Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day on Wednesday, March 8. As the nation’s food and nutrition experts, registered dietitian nutritionists are committed to improving the health of their patients and community.
We wanted to take this time to spotlight the work of dietitians that work with Get Healthy Philly. Check out our interviews below to learn more about some of our favorite dietitians. We interviewed Michelle Gross from Health Promotion Council and Jennifer Aquilante and Catherine Bartoli from Get Healthy Philly to get some insight into the world of nutrition.
Do you have a personal or professional reason for joining this field?
Michelle Gross: I worked as an organizer with an immigrant workers’ center for several years after college. We focused on super important issues like workers’ rights and immigration reform. I started thinking about how food impacted the health of the folks I worked with. When a woman came into our center to provide nutrition education and cooking classes as part of her dietetic internship, I knew entering into the food justice world was the path for me.
Jennifer Aquilante: Both my parents were overweight and diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when I was in grade school. I would read nutrition magazines, research healthy eating and attend dietitian visits with them. I think that is what first introduced me to the possibility of this as a profession.
Catherine Bartoli: Food is fundamental! I have a passion for food and enjoy sharing with others the power it has for maintaining and enhancing their health. I have always loved cooking, growing, and sharing food with others. Being a dietitian allows me to bring together my passions and use my knowledge to enhance the health of others.
Why do you think Registered Dietitians are important?
MG: Registered dietitians are so important because they are uniquely trained to understand the connections between food and health from cultural, social and scientific perspectives.
JA: There is so much misinformation out there about what is or isn’t healthy. RDs are the experts in the field who can educate and guide the public about how to make healthy choices.
CB: Registered Dietitians have the expertise needed to provide guidance on how consuming healthy food and beverages promotes wellness, prevents illness, and improves quality of life.
What advice would you give an someone who is just entering this profession?
MG: Learn Spanish!
JA: Keep an open mind. There are so many directions you can take in the nutrition field. Don’t be afraid to switch gears. I started as a clinical RD working at a hospital, then worked for a national weight loss company doing counseling and research and development and then transitioned to the community nutrition/public health field.
CB: There are so many ways in which you can practice dietetics. Seek out others in the field to learn all about a variety of avenues in which dietitians work.
What are the most important skills to have to excel in your field?
MG: Be open minded and flexible. Be passionate but not rigid. Food and nutrition may be our priority but for most people it’s just one of many competing priorities in their lives.
JA: I will never forget something I was told in undergrad- in order to be a dietitian, you need to do 3 things: like science, practice what you preach and be a “people-person.” I think that still holds true today.
CB: Passion for the work, creativity, and persistence.
What is your favorite part of working for your organization?
MG: I work with such a diverse and interesting group of people who come into the work from unique backgrounds.
JA: There are a few, but probably the best part is working with the Get Healthy Philly team here at the Health Department- a special group of people with various backgrounds who all bring their expertise to the work we do to move it forward and make it successful.
CB: I have the opportunity to work with a variety of individuals in many different settings. The work challenges me to be creative in my approach and work collaboratively across sectors.
What is going well for Philly when it comes to nutrition?
MG: Philly has so many passionate advocates for food justice. As a recent transplant from NYC, it’s really thrilling to be a part of this community.
JA: So much! There are so many organizations in Philly that are doing great work around nutrition, chronic disease prevention, and physical activity- it’s making a difference in our communities.
CB: Philadelphia has helped set the tone for the rest of the country when it comes to public health and nutrition. The city actively promotes healthy food environments in many ways. We feature a large network of community-based farmers’ markets and healthy corner stores. We also encourage healthy beverage consumption and provide many opportunities for individuals to engage in nutrition education.
What is your favorite nutrition hack / recipe?
MG: I’m not the best at nutrition hacks, honestly. I’m an everything in moderation type of RD. So if it’s something you love, make space for it in your life. I love pizza so in my house we have it once a week!
JA: I love making roasted asparagus and cauliflower. It’s so simple and delicious! Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle some garlic, salt and pepper and roast. I literally stand at the stove eating it right off the baking sheet. Yum!
CB: Hearty Black Beans and Rice