Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN
FOOD 4 HEALTH RD
for something nutrishus
Wendy specializes in oncology and weight management, as such, her dealings with nutrition misinformation can be harmful for the people she works with. You can tell that she loves what she does and it's a great example of a unique niche for dietitians. We're not only seeing the trend that we're not the 'food police' but also that our job isn't to 'tell people what to eat' although they seem to like to comment on our choices.
Why did you become a RD?
I wanted to cure cancer. My mom battled aggressive breast cancer 2x by the time I was 17 years old. The first time I was 12.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
Oncology, weight management and general wellness.
How would you explain what you do?
Whenever I’m asked this question I always start off by saying I love what I do. I helped develop the Nutrition Program at Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation which I currently spearhead. It’s a non-profit that provides free beauty, health and wellness services to anyone undergoing treatment for any type of cancer. Everything we do has strict oncology protocols for the safety of the cancer patient. I’m one piece of the pie and my colleagues and I work together to address the needs of the “whole person.” I hope to provide more than just nutrition information, but also a smile on people’s faces and to empower them with the strength needed to make it through the day.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Hmmm, this job is so creative and multi-faceted so each week is different! We have a home base salon as well as several charter salons that get trained to run the “Mondays” program. I travel to all of them to provide nutrition services and conduct nutrition education programs. My weekly tasks include the following:
- Program development for monthly themes (e.g., American Heart Month, Mediterranean Foods Month, etc.)
- Nutrition counseling (group & individual)
- Recipe development, cooking/food demos
- Coordinating meals for Brunch/Lunch program
- Research, blog writing, social media outreach
- Community outreach including meetings, events and presentations
- Working with students
- Associate Board responsibilities
What has been your career path?
I found out my Junior year at Binghamton that the profession “Registered Dietitian” existed and that was a “wow moment” for me. I knew what I wanted to do so I immediately signed up for as many science prerequisites that would fit into my schedule and I did not let myself get intimidated, even by organic chemistry! My diverse nutrition background includes clinical, teaching, research, wellness and private practice.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I have a Master of Science in Food & Nutrition from NYU.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
RDNs will receive the recognition and respect for their hard work and intense training. Ideally, more and more outlets will recognize, utilize and see the value in RDNs. I’ve been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) for 20 years and I am happy to report the profession has come a very long way! Let’s keep it up!
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
We like to eat and try new foods just as much as you do! So yes, we are fun to go out with!
What would you like people to know about RDs?
There are so many different areas of specialization and many of us have our own unique niches so we may not be able to help you with a specific area of nutrition. However, since we are highly resourceful, chances are we can point you in the right direction with resources and/or referrals to help you get what you need.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
Combating the plethora of misinformation out there, there’s a lot of “bad or twisted” science that many people buy into. Headlines are headlines for a reason. It’s easy to fall prey to a fad or celebrity diet. The information is presented in such an enticing way to sound so logical. Unfortunately, many cancer patients tend to fall victim to potentially harmful diets that offer a glimmer of hope.
Just like the public, RDNs have to work hard and keep up with the latest research too. It’s definitely a lot of work but, I love it and I’m lucky to have a lot of great resources like the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the Oncology Dietetic Practice Group (from the American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics) among others to obtain credible information as well as advice from other RDNs.
What do people think that you do for a living?
This question makes me laugh! I think people think I tell people what to eat! For the record, I never comment on what people eat unless specifically asked. It’s actually the other way around. People typically comment on what I eat as well as assume they know what I would and would not eat!
What are you passionate about in dietetics?
I’m so passionate about helping people be their best selves and helping them understand that small changes in diet and lifestyle can make a huge difference in their lives. Specifically, with the cancer population, diet plays a huge role before, during and after treatment. I also want people to truly enjoy food and not be intimated by cooking or trying new dishes.
What makes RDs unique/different from other nutrition/wellness professionals?
Too many things to list them all but we understand that there’s not a one size fits all plan. We take the whole person and what they are able to do into consideration.
What is your favourite meal?
Ok, hardest question so far! I love so many foods…can I just say anything with an egg cream on the side? My mom made the best coffee egg creams. It’s a very special memory for me.
What tip(s) would you give to our readers?
Be honest, be authentic, be you! And volunteer, nothing beats that feeling.
Anything else you’d like to add that you feel would be valuable:
In my current position, I have the unique opportunity to bond with my clients. Our relaxed setting allows for less of the barriers typically found in other settings. That extra closeness is rare and I am super-fortunate to be in the position that I am. I love the flexibility of being a RDN because it allows me to have the best of both worlds between family and career.
More about Wendy:
Facebook: Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN
Blog posts & recipes at Food4HealthRD.com