Nathan Diaz, MS, RD, LDN
NUTRITION FOR PERFORMANCE
& LONG TERM CARE
for something nutrishus
Nathan came across the series on Instagram and of course, we're happy to share another male interview! He's a new dietitian, but as you'll see, he's very passionate and we wish him success in putting more smiles on people's faces. RDs have their work cut out for them when it comes to misinformation, but I do continue to wonder why everyone thinks we're judging them?!
Why did you become a RD?
I became an RD to showcase the power of food. After many years of sifting through the plethora of false information out there on the topic of nutrition, I decided to take on this challenge as a profession and deliver the real facts backed by the latest scientific research that can help people become better versions of themselves. I incorporated cooking into my overall nutrition philosophy because I truly believe cooking is a powerful skill set that has been lost and can really help people adopt a healthier lifestyle. I also believe cooking brings people together and coupled with my knowledge in nutrition, I hope I can bring people closer together.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I am all over the place when it comes to the areas of dietetics that I am involved in. On one side of the spectrum, I work in the private practice sector where I deal primarily with younger adults as well as athletes of various ages. When I am not meeting with clients privately, I work as the sole dietitian for a long term care facility dealing primarily with the geriatric population. When I am not in the nursing home or in my office counseling clients, I am cooking and developing recipes to showcase for potential personal chef clients.
How would you explain what you do?
Whether I am counseling a client, meeting with a resident at the long-term care facility, or in the kitchen cooking for people, what I do is very simple. I put smiles on people’s faces through food. When I am counseling a client and they meet their food and nutrition related goals, their smile lights up the room. When I sit with an elderly resident and personalize a menu that meets all their dietary needs and tastes delicious, their smile lights up the room. When I cook for a group of people or an individual person, and the food is nutritious and tastes delicious, their smile lights up the room. Making people smile is what I strive for.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Let me start by saying every day and every week brings different challenges and task. This is what I love about the dietetics profession. Twice a week, I work at the long-term care facility. There I am seeing new residents, following up with residents, doing quarterly and annual evaluations, or just popping in and saying hi to the residents during breakfast and lunch. I also sit with the interdisciplinary team and talk about high risk residents and or those that have had significant changes. After doing my MNT (Medical Nutrition Therapy) duties, I meet with the food service director and go over anything on the food service side. This includes, updating resident’s preferences, tray testing, or simply brainstorming ways to be more efficient.
Typically, my weeks start with following up with all my clients. This is done via phone, email, text, or in person. Throughout the week, I strategize with my marketing team and see new clients. Recently, I partnered with a couple of colleagues and created our first seasonal cookbook. This required hours of picture taking, editing, and actually putting the cookbook together. I work on different side projects in order to add value to the people out there that follow me on social media or are frequent visitors of my website.
What has been your career path?
I became an RD in February 2017, so my path has just begun. When I started looking for job, there were not many full-time positions available. I knew I needed to start somewhere so I started as an independent contractor with a physical therapy and fitness center. This structure was new to me because for the first time, I was my own boss. Moving to a new city (Boston), I had to start from scratch, start new relationships, build up my reputation, etc. At the beginning, I had extra time, so I decided to apply to a new long term care facility that needed a dietitian. This would allow me to maintain my MNT skills as well as give back to a population that is dear to my heart. Currently, I am still working at both place.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
This year, I received my ISAK certification for anthropometry. As a certified anthropometrist, I accurately measure and analyze body composition data for my clients. This has been very successful with motivating my clients by giving them objective data to trend.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
The field of dietetics is growing exponentially. Areas like sports nutrition have been growing by the day. People are realizing the importance of nutrition and how it plays into one’s overall health and performance. In 5 years, you will see dietitians everywhere and we will be known exclusively as the nutrition experts across the entire healthcare field. People will recognize what a registered dietitian is, and the capabilities we have to help them reach their health related goals.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
WE ARE NOT THE FOOD POLICE. We do not sit there and judge and penalize you for what you eat. Many times, I find clients come into a consult and list all the “healthy” foods they have eaten over the past 24 hours but fail to mention the “unhealthier” options. We are here to help you and in order for us to do so we need the whole truth. Do not hold back. We will not judge you. I promise.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
We are truly passionate about nutrition and own the title of being nutrition experts. We have the knowledge and skill set to help you achieve any nutrition related health goal. We also wear many different hats. For example, I wear the counselor hat, food service manager hat, accountant hat, chef hat, leader hat, motivator hat. Our fields of practice require us to juggle many different jobs.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Getting people off the “quick fix” mentality and accepting the fact that behavior change takes time and to embrace the process.
What do people think that you do for a living?
Many people think I just design meal plans and send people on their way. As many dietitians out there know, it is much more than that.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
My main passion is helping someone who is truly struggling reach their optimal potential, physically and mentally. Physical health along with the mental health aspect of behavior change is what I am most passionate about. It does my clients no good if they are fit and healthy but their mental state is shattered. I feel this is what leads people back to their old habits. I strive to achieve both types of health with my clients.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
We went through some rigorous years as students and interns, mastering our craft as nutrition experts. We have a toolbox filled with effective behavior change assessments and tactics that many other wellness professionals may not have. We have the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) as our gold standard of practice. AND has a plethora of resources that many other wellness professionals do not have access to.
What is your favourite meal?
This goes back to my roots. In the Latin culture, roasting a whole pig with your grandfather is something that is done year round, if not multiple times per year. It is a tradition that gets passed down generations. So, I would have to say my grandfather’s slow cooked pork with a side of ‘arroz con gandules’ (rice and beans). The Latin flavors get me every time.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
People say finding balance and moderation is key. That is definitely easier said than done. When you are changing your dietary habits, you have to remember, you are trying to change lifelong habits. That is not easy to do! Utilize a dietitian to help you obtain that happy balance and remember, happiness is a full body feeling, both physically and mentally. Do not get discouraged when you fail on your journey to a better and healthier you. Embrace the failures, learn from them, and get back on your feet. It is only a failure if it is repeated over and over.
More about Nathan:
Website: Nutrition For Performance