Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, LD
for something nutrishus
Like many of us, a career as a dietitian wasn't even a consideration for Kitty; she didn't know about the possibility until high school and many of us didn't know about it until we were already studying at college/university. She is a trail blazing communications dietitian with her roots firmly in science, a great reminder when we may get caught up trying to sensationalize to get more followers. It's great to see that Kitty is also passionate about helping shape and educate the next generation of dietitians.
Why did you become a RD?
I always loved science class when I was in junior high and high school, and volunteered as a “candy striper” at my local hospital from 8th grade until graduation. During that I time I got a good look at what some of the hospital-based professions entailed. I didn’t really get to see much happening in the dietary department though, until I had a job shadow day in high school. My mother suggested that I shadow the head dietitian at the hospital, so I did. That was what clinched it for me—helping people, working in a science field, and working with food—all were things that I loved and wanted in my life. I joke that my mother made the career decision for me (my father suggested I pursue nursing—after seeing what that was like I decided against that!), but truly, without seeing what a dietitian did, I doubt I would have known in high school what I wanted to major in at college.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
Despite thinking I wanted to work in clinical dietetics and majoring in Dietetic at Michigan State Univ., once I was knee-deep in my internship (at the Univ. of Iowa Hospitals) I realized I really wanted to reach more people than I could doing one-on-one consulting. I also realized I liked writing/marketing and the creativity of developing materials, so I went into nutrition communications.
How would you explain what you do?
My niche is the translation of science into what I like to call “consumer-ese.” It’s fun to promote good food of course, but being able to understand and help others understand scientific aspects of a client’s product, safety issue or food ingredient is a bit more of a challenge, and one that I enjoy. The “translation” for me is often in print form, but I also give webinars for clients, do television spots, and work trade shows—all opportunities to explain nutrition science to various audiences with diverse interests.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
My typical weekly tasks include communicating with researchers for a trade association client (keeping on top of what they are working on, and helping with funding), helping clients plan and implement consumer or professional outreach regarding their products, writing blog posts for clients on various topics (nearly all with a scientific research hook/slant), teaching classes and correcting student work, developing recipes for clients or my own blog/site. And of course, doing regular “business work” such as reports and billing, etc.
What has been your career path?
After my internship, I enrolled in the only nutrition communications program in the country at that time—at Boston University—and got my MS there. I passed my RD exam during grad school and then went to work at Good Housekeeping magazine in New York as a member of their nutrition department editorial staff. After a few years of that, I switched to corporate work and took a job as head of nutrition communications for the US headquarters of a large Japanese food company. Once I wanted to start a family, I moved on to self-employment and I’ve now been doing that (part-time) for 21 years. I do nutrition communications (all facets) for several, diverse clients, along with some freelance writing and editing. I’ve written several cookbooks, and I also teach introductory nutrition at Southern Maine Community College, which allows me to get out of my home office and soak up some young energy on campus.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
My Master’s program was crucial to my ability to move to NY and secure a job. At that time there were VERY few RDs doing nutrition communications. We all moved in the same circles and they were pretty small circles. Now there are many more RDs doing communications—from blogs to TV to online programs and marketing. I don’t pretend to be an expert in social media and I don’t have an empire comprised of zillions of followers, but that’s not what my clients hire me for anyhow. Underneath all of the visible stuff, there needs to be some substance and understanding of the science—that’s where I like to hang out and what I aspire to bring my clients. So I guess my training is ongoing—I like to learn and try to keep up with the science in the areas related to my clients.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
I really think it’s hard to say, since “the industry” is now so diverse! And that’s a good thing. It pleases me that RDs and Dietetic Technicians have so many career paths available to them—I can only imagine that there will be additional opportunities that we cannot even predict right now. No matter how diverse the field becomes, I do hope we retain our roots in science and evidence. In my particular area of nutrition communications and PR, I think there is some correction that needs to happen in this regard, frankly. We need to uphold our standards as scientists—I guess that’s sort of the parental admonition “Don’t forget where you come from” type of thing.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
There is no typical RD anymore. Granted, I can still recognize RDs at the airport on their way to FNCE (ha!), but these days the field is vast and filled with a wide range of expertise. We aren’t just traylines and hairnets, or labcoats and food history forms.
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
I get excited about our nutrition students and their enthusiasm—it’s contagious, and part of the reason that I like to teach. I like to mentor local students; I like having an intern. I volunteer as the faculty advisor for our campus’ Nutrition and Wellness Club, and I started our Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Student Representative to the Board positions in order to get the next generation of professionals ready to slide into leadership positions within our affiliate and in general.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
The ability to marry evidence-based advice with practical, real-life tips and information for consumers is one of our best qualities as RDs and DTRs. Lots of others careers provide one or the other, but the basis of our work is to blend the two together for the betterment of our clients.
What is your favourite meal?
I have no one favorite, but if I had to decide, it would likely be some sort of seafood (I live in Maine, so I’ll say lobster, but I like pretty much all seafood) along with a fabulous salad filled with home-grown or local veggies and a citrusy dressing, and something chocolate for dessert.
More about Kitty:
Additional site/blog: glutenfreeslowcooking.com