another great way to assess body composition is using a more technologically involved approach such as bioelectrical impedance. Today I got to see the bioelectrical impedance machine at work with some athletes here at WVU, since I am working with the Registered Dietitian on campus. This model requires that you stand on a scale with electrodes, and place your hands on electrode receptors. A low-intensity electrical current is sent through your body. Because electrolyte- containing fluids are found primarily in lean body tissues, the leaner the person, the less resistance there is to the current. The measurement of electrical resistance is then used as part of a mathematical equation to estimate the percentage of body fat. You can purchase bioelectrical impedance machines for home use, but they are typically just a scale, or just handheld. Since the electric pulse is coming from just one side, you will get a more accurate reading of just the bottom half (scale) or top half (handheld) part of your body. So, these aren’t the most accurate devices.


The assessment is completed after fasting (preferably first thing in the morning before breakfast) and prior to drinking any liquid. You simply stand on the scale quietly and the machine does its work. Then you get a great printout that indicates amount of lean body mass, body fat (or adipose) mass, body water balance, and percent body fat. One really neat thing is that you can even see a segmental lean analysis- where each arm, leg, and trunk are assessed for lean mass.


Although not feasible and accessible for everyone, body composition by bioelectrical impedance is a great way to assess your lean body mass!

Source: Whitney E and Rolfes SR. Understanding Nutrition. 11th Ed.Thomson and Wadsworth. 2008.


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Lubia Polo

A group of friends was coming over for dinner, and I volunteered to make a “mystery main dish” (so named because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to make!)

I stumbled upon a pound of ground beef in the freezer from my dad/brother’s farm. I don’t often cook meat for myself, so I decided to make it to share. I also had a decent amount of frozen green beans from last summer, and I had just bought a bag of brown Jasmine rice from the middle eastern grocer down the street.
So, as I am wont to do, I just googled my ingredients: “ground beef green beans rice recipe”.
And I think I stumbled upon a future staple for a filling weeknight dinner. Not to mention that it’s a bit exotic.
Here’s to my first attempt at Persian cuisine.
Please meet:

Lubia Polo

Not the most visual appeal, but the flavor is exemplary. The group I was cooking for has quite varied palates, so I was pleased with the unanimous positive feedback.
The following is the recipe as I made it:
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 cups uncooked brown jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons oil


      1. In a large pot over high heat, brown the ground beef and onion. Season with pepper flakes and curry powder. Stir in chicken broth and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, and stir in green beans. Cook for 5 minutes for frozen beens or 15 minutes for fresh beans, until they are tender.
      2. Stir in rice, and cover pot. Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until much of the liquid is absorbed.
      3. Remove entire contents to another container, and return pot to the stove.
      4. Heat oil in the bottom of pot over medium heat.
      5. Dump rice mixture back into pot.
      6. Wrap a clean dish towel around the inside of the pot’s lid (the ends of the dish towel will be folded over the edges on top of the lid,) and put the lid on the pot.
      7. Cook for 1 hour on low, without uncovering or stirring.
      8. Remove lid and place a large plate on top of the pot, then carefully flip it over.
      9. The rice should hold the shape of pot with a nice crust on top called ‘tah digh.’


Suggested modifications for future attempt:

  • Double the amount of green beans.
  • Either use a non-stick pot, or skip the step of removing the rice mixture and returning to the pot with oil on the bottom. Mine semi-held its shape, but in an attempt to improve the nutritional profile of the recipe, I think skipping the extra oil would be just as good, not to mention save 2 extra dishes if you just serve it right out of the pot!

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Food Safety: From Soil to Plate

Locally sourced meats and seafood, and locally grown produce are the top 2 hot menu trends for 2012, according to the National Restaurant Association. It’s a great trend which helps to decrease the number of miles food travels from where it is grown to the point of consumption. I fully support buying local food, but it’s also important to remember some basic safety tips when purchasing and preparing the food.

One of the other interns and I put together a bulletin board describing some of current practices for the hall of the Ag Sciences building where our Division is housed. We split the board into two sections: “On the Farm”, and “Before It Hits the Plate”.

Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) and Good Handling Practice (GHP) audits, set up by the USDA, are voluntary third-party certifications that purchasers (i.e. restaurants) often want in order to know that the producer is growing food safely. Although the products are not guaranteed to be free from microbial contamination, the producer has taken proactive measures to prevent such contamination. 

The audits include simple things such as examining the quality of irrigation water, proper use of animal manure for fertilizer, and cleaning product storage and packing areas regularly.

 More information on the specifics of these audits can be found here

After a restaurant purchases food, there are some basic food safety principles that should be adhered to.

  • Begin with clean hands. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce.
  • Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce that looks rotten should be discarded. 
  • All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking.
  • Store perishable fresh fruits and vegetables (like strawberries, lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms) in a clean refrigerator at a temperature of 40° F or below.
  • Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.

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West Virginia CARDIAC Program

The Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities Program, or CARDIAC, is a unique program that has been ongoing in West Virginia since 1998. According to the program website, it is “a chronic disease risk surveillance and intervention initiative designed to combat the unacceptably high prevalence of heart disease and diabetes in West Virginia”. I learned about this program last year as I began to search for data about the health of children in the state, and was really excited to see the wealth of information that this project has generated.

To implement change and improve the health of our nation (or state, in this case), it is helpful to have starting measurements. This process of data collection is laborious and time-intensive, and requires commitment from both researchers and participants in the study. This project is exceptional, and received the US Department of Health and Human Services Innovation in Prevention Award in 2007.

In West Virginia, all 5th grade students are given the opportunity to participate in the free screening, which includes height and weight measurements to determine Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, a fasting lipid profile, and recording the presence or absence of Acanthosis Nigricans. Acanthosis Nigricans is a skin disorder in which there is darker, thick velvety skin in body folds and creases, and is often a marker of insulin resistance, associated with hormonal problems and obesity. This simple visual test (typically done by examining the back of the neck) is included in screening in order to aid in identifying students who may have undiagnosed diabetes.

Since the inception of the program, 81,156 5th graders have been screened.  Of these students, 5.2% had Acanthosis Nigricans. In total, 18.8% were overweight and an additional 28.3% were obese. In other words, 47.1% of all 5th grade students screened in West Virginia over the past 14 years were overweight or obese. That is a scary statistic, especially considering the fact that overweight children have a higher tendency of becoming overweight adults (1).

In addition to carrying excess body weight, over twenty-five percent (25.7%)  of children screened had abnormal blood lipids, also increasing their risk of heart disease.

A modified version of the screening has also been conducted since 2003 in younger children. Of the kindergarten children, 16.4% were overweight and 17.5% were obese- a total of 33.9%.  To read more about this project and see additional statistics, visit the website.

1. Guo SS, Wu W, Chumlea WC, Roche AF. Predicting overweight and obesity in adulthood from body mass index values in childhood and adolescence. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002;76(3):653-658.

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7 Ways to Stay Healthy at the West Virginia State Fair

From August 10-18, 2012, Lewisburg, WV is bustling with activity as folks from around the state gather to enjoy “Memories that grow… year after year.” A fair is a great place to go as an outing with your friends or family, and if you are from West Virginia you’re bound to run into someone you know. Celebrations of culture and heritage are a beautiful thing, and much of the entertainment at the Fair showcases these qualities.

Yesterday I was able to go to the fair with some friends, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Just in case you’re planning to go to the State Fair this week, I thought I’d write up a list of some ways to enjoy the festivities, without breaking your calorie bank. These same principles can be applied to any large festival you attend, with some modifications.

1)    Eat a healthful breakfast and/or lunch before you go to the fair. When you’re at home, it’s easier to choose wisely foods that will fuel your body well.

2)    Choose water. It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re walking around, particularly if the day is warm. Soda pop or other sugary beverages just don’t fuel your body the same way. As an added bonus, taking a water bottle and filling it up at the water fountains around the fair is a great way to reduce your spending.

3)    Pack a snack. Throwing a small amount bag (1/4 cup is a serving) of nuts or dried fruit in your pocket or purse is a great way to eat just a little bit to refuel in between meals.

4)    Enjoy walking around. There’s a whole fair ground to explore! Take advantage of the opportunity to stretch your legs and get in some exercise without even thinking about it. At the WV State Fair, there is a shuttle available to take fairgoers between the parking area and the entrance. This option is great for those who have difficulty walking, but if you’ve got strong legs- use them.

5)    Find healthier options. There are foods available at the fair that are easier on your waistline. I spotted a few salads, roasted corn (where YOU can apply your own butter and salt, therefore controlling the amounts that are added), and options like gyros and wraps that are more nutrient dense than a funnel cake. At the Country Store, in the West Virginia Annex building, they were selling fruit- apples for $0.75 and peaches for $1.00.

6)    Sit a spell. This is particularly important if you’re at the fair all day. If your legs are getting tired, take a break. Sit down in the Small Stock Arena or the Southern States Livestock Arena to enjoy a livestock show.

7)    Indulge in one fair delicacy. If you crave a cinnamon roll, an ice cream cone, donuts, a funnel cake, or deep fried oreos, go ahead and get it. It’s okay to splurge on a treat on special occasions. Consider sharing your delicacy with a friend. The flavor and experience is better shared, and you’re also sharing the calories.

As an added note, if you’re a gardener be sure to check out the Heritage Garden and High Tunnel to see some beautiful vegetables. I found these MicroTom tomatoes that are simply adorable. I might have to try growing some of them next year!