Patricia Chuey, MSc., RD, FDC
FOOD & NUTRITION MEDIA COMMUNICATIONS
for something nutrishus
Patricia, aka "The People's Dietitian", seemed like a perfect fit for the 100th interview in the series. She was named the 2017 Ryley-Jeffs Memorial Lecture Award recipient by Dietitians of Canada and is a well-known Canadian (and originally Saskatchewan) dietitian and mentor. She has had numerous roles and envisions many career opportunities for the future of dietetics. Patricia offers great advice below, including one of my favourite quotes and terms like happy, healthy and being your best self.
Why did you become a RD?
I thought I might become a doctor or Home Ec teacher. Being a dietitian is the perfect combination of both.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
These days mainly in food and nutrition media communications. This involves TV appearances, writing, speaking, blogging, teaching cooking classes, recipe development, food product creation and consulting to the food industry. I’m also very involved as a mentor to both new and established dietitians in business. I’ve spent many years in private practice as a nutrition counselor. I also spent a decade working in sports nutrition with athletes and coaches from little league to professional and 9 years in the marketing department as a supermarket dietitian – a rapidly growing area of the profession and one with so much untapped potential.
How would you explain what you do?
In a nut shell, I help create peace of mind for consumers on the subject of food in their lives. What should be a basic and fairly easy task of eating to fuel our busy lives get unnecessarily confusing in the endless sea of food and nutrition information we all sail on. My work is focused on equipping people with accurate and practical knowledge and skills to stay well nourished, enjoy what they're eating and live a healthy, happy life without constant focus on food.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Like many of our dietitian colleagues, for the past 25+ years, I have enjoyed that there’s such a wide variety in my work and no two days are exactly alike. That said, examples of tasks you’ll find me working on are:
- Preparing content and planning the set display for my next TV appearance
- Working in my home kitchen creating and testing recipes I’m developing for corporate clients
- Taking food photos for use in supporting my brand on social media
- Speaking on the phone in a mentoring session with a colleague
- Writing practical food and nutrition articles for a national corporate wellness newsletter I’ve written for since 1995
- Speaking to a group of women, kids or local athletes about healthy eating
- Preparing for a keynote address at a professional conference and then travelling to these events
- Assigning and reviewing projects for a nutrition intern to work on
- Attending Board or Committee meetings for various projects
- Traveling to attend various food and farm tours
- Responding to magazine, print or radio interview requests
- Dreaming and brainstorming about my next business venture – this is ongoing and constant.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
In addition to my BSc(Nutr) and RD designation, I’ve completed a Master of Science degree with a focus on adult education and sport nutrition. I’ve participated in many media and marketing related courses over the years. I’m also a trained cooking program facilitator.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
A few random thoughts:
- The public is clearly aware that for safe, practical and accurate food and nutrition information, they talk to a registered dietitian not just anyone attractive with an interest in the subject
- There is more legal crackdown on food and nutrition information, programs and products that are not fact-based and can endanger the public
- Grocery stores are smaller yet the square footage filled with fresh fruits and vegetables (and ideas for how to use them) is bigger
- Dietitians are employed in every single place that promotes, sells or serves food
- Dietitians revolutionize meals for seniors and are employed in all facilities where seniors reside, whether the healthy elderly or those in care homes
- Any TV or media program sharing nutrition information has a dietitian on the team
- When the public sees that a dietitian is associated with the program or service, they get excited because they know the food will be amazingly delicious and good for them.
- There is no sponsor funding accepted from any food company that makes unhealthy food or beverages.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
- That we have sold our soul to industry
- That we count calories and want to put everyone on a bland, flavor-less diet
- That we all follow a strict meal plan and rarely enjoy treats
- That the food guide drives our entire professional life
What would you like people to know about RDs?
- That we love delicious, healthy food and are experts in helping people get more flavour in their lives while meeting their needs, feeling great and achieving optimal health.
- That we know about every aspect of food and the multiple social, emotional and economical factors affecting eating. We’re trained and highly experienced in customizing advice recognizing that no two people have the exact same needs.
- That Canada’s Food Guide is a very basic, general population educational guideline only. It is not intended to be the answer to every specific individual need.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Not many. I’m a believer in being aware of your competition and then doing the kind of work that makes them worry about YOU rather than you spending time and energy worrying about them.
What do people think that you do for a living?
Those who know me best think I have fun sharing delicious, creative, practical food ideas to boost their enjoyment in life while staying healthy. They’re correct.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
Constantly reminding consumers how delicious and easy healthy eating actually is. I’m also VERY passionate about the future of our profession and supporting up and coming dietitians as a mentor.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
Once you get to know an RD, you realize that EVERYTHING makes us different. Most of all, that we have the skill set, and one that is fact-based, to uniquely assess any eating situation and make very customized, delicious, do-able recommendations for improvements. We would NEVER EVER send a client out the door telling them to “eat no wheat, no dairy or sugar” without working with them on how to actually go about doing that safely, nutritiously and practically.
What is your favourite meal?
Lots of local, in-season vegetables and fresh fish on the grill with pavlova for dessert.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
- An 80-20 approach to healthy eating works best. We don’t just eat for physical nourishment, so be sure to leave room for all types of nourishment
- Without a positive sense of self-worth, continuing to work solely on healthy eating will not resolve the issues
- If we all exercised more, we could ease up a little on this over-focus on food choices
- Be grateful for the amazing access to a fresh, healthy food supply we have in this country
- Support local growers and providers of food to help keep our food supply sustainable
- There are many entry points on the continuum of healthy eating. Listen super carefully to your clients and help them make improvements at the level they’re at and able to achieve
- Avoid teaching people to do diet math and count calories. Teach them to appreciate wholesome food, stay active and get them excited about cooking more at home.
Anything else you’d like to add that you feel would be valuable:
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Be your best self, not a version of you that is trying to compete or compare to someone else. Encourage your clients to do this too. Everyone has important gifts to share with the world. Get out there and share them!
More about Patricia:
Website: Patricia Chuey
Facebook: Patricia Chuey