We chatted to Registered Dietitian Zelda Ackerman who runs Family 1st Nutrition and is the author of a wonderful book called ‘Eet Reg (Bevry jouself en jou kinders van emosionele eet)’. We wanted to find out why she became a dietitian, what she loves about her work and what the challenges are:
Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?
My interest in nutrition started when I was at school. In Grade 8 we learned about nutrients and their functions in the body in Home Economics. This fascinated me and I decided that I wanted to become a dietitian.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?
I enjoy teaching groups of parents and dietitians about nutrition the most! Teaching nutrition is my biggest passion, more specifically teaching about paediatric nutrition.
The most satisfying moment is when a patient tells you how they followed your advice and how good they feel since changing their lifestyle!
What has been your career highlight?
My career highlight was when my book Eet Reg was published in May 2016. It was a great honour to be approached by NB Publishers and be offered a contract to write about what I love.
What are the most challenging aspects of your career?
Staying motivated to make a difference when people do not follow your advice and rather opt for quick fixes (which you know will only last for a few weeks).
How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?
Contrary to what most people may think I am not a health food freak. I eat healthy 90% of the time and I enjoy it! But when I eat junk or unhealthy food I don’t feel guilty or bad about it at all. I enjoy it and go back to eating my normal healthy food the next meal.
If I eat unhealthily for a longer time period, due to for example being with family who eat unhealthy, I’ll eat smaller portions of starch and larger portions veg to get back on the right track.
What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?
- “Oh boy, now I have to tuck in my tummy”
- “You probably only eat healthy foods”
- “I have to come and see you!” … and then they don’t!
What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?
Nutrition is such a broad field and I believe you should look for someone who has personal experience if possible and then lots of experience in the specific conditions / age group that you need advice on.
What are your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?
My favourite food is vegetables. My favourite meal would be one with a few different types of vegetables and a few different types of salads.
I don’t believe in calling any food a treat, because that gives food an emotional connection. As I explain in my book Eet Reg, I believe food should not have emotional connections, but should be only for nutrition. My favourite sweet food is a good quality dark chocolate!
If you are looking for a dietitian in your area, please visit the ADSA website