Interview with the Nutritionist

Hi!  I thought I would take a brief break from restaurants in the blog and share an interview I had with a recent graduate, Cassie Christopher.  Cassie recently graduated with a Masters in Nutrition.  I wanted to gleam some insight into what she does and some superficial advice on nutrition.  Check it out!

Who are you and why did you get a Masters in Nutrition?
My name is Cassie and I just graduated from Bastyr University with a MS in Nutrition. I chose to study Nutrition after seeing a Registered Dietitian for some health issues in college. Right before finals she told me to eat walnuts and blueberries and I was dumbstruck that eating certain foods could help me perform better mentally. Since then I have become inspired by the healing power of foods. I believe food was created to nourish and heal our bodies and its whole form is the perfect package for doing so.
What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?
A nutritionist is an unregulated title, so it doesn’t guarantee any amount of education or expertise. Some states have licensed/certified nutritionists credentials, which requires certain experiences to obtain them, but it varies by state. A Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (both mean the same thing) has graduated from an accredited program, done an extensive internship in clinical, foodservice, and community settings and passed a registration exam. The RD/RDN credentials verify the highest level of expertise.
What is the worst food a person can eat when dining out?
I struggle to label any food bad, I really do believe all things in moderation are good. That being said, I do think anything with trans fat, or fried in trans fat is probably the worst because consumption of these foods directly increases the risk of heart disease. The FDA has asked manufacturers to phase this ingredient out and many restaurants use more natural fry oils now, so it’s becoming less of an issue.
What is the worst disease that you know of that can be cured by your diet?
This answer depends on what evidence you need. Scientifically, the DASH diet has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce heart disease risk. Many people also have success with blood sugar control when they change their way of eating. Epidemiologically, consumption of fruits and veggies is related to lower incidence of cancer and many other diseases. Anecdotally, I have heard of cases where eating a plant-based whole foods diet has helped autoimmune diseases, Multiple Sclerosis, and many others.
In thirty years, what is one thing you wish people would finally understand about food?
That eating foods in their whole form, for instance an orange instead of orange juice, is most nourishing for the body. Plants have a whole host of enzymes, phytonutrients, and compounds that haven’t even been discovered yet that help us to absorb and use the foods we eat. The more we learn about food, the more we realize we need to come back to the basics.
If you were going to educate young people on accepting different diets, how would you go about doing it? (so they didn’t bully their friends who were gluten-free or used insulin at school)
I think teaching kids to listen to their own bodies and hunger cues is the way to start. Once they understand how eating makes them feel, they can have empathy that eating a certain way helps other kids feel best. Ellyn Satter is a great resource for giving kids a good relationships with food, her book “Child of Mine” is a must-read for parents.
If you could only be on one diet the rest of your life, which one would it be?
I would choose a plant-based, whole foods diet with lots of variety. A typical meal for me is a whole grain like quinoa, brown rice, or millet, topped with beans, mixed seasonal veggies and a sauce like hummus, peanut sauce, or some other tasty topping. But don’t be fooled, I also enjoy a rich dessert!
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