Promoting accurate, effective, and up-to-date nutrition communication

Brought to you by the Communications Division of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior

Monday, January 19, 2015

Enjoy a moment of calm

Special thanks to Chandler Ray, The University of Maryland dietetic intern, for this post

In the hustle and bustle of today's busy world, we are all affected by the stresses of everyday life. If you’re looking to find a healthy way to reduce, manage, and deal with stress, then Calm is the perfect app for you! Calm is a free website and iOS/Android app that offers a series of short, guided sessions ranging from as little as two minutes to thirty minutes in length. A gentle voice then walks you through visualizations and techniques that help you clear your mind, focus on your goals and relax your body. 

How does it work? 

Getting started is easy! Just download the app and click “I’m Ready” on the Welcome screen… no sign up or additional information is necessary. To begin your own session, choose your preferred nature scene, such as waves crashing on a beach or the rainforest, and the length of practice. A narrator then guides you through getting relaxed or, if you prefer, choose no voice over and just enjoy the calming background music/ sounds of nature. Remember to wear headphones if you have them and ensure you are free from distractions once you begin! 

Costs: Calm Pro Access 

The app is free to download, which includes “The 7 Steps of Calm,” perfect for beginners or experienced mediators looking for a refresher. The “Pro” subscription unlocks 50 additional premium mediations and is available through an auto-renewing subscription. Currently, three months is $4.99, six months is $6.99, and one year is $9.99. The website is always free. 

Focus on a certain aspect of meditation
The courses address various topics, like anxiety release, compassion, confidence, creativity, energy, focus, motivation, self-acceptance and more.

How can nutrition professionals use this tool? 

Stress can affect people's eating behaviors in different ways. When stress becomes overwhelming, people develop ways to cope, which may include binge eating or not eating at all. These habits have the potential to contribute to the development of an eating disorder or unwanted physiological changes. Recent studies 1,2 show elevated levels of cortisol (the hormone produced in response to stress) are associated with overeating, craving high-fat, high-sugar foods and blood sugar and insulin imbalances. Chronically high cortisol levels are linked to the development of abdominal obesity in both men and women 3.

Studies have shown that meditation reduces stress and helps people become more mindful of food choices 1,2. As nutrition professionals, we have the ability to teach our clients positive ways to deal with life challenges, such as relaxation and physical activity, so that food does not become the solution to the obstacles. These stress-reduction techniques can help individuals to have more control of food choices and better weight management. 

1. Maglione-Garves, Christine A., Len Kravitz, Ph.D., and Suzanne Schneider, Ph.D. "Stress Cortisol Connection." The University of Mexico, n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2014.

2. Torres, Susan and Nowson, Caryl 2007-11, Relationship between
stress, eating behavior and obesity, Nutrition, vol. 23, no. 11-12, pp.887-894.

3. "Why Stress Causes People to Overeat." Harvard Health Publications. Harvard University, Feb. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2014.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reaching your Health & Fitness Goals with MyFitnessPal

Special thanks to Megan Solloway, University of Maryland Dietetic Intern, of this post.
For the health and fitness nuts, MyFitnessPal makes handwritten food logs a thing of the past. With calorie/macronutrient information, activity trackers and more, MyFitnessPal holds consumers accountable as they work towards their wellness goals. 
How does My Fitness Pal Work?
MyFitnessPal is available as a website and free smartphone app. Users create an account with an email address or via Facebook. Signing up prompts the user to set their own calorie goals or have MyFitnessPal estimate their caloric intake. MyFitnessPal uses the Mifflen St. Jeor equation and accounts for the user’s body weight goals. Once the caloric needs are set, the user can start tracking. 

For those constantly on the go, the mobile app comes in handy. The diary screen shows calories remaining and burned through exercise. “Add Food” allows the user to type in a food/brand or scan the barcode of a package to search the millions of food entries in the database.

Frequently used items are saved and can be added quickly. At the end of the day, the user can review reports under the Nutrition tab to see their macronutrient and micronutrient intake. The Progress tab graphs the user’s daily weigh-ins to track progress. 

MyFitnessPal and nutrition professionals
  • Easy to use
  • Millions of foods and exercises available in the database
  • Social support and health blog available
  • Builds client awareness of caloric intake
  • Challenging for clients to consistently track diet information (best for highly motivated clients)
  • Time consuming 
  • Does not indicate servings of fruits, vegetables, grains etc. 
  • Contraindicated for those with disordered eating

An RD or another nutrition professional can utilize MyFitnessPal as a substitute for a 24-hour or 3-day food record.

Unfortunately, this tool may not be appropriate for unmotivated or disordered eating populations. However, highly motivated and technology-savvy clientele may find MyFitnessPal incredibly useful in meeting their goals. For these clients, nutrition professionals can provide calorie and macronutrient recommendations that can be entered into MyFitnessPal’s custom settings. 
Although tracking everything one eats may not be for everyone, MyFitnessPal is a valuable tool in the tool belt of nutrition professionals for promoting health and fitness goals! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hootsuite: Social Media Management Tool

Special thanks to Anastasia Maczko, University of Maryland dietetic intern, for this post. 

With each passing year the amount of social media tools and apps are doubling or even tripling, and staying up to date with multiple social networks can become exhausting. It seems someone contacts you via Facebook, you respond with an email, and the next minute they are tweeting at you. 

This is where Hootsuite comes in. This newly developed tool (2008) was named the number one social media management tool used by Fortune top 100 companies in 20131. Now you’re probably thinking why would I need a tool that large companies use? That’s the beauty of Hootsuite, no matter how big or small your social media realm is, it’s helpful to all people interested in expanding their online presence and reducing the amount of time spent doing so.

Still interested? Here’s how to get started! Simply create a free account and a blank dashboard awaits your personalization.

The dashboard acts as a users homepage. Once a user has created an account, they now have the ability to add their favorite social media apps and tools in one easy location. Clicking “Add Social Network” on the toolbar allows users to connect to networks that are of interest to them. 

After a user has added their individual social networks the dashboard becomes full of various “streams” or views of those media sources. The once blank dashboard is now full of the users respective social media networks. Users can begin posting and sharing to the world from one easy page instantaneously. Hootsuite supports Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and even apps such as Instagram and YouTube. 

What features does Hootsuite offer?
  • Customize your dashboard with your favorite social media searches
  • Measure analytic reviews about your social media outreach 
  • Schedule posts to all or select social media networks 
  • Create teams to allow multiple personnel to update to networks
With each added social network, users have the ability to customize their media view. Hootsuite provides users the ability to look at various aspects of a social media network on one page. For instance, an individual can view their Twitter Home Feed, Mentions, Retweets and Scheduled Tweets as shown below. Users can even create a search stream tracking their favorite hash tags or trends.

Hootsuite also allows users to create different tabs depending on their interests at that time such as viewing multiple social networks on one page. The view below allows users to see their home feeds for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Wordpress. The great thing about Hootsuite is the ability for the user to constantly update and customize their own account at any time. 

How much does it cost?
A basic Hootsuite account is free of charge. A catch to this dynamic site is the user may only add three networks to their dashboard. Users have the option to update to a pro account for $14.99/month. The pro option allows up to 100 social media networks, enhanced statistical reports, and multiple member access. The site offers a free 30-day trial of the pro version, just be sure to cancel the trial by the end of the 30 days if you do not want to continue billing.

Benefits to Registered Dietitians and other Health Professionals
Hootsuite is a great option for nutrition and health professionals to manage their multiple social media tools and evaluate their effectiveness from an online standpoint. The tool may not be used as often as say a clinical dietitian, but for those who work in marketing, blogging, or communications, this is an excellent tool for sharing information in a quick and easy way. Hootsuite saves users time by logging into one central location and posting information or photos to multiple social media outlets at once rather than logging into several networks. In addition, Hootsuite allows multiple members to login, making it easy to assign members of a team to specific social media tasks for an organization all maintaining privacy.

Hootsuite is an excellent tool for users to spend more time creating catchy ways to inform people and less time posting to various media outlets. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Make Snapguide Your Go-To for How-To’s

Special thanks to Andrea Belloli, University of Maryland Dietetic Intern, for this post. 
What is Snapguide?

 Snapguide is a website and free smartphone app that allows users to view, create and share step-by-step “how-to” guides.  The app specializes in providing users with easy to understand instructions for a wide array of topics ranging from cooking and gardening to do-it-yourself projects and repairs.  Snapguide users can use their iPhones to snap videos and pictures, add captions, and share the guide with the rest of the Snapguide community.  The ability to create how-to guides straight from your smartphone sets this app apart from all other apps of its kind!
Users have the option to register and create an account by connecting with an existing Facebook or Twitter account.  However, if social media isn’t your thing, you can register using an email address.  After registering, Snapguide will walk you through a quick tutorial on how to operate the app. Once finished with the speedy sign-up process, you will be able to start viewing existing guides and creating your own. 

Creating your own Snapguides
Creating a guide is quick and easy.  Once you’ve selected a title and begun the creation process, you can choose to insert photos, videos, or text instructions to each step. Steps can be edited, moved around, or deleted at any time.  Users can even add a list of supplies or ingredients to the end of their guide to allow for simpler instructions throughout the guidebook.  Once the guide has been completed, users can publish it with a single tap.  From there, it can be shared throughout the Snapguide community.  Users can also embed guides into websites and blogs to share with others beyond the Snapguide community.  
A tool for Registered Dietitians and health professionals
Nutrition professionals can utilize this app as a teaching tool when working with clients and patients.  Snapguide allow them to create simple and visually appealing guides for use in both clinical and community settings.  In the clinical setting, for example, RDs and nurses can create a photo or video guide on how to use a glucometer to check one’s blood glucose levels.  In the community setting, guides can be created to teach individuals how to read nutrition labels and how to prepare healthy and affordable recipes.  Users can also create guides in multiple languages to reach even more audiences.  

Snapguide provides a user-friendly platform that health professionals can use to teach others about nutrition and health-related topics in an easily comprehendible manor.  Snapguide should be utilized by health professionals as a refreshing new way to share valuable information with others.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SocialFolders: Manage Social Media Content with Ease

Special thanks to Kevin Handsman, University of Maryland dietetic Intern, for this post.
Cloud storage is becoming more and more prominent in today’s society. “Cloud storage” is when you save your data to a remote database. You are connected to this database through the internet and it is managed by a third party. We upload to a cloud because it doesn’t take up our hardware’s storage space and because it protects us if we lose a flash drive or have problems with a computer. But what if the third party goes away? Our “cloud” could float away, too!
SocialFolders allows you to pull content from online to a folder on your computer, so you always have access to it, even without an internet connection. SocialFolders is based primarily in social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. However it also allows you to back-up documents such as Google docs and Evernote. Set up is as easy as downloading and selecting the services you want to connect to; the program automatically makes a “SocialFolders” folder for everything in your documents section. 

SocialFolders isn’t just a way to back things up; it is also a great tool for uploading and sharing. Files on the device that you want to upload to social media just need to be added to that folder for easy uploading. Content on one social media site can also be easily transferred to another site. For example, you can upload all of your Instagram photos to Facebook with a simple drag and drop.
This program can be useful to nutrition professionals for several reasons. Because uploading to social media is so easy, adding pictures from an event to your social media site of choice is a breeze. It is also useful for moving pictures across social media if you decide to start using a new kind of social media. This saves tons of time in uploading. It is also useful because you can access your google docs offline, which is great if you go somewhere without internet. You will still be able to access the most recent version of the document before you lost an internet connection.
The basic version of the program is free. However, you can only use 3 services and download 2000 files. Although this gets you a fair amount of use, you can upgrade your service for free by getting friends to download it. You can send invites by email, Facebook, and Twitter; each person that downloads from you invite nets you 1 more service and 1000 more files! You can also pay $1.99/month or $9.99/month for unlimited services and files. 

SocialFolders is a great tool for managing media and data. It’s designed to be simple and run in the background. Once you connect your services it will continue to back up your content without any prompting. It is one of those rare programs that just works. It truly makes managing media much easier and even the free version is great. Try it out, you won’t regret it!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Spring Pad: The End of an Era

Special thanks to Erica Gavey, University of Maryland Dietetic Intern, for this post. 

It’s the end of an era. SpringPad, the organizational free web tool that allows users to personalize, create and share their ideas and interests, will be shutting down permanently on June 25th.  After a five and a half year streak, the web service is going out of business due to lack of funds. The good news is that SpringPad has created an easy export option that allows users to either export their SpringPad contents or download them. People will be able to export to SpringPad’s former “competitor,” Evernote, or download a viewable HTML data backup. The SpringPad website and associated mobile and tablet apps will no longer work after the 25th of June.

Although the news of SpringPad may be hard to handle, it’s important to remember all of the great things that SpringPad was able to do for so many users across the globe. SpringPad prided itself on making everyday life simple; SpringPad was a users’ very own personal assistant whose number one goal was making their lives better. Whether it was reminding a user about upcoming deadlines, making restaurants recommendations, or creating an automatic shopping list from the Weekly Meal Planner Notebook, SpringPad never ceased to amaze their audience. SpringPad allowed users the freedom to express their creative side on a visually appealing and easy to use interface and urged users to share and borrow ideas from others virtual Notebooks. The Web-Clipper extension was such a handy tool that allowed users to create permanent snap-shots of favorite websites, articles, eBooks, etc. that they wanted to save in their own Notebooks. SpringPad was also a beneficial tool for nutrition professionals because it allowed them to collaborate on ideas and events and share information easily and effectively.

SpringPad truly lived up to their motto, “everyday life, done better”.  SpringPad tirelessly worked around the individual’s schedule to help simplify their everyday lives. SpringPad not only enhanced a user’s life but it also personalized their experience based on their likes and interests. Farewell SpringPad, you will be greatly missed. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Screencast-O-Matic - Easy and fun screen casting on your computer

Special thanks to Vehik Nazaryan, University of Maryland dietetic intern, for this post.

Screencast-O-Matic is a free and fun screen capturing tool used by 10,000 YouTube users and tech supporters to record anything on a computer screen.

Different users find screen casting an effective communication tool
Screencast-O-Matic is being used by teachers, students, tech supporters and YouTube users. Teachers are using screen casting to record lectures for their students. Students are using screen casting to collaborate for group projects. People involved in tech support find screen casting a very efficient way to show users how to solve a problem.

Specifications that make Screencast-O-Matic an outstanding tool for users
Screencast-O-Matic is a java-based screenshot tool that enables users to capture screen and webcam videos on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. Creating and publishing materials with Screencast-O-Matic is easy! You can drag, resize and reshape the selection frame to adjust its size to the appropriate recording area. Sccreencast- O-Matic users need to go to Screencast-O-Matic’s website at to create a free account. A registered user can record performed actions on their computer screen and narration into a microphone in unison. The screen casts can be saved in MP4, AVI, or FLV formats and then uploaded to screencast-O-Matic’s web site or You Tube channel.

Benefits to Registered Dietitians and Other Nutrition Professionals
Screencast-O-Matic can be used by dietitians, dietetic interns and other nutrition professionals to create screen casts for clients, employees and the general population. Registered dietitians and other nutrition professionals in different areas of practice can pre-record videos for employee in-service trainings and save on training time. In addition, Screencast-O-Matic can be used to create nutrition education videos on different topics to address the nutritional needs of the general population. Nutrition bloggers can use Screencast-O-Matic to create an engaging blogging experience for their readers by sharing pre-recorded videos as part of their blogs. Dietetic interns can use this tool to make videos of supervised activities for their professional websites.

Screencast-O-Matic is a convenient and useful tool that has many applications and will allow dietitians to better engage their audiences while saving time.