I always thought I didn't have a nutrition story to share. Growing up, I thankfully never personally struggled in a major way with food or my eating, nor had there been a turning point moment that inspired me to become a dietitian and "crusade" for health. I was always an active kid and moved and ate that way too. For me, growing up in an environment where food was eaten, celebrated, and embeded in life in a hands-on way seemed normal. My fondest memories are of summer afternoons shucking corn with my grandmother at her lake house, or spending a Saturday baking a recipe from my "teen's cook" cookbook while my mom helped guide (and clean up after me). I think it's precisely because of these memories and personal enjoyment of food and fitness that turned into a natural curiousity about nutrition and health, which pulled me to study it further in college.
Throughout school, I came to understand food from many lenses different from my own. I explored food science and the complex chemical makeup of whole foods, as well as products of our processed food system. I started to see how food fit into cultures; whether that be the local, slow food movement in Vermont, or the similar, yet strikingly more dire activism surrounding indigenous food and culture in Oaxaca, Mexico where I studied abroad. As school came to an end and I began looking for jobs in my field, the culmination of my personal history with food and all that I learned about nutrition and our food system came together and brought me to New York City.
It wasn't until working in New York City's low-income neighborhoods, going through my masters program, and meeting my husband that my philosophy around food really solidified itself. And what it really boils down to, is learning how to make the healthiest possible choice in that moment.
If that means choosing a hamburger over an apple because that's what is going to provide your body with energy and satisfaction in the moment, then I'm not here to stop you. But if at other times it means taking pause, thinking through the steps you need to take to plan a wholesome dinner that includes vegetables, protein, and a whole grain for yourself and your partner, then I want to support you in that too. Not every choice we make about food is going to be the "right" one, and in fact I don't even think there is a "right" choice everyone. If you listen to your body and find your true reasons for wanting to eat or look a certain way, I believe it will all balance out.
I cannot talk about my nutrition philosophy or story without sharing the story of my husband. I often call my him my proudest nutrition accomplishment, and I tell his story not to embarrass or poke fun, but to show a real-life example of one's journey to finding enjoyment with food and balanace with nutrition. When we met, his interest in vegetables and his attunement to eating and lifestyle habits was, shall we say, low. Yet, the more experiences involving food we created together- dining out at restaurants, sharing meals with in-laws, and doing more cooking once living together- the more his eating and nutrition intuition grew.
Over the years, vegetables became essential at dinner, rather than a chore. Ice cream is still habitually in our freezer and enjoyed more some days than it is others. We hold discussions about health and nutrition often and have come to the agreement that, for us, we love plants and vegetables, but also make space for foods that don't conform to traditionally "disease-preventing" diets, such as meat, dairy, and eggs. We also keep each other active by working out together, supporting each other at tennis games or running races, and explore new places through hiking, swimming, and kayaking. As busy young professionals, this is what works for us, and we feel what likely works for many of you!
My experience with my husband translates into my work with my clients. As much as possible, we work on plans for trying new vegetables and making them a larger part of the plate, but I'm also very realistic with them and never ignore any financial constraints, cultural preferences, or larger barriers to self-care. It brings me such joy when someone comes in and shows we a pot of vegetable stew that was prepared for family dinner the night before. Do I shake my finger at the chicken and white rice on the side? Not likely, no. Will we have a discussion about protein sources and portion sizes if brought up? Absolutely. But before all of that, I'm asking, "What did you enjoy most about the vegetable stew?" or "Tell me what herbs and spices you used, I can smell this through the phone!" Food is meant to be enjoyed and stressing out at the "nutrition-ness" of the meal can oftentimes do more harm than good.
To me, my nutrition story isn't groundbreaking, but that's sort of how I feel food should be- simple and fun! If you've struggled with eating, cooking, or finding a balanced relationship with your health, I want to be the one to help. Just as I am for my husband, family, friends, and clients, I want to be your coach and cheerleader and help answer the question of what's right for you.