"...It's nice to see dieticians working with food brands, because we're really the people that are recommending things or kind of sifting through the science. And I think that's important not to just have a pretty face and a skinny body saying, 'Oh, you drink this and you'll look like me.'" - Lisa Andrews, MeD, RD, LD
Shireen: Lisa Andrews is a seasoned dietitian who shares her nutrition knowledge through teaching counseling, freelance writing, and cooking demos. In addition, she designed a line of food pun swag, where part of proceeds go towards reducing food insecurity in Cincinnati. Welcome, Lisa.
Lisa: Thanks, Shireen. Thanks for having me.
Shireen: Oh, a pleasure having you on. So Lisa, I want to dive right in. I want to start off by talking about what led you to pursuing a career in dietetics.
Lisa: Wow, that's a, it's a really complicated story. But part of it was because my father had diabetes. And my mom struggled with weight loss the entire time I was living at home, she was always on some kind of wacky diet and not blaming my mother. But I consequently developed an eating disorder when I was in high school. And so I became, you know, a little obsessed with nutrition, I would say, I think even if I hadn't gotten in nutrition, I was always interested in health. So physical therapy was always sort of on the back burner. I was pretty active kid, I was in some sports in high school. So there was a couple different driving factors to how I got started. So tell us more about your journey as a professional and an entrepreneur. Wow. So I started off, my first job was actually as a clinical dietitian at a hospital and I was there for way too long. I was, I worked for the VA Medical Center for about 23 and a half years. And after I did my master's degree, I had worked for about seven years and did my masters. And I just needed to do something different. So I went part time at the VA and had a part time job at a community agency. And from there, it just seemed to be like I was picking up side jobs all the time while I had my foot in the door at the hospital. So I maintained, you know, my clinical work for several years, I actually worked in intensive care. So it's kind of interesting with the whole COVID thing going on everybody initially talking about ventilators, that was kind of my work. My meat and potatoes was really sick people. And then I guess just over time, you know, I realized I really wasn't meant for a desk job. You know, I I liked moving around. I liked talking to people that you know, weren't at the end of their life. I mean, it was, you know that that part was really challenging and interesting, but I think I just got burned out. So the entrepreneur thing really was kind of a fluke, I'd really never had planned on having a business or being a business owner. But here I am, you know, 13 years later and still enjoying all the different challenges of it.
Shireen: And so tell us more about soundbites nutrition.
Lisa: So I really love teaching. So part of part of my journey into being an entrepreneur was I was an adjunct instructor for the University of Cincinnati just on and off for several years. And I always enjoyed putting presentations together and speaking and so initially with sound bites, I started just doing nutrition counseling and sort of presentations for some companies and maybe some health coaching here and there. And, you know, it finally kind of dawned on me that I really wasn't meant to just be a counselor, just seeing people one on one their way. I just wasn't enjoying it as much I as I mentioned before with that, I felt like I was just kind of boxed in and sitting at a desk even though I was helping people. I just couldn't do that 24 seven, so I kind of branched out to do a little bit of writing, which kind of started in grad school and I kind of put the free and freelance writing I actually helped with a website and answered questions that were was a part of the University of Cincinnati website called net wellness. So I started writing articles and answering questions there and I really enjoyed it. And then eventually now over the past three or four years have been doing more regular freelance writing. And I actually had an opportunity to write a cookbook last year and I'm writing my second one and starting like now, I was just a little scary. So I consider myself more of a consultant than a bit of private practice person because I pick up different work as it sort of comes my way and I've just been lucky that things will start and then they'll end and then you know move on to something else. It's just kind of fun. I'm weird that way. Yeah, I enjoy it. So you've worked with a number of different and major brands in the past, I'm curious to know, what are certain trends, either positive and negative, that you'd seen sort of emerge from when it comes to certain food products that are out there. So I think a big big trend for sure is organic and non GMO and plant based, which are good, but at the same time, I think people can get sort of turned off or feel sort of ashamed if they can't afford organic, or they feel like they're eating less than and, and I don't, I don't like that aspect of it. So I guess when I'm, if I have a choice to work with different brands, for me, it needs to be something that I would probably eat myself or I would bring into my own home to eat, or I would suggest to my clients, and I've had good and bad experiences with their was probably really early on, when I started working with some brands, or was the juice company, I won't name them or anything, but in my heart, I was like, little kids don't need to be forced to drink juice, they're already getting too heavy, they just need to eat food. You know, it just didn't, it just didn't jive with who I was, you know, as a practitioner, and even as a, as a parent, you know. So you know, that one was kind of a knee, I just kind of I don't want to say I fired them. But I just was like, I don't really want to do this anymore. So and that was short, short term, which was fine.
Shireen: And so how are big brands sort of influencing consumer choices? What are you seeing to that end?
Lisa: Oh, there's so many of them out there. I guess the good thing now is they're using dieticians more as what we call ambassadors. And so, you know, for us, we'll get to sample the product and get some coupons and sort of pass those on to our clients. And sometimes the opportunities are paid. And sometimes they're just here's some samples of our product, which is, which is fine. I think it's good to partner with dieticians, because we can kind of sift through, you know, the, the holiness, you know, like, do we really need to be 12 infused soda? No, you know, that's not, that's not such a great idea for a product. So I don't know, it's nice to see dieticians working with food brands, because we're really the people that are recommending things or kind of sifting through the science. And I think that's important not to just have a pretty face and a skinny body saying, Oh, you drink this and you'll look like me. I mean, we'd all love that. But you know, dieticians come in all different shapes and sizes and colors just like everybody else, which is great. We want some diversity in the field.
Shireen: What are some strategies for consumers to help them be more aware of what they're purchasing or help them stay away from sort of the less healthy options when brands sort of put that out there and sort of mess that with all them wrapping and, you know, the sort of the, the product feeds itself?
Lisa: Yeah, I guess I would say try not to get sucked into the hype, you know, to me, non organic produce is just as good as organic produce, if you could afford it, that's awesome. But you don't need to have organic or grain free or gluten free. I mean, the majority of the population does not really require those sorts of special things. Now, that being said, there's obviously disease conditions that do require them, you know, people do become gluten intolerant, or they develop celiac disease, or have thyroid conditions where they can't have this sort of nutrients. But by and large, you know, I say look at you know, look at the ingredients, make sure it's made with, with Whole Foods and not a whole lot of processing. And really some of the some of the more glamorous kind of junk food really is just that it's might be organic, but an organic brownie isn't better for you than a, you know, a non organic apple, you know, so I kind of kind of make sure people are buying what they can afford and not getting sucked into all the different label claims like natural and non GMO and organic.
Shireen: Now, what are some simple or maybe not so obvious strategies, especially for people with chronic conditions like diabetes, and we do a lot of work in diabetes that they can really implement today in order to help them manage their conditions. And specifically talking about from a brand standpoint, are there certain without naming any brands or anything like that, but are there certain products out there that you would recommend for people with diabetes?
Lisa: So, one thing I try to encourage people to do with diabetes or prediabetes is, you know, look at how much fiber is in the product because that's beneficial in preventing disease or helping to manage it. Look at how much added sugar so for example, four grams of added sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon. So if you pictured like a little packet of instant oatmeal, and it has 12 grams of sugar, that's three added teaspoons of sugar. So I try to get people to kind of visualize what's actually in there. You know, if they can add more plants to their diet, that's always a great thing anywhere you can, you know, add in some fruits and vegetables, add them into soups, add them into sauces. I'm a big bean pusher. So I usually encourage people to eat, you know, more canned beans or bagged lentils or those sorts of things because they're inexpensive and they've been treated. to, you know, help to reduce the risk of chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease and obesity.
Shireen: Makes sense. You mentioned earlier just a little bit ago about diversity. And now you are a co chair of diversity, equity and inclusion on the Ohio Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What does it mean to chair this committee? Why is that important? And then what impact are you hoping to create?
Lisa: Well, that's a really loaded question. Well, for one, our profession recognizes that we are 97% Caucasian, which is just wrong in almost any field. So we want to encourage more diversity and inclusion within the field. But also, within the profession. We recognize that even even as we're trained that we almost sort of whitewash everybody's food, like, Oh, you eat white rice? Well, you're not really supposed to, you know, we're not, unfortunately, I feel like we weren't adequately trained in just cultural foods. And so from that perspective, I guess our goal is a committee is to provide resources for our members, but also provide resources for the public about different cultures, different foods, embracing them how to how to work with people at their level, and not try to just blindside them with food that we don't even that they may not even eat on a regular basis. So we're often accused of just telling people to eat kale and quinoa. And there's so much more food beyond that, that's still healthy. And we just, we just need to learn more about it and embrace other cultures more.
Shireen: Do you think brands and products are doing a good job addressing the needs of minorities in terms of the patient side of things, but do you think they're doing a good job there?
Lisa: I think they're trying to, I think they're trying to make more, you know, interesting flavor combinations, things that, that are going to appeal to maybe a Hispanic population or different Asian populations so that it's not all just all American boring meat and potatoes type of cuisine. So I think they're trying.
Shireen: Now you have to tell us more about the lettuce beat hunger, food punch up.
Lisa :So I guess that started, like anything else, you know, Necessity is the mother of invention. I was at a retail store, I'll say that. And I saw this shirt that said, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and it was a doughnut and a taco and a piece of pizza. And I don't want to bash any of those foods, because I certainly eat that stuff, too. But I kind of looked at it was like, that's not even that cute. I mean, I like food shirts, because I'm a food nerd. And so I just started thinking of like, well, what, what would I What would I wear, you know, what would I think is cute, what would start a conversation about food without being offensive. Because there's, you know, there's, there's some shirts out there that, you know, I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing in front of my boss or my teenage daughter or somebody's grandmother, you know, so I wanted to kind of keep them kind of cerebral, so that you have to kind of think about it for a second, but also for them to start a conversation about food. And so my first idea for design was called, it says, Please remain seated. So it's kind of like being on a plane, you know, please remain seated. And I had a friend design it and then I gave them to like 25 of my friends and colleagues just to see if they would wear them. And then it just kind of it just kind of took off from there. So I have way too many shirts. But I also wanted them to give back, just to kind of start this conversation about food insecurity. And also just to kind of poke fun, a little bit of the food industry itself and be like, you know, let's lighten up a little bit and not take, I mean, take our food seriously, but not take it so seriously that we're militant. So kind of has, I guess, two fold thing or maybe three fold if you want. One is to not take things too seriously. And for people to enjoy their food a little bit more. Secondly, to start a conversation about food. And then third, really to kind of give back and recognize that we have a lot of food insecurity here.
Shireen: What do you think is the biggest issue, biggest food insecurity issue currently?
Lisa: I think part of it is empathy, to be honest, is that people don't recognize or kind of clueless that their neighborhoods are suffering from food insecurity. And part of that is I mean, I'll give you an example of how I got about four years ago, I received a grant to have small mini non perishable food pantries placed in 10 different neighborhoods in Cincinnati. So I started one in my own neighborhood based on something that somebody did in Arkansas. And when I saw that it was working, I applied for a grant to get 10 more and have them placed in different areas. But what I found was that even with a one on our neighborhood, people would be very judgmental about it. I saw somebody take all the food out of the pantry and they didn't look hungry. Like it's a gift. I mean, like if you donate a can of beans, are you really going to be somebody for taking too many cans of beans out or something? So I think part of it is just empathy, is people just lack the knowledge that somebody else could actually be hungry when they have a warm house and food on their table. How could anybody else live in differently. So I think they just don't recognize that it's a really big issue. And especially now with the pandemic, between not being able to access food and having less money and being afraid of the virus, and you know, the, it's really, it's really gotten much worse.
Shireen: The next question for you that I have is what motivated you to write your book, the healing gal cookbook, it's a new book that's out, you know, tell us more about that.
Lisa: So, um, so I, myself have rheumatoid arthritis. So I have an inflammatory disease as it is, and I love writing and I love food. And so it was sort of an easy fit. And initially, when I received the email, I thought it was a joke. And then I was on a couple different Facebook pages of dieticians. And they were talking about this particular company that hires dietitians to write. And so then I realized it was real. And so I reached back out and that's how it happened.
Shireen: So with that, we're toward the end of the episode here, Lisa, time just flies by when you're in good company. How am I, last question is how can our listeners connect with you, learn more about your work?
Lisa: So my website is just sound bites nutrition.com. I'm on Instagram and Twitter at neutral girl or neutral girl 66. I have a couple different accounts like everybody else. And that's probably it, I guess, check out my website, and you'll see my shop and I usually write recipes and what I call recipe rants and reviews. So I'll do some product reviews. I'll do some recipes. And then I might just talk about whatever's going on in the world that I think is important in the, in the food field.
Shireen: That's lovely. I love, I love following you on social media, got a lot of puns and I get a kick out of them every time. So….
Lisa: Thanks, I appreciate that.
Shireen: I appreciate reading those. With that. Thank you so much Lisa, for your time. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in this week. We'll see you at the next one.
Lisa: Great, thank you.