Meet Registered Dietitian, Nazeeia Sayed

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We chatted to registered dietitian Nazeeia Sayed, who is the Branch Liaison on the current ADSA Executive committee, acting as the communication link between ADSA branch chairpersons and the national Executive Committee to ensure consistency in operations. She also manages the mentorship programme. We wanted to find out why she became a registered dietitian, what she loves about her work and what the challenges are:

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

I love food and cooking and was all set to study Consumer Sciences – but I stumbled into Dietetics at UKZN when I received a bursary. 

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I most enjoy the variety in the work that I do: teaching dietetic students, supporting new mums on breastfeeding, or technical R&D support to food companies.  Every day is different!  I also enjoy the flexibility my work as a consultant dietitian allows me so I have time for other things I enjoy and value.  The most satisfying moments are being able to see the positive impact I can make and the feedback I receive from the people I interact with.

What has been your career highlight?

I have been a dietitian for over 20 years now with lots of exciting times.  My career highlight would undoubtedly have to be working on my own the last 3 years as a consultant dietitian.  It has been tremendously challenging and rewarding.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Trying to stay abreast of all the nutrition research and information!  I have embraced the fact that I cannot be a Jack of all trades but I need to focus and build my expertise in a few areas of nutrition.  This also allows me to market myself to potential clients more strongly.  

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

A hot cup of tea can resolve most things!  There will be periods when we all find it difficult to have a healthy eating day – I don’t focus on that – I move on and make better decisions the next day!  If I do overindulge then I make the extra effort to have lighter meals the next day.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

I didn’t know dietitians ate cake.”

“Do you have a diet sheet for me about xyz?”

“But I was not breastfed and I turned out ok.”

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

All dietitians are equally qualified but their special interests and experiences vary.  A client (individual or company) can ask the dietitian about his/her experience, and ask him/her for a brief proposal. 

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

Lamb biryani with cucumber raita is my favourite! I am easy to please – chocolate would be my favourite treat!

 

To find a dietitian in your area visit: http://www.adsa.org.za/Public/FindARegisteredDietitian.aspx


Meet Registered Dietitian, Retha Booyens

ADSA_Meet the Dietitian_Retha BooyensWe caught up with registered dietitian Retha Booyens, who is passionate about nutrition and dietetics, to find out what drives her,  why she chose dietetics as a career and how she is making a difference through her work:

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

Contrary to what people believe, dietitians are actually foodies and love experimenting. I can remember that from a young age I loved food and eating, but also loved health and being active (athletics, acrobatics, hockey, netball etc). It seemed like an obvious decision to become a dietitian, but I need a bit more convincing. I took a gap year and did shadowing in dietetic lectures, at clinical dietitians and outpatient consultations. And after that there was no turning back.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

The pleasure is in the small things, like a client progressing to solids after a long battle on IV nutrition and tube feeds or helping someone reach personalised goals (such as athletes).

Knowing that I can be an instrument in the saving of a person’s life is a tremendously satisfying feeling. I have a huge passion for critical care and renal dietetics and love to see how I can not only save someone’s life but also improve quality of life.

What has been your career highlight?

Becoming an ADSA spokesperson and being able to share my passion on a larger scale (in print, radio, etc).

Very close second was hosting a radio talk show (Bite for Life with Retha Booyens) on a local radio station in North West before relocating.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Having to make peace with the fact that I cannot help everyone.

Knowing the vast amount of misinformation that is available, that is not only unsustainable but also damaging to people’s health. That is why I’m passionate about my Facebook page and Instagram account, just another platform where I can share evidence-based nutrition guidelines.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

I always try to remind myself (and my clients) that it is a lifestyle and not a diet. Therefore there are bound to be weddings, parties and other occasions where over-indulging will happen.

What I do after a day where I didn’t make all the right choices is just to get back on the wagon the next day and get back into my usual healthier routine.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • Then you shouldn’t look what I have on my plate now.
  • Can you give me a sample meal plan?
  • You probably never eat unhealthy foods.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Choose someone that you feel comfortable with and can relate to. Someone who will be able to support you on an emotional level as well.

The relationship between a dietitian and client/patient is far more than just ‘what you eat’ and therefore you need someone that will be able to assist with the other aspects besides the food.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

The dish I love making is any type of interesting salad – I love to invite people over and them saying ‘I didn’t know that healthy food can be this tasty.

On the other hand, when I treat myself I love to have anything Italian – so pastas and pizzas are right at the top of my list.

 

To find a registered dietitian in your area, please visit: http://www.adsa.org.za/Public/FindARegisteredDietitian.aspx


“We should be as kind to ourselves as we are to others”

This week we chat to Tabitha Hume, a registered clinical dietitian in private practice, to find out why she became a dietitian, what she enjoys most about the work she does and what the challenges are:

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

I danced very seriously when I was at high school (ballet) and fell prey to the eating disorder monster. When I went to UCT, I started out studying BSc with an aim to genetic engineering, but then someone mentioned that dietetics was offered as a post-grad honours degree and my interest was piqued. I changed my BSc subjects to physiology and psychology and then was equipped for dietetics. I had a very strong interest in the physiological development of metabolic problems and so when I started my honours thesis on the hyper-metabolic response of paediatric burns patients, I was in heaven! Then after honours, my huge thirst for knowledge blessed me with a research and lecturing post at Wits Physiology Department, doing my thesis on carbohydrate and insulin metabolism, which was incredible. I knew I was in the right career when I started private practice and saw how rewarding it was, helping people with disordered eating and eating disorders completely lose their fear and anxiety of carbohydrates and remain skinny whilst eating a LOT.

So, it was really an evolution into dietetics, but a perfect fit!

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I love interacting with people. I see myself as a bit of a teacher. Watching as the penny drops with people is very rewarding. Seeing previously restrictive people turning into satisfied eaters with a genuine passion for eating, and losing weight or stabilising muscle mass makes me feel like I’ve helped both body and mind, and made a positive difference. My most satisfying moments are probably seeing my past anorexic and bulimic patients enjoy food, socialising, eating with their families, and moving on to inspire other eating disorder sufferers with lecturing, blogging and mentoring. That’s paying it forward and I feel blessed that I am able to be part of that journey.

What has been your career highlight?

I think this answer has two parts: The first was the success of my first three books. Then, the second highlight has been slow: working my way back up from complete financial and emotional ruin after being accused of malpractice in 2001. However, the exoneration and my ongoing passion for helping people recover has put me back in the practice seat and made me stronger in the process. I’m proud of that.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

There are 3 main challenges, which hit me every day.

  • The fact that everyone and anyone dishes out conflicting and pseudoscientific dietetic advice and that the public is not protected against this. More disease and death is being caused by confusion, yo-yo dieting, eating disorders and orthorexia arising directly from ‘diet gurus’ who have little or no physiological or medical background. Because the public sees these ‘diet gurus’ and registered dietitians as equal authorities and equally qualified to dispense dietetic advice, I sometimes feel angered that I am forced to highlight the vast difference in qualifications there are. It’s crazy that we are forced to ‘convince’ patients that we are the experts. After all, someone with a rotator-cuff injury would not question a physiotherapist on what advice she received from her personal trainer!
  • Apropos the above: I also find it very challenging that medical aids still don’t see the massive value in dietetic therapy. This hinders the patient from obtaining the full scope of care that they actually need from a dietitian, and this incomplete process leaves the full lifestyle change open to failure, further exacerbating lost faith in dietetics.
  • With the plethora of rubbish advice available to people, much of the limited time in consultation is spent trying to teach complicated physiological concepts so that they can understand and thus ‘trust’ the advice we give, because it is often so contrasting to what is fashionable and the latest fear-mongering fad. Patients so often say, “I need to spend a whole day listening and understanding because only with understanding it ALL can my enormous fear of food be undone.” We, as dietitians, shouldn’t have to do this. We should be able to guide, direct and heal. Not have to spend patients’ valuable time convincing them that eating normal food is OK.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

I speak to myself kindly, as I would to a child who made mistakes. We all do things for a reason, and I show myself WHY I made those mistakes, and rapidly make small adjustments to address that problem for the future. As soon as I let guilt in, my tendencies to be mean to myself start, and this simply starts a complicated restrict/defiance pattern in my eating which is not healthy. We should be as kind to ourselves as we are to others.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • “Are you sure? Everyone else seems to be saying that blah blah blah (insert pseudoscientific rubbish)”.
  • “I know what I should be doing I just can’t seem to have the discipline”. …..Um, no! If you don’t have the discipline, it’s probably because you are doing it wrong!
  • I won’t need much time with you… just give me a diet sheet of what I can and can’t eat”.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

I think this is a very difficult one to answer, seeing as most dietitians have equal qualifications. I’d say that because patients usually require a lifestyle change (and that is a fairly personal process), finding a dietitian with whom the patient ‘clicks’ on a personality level is very important to motivation and trust.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

Undoubtedly a hot lentil curry with chutney and tons of fresh coriander!

My favourite treat food would be warm apple pie! (Vegan of course!)


“Teaching nutrition is my passion”

 

ADSA_Meet the Dietitian_Zelda Ackerman

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


“No day is ever the same”

ADSA_Jessica Byrne_Blog VersionWe chatted to Registered Dietitian, Jessica Byrne, who is currently undergoing her Masters studies in Therapeutic Nutrition and fulfils the role of chief operating officer for ADSA, 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?

Biology was always my favourite subject at school, and I knew from fairly early on that I wanted to follow a career in health. Finding out more about dietetics when I started varsity, I knew it was the perfect fit for me, incorporating science as a base but also allowing me to work with people on a more personal level.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

For most people their first thought about a dietitian is that our job is helping people to lose weight. But I love that our profession is involved in such a diverse range of areas, and with that it brings versatility and variety. For me no day is ever the same. One day I could be seeing patients in the ICU, and the next assisting a journalist with evidence-based content for an article on nutrition, through my role in ADSA.

In my work in the hospital setting, it is rewarding to know that through providing nutrition therapy, I am contributing to enhancing the recovery of that patient and improving their health.

What has been your career highlight?

A recent highlight for me is when I represented ADSA and the dietetic profession at parliament, where I presented ADSA’s position and recommendations for the sugar tax. It was an exciting experience, and certainly not something I saw myself doing when I first became a dietitian!

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

The public is being exposed to more nutrition information that ever before, but unfortunately not all this information is accurate, from credible sources or might not be appropriate for every individual. Trying to correct these misperceptions around diet is an important part of a dietitian’s work.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disasters and bad eating choices?

I don’t let it get to the point where the entire day has been filled with poor eating choices, but if I’m having something less healthy I don’t beat myself up about it, but try to really savour it and know that I will get back on track at my next meal. I truly believe that moderation is key to keeping yourself on track long term, rather than putting yourself under unnecessary pressure to always make the healthy choice. That is why I follow the 80:20 rule – 80% of the time make the healthier choice, and then allow yourself that 20% for a treat now and then, without feeling guilty about it.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • ‘Please don’t look at what I’m eating!’ (I’m not the food police and I do not judge, especially as I don’t know what the rest of your eating patterns and lifestyle are like.)
  • ‘So, do you ever eat chocolate/cake?’ (Of course I do, just not every day!)
  • My initial thought was to add ‘What do you think about (insert current diet trend)?’ to this list because, let’s be honest, we don’t want to be talking about work when we’re out enjoying time with friends. But in fact, I don’t want people to stop asking that question! It actually makes me excited when someone asks a dietitian for their opinion on a new diet trend or popular headline they might have read. They are trying to make their mind up about a particular issue, and it’s a fantastic opportunity as a healthcare professional to provide guidance that is scientifically sound and based on evidence.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Dietitians are all trained and qualified to treat any patient presented to them. However, some dietitians might have special interests and be more knowledgeable in certain areas, so this can be useful to guide you on finding the right dietitian for you.

 What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

I love so many different foods, it’s so difficult to choose a favourite dish. It might sound cliched, but I really do love veggies! I love trying new dishes where veggies are the hero, particularly using vegetables to take a boring salad to something super tasty. And when it comes to a treat food, without a doubt, my favourite would be anything that contains chocolate!

Jessica holds both a B.Sc degree in Physiology and Biochemistry, and a B.Sc (Medical) (Honours) degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Cape Town. She is currently undergoing her Masters studies in Therapeutic Nutrition at Stellenbosch University. Before joining ADSA in the role of chief operating officer, Jessica worked at the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA where she provided up-to-date scientific content for media, planned public awareness and education campaigns, and worked on local government projects. Jessica also consults at private hospitals, where she is responsible for the nutritional management of critically ill, medical and surgical patients.

To find a dietitian in your area please visit the ADSA website and click on the PUBLIC button.


‘Making a contribution to the bigger health picture’

ADSA_NeilStephens2017a_1We chatted to Neil Stephen, Chief Dietitian at Addington Hospital in Durban, to find out why he became a dietitian, what he loves about his work and what the challenges are:

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

I developed an interest in nutrition when someone at the gym suggested I should see a dietitian to improve my performance.  I asked my parents if they knew of any dietitians and they told me that my cousin Nathan was one.  Later I decided to change from a general BSc to BSc Dietetics.  I was going to pursue a career in sports nutrition… which is the last thing I am interested in now.  To my surprise I was one of very few males in the class,  I had no idea that dietitians were mostly female!

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I have quite a diverse range of areas I really love.  Top of the list is child health, followed by critical care, maternal health, student training and lastly, monitoring and evaluation of health systems and programmes (I’m a bit of a nerd).  I work daily with patients who have very little or nothing.  These patients are so humble and appreciative of any assistance you give them, whether its counselling or treatment.  The most satisfying moments are when I bump into moms with their young children or babies, who stop me, and they proudly tell me they are still breastfeeding. Another is when an acutely ill malnourished child improves over night and I know that nutrition has greatly contributed to the positive outcome.  Finally, its awesome speaking to previous interns and finding out they are succeeding at what they do. 

What has been your career highlight?

Well I started to collect data on every patient I treated when I started working.  I had a good amount of information per patient.  I put together a cool spreadsheet in excel to do my monthly stats for me, and eventually got my whole department on to it.  After a few years I decided to study further and used the information I had been collecting over the years.  So a highlight was definitely that I was selected to present my research for the MEC and Head of the KZN Department of Health.  Being selected really made me feel like I was valued and was making a contribution to the bigger health picture. 

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

I think that for me its been a long journey of challenges and realisations which have grown me into the dietitian I am today.  Working in the public sector, I experience first hand the outcomes of social and economic  issues that face the general population on a daily basis.  It is heartbreaking to find that children are severely malnourished purely because they have a limited access to food.  A large proportion of patients of all ages are referred for HIV related problems which are often hard to manage and outcomes may be poor.  I need to mention that I love pregnant moms, children, and critically ill patients because they almost always accept advice and are compliant – the challenge is the patient who is resistant to change, because they don’t embrace the importance of lifestyle and dietary change.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

Hahaha, I usually just take a nap.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • How can I lose the fat on my….(insert body part!!)???
  • Isn’t there some kind of a pill or something I can take??
  • I don’t eat carbs.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Dietitians are all equally qualified to treat any patient presented to them.  If you have a specific need, some dietitians will list their special interests, one of which you may be looking for. 

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

  • Favourite dish – Butter Chicken Curry with garlic butter naan bread
  • Favourite treat food – chocolate mousse (I can eat it by the litre)

 

Read more about the career of a registered dietitian: Is a career as a dietitian for you?

 


Meet the new ADSA President!

We chatted to Nicole Lubasinski, the new ADSA President (July 2017 to June 2019), to find out about her plans for ADSA and why she became a dietitian, what she loves about her work and what the challenges are:

As the new President, what are you looking foward to achieving?

I am looking forward to playing a role in unifying the profession, continuing to build a great Association for all our fellow dietians and to achieving ADSA’s vision – to represent and develop the dietetic profession to contribute towards achieving optimal nutrition for all South Africans.

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

This is a complicated question for me to answer as there were many factors in play. Food is a key part in our daily lives, as with most young girls weight and food were an intricate part of my life growing up. I wanted to be able to understand our relationship with food better and to hopefully help other people come to terms with it too.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I think it’s similar for most dietitians. We tend to be the patients last resort for many patients and the “ah ha” moment that happens when people realise achieving a healthy balanced lifestyle doesn’t have to be restrictive or stringent. And that dietitians can often work in favourite foods to limit the sense of deprivation.

What has been your career highlight?

I think the achievement that sticks out the most is receiving my IOC diploma in Sports Nutrition in Switzerland. The reason being is I completed my final assignment whilst in hospital after delivering my little girl & she happened to be breastfeeding at the time of submission.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Being the last resort, people have preconceived ideas about what a dietitian is or does. Automatically people judge you for your appearance and food choice, or feel you will judge them for theirs.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

Everything in moderation. Add in an extra few KMs or reps in my work out session. Life happens and its ok. We tend to be pretty hard on ourselves and I think that needs to change.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • “Oh goodness, I better not eat this in front of you then”
  • “So what’s the best way to lose weight”
  • “Oh really, I would of thought dietitians needed to look a certain way”

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Someone you can relate to. A patient relationship with a dietitian is more than “just tell me what to eat”. The ups and downs that come with changing a lifestyle or dealing with a health condition can be emotional, it’s good to have someone in your corner who will motivate you in a way that works for you.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

Oh wow, just about anything my mom cooks. But my all-time overly decadent high day and holiday meal is grown up Mac and Cheese. One of our wonderful ADSA chefs needs to tailor this to be more nutritionally balanced

 

 


Meet registered dietitian, Thembekile Dlamini

We chat to registered dietitian and ADSA spokesperson, Thembekile Dlamini to find outADSA_Spokesperson_Thembekile why she became a dietitian and what she loves most about her work. Thembekile works at the Free State Department of Health, is busy doing her PhD in Public Health and has a special interest in paediatric nutrition.

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

Saving lives has always been my first priority but I didn’t want to do it in the usual and obvious ways that society dictates. I saw a need to communicate the science of nutrition especially for the benefit of the black community. I thought if I understood healthy eating in any context, I would then be able to disseminate information correctly and with sensitivity to cultural preferences. That way I knew I would make a difference and save lives through nutrition.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I am mostly based in the paediatric ward, doing both inpatients and outpatients. When I meet a helpless soul in the ward admitted for whatever condition, just knowing that I will make a difference in their life makes my life and work enjoyable.

Most satisfying moments: every time my little patients get well and are discharged and I know I made a huge difference on their journey to getting better.

What has been your career highlight?

I have a couple of those:

  • When mortality rates of a hospital dropped within 3 months of my arrival in the facility.
  • When my child health and nutrition research paper got an award for best poster presentation in 2015 in the whole province.
  • Getting a Gold award for saving cost of service delivery in the province through my hard work.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Working with the most disadvantaged communities which cannot afford even the basic foods. Counseling them becomes a challenge because they always highlight their affordability challenges.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

I have a few of those but when they happen, I drink lots of water and morning exercise.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • Please give me a diet
  • I want to loose weight
  • Give me a list of the right foods to eat

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

  • Dietitian must be registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa
  • Dietitian must have a practice number and/or have a facility practice number
  • Must be easily accessible
  • Must be reliable
  • Must have a love for people
  • Must provide quality services

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

Pap and Masonja (Mopani worms) in tomato sauce!

I love Rum ‘n Raisin ice cream. A bowl of that is the perfect treat!


Celebrating Heritage Day with Food!

Mpho Image.pngIn celebration on Heritage Day (24 September), ADSA member Mpho Tshukudu and food writer Anna Trapido, authors of the wonderful cookbook EAT TING, share one of their many ‘traditional recipes with a modern twist’ with us!

EAT TING will make you fall in love with timeless African flavours – while also improving your health and well-being. Lets celebrate our heritage and get cooking:

Modernised Dikgobe Salad of Red & White Sorghum, Fennel & Radish

Ingredients

(Serves 8)

2 cups wholegrain sorghum (red, white or a mix), rinsed

salt

1/2 cup cowpeas or letlhodi (mung beans)

1 large fennel bulb, cut lengthwise into thin slices

2 tbps olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup lime juice

1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1 tsp finely grated orange zest

1/2 cup olive oil

5 large radishes, thinly sliced

1/4 cup olives, pitted and halved

2 tbsp finely chopped fennel fronds

1/2 cup fresh dill sprigs

Method

Place sorghum in a pot, add water to cover by about 3cm and season with salt. Place cowpeas in a separate pot and add water to cover. Bring both pots to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender and water is absorbed (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Add additional water to the cowpeas if needed. Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Toss fennel slices and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl to coat. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread fennel slices out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast until fennel is crisp-tender and beginning to brown in spots, about 18 minutes. Cool on baking sheet.

Whisk orange juice, lime juice, chopped shallot, dill and orange zest in a medium bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set vinaigrette aside.

Mix cooked sorghum and cowpeas in a salad bowl; add fennel and juices on baking sheet. Add radishes, olives, fennel fronds and dill sprigs. Drizzle vinaigrette over and toss to coat.

GI is lowered by the ascorbic acid in the fruit juices.

Nutritional values per serving

Energy: 834,6 kJ

Carbohydrate: 25,6 g

Protein: 6,3 g

Fat: 9,9 g

Unsaturated fat: 8,5 g

Saturated fat: 1,3 g

Fibre: 2,6 g

 


“I’m fascinated about the effect of food on our health”

We chatted to Registered Dietitian, Kelly Schreuder who also has professional culinary experienceadsa_kelly-schreuder2, 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?

I was very interested in health and the prevention of disease – always reading about nutrition and fascinated about the effect of food on our health.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I love supporting individuals through healthy lifestyle change. Everyone is totally unique and it’s very satisfying to work out what inspires and motivates each person. Everyone also has a point of readiness they need to reach before lifestyle change starts to feel easier and I love getting people to that point.

What has been your career highlight?

Running a sustainable business – making a living doing what I love and working on things that inspire me.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Running my own business! Even when you love what you do, there will always be admin, chores, and those days when you’d rather not show up.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

Get over it and start again – always going back to what I know works for me.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • “Oooh…Don’t look at what I’m eating!” (We trust that you are able to make your own decisions and we are not always perfect either)
  • “Is this fattening?” (The answer will always be “it depends”)
  • “What do you think of [insert latest diet trend]?” (unless you want a long answer that will also end up being something along the lines of “it depends”!)

Generally though, we are quite used to answering these questions, so bring it on!

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Good rapport with the person. Our training is the same, and you should always feel that you can trust a dietitian, and get good advice, but when you have to work with someone long-term, it really helps to enjoy the time you spend with them.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

At the end of the week I like to chop up all the leftover vegetables in my fridge and make a kind of fried rice (with brown rice, ideally) with spring onions, garlic and ginger. Favourite treat: Chocolate with nuts – any kind will do. I have a couple of squares almost every single day after dinner, with a cup of plain rooibos or green tea.

To find a dietitian in your area visit the ‘Find A Dietitian’ section on the ADSA website.

 

 


Flying the flag for nutrition – Meet Lisanne du Plessis (RD)

lisanneWe chatted to registered dietitian Lisanne du Plessis who is a senior lecturer and the Head of Community Nutrition at Stellenbosch University, to find out why she became a dietitian, what she loves the most about the work she does and what she wishes people would stop saying when they meet a dietitian.

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

While I was in high school, I was randomly selected to take part in the MRC’s Coronary Risk Factor Study (CORIS). I was fascinated by the information provided to us about the ways in which nutrition could prevent and treat diseases. Two dietitians (Edelweiss Wentzel-Viljoen and Marjanne Senekal) were part of the research team who visited my hometown, Robertson, for this project and I was inspired by the prospects of the profession. I went on to study BSc Dietetics at Stellenbosch University and it was a very proud moment for me when I could write “RD/SA”, and for some time now, also “NT/SA” behind my name.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I am a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University in the Division of Human Nutrition. I enjoy teaching, experiencing students who engage with nutrition theory in a positive way, watching them translate the theory into practice, seeing them graduate with big smiles and when they say: “Mam, you have instilled a passion in us for infant and young child nutrition” – those are golden moments for me.

What has been your career highlight?

I am fortunate that there have been many. I was exposed to wonderful, humble and sincere people in my very first job as a community dietitian. I have treasured the life lessons I learnt from them during my career. I was honoured to serve the profession on the ADSA Western Cape branch and the ADSA Executive committee in my early career and I also served as ADSA President (2002-2004). I have met amazing mentors and colleagues who have become friends and partners in flying the flag for nutrition; I have seen interesting and beautiful places and have had the opportunity to listen and speak to diverse nutrition audiences. Obtaining my PhD and surviving to tell the tale is the latest on the list of career highlights!

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Juggling life (husband, children, home, family, friends) with an intense and diverse workload.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

Sigh…and try to do better the following day. I enjoy exercise – so that helps!

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • Please don’t look in my shopping trolley/plate!
  • I usually eat healthily.
  • Can you work out a diet for me?

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

They should always feel that the dietitian carries their best interest at heart.

They should be able to build a trust-relationship with a dietitian fairly quickly.

They should be convinced that the dietitian is truthful when he/she says: “we practice evidence-based nutrition.”

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

I love many different kinds of food and especially enjoy tapas-style meals. I am well-known for my love of chocolate and bubbly!

 

To find a dietitian in your area, please visit http://www.adsa.org.za

 

 


“I love the versatility our profession”

Monique_1We chatted to Registered Dietitian, Monique Piderit who works mostly in the corporate wellness space, 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?

I heard about dietetics for the first time when I was in 2nd year at Wits doing a BSc. I soon realised that all my subject choices where right in line with the types of subjects done in dietetics. It was one of those “aha” moments where I realised I have just fallen in love with my future profession.

If you ask my mother this question, she will tell you I was born to be a dietitian. From an early age, it was natural and easy for me to choose the healthier foods. I disliked fatty meats, chicken skin, and creamy-based foods, and processed meats like polony made me ill. I was quite happy to have milk with my meals, never went overboard on sweets and chocolates, and there was never a struggle as a toddler to eat veggies. It really is just something that is instinctive for me to be healthy and thus it’s easy to lead by example.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I love the versatility our profession. People think dietitians just help with weight loss diets. The truth is almost every medical concern, disease or condition can be managed, treated, or even prevented with good food choices.

Also, I enjoy how impactful our profession can be. I work mostly in the corporate wellness space. Employees spend 1/3 of their time at work, making the workplace the ideal opportunity to promote and encourage healthy nutrition. I am involved in onsite nutrition consultations, canteen audits, nutrition workshops and article writing for corporates, all impactful yet undervalued ways to address nutrition.

What has been your career highlight?

There are many dietitians that I look up to and admire in our profession, and when these dietitians express acknowledgement in the work that I do, it is hugely fulfilling. It is gratifying and rewarding when your mentors, dietitians who love and protect profession as much as you do, recognise and compliment you on your contribution to the profession.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Everyone eats, so everyone thinks they’re an expert in nutrition. The truth is nutrition is far more complex than calories and not as simple as just being about food. On a daily basis, dietitians, the nutrition experts who study for years to practice, are confronted by people who (unknowingly) cannot discern evidence-based nutrition from sensationalist ‘fact’ found on the internet. It has been a personal challenge to learn how best to address the controversial questions in a friendly manner, remaining true to the science. Regardless, my immense pride to be a dietitian always helps me keep my head high.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

I never let it get to a point of an entire day of poor choices, but rather a cheat window where I allow myself to relax the nutrition strings, thoroughly savouring and enjoying the less healthy choice. It’s so vital to change how you think about food. Food nourishes the body and is not a sentence to a life of unhappiness. There will be meals where you overeat or eat incorrectly. But the power resides in you that at the next meal or even in the very next bite you decide you are in control. Be kind to yourself. No one is perfect (not even your dietitian).

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • Are you really going to eat that? Dietitians are humans and have taste buds and emotions like everyone else. When you’ve eaten well most of the time, your body can certainly tolerate a little cheat here and there, so yes, I’m not only going to eat that but delight in every bite along the way.
  • So tell me, what’s your opinion on Banting? The answer is I don’t have an opinion, I have a position, a position that, like other health care professionals guided by science, is based on scientifically-sound, evidence-based, high quality research.
  • Can you make me a meal plan quickly? Meal plans take time and effort and require an understanding of your needs, likes, dislikes, medical history, budget, lifestyle, etc. If meal plans were the ultimate answer, then one could simply download one of the thousands on the internet and be healthy, happy, skinny, and fit. A meal plan is a guide to healthy eating, not the ultimate answer.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Our relationship with food is so very intimate and personal that you need to be comfortable to open up and share that with your dietitian. You need to find a person that you trust in and can connect with. It’s also important to remember that dietitians are the leading experts in nutrition and you should note red flags when the person favours a certain diet, pushes sales of a product that you “have to have”, or “prescribing” weight loss medication. Chances are this person is not a dietitian.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

My family is Portuguese and I am the first generation to be born in SA. The culture, language, and of course, food, is still a large part of who I am. A freshly baked, hot bread roll with butter or perfectly plump roast potatoes are an all-time comfort and favourite. I am also not inclined to part with my beloved red wine (red grapes count as a serving of fruit, surely?

Monique is a registered dietitian with a background in corporate wellness and Masters degree in Dietetics in sports nutrition. Guided by evidence-based nutrition, Monique believes in an integrated approach to wellness where the key to being healthy is to adopt small yet sustainable changes to your lifestyle. Monique is a member of the ADSA (Association of Dietetics of South Africa) Gauteng South branch and registered with the HPCSA (Health Professionals Council of South Africa). She is also a Discovery Wellness Network dietitian and DNAlysis accredited practitioner.

 

 


“We all make mistakes or have bad days” – meet dietitian, Faaizah Laher

ADSA Spokesperson_Faaizah Laher_1

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

Cooking has always been a favourite pastime and being Indian so many of our occasions revolve around food and the kitchen. Helping people through what they eat became an interest when I was in high school and applying for a degree in dietetics seemed like the most natural and ‘next step’.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

The feeling when a patient with a perforated bowel or frozen abdomen – after a prolonged stay in ICU, high care and general ward – os finally able to leave the hospital and able to eat normally. When a renal patient who feels like they have no hope realises there are healthy and nutritious food choices they can make to ensure they live a healthy life.

What has been your career highlight?

My healthy cooking demos – getting this project off the ground and inspiring participants to eat and lead a healthier life. Translating nutrition knowledge into little pieces of practical advice for a magazine article or radio interview.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

The uncertainty when I left government service to start a private practise. Private can be a lonely place and fostering new relationships and keeping old ones close is so important!

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

Get right back into eating healthy again. We all make mistakes or have bad days. Accept it, learn from it and move forward.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • I really need to come see you! (As they rub their tummy)
  • Oh, so should you really be eating that?
  • Email me a diet, I don’t eat but I just keep putting on all this weight!!

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Proximity to your work or house. Someone located close to you makes follow ups easier and also enables success in terms of achieving goals and relationship building. Consider choosing a professional that has an interest in the needs you have. Not all are comfortable in terms of allergies/ paeds and other specific conditions.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

  • Favourite dish at the moment: Tandoori chicken grilled perfectly, with a crunchy salad and grilled potatoes. Using the leftovers in a wrap the next day for work! .
  • Popcorn!!

 


“Sensible, long-term healthy eating is not the sexiest of subjects” – meet dietitian, Hlanzeka Mpanza

ADSA Spokesperson_Hlanzeka Mpanza_1Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

By accident actually. My father brought a career guidance book home that featured a dietitian when I was in standard 9.  I was fascinated about the idea that everyday food could help with getting the most out of life whether in sports, work, disease and general mental well-being. I still am.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I work in the food industry. I believe this is the most exciting area to work in in dietetics today as there is so much happening in the field of food policy worldwide. My job as an industry dietitian is to make nutrition relevant and accessible to our consumers through relevant  products, messages and projects. And most importantly to provide our consumers with nutrition information that they need to make informed choices.  I like knowing that when we hit that sweet spot between the right health message and product/ project, we can positively change lives of millions of people every-day.

What has been your career highlight?

For a black girl from very humble beginnings, my job has allowed me to travel to places I never thought I’d see in my life. After qualifying, I registered as a dietitian in the UK, where I later went to work as I travelled my way around the continent over a number of years.  I not only got to work and live with diverse people from all over the world, I did it whilst still feeling like I was making a difference in peoples’ lives. Those years were special for me.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Sensible long-term healthy eating is not the sexiest of subjects.  How do we as a profession get better at enabling the general public to eat better, without bells and whistles?  I’d like us to crack the key to population-wide healthy eating messages that are based on nutrition science yet are simple, engaging and accessible (not just financially but culturally as well).  We have to get to a point where investing in credible nutrition is the only sensible choice. At the moment, there is so much information clutter that the general public is mostly confused about what sensible healthy eating is. And when people are not food literate, they are not able to make lifestyle changes that they need to make for them live longer, more productive lives.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

Except I don’t call them nutrition disasters. I call them celebration days like when your BFF gets a promotion and you share one big cake between the two of you or sad days when you get ceremoniously dumped by your ‘not-really-serious-boyfriend’ and you eat all the food in the house.  The problem is when sad and celebration day kind of eating becomes the norm, which is when you need to start recreating a healthier normal.  How I cope is I pick myself up the following day and go live my best life, it’s all about trying to do better every-day. I believe food is a legitimate way of coping with emotional events and marking milestones, that’s ok.  I don’t think shame and guilt are useful when it comes to sustainable healthy eating.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

Are you really going to eat that?

How do I gain muscle or lose weight?

Don’t look at what I’m eating! (this makes us feel like the food police, which we’d like to think we are not)

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Find someone who gets you and your vision. Someone who understands what you want to achieve. Other than when dealing with certain medical conditions, success in nutrition is mostly relative. Define what success means for you, your health, your culture, your work, your mental well-being, your budget, stage of life, support system, etc. Choose someone that can help you navigate what success means for you and how to get there without giving up the most basic parts of yourself that make you YOU. You are more likely to be successful when you do that.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

It changes, right now I am loving ujeqe obrown ( steamed brown bread) that I make at home a serve with everything. As a treat, I have a weakness for  spicy chicken wings from the orange fast food chain.


“I enjoy helping clients design their wellness paths” – Meet dietitian, Mpho Tshukudu

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

My favourite childhood memories are around food. My mother constantly told me about hungry children somewhere in East Africa, and I thought I would work for the World Health Organisation and feed hungry children. When I graduated, I had been exposed to different aspects of dietetics and nutrition and the initial plan was not an option. I still dream of the coastline of Kenya.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I enjoy helping clients design their wellness paths. They do have some knowledge and as I guide them, they gain confidence to assess what is right for them.

Satisfying moments: when clients meet their health goals and experience how a healthier body feels, how food and self-love can enhance their life and energy levels.

What has been your career highlight?

Since I studied Functional Medicine, I have widened my understanding of the relationship between diet, lifestyle, genetics and disease processes and this has influenced my practice.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Dealing with clients who do not want to take responsibility for their health, and wanting to blame someone and rely on medication.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

I really do not have those days. It helps that I do not have a sweet tooth, and because of my allergies to nuts, gluten and soya – nothing in the stores will be permissible to sort out any need for emotional and comfort eating.

I make time to prepare and enjoy my meals. I eat whole foods and do enjoy them tremendously. Yoga is my moving meditation and it helps to clear my mind.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

“Please give me a diet “

“Do I look fat?”

“I am on this diet. Is it healthy?”

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Someone who takes into consideration your culture, lifestyle, socio-economic status, family and social life. You have to be able to relate to the dietitian, to form a trusting relationship.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

My daily treat : honest hot chocolate (raw, organic and milk and sugar free), coconut cream and milk.

My favourite dish is whole grain sorghum risotto with mushrooms and a mature (12 or 18 months) cheese.

 

To find a Registered Dietitian in your area visit http://www.adsa.org.za/Public/FindARegisteredDietitian.aspx


“Improving health through diet therapy” – Meet registered dietitian Astrid Wichmann

This week we chat to Astrid Wichmann, Chief Dietitian at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Durban.

Astrid completed her BSc Degree in Dietetics at the University of Stellenbosch, followed by one year community service in Barberton. She stayed in the public sector and her interests are mainly in the field of clinical dietetics. To date Astrid has one publication, one husband and one child.

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

My plan was to trek up Africa in an old Land Rover and help all the Kwashies. The outcome – I’m based in a clinical setting where I play a role in rehabilitating individuals, with all types of ailments, through nutrition therapy.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

Enjoy most: Playing a role in enhancing recovery of patients and improving health through diet therapy.

Most satisfying: Seeing the twinkle in patient’s eyes when they grasp a concept and are eager to learn more. Seeing a child grow well after diet therapy has been implemented.

What has been your career highlight?

Being given the opportunity to work in a flagship tertiary and quaternary hospital.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

  • Helping individuals attain a goal with limited resources in their poverty stricken setting.
  • Eloquently defending fact against sensationalistic fiction.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

By not going on a diet! (Or should I rather say: I do not see it as a disaster and recover by aiming for optimal nutrition)

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • Oh!….I need to speak to you about a diet, I need to lose weight!
  • Don’t look at what I’m eating.
  • You are not supposed to eat that if you’re a dietitian.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Look out for the field of interest the practitioner has and what client base he/she mainly serves. Generally you are likely to benefit more by seeing someone who specialises in the area you need assistance with, than someone who does not have much exposure to such cases e.g. allergies/diabetes/paediatrics/kidney diseases/ infertility etc.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

My “last supper” would be: moms roast chicken & potatoes with a mixed salad.

Treat food: ice-cream that contains icicles.


Work highlight – “Being able to witness how positively nutrition changes affect clients’ every day lives!” – Meet The Dietitian

As part of our ‘Meet the Dietitian’ series, we chatted to Lila Bruk about why she became registered dietitian, what she loves about her work, how she copes after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices, and what people should look out for when choosing a dietitian.

Meet Lila Bruk a registered dietitian (RD) in private practice (Lila Bruk & Associates)

Why did you become a registered dietitian?

I have always been passionate about health, but I was particularly interested in the nutrition side and liked how dietetics allowed for creativity as well as interaction with people.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

I love meeting new people, guiding them on their journeys and seeing them achieve their goals along the way. Without a doubt, the most satisfying moments are when people start to feel a significant difference in their health, energy and wellbeing and being able to witness how positively these changes affect their every day lives.

What has been your career highlight?

There have been so many, so it’s hard to pick, but I would have to say being involved with many high-profile projects and companies is definitely a highlight. Having said that, every day is filled with highlights and seeing my clients’ progress and being there when they achieve their goals is always so rewarding.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

This would definitely be managing the different sources of misguided nutrition information out there. Unfortunately the public gets so many conflicting nutrition messages from so many different sources that it can lead to them being extremely confused. This is especially difficult when the source of the nutrition information is seemingly reputable websites, health professionals, celebrities or other media. A lot of my time is then taken up trying to debunk many of the myths and misconceptions that these sources have put forward.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

I think the best thing is to try to get back on track as soon as possible. Trying to cut out food from the next day will only backfire and you will land up overeating at a later stage. Getting back on your plan is the best strategy.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

  • “Do you eat like this?” – dietitians are people too. Sometimes we have good days and sometimes bad, but ultimately most of the time we do our best and make good choices.
  • “I don’t like the taste of healthy food” – healthy eating is not all about boiled chicken and steamed broccoli! Healthy food can also be delicious, vibrant, tasty and exciting. It’s all about preparing it right.
  • “I hate exercise” – being more active is all about finding something you enjoy. If you hate running and love dancing, then by all means do the dancing!

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

Try to find out whether the dietitian has dealt with similar situations to yours, but also see how you feel about them, whether they inspire confidence and whether they have a good reputation and the right qualifications.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

My favourite dish is grilled teriyaki salmon with steamed veggies. My favourite treat would be frozen yoghurt or liquorice 🙂

Lila Bruk is a registered dietitian and nutritional consultant in private practice in Illovo, Johannesburg. 

She graduated from UCT with a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry in 2002, followed by a Bachelor of Science Medical (Honours) degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2004 also from UCT. In 2010 she completed a Masters in Nutritional Sciences through the University of Stellenbosch in the fields of body image in pre-adolescent girls, digestive disorders (e.g. IBS), sports nutrition and food allergies.

Lila is passionate about promoting health and good nutrition and thus has written for various general and health-related publications such as O Magazine, FairLady, COSMOPOLITAN, Women’s Health, Men’s Health and Longevity. She also gives regular lectures on nutrition-related topics around the country, and appears regularly on television and radio. 

Her main areas of interest include nutritional management of lifestyle diseases (including diabetes, insulin resistance and heart disease), glycaemic index, food allergies, post-operative nutrition, sports nutrition, adolescent body image and digestive and gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

Lila is registered on the Discovery Vitality Dietician Network and thus is accredited to perform Discovery Vitality Nutrition assessments. Lila is registered with the HPCSA (Health Professionals Council of South Africa) and the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA). She holds the Sponsorship portfolio on the ADSA Executive Committee for the July 2013 to June 2015 term of office. She was also the chairperson for the ADSA Gauteng South branch from July 2009 to June 2013.


“People don’t eat nutrients, they eat food” – Meet The Dietitian

Over the next couple of months we will be introducing you to some of the amazing dietitians we work with every day. We are going to find out why they became registered dietitians, what they love about their work, how they cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices, and what people should look out for when choosing a dietitian.

Meet Nathalie Mat, a clinical dietitian in private practice.

Why did you become a Registered Dietitian?

I grew up in a family that loves and celebrates food but is also concerned with health. What really drew me to becoming a dietitian is that dietetics is based in science but requires artful skill for successful implementation. People don’t eat nutrients, they eat food and it’s my job to help interpret ever-evolving nutrition research into real food that people can eat and enjoy.

What do you enjoy most about the work you do? What are the most satisfying moments?

My heart absolutely sings when someone walks into my office looking vibrant and healthy and tells me how much better they feel – and all we did was fine tune their eating. I love seeing people transform their health and their relationship with food. It is wonderful seeing people achieve their goals and it is a privilege to share the journey with them.

What has been your career highlight?

Presenting my thesis at an international congress and receiving my masters in nutrition was a definite highlight. I’ve also really enjoyed serving as the ADSA Gauteng South chair and being part of my profession.

What are the most challenging aspects of your career?

Because everyone eats food, almost everyone has a theory on nutrition that is their own and is unique to them. Helping people find their individual recipe for health is my job – but I have to fight a lot of misperceptions. Just because something worked for your aunt/friend/colleague does not mean it’s right for someone with your genetic background or lifestyle.

How do you cope after a day of nutrition disaster and bad eating choices?

Firstly, if I am making a slightly less healthy choice, I really savour and enjoy it. I think food is meant to be enjoyed! I then make sure that I get back on the healthy bandwagon as soon as possible; I do not wait for Monday. Life is about balance. Your arms and legs won’t fall off if you eat a chocolate; just make sure that you’re choosing chocolate 10-20% of the time and making healthy, balanced choices the other 80-90% of the time.

What are the three things that you think people should stop saying when they meet a dietitian?

Everyone always asks for a quick tip to losing weight – I don’t mind answering but people tend to ask a second time because they do not like my answer of “Eat more vegetables”. It makes me laugh.

If someone meets me for the first time and we’re having a meal, they often say “please don’t watch what I’m eating”. If it’s Saturday night or after hours, I’m not on the clock. I love answering nutrition questions but I am not secretly calculating everyone’s kilojoule intake.

“I have ; what should I eat for that”? I do my best work when I am in my office; if you’re keen on getting quality nutrition advice, go and see your dietitian for an appointment. Not only can a dietitian miss important points while you’re both eating dinner or having coffee, you are not likely to remember everything that was said over a meal.

What should clients look out for when deciding which dietitian to work with?

I think the most important aspect of working with any health professional is that they should hear you. Finding the right dietitian is like finding the right psychologist – you need to be on the same page. You’ve found the right dietitian for you if he/she can create a way of eating that is sustainable in the long term; is manageable (in terms of money, time and effort); and is tasty.

What is your favourite dish and your favourite treat food?

I love everything. I really enjoy eating a wide variety of cuisines and styles so my favourite dish can change every time I’m asked. I am loving fragrant Indian curries at the moment. In terms of a favourite treat, my parents are both Belgian so I think chocolate will always be one of my favourites.

Nathalie Mat completed her Bachelors in Dietetics at the University of Pretoria where she is completing her Masters. Nathalie has experience in both State and Private hospitals and clinics. As a qualified personal trainer and avid cook, she is able to translate up-to-date scientific information into practical and achievable goals for her patients. Nathalie has been published across a variety of media and platforms including CPD activities, Oprah Magazine, Business Day and e-tv. She has worked as a guest lecturer and enjoys a variety corporate work. She’s the treasurer and chair for the ADSA Gauteng South branch.