Monthly Archives: November 2010

Food Pantry Dilemma

Here’s some Thanksgiving food for thought.

A local business is holding a Thanksgiving food drive and collecting non-perishable food items from employees. To inspire a little friendly competition, the employees have been divided into teams, which get a point for each item brought in. Here’s the conundrum – to “win” the competition, it makes more sense for teams to buy the least expensive items they can. If I have $200 to spend and I go to the grocery and see things like 10 for $10 packages of instant noodles, I can get a lot of those but admittedly borderline nutritional value.

My advice to the shoppers was to look, where possible, for the healthier option. I recommended lower sodium canned goods, which actually seemed to be about equivalent in price. I also recommended granola bars, cereal bars, instant oatmeal (with lower sugar options if available). Whole wheat pastas were a lot more expensive than their traditional flour counterparts.

I also tried to think about ways to encourage healthier purchases. For example, maybe each item could be given a score (or utilize some of the scoring systems out there, like NuVal) and the team with the healthier scores would get more points. Or points subtracted for junk food.

Anyone have ideas about trying to incorporate healthier items into food drives? Is this even a realistic goal? Does it matter? Do you think food drives should have guidelines?

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Foodie Friday: Atlanta

If you’ve been following me on twitter, you know that I’ve been in Atlanta at the 2010 American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting, a gathering of 15,000 Rheumatologists and Rheumatology health care professionals. It’s truly information overload and a LOT to process, but also a chance to gather with old and new colleagues and friends. I’ll have more on that later.

But it’s Foodie Friday, so here’s the Atlanta dining summary. First of all, we were staying downtown around the Georgia World Congress Center and preferred that restaurants were walkable or not a terribly long cab ride. Second, the majority of the groups I dined with were vegetarians. Highly meat-centric or BBQ places were pretty much out.

Our first night we walked into The Peasant Bistro downtown, walkable from the hotel, recommended by the concierge. We enjoyed a creative cocktail menu, many vegetarian small plates and salads and tempting desserts. I had a burger which was not exactly a slider but not full sized. It had a sweet onion relish which was fantastic. I didn’t take photos.

Upon the recommendation of a friend of a friend who used to live in Atlanta, the next night we took a cab ride over to the Inman Park area and enjoyed the ambiance of SottoSotto. Lots of great pasta dishes. One with butternut squash and crispy sage I think was the winner. I wish it wasn’t dark and late – I would have liked to see that area a little more. The waiter was really nice and waited for a cab with us, as it seemed to take forever for it to come.

Another friend of a friend recommendation was Nan Thai – advertised to us as, “The best Thai I’ve ever had, maybe anywhere, but definitely in Atlanta.” While my dish was not as photogenic as this beautiful papaya salad with sweet sticky rice cakes and the curry that came in a pineapple bowl, I ate every bite of my salmon on red pumpkin curry rice. Someone in my party also had the roasted maple duck and it was fantastic.

My last day I wandered over to Centennial Olympic Park to soak up some of those sunny 75 degree skies I knew had long left Massachusetts. I figured, “eh, why not” when I saw the little burger hut by the fountain. What a surprise! Googie Burger had probably the best veggie burger I’ve ever had! With pepper jack cheese and BBQ sauce – incredible! And I figured, as long as I’m getting a veggie burger and no fries I’m being pretty healthy, right? I got a Georgia peach shake and amused the other diners as I tried to get the perfect shot:

Rounding out the food offerings was a pretty standard but good pizza at Max’s Coal Oven Pizza, which also won high points from being walkable from the convention center.

So, ATL friends – how did I do?

*Standard disclaimer – I paid for everything in full, no discussion of blogs, etc*

Too Many Rheums!

Brace yourselves for one of the world’s largest, if not THE world’s largest, gathering of Rheumatologists! The American College of Rheumatology’s Annual Meeting is November 6-11. Check out www.rheumatology.org for more information. Here’s where I talk about what a Rheumatologist does in the hospital. Also, November 10th is “I need my Rheumatologist” call-in day where you can take some political action if you so desire.

Follow twitter hashtag #ACR2010 during the meeting!

Osteoporosis Review

This is a good summary article in The Boston Globe about osteoporosis diagnosis and managment. I haven’t had any patients mention it to me, which I find a little surprising.

Foodie Friday: Dining with a Celebrity

Upon learning I was invited to a wedding in Chicago, I had one food thought. Not deep dish pizza, not hot dogs and not even the fabulous Greektown. No, I immediately called up one of Rick Bayless’ hot spots for a reservation. Not only do I love the flavors and ingredients in this type of regional Mexican cooking, but I really enjoyed watching Mr. Bayless on the first season of Top Chef Masters and was just hoping his restaurant would live up to the hype. Having been to a so-called “celebrity” restaurant before and being extremely disappointed, I have to admit I was a little nervous.

I can’t tell you exactly what I ate at Topolobampo, because each dish had such complex layers of flavors. A scallop dish with shellfish consomme was out of this world, and I am NOT a fan of shellfish! Everything I tasted was incredible and I’m so glad to have had the chance to visit. The above photo is the only one I snapped because, well, this isn’t really a food blog or a formal review and also I was just having to much fun to worry about whipping out a camera in a restaurant! I know the dimly lit cell phone photo does not do justice to the presentation of the dishes.

Highly recommended, a great experience, not cheap at all (which you can tell by reading the many food review sites out there) but definitely enjoyed as a destination restaurant!

(And, of course, 100% just some fun for Foodie Friday, not compensated in any way).

Wash and Dry Your Hands!

We all know we’re supposed to wash our hands. A lot. Especially when we’re health care workers. All around the hospital and medical office are sinks and bottles of foam or gel sanitizer. Our patients probably have little bottles of sanitizer or wipes in their purses. There are antibacterial wipes at the grocery store so you can wipe down the cart handles. Kids these days use hand sanitizer, sneeze into their elbows and have no concept of life before digital cameras. (Yes, I know digital cameras have nothing to do with hand washing, but I’m always amazed that today’s kids will never know the agony of waiting for film to be developed before seeing whose head was cut out of the photo)!

Despite the fact that we know we’re SUPPOSED to wash our hands (a lot), we don’t do very well with this. Numerous studies have shown that health care workers have dismally low compliance with hand washing. Having conveniently placed foam or gel sanitizers everywhere you turn does help improve adherence. And, it seems, at least to me, does having cute or funny hand washing posters around the hospital. Recently some area hospitals have started displaying “movie” posters with important hand washing messages. I wasn’t sure if it was OK to photograph them, but trust me that I did laugh each time I turned a corner and saw one of my favorite movies turned into a message about hygiene. One poster has the classic outstretched fingers of “E.T.” but says, “E.G. – the extra-germestrial.” Instead of “Star Wars,” the familiar space logo now reads “Germ Wars.” I do have to admit that seeing these posters every day reminded me to wash my hands.

Once hands are washed, what about drying? I’ve noticed many hospitals and offices no longer have paper towels and instead have air dryers. Is there a difference, besides getting rid of the paper waste? In September, The New York Times’ Well Blog reviewed this topic. They found that there really was no difference in air vs. paper, as long as hands get dried. Personally, I’ve seen people not wash their hands at all or wash and leave without drying because of lines at the hand dryers. I timed a full dry cycle and it was 40 seconds until the machine shut off and my hands were still a little damp. Multiply 40 seconds by the dozens of times we wash our hands a day and that’s a good chunk of time. I could probably get some more blog posts out with all that extra time I’m spending drying my hands!

Bottom line – wash, dry, repeat! And sneeze into your elbow!

Photo Source: CDC.gov – it’s an e-card you can send!