As the full-time nutritionist for Gather & Gather, Kate Taylor sees the foodservice industry from a slightly different perspective. Kate discusses the challenges and rewards of working as a nutritionist in the industry
When working as a nutritionist, having a clear vision of what you believe in is almost as important as a degree. Each day we ﬁnd ourselves bombarded with constant media reports of new fad diets, weight loss super pills and supposed super foods, yet we are the most unhealthy we’ve ever been and major obesity-related diseases are still rising.
My mantra has always been all food and drink is ﬁne in moderation. But while cycling through the undulating hills of Hertfordshire on Sunday (I must admit it is a great opportunity for some harsh, down-to-earth thinking) and trying not to think about my lunch at the halfway point (which at this point was miles away), this notion of moderation came to mind. Yes, I still believe it is the key to leading a healthy and happy life, but I just can’t help thinking that as a population our view of what moderation means is somewhat skewed. After all, moderation is a subjective term; what it means to me is different to what it means to my partner, Antony, cycling up ahead of me, as it does to my best friend, who has a severe sweet tooth. So how do we remedy this skewed view of moderation? How do we get the population to understand what they need, what they don’t and what is ok to have sometimes?
Unfortunately there’s no simple answer. Like everything to do with health, it’s never straightforward. It all goes back to education. As a nutritionist – and to all my fellow nutritionists out there – we are responsible for getting the right message out to the public in a way they can understand. ‘A way they can understand’ is the key point here. This isn’t demonising food with trafﬁc lights or covering menus with calorie information against foods everyone knows are unhealthy. It becomes meaningless, less personable and quite frankly boring. It’s about engaging and interacting with people.
Just today I spent lunchtime talking to customers, yes actually speaking to them, informally, casually and deﬁnitely not in a preaching manner. The particular focus was around a theatre-style salad bar, with four protein options and a vast selection of nutritious, seasonal salads – some with carbs and some without to satisfy all those who’ve been taken prisoner by the no-carb trend. And we did use calorie counts, only today, and on servings of the dressings so customers can see a representative portion of what they are having. We casually emphasised this, got customers talking about it and engaged with them, without ramming it down their throats.
It’s in situations like this we need to get people to understand moderation, to understand that a varied diet is the best way to achieve all the nutrients your body requires, and that once in a while (and I emphasis a while as being not often or regularly) a treat (something you indulge in) is ok; to understand that it’s not wise to have the pesto salad dressing every day, but rather to have it once a week and use the balsamic vinegar instead.