Why I Love Being a Family Nutritionist
Nutrition is all about moving from complex to simple; family nutrition is all about a team approach.
I love being a nutritionist. It is a wonderful vocation where I get to mostly translate nutrition recommendations into everyday edible solutions. Hands down my favorite experience is working within a family approach as a family nutritionist. Why? The answer is simple: families are the basic cells of society. So for me it’s all about the girth of impact.
I have always loved Ellyn Satter’s book, Child of Mine: Feeding with love and good sense. Because a family needs just that- love and good sense.
What is the point of making healthy meals if there is no love, no spice, no sweetness, no sign of care? And how can one keep up with the great demands of family complexity, if there is no good sense, no ease, no simplicity?
Family Nutrition in one word is about striking the right balance with the right intention. Usually people think the intention behind nutrition is all about having the “right weight”, but really it’s about nourishing a family from within. And each family is so unique that each family needs a personalized approach.
As a family nutritionist, I have learnt the best recipe to support families, it reads like this:
- 53 oz of great listening skills.
- 1 kg of advocating family unity with 1 kg of capitalizing on individual assets
- 10 cups of centralizing change around the dinner table
- Equal parts of strategizing grocery shopping and recipe tracking systems
- 4 heaping tablespoons of prioritizing order in refrigerator, pantry and weekly meal plan
- Add all ingredients and mix patiently, moderating good communication
- Sift mixture to enhance optimism and transfer into pan swiftly, incentivizing family teamwork.
- Sprinkle a generous pinch of good humor. Serve immediately in frequent family meals.
We know food without proper seasoning is bland and unpalatable; and yet excessive salt can be overpowering (and bad for hypertension!) and so family nutrition is truly about that- balancing all the moving parts to work well together. Above all, the success of your family nutritionist lies in cultivating the right mindset to keep up with the upbeat chaos of modern family life!
I also love Ellyn Satter’s book Secrets of feeding a family, because precisely, it is a remarkable secret to figure out what works well for each family. There are, of course, some common principles that work well throughout. However, the point is to get to know a family well and help them find their own nutrition secrets, with the integration of their unique family story, their heritage and traditions, their upbringing and food culture, their lifestyle and work schedules, their passions and limitations. Families are complex, indeed, but they are also dynamic and a wealth of multiplying virtue. If one is great at organizing, the other may be awesome at being spontaneous and creative. One follows a recipe religiously while the other can make a meal out of nothing! One is excellent at ethnic meals, the other an avid baker. All of the goodness can be fueled so that the family thrives with a great rhythm of health and joyful meals.
Eating alone can be one of the hardest nutrition challenges in the modern world. So a family almost always, by mere definition, can maximize this health benefit of cooking together and eating together; and even gardening and cleaning up with a team-spirit.
Another amazing benefit is families are the basic units of habit formation. They have built-in motivation through the deep relationships they hold, and when a family is motivated for change, there is a system of wonderful accountability which is critical for habit acquisition.
Yes, families aren’t perfect. And that’s why they can count on their family nutritionist. Not to attain perfectionism, who needs that?! But rather to become a witness to the world that striving to be a healthy family is all about loving to cook, eating healthful and soulful foods, celebrating their family through connection with meals and traditions and, above all, spending time together at the vibrant family table.
Here are a few family activities that can strengthen your family bond and improve eating habits:
- Plant a family herb garden and use the herbs routinely for salad dressings, sauces, soups and more!
- Choose an heirloom recipe which you have never done before, share childhood stories at the family table.
- Have kids help to choose the menu once a week and have them help in meal preparation.
- Share the load if you are feeling overwhelmed! Make a schedule on who cooks and who cleans each week, the more ease you can add to family meals the easier it is to face “what’s for dinner” anxiety!
- Take a break: plan also a weekly family take-out night, have a kid toss a salad kit if there’s no veggies, and watch a family movie or play board games together.
Looking for nutrition and meal planning advice for your family? Our teams of virtual and Calgary-based family nutritionists are here to help!
As Registered Dietitians that specialize in meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health, heart health, diabetes, pediatric nutrition and sports nutrition we can see you in our local Calgary Nutritionist office or as an Online Dietitian by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling. Find out more about our Registered Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.
Don’t forget to check your health insurance! Many insurance plans cover Dietitian services.
Get inspired with more family meal time tips and recipes:
Daniela O’Brien is known for her contagious smile, warm approachability and collaborative approach to nutrition counselling for individuals and families. Her non-judgemental, calm demeaner mixed with confidence and clear direction is especially helpful when families are struggling with meal planning challenges, picky eating, health issues and complex eating disorders. Daniela specializes in Disordered Eating, Emotional Eating, Weight Concerns, Pre/Post-natal, Infant/Kids/Family Nutrition and offers services in both English and Spanish.