From the general population’s perspective, many would think that to be a Registered Dietitian (RD), one must know how to cook because cooking and nutrition are interwined. The reality is: many RDs only know the theoretical knowledge but alot are not comfortable in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong; all Registered Dietitians love to eat but not all RDs love to spend time in the kitchen to make food.
CONFESSION: I haven’t always been someone who is comfortable in the kitchen. I grew up in a household where nutrition was always a top priority but food preparation skills was never something either of my parents emphasized on needing to develop and/or have. I can confidently now say that I am comfortable in the kitchen but here is a my journey:
As an individual who has always had a passion for checking out new spots around the city, you could say I live to eat; however, on my own, in my own kitchen, I am a person who eats to live. I moved away to do my undergrad but I was someone who ate the same thing every single day. I had no food preparation skills.
I was a well rounded student as I always had straight As, worked and volunteered in addition to keeping a good balance between social and family life. I rarely made my own food. After I completed undergrad, I moved back home to complete my dietetic internship. During this period of time, I didn’t have to worry about meal preparations as my mom always had a meal waiting for me when I got home. I often would buy lunch.
As I found my first job, I continued to live at home where my parents would prepare meals for me. I would continue to buy lunch quite often. Three years later, I got married and moved in with my husband in our first home together. At this point, you would think that I would be forced to learn how to cook. Luckily, I married a modern man who grew up in a household where cooking was a skill that was learned early on. My husband made most of the meals for us. If he was not home and/or worked late, I would run to the closest Aroma and pick something up.
You may be wondering at this point- how was I able to make recommendations to patients? Because my mother always cooked whole grain options, always had a variety of vegetables (she would have the standard vegetables but she would also venture out and try the atypical vegetables) prepared and either steamed or baked protein, I was able to make practical recommendations to patients. At the diabetes centre where I worked for two years, the demographic generally knew how to cook. Offering them options and combinations was enough.
I have worked in the long term care setting. Working within the long term care setting does not really require a dietitian to exercise food preparation skills as you are primarily there to do assessments. Your role is to converse with the allied health care professional team (nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers, social worker, doctor and pharmacist) and liase with the food service manager who is in charge of the kitchen. The food service manager is heavily involved with food preparation.Through the assessment, you want to make sure that the resident is in stable condition and no drastic changes have occurred be it weight, blood sugar control, etc. If you do have to make a change in the nutrition care plan, the recommendation has to be made within a preset framework; there’s not alot of opportunity and/or need for the dietitian to truly customize a menu for each resident.
I did not realize how crucial and/or important it was to have food preparation skills until I became a retail dietitian. As a dietitian, if you know how to cook and combine different flavours in nice, simple, healthy recipes, this is the best way to convince clients and/or provide the client the confidence that healthy eating is possible. It’s not as hard as he/she may think.
Rowena’s Recommendation: Get yourself back in the kitchen and get acquainted because the payoff is huge. There are more and more places offering healthier options for individuals who are too busy to make meals for themselves; however, who better to prepare a meal to your liking than yourself? Food preparation skills is an essential life skill. The sooner you learn it, the better. 🙂
As a retail dietitian, I have met many chefs. Along the way, many chefs have offered tips and/or methods of how to prepare vegetables and/or other food. On my own time, I have gone to George Brown College to pursue a Culinary Arts Certificate. To obtain this certificate, you need to complete Culinary Arts I, Culinary Arts II, knife skills and 6 electives. Of the electives, I have completed. Nordic Cooking, Rustic French, Mexican Cooking and Northern Italy. I have yet to choose my last two electives as all the options look wonderful.
Food For Thought: Is it Time to Get Back In The Kitchen?