Monday, June 30, 2014

Final countdown

T minus eighteen hours until my first day as a doctor--specifically, as an intern, the juniormost workhorse of all hospital workhorses. I've got a few goals for this year, other than that whole "do no harm" bit. The most serious is to improve the sense of clinical intuition that all great attendings seem to have in spades. I remember the first time I (accurately) had that sensation, and how rewarding it was: a very intelligent, well-spoken, healthy and spry elderly gentleman in the ER with a couple days of "gastroenteritis" who, despite his protestations that he just felt dehydrated from all the vomiting, didn't look quite right to me. I'll spare you the HIPAA violation, but in short, he ended up being admitted to the medicine floor and quickly escalated to the ICU for something much more significant and unusual than gastroenteritis. It was incredibly gratifying to be rewarded for pursuing more thorough investigations than the chief complaint warranted on the basis of a few physical exam findings and an odd sense of disquiet.

My least serious goal: stay physically fit. The long, meandering walks I've been taking can't continue--at least not at their current frequency--but I'm determined to resist the pull of takeout and free conference food and cafeteria snacks. To help myself along both physically and financially, I've come up with a recipe for protein bars that are neither disgusting nor candy bars in disguise.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has gone through the drugstore/grocery store/Bellevue gift shop ritual of painstakingly reading the nutrition facts of each brand of protein bar on offer, calculating protein:calorie, protein:sugar, and protein:dollar ratios. Most of them are... well, let's just say unsatisfactory, and some of the ones that aren't taste like chalk. The Bellevue gift shop has some good options, including MetRx and Protein Plus, (my personal favorite both for the taste and the absolutely fantastic ratios). But even buying Protein Plus bars in bulk, which we did to bring to Iceland, gets a little pricey. The date bars I've used in the past for on-the-wards snacking are more expensive, more messy, more time-consuming, and more carbohydratey than these puppies... I'm a convert.

WolframAlpha has a nifty function that, given ingredient inputs, will output a thorough nutrition profile of the total. These have, minus the optional chopped nuts and dried fruit but including the optional oats, about 206 calories, 20 g protein, 14 g carbs, and 10 g fat per serving. Of course, most of the 6 g of sugar comes from the chocolate chips, and most of the fat from the nut butter; if you wanted to be really crazy, you could reduce or omit those ingredients, but of course, those are the tastiest elements!

Extra-chocolatey protein bars

30 g (1/4 to 1/3 c) raw almonds
optional: 20 g (1/4 c) oats
30 g (1/4 c) cocoa powder
1/4 c semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (can up to 1/3 if you like a sweeter bar)
3 tablespoons nut butter (preferably not the processed, sweetened type)
3/4 c vanilla protein powder
1/2 c chocolate protein powder
nondairy milk
optional: assorted chopped nuts and dried fruit

In a food processor or blender, grind the almonds and oats, if using, until they are mostly the texture of coarse sand; you don't want it to be completely ground just yet. Add in the cocoa and chocolate chips and pulse until blended together. Dump into a bowl and add the protein powders and nut butter. Slowly add the nondairy milk, blending with a spatula, until the mixture becomes a thick, somewhat tacky dough. Line a square pan with parchment paper, with enough overhang to completely cover the pan when folded over. Sprinkle the chopped fruit/nuts on evenly, if using. Pat in the dough and fold the parchment over it. With your hands, pat and spread the dough until it completely fills the pan and covers the chopped fruit/nut layer. Freeze or refrigerate until firm, then cut into 8 pieces; I like to keep mine frozen so they stay cold until I'm ready to eat them at work.

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