Brianna Elliott, MS, RD, LD
OPEN ARMS OF MINNESOTA & FRESH FIT FLOURISH
for something nutrishus
Brianna has been interested in adding her career story since discovering the series in 2016. She works in an interesting job that is challenging and different everyday. Bri also reminds us that providing access to nourishing and medically appropriate/therapeutic food is an area dietitians need to be working in, not just traditional clinical jobs. Like many, she also has a private side gig in an attempt to help people sort through all the misinformation out there and find realistic solutions.
Why did you become a RD?
I don’t have a perfect answer to this—however, I had to see a dietitian for some health issues when I was a teenager. Since then, I always had an underlying interest in how food impacts the body, but didn’t really know how to make that into my career. I started out as a psychology major at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, but a semester in, I learned about their awesome nutrition & dietetics program. I switched my major and the rest was history!
What area of dietetics do you work in?
My job involves all different areas – mostly community, but I also get a little bit of clinical and food service. I also do some blogging, freelance writing, and consulting on the side.
How would you explain what you do?
I am the Nutrition Program Manager for a non-profit meal delivery program called Open Arms of Minnesota (OAM). OAM cooks and delivers medically-tailored meals to people living with life-threatening illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, MS, ALS, and cancer throughout the Twin Cities. My main responsibilities are to help with the planning and nutrition analysis of our 9 different menus and provide nutrition education and counseling to our clients. My job also involves a lot of community nutrition outreach—a couple of my favorite aspects of this are helping run our Summer Meals Program and helping our chefs plan our monthly cooking classes.
What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
Every day and week is different (which I love). Working at a busy non-profit is never boring, and there really is no “typical” day!
There are some days and weeks when we are focused on menu planning, so the majority of my time will be spent brainstorming recipes with our chefs, and entering the recipes they develop into our nutrition analysis software. Other days might be filled with phone calls or home-visits with clients, or creating nutrition education materials for them. We also always have additional projects going on that require nutrition expertise—for example, we recently undertook the task of providing medically-tailored “blizzard boxes” to clients. These are boxes full of non-perishable foods that we deliver to our clients in the case of a snowstorm during the winter months, in which we might not be able to send them their regular delivery. I got to play a role in figuring out exactly what was going into those blizzard boxes based on the different therapeutic diets that we offer.
What has been your career path?
I have been a RD for about 4 years now. Immediately after finishing my internship, I started working for a corporate wellness company where I worked as a health adviser/health coach. Then I worked as a clinical support specialist for a pharmaceutical company, where I got to be “behind the scenes” in helping patients get their tube-feeding supplies covered by their Medicare benefits. That brings me to where I am today – I have been working at OAM for close to 3 years now. I’ve never had a traditional clinical RD job which I am perfectly okay with.
A few years ago, I also started my own nutrition coaching business on the side. I haven’t been able to contribute a lot of time to this recently, but plan to start offering my own services again soon. Additionally, I keep myself busy with my blog where I share recipes, nutrition information, and other random lifestyle tidbits. I also do some freelance writing on the side, which is such a fun way to convey nutrition information to the world.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and a master’s degree from Mount Mary University where I also completed my dietetic internship. I’m a member of the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Practice Group, and have attended several conferences that are focused on functional & community nutrition. Someday, I would like to get a special certification, but I am not sure which one yet.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
5 years from now, I hope that there are more & more dietitians working in community settings with low-income and food insecure populations. These are the people who need us most. The industry needs more RDs in these types of settings, helping make healthy eating accessible for everyone and not just those who can afford it. I’d also like to see the RD profession become more well-known and respected in the medical field and amongst the public. The nutrition world is saturated with “experts” (who are actually not experts at all) who promote a whole lot of misinformation and confusion. RDs should be the first place people turn to when they have a nutrition concern.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
That we are the food police and eat healthy 100% of the time. We’re human, too!
I enjoy beer, pizza, macaroni and cheese, ice cream, cookies, and chocolate just as much as the next person.
What would you like people to know about RDs?
That the RD credential is well-earned! I have been asked by people before if I had to go to school to become a dietitian, which drives me crazy. Not only do dietitians have to go to school, we take many of the same classes as pre-med students (biochemistry and advanced physiology, anyone?), undergo an extensive internship program, and pass a board-certified exam before we can even practice in the field.
What are challenges you encounter as a RD?
A challenge I have encountered as a community dietitian is that promoting good nutrition is much, much more complex than just telling people what’s healthy and what’s not. The clients I work with face several other challenges including socio-economical and environmental factors that make food access extremely difficult. All of these factors have to be taken into account before I can even begin educating clients on making healthier choices. This is a challenge that makes my job incredibly rewarding.
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