Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Professional Birthday Present

This Saturday, January 23rd, I get one year older. Nine days later, on February 1st, I start the position of Haines and Klukwan's Community Dietitian for the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). I am very excited to get to serve our community in this capacity.

Working in private practice through Klondike Chiropractic has taught me a lot and I will always be grateful for that opportunity. I am very excited for moving on to work with SEARHC because I will get to help a wider audience. 

SEARHC  has a plethora of grants to serve the communities of southeast Alaska. The position that I will fill helps specifically with diabetics and pre-diabetics in the community, but my work will not be exclusive to this population.

Anyone that hoped to work with me before but may have had barriers (such as exclusively a SEARHC beneficiary, or had no insurance and worked with sliding-scale) will be able to make appointments to work on nutrition and their health. 

Patients referred from SEARHC providers in the past will now enjoy a tighter continuity of care, as their dietitian and primary care provider will work in the same office. Collaborating with the entire care team can help maintain thorough review of patient details to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. 

Next week will be my final week at Klondike's office on Main Street. It will be bittersweet, but if you would like to make an appointment before I move over to SEARHC, please feel free to do so! Our office number is (907)766-3555 or you can email me at

Kate Fossman, RDN, LD
January 21, 2016

Friday, January 15, 2016

Volunteer Week

This week was my aptly named Volunteer Week. As part of the new year, I wanted to give back to the community in a structured and available way. In this volunteer week, I spoke in three different classrooms, hosted the second session of the four-session heart healthy class at the library, and updated tags at Olerud's (the grocery store in town that let me label their foods "healthy", "healthier", and "healthiest!").
Olerud's Grocery Store Tags
We'll start with the Olerud's grocery store tags. This actually started on Saturday the 9th with the first Nutrition Support Group meeting of 2016. We all met at Olerud's and walked around, discussing foods and which foods got labels verses which didn't. Olerud's had purchased some new foods (a few per my recommendations!), and these needed to get tagged too.

It took us twice the amount of time that we normally spend in a group meeting, but we combed through most sections of the store and discussed almost every food available. Some foods were defaulted to be healthiest! options (fruits, vegetables), and others were a bit more questionable, like why didn't Whole Wheat Ritz get a tag? Answer: it still has almost no fiber per comparable serving.

Tomorrow, Saturday the 16th, we'll meet at Howser's at 10 am.

Heart Healthy Class at the Library
This week was the second session of the four-session heart healthy class at the library and we discussed saturated verses unsaturated fat. We discussed plant oils (specifically olive oil as supported by the EPIC studies and the Mediterranean diet), lean meats, and the food science behind it all. In the first session (last Thursday), we had a packed library in Haines and a few people from outlying communities video-conference in. This Thursday it was the exact opposite - 10 people on video-conference and one audience member in Haines.

These library classes have shown to be really fun - I always end up hoarse at the end from laughing. The participants bring nutrition facts labels that we learn to read, we discuss foods in relation to heart health, and I field questions in the last 10 minutes to anyone that comes with curiosity.

Next Thursday (January 21st) will be our last session regarding food and heart health. We'll be discussing high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. We skip the next Thursday (January 28th) and meet up again in the first Thursday of February (February 4th) for a talk about physical activity and preventing heart disease. I like to compare the library sessions to the James Bond movie franchise - you don't have to see all of them to get something good out of the most recent one. They are standalone. Not like the Star Wars movies.

Speaking with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Classes
Each class had the same general outline of discussion: introductions, talk about favorite foods, talk about helping cook at home, and moving onto discuss My Plate, "special occasion foods", and whole grains. Then we moved onto my favorite game: Stump The Dietitian.
I always preface Stump The Dietitian with "now I wanted to bring this game to you kids, because I play this game with grown ups and they never beat me. But I thought you guys might be able to beat me because kids come up with the best questions". Each class did beat me.
The question that stumped me from the 5th grade (on Monday): Are GMOs bad for you?
This was very tricky. A big point that I wanted to get across with these talks was to eliminate the fear of food in kids. Although orthoexia (an obsession with only eating "healthy" foods) is not recognized in DSM-V, I see signs of it emerging in some people, and even some kids. So when I discussed foods that didn't fit in the My Plate diagram (such as cakes, cookies, candies, ice cream, soda), I made sure to call them "special occasion" foods and not "unhealthy" foods.
Making kids afraid of food is not my job. Answering the question about GMOs is tricky, because when it comes down to it, it's more of a political question. In the end, I answered, "it's a personal preference and a decision that your parents make for you. There isn't enough good evidence for me to say if they're bad or not."
The question that stumped me from the 4th grade (on Tuesday): Why is there a new flu shot every year?
To be fair, I'm a dietitian - not an immunologist. I did my best to answer this question, but I fear I may have just confused the kids. So yes, I was stumped on this question, but it was a really hard one! If you have an easy way to explain this to kids, please let me know.
The question that stumped me from the 3rd grade (today, on Friday): Are GMOs bad for you?
This question came from the younger sister of the girl who tried this question out on Monday. Tricky kids - working together to beat me at my game. But by this time, it got a little easier to answer. Next time I'm asked by kids, I'll have the answer streamlined: "that's a decision for your parents to make for you". They stumped me, those sneaky kids!
Although I continue volunteering through February (through the last of the library sessions), this week was chocked-full of giving back to Haines. I'm glad I had these opportunities as Haines has helped me countless times over the years.
Kate Fossman, RDN, LD
January 15, 2016

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Dietary Guidelines for Americans and an Update

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been released!

For those of you who don't want to bother reading the report, and just want to cut to the chase of why they matter, check out this article from USA Today.

Now for the update:

I recently returned from a trip to see family over the holidays. I traveled to Portland for a few days, then to Long Island, NY for a week to see my dad's side of the family. Both very fun and full of great travel. Spent a day in NYC on the way back, which meant I ate a wide variety of foods foreign to me.

I ate a chicken kebab from a street vendor while waiting for the doors for Chicago The Musical to open. That evening, we made our way down to Greenwich Village's Westville West for their extraordinary vegetables (a locavore's dream!). We topped off the night with cupcakes from Magnolia's Bakery. Yes, dietitians sometimes eat cupcakes.

Westville West's vegetable board. There was even the option to have your entrée be entirely vegetables chosen from the board.

Fancy cupcake tins from Magnolia's Bakery

That brings me to an idea I thought about over this winter break: rules and exceptions to the rules. I do eat chocolate, bacon, and cupcakes (sometimes all-in-one). But do these foods make up my main intake? No. They're my exceptions to the rules. They're out of ordinary when eaten, and I make sure that when I eat them, they're well worth it.

If the chocolate isn't flavorful, rich, smooth, and satisfying, it goes in the trash. If the bacon is burnt, includes nitrites/nitrates, or was raised in an inhumane way, it is left behind on the plate. If the cupcake is mass-produced, it stays in its box. Some call this picky; I call it discerning.

So what are my "rules", or typical eating behavior? They're very much aligned with what is recommended by the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans - eat mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and as much wild-caught fish as I can get my hands on.

Kate Fossman, RDN, LD
January 7, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Newly Published Researcher

Yesterday, I received news I had been waiting to hear since 2012 - our research was published!

We had been rejected twice, had an abstract published once, and were asked to present our research poster at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in 2014. Now, the entirety of our research on College Student's Food Insecurity is published in the Winter edition of the Nutrition and Dietetic Educators and Preceptors newsletter.

This research started when I recognized a pattern in my fellow classmates. The joking about college kids eating ramen was actually true. Either they couldn't afford food or they had no way to get it. Meal plans are expensive and home cooked meals are few and far between.

It's the first time most of these students are living away from home, and thanks to the elimination of Home Economics classes in most schools and lack of cooking facilities in college housing, three square meals a day are almost unheard of.

I was not the first person to recognize this, or to want to quantify it. Research from other states and countries supports that food insecurity in college students is much, much higher compared to their local averages.

In our study, we found that food insecurity was significantly higher than our local average. While this original research was not published in a peer reviewed journal, our "Call to Action" was well received by the NDEP newsletter.

This piece highlighted two research tools that could help standardize future research in students' food insecurity levels - a welcome finding, as standardized research tools area always appreciated for generating quality evidence.

These findings and progress in the field would not have been possible without the help and determination of Dr. Carrie King. As my research advisor, she taught me about SPSS statistical software, proper study design, and all about publication and presentation.

Through nearly three years of grant proposal drafts, study implementation, statistical analysis, poster presentation, manuscript writing and editing, and finally article submission, Dr. King stuck by me. She sat patiently with me, meeting after meeting, proposing next steps and encouraging the research along.

At the end of it all, we have a product that I am very happy with - and something that I looked for from the very beginning: A Call to Action in Higher Education. An important cause with real, tangible research to support it. Thank you, Dr. King. I am so proud of what we accomplished!

Kate Fossman, RDN, LD
December 11, 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


I've now been practicing as a small town dietitian for five months. In September, many people left Haines for warmer climates. The snow birds flew to Palm Springs, Lake Havasu, or even Hawaii. Fewer people around plus colder weather leads to slower business, as expected.

However, it is also expected that New Year's Resolutions are right around the corner. With the New Year comes fresh goals and fresh motivation. 

In preparation, I'm working on a free class to the public at the Haines Borough Public Library on simple switches to target heart health. I've prepared one of my presentations (there will be 4 - January 7, 14, 21, and February 4 from 6:30-7:30 pm) and moving on to the other three.

I've also been on a supreme knitting kick. It started with a mermaid tail blanket, then a sweater, then another sweater, a Christmas stocking for Kyle, and a balaclava for Kyle's birthday. I'm now diligently working on Christmas presents, which have impending deadlines!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving without food guilt. Try the plate method this holiday season and still enjoy bits of favorite traditional foods.

Kate Fossman, RDN, LD

December 2, 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Preparing for the Feast

This Thanksgiving, my mom and her girlfriend decided to spend the holiday in Haines - which makes me very happy. I'll be spoiled to have two extra chefs in the kitchen for the major foodie holiday of the year.

We'll also be celebrating with Kyle's mom and dad, as well as his sister, Penny, and her family. Originally, I thought we'd be doing two separate dinners - I would eat with my mom and Cherie at their house, and Kyle would eat with his family in town.

When my mom and Cherie arrived, they stated they were under a different impression - that we would all be eating at Kyle and my house. This seemed to appease everyone, so it was decided; at 3 pm on Thursday, we will all convene and feast together.

Our house is awesome - and cozy. It's two stories with a loft on a modest footprint. The first floor has a couple of bedrooms (that are currently relegated to storage) and a bathroom. The main floor is a kitchen, dining room, and living room in an open-concept format with a bathroom off to the side. A ladder sits in the middle of the kitchen to climb up to the loft.

The kitchen/dining room/living room setup is perfect for just me and Kyle. For our living room, we have two recliners and a desk. The dining room runs into the kitchen. We'll be able to seat 10 people around the table, no problem. Cooking and cleaning up might pose a problem, but all families seem to be dividing up cooking duties very nicely at their own houses. Very little cooking will happen in our kitchen.

Ann, Kyle's mom, will cook the ham. My mom and Cherie will cook the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Kyle and I will cook macaroni and cheese (unless that's Ann's job... I am already a little mixed up), green beans, sweet potatoes, and salad. And Penny will provide the pies.

I can't wait for Thanksgiving. I get excited each year for the food and fun with family. Our cozy house will be warm with good food and love. Bon appetit, everyone!

Kate Fossman, RDN, LD

November 23, 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Chilly Weather, CEUs, and a Stand-Up Laptop Stand

Most of us are familiar with Fahrenheit and Celsius as our units of temperature. But did you know there is a third measure of temperature? Kelvin - it's used primarily in chemistry and physics, and when it hits zero degrees Kelvin, it is absolute zero (there are no negative temperatures in the Kelvin scale).

At absolute zero, there is no movement in atoms. Everything ceases. Life is impossible. Zero degrees Kelvin is -459 degrees Fahrenheit or -273 degrees Celsius, for frame of reference.

I wanted to bring this up for perspective. In Haines, it's currently 12 degrees Fahrenheit, but with the wind chill, the "real feel" is -7 degrees Fahrenheit. It's definitely not absolute zero, even if it feels like it could be. When the wind hits my face, it knocks the air out of my lungs. But it is completely worth it for views like this:

Cold and clear days at Chilkoot Lake
The other thing that makes it feel like absolute zero is how everything seems to be slowing down. People are turning in for the winter (or flying south) and stay inside more. Outdoor activities involve shoveling and playing in the snow, but for limited amounts of time. 

Inside, I've been working on continuing education units through watching webinars and reading journal articles. I get to do all of this from my brand new, fancy-pants stand-up laptop stand.

Nancy Feakes, wife of the shop teacher at Haines High (Darwin Feakes), made stand-up computer stands for both Jen (our office manager) and myself. My lower back and hip problems are subsiding and I am feeling less guilty about having an office job, instead of a more active one.

Although I don't stand at it all the time, it gives me the option. I can stand, lean, prop my knee up on a stool, or push the stand back and sit down. 

The best thing about this new stand? It was a very cheap alternative to the $2000+ stands on the market today. Nancy custom built the height to fit our frames which also helps with alignment (Jen is a bit taller than me, so required a taller keyboard height). 

Thank you, Nancy! Your helpfulness makes being inside on these cold days much more enjoyable. Jen and I are very grateful.

Kate Fossman, RDN, LD

November 19, 2015