FoodGrads Podcast Ep 26: Embracing food for nutrition, nourishment and fun with with Jennifer Shrubsole, Clinical Dietitian & Foodie for NaturallyNu
On episode 26 of the FoodGrads Podcast I interviewed Jennifer Shrubsole. Jennifer is a dietitian-nutritionist who has worked with clients at hospitals from the greater Vancouver area and Calgary. Her extensive experience in dealing with patients with gastric or pancreatic cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
Jennifer also writes for NaturallyNu her personal blog where she shares healthy recipes and stories about her gluten-free living. In 2015 Jennifer was diagnosed with Celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune condition where your small bowel is damaged by gluten. On the blog she shares her love for eating whole foods, mostly plant-based and world travels.
In this episode, Jennifer and I talked about what she does as a hospital dietitian and what inspired her to become one. We spent some time talking about different medical conditions and why what you eat in the hospital is so important. Jennifer also talked to me about her food philosophy and signs to know if your diet is working for you. As well, what she is up to on NaturallyNu and the community she has built on there.
I really liked this episode because Jennifer reminded me how important it is to consider what you put in your body. I know that sounds like something silly to say but when life gets really busy you sometimes will just default to the quickest and not always the healthiest options. Food is energy and you should be treating it the best way you can! You can tell that Jennifer really is passionate about what she does.
[2:35] What are the daily tasks that you perform as a dietitian in a hospital?
Generally, a dietitian in a hospital will look at person when they are not feeling well. Such as someone getting out of surgery or they have a medical condition. You look at their medical history and anything that would have implications. How nourished were they before the surgery. You look at the whole picture and try to figure the priority. Normally, people have multiple things that are going on. Feeding them might come through food, a tube or even IV. Once closer to going home they will help to prepare them for then. Jennifer is focused in the TG tract.
[5:00] When creating these diets who would be given the plans? The cooks at the hospital?
Feeding someone by mouth or orally there are given a predetermined diets already available but if they need something more specific like a deficiency there is a separate diets available.
[6:26] What was your decision to actually become a dietician?
It was a way of combining science and food. Jennifer is a foodie. This was a way to combine both worlds. She comes form a family of people in health care. Her mother was inspiration and was also in health care.
We often don’t think about what eat until something goes wrong. There is a misconception about dietitians is that they put you on diets but that isn’t the case. They help you to nourish your body. A food first approach.
[9:17] Veronica and Jennifer talking about Illestomy conditions
[13:00] Talking about eating for health
[14:08] Food nutrition is complicated. How as a dietician do you figure out what is reputable and suited for a patient?
First you look at where the study came from some are more reputable than others. Certain journals publish certain types of studies. For example a randomized control study. Those studies are generally more reputable but usually come out of the ICU. The more people in a study the more reputable. You look at bias.
For people looking on the internet. Look at the sources and make sure that what they are saying what matches the original source. It is always evolving, the field of nutrition. How do you notice when your gut is doing well? Usually it is when you don’t notice anything. She is open with her patients and tells them this might be an ongoing research – would you like to try it?
Some diets might suit one person at a certain time but not at an other. Explain the why to the patient and people generally will be more accepting.
[20:23] Do dieticians have different specialties? How does that work?
Absolutely. If you have something you want to explore than try to find a dietician that is in a specialty. That can be the trouble some people can get generalized advice but if you get someone who is specialized you can have someone who is more up to date with the newest research. They can provide practical day to day things which people need.
For example, Shelly Case is specialized in celiac disease. After taking the surface layer off she provides information like what grains can you actually consume. She makes the information accessible and relatable to individuals. What do you wat when things are going well, when you not.
Typically, people are getting help for a main issue but there is usually multiple other things underneath.
[23:54] What are skills you use as a dietician?
Communication is key. You want to make sure that the patient feels they are feeling heard and they are understanding you. Also, it is important for you to be a critical thinker or problem solver. How do combine all the research which is out there. Compare and contrast. How do you take this information and make it for the patient understand. Another thing is just loving food.
When Jennifer gives out information and pamphlets she likes to ask the patient what they eat at home. It is going to be different for everyone. Culture is huge.
[26:41] Can you tell me more about NaturallyNu and what inspired you to get started?
NaturallyNu is a blog that is designed for gluten free foodies. Jennifer was diagnosed with celiac and she knew what she had to avoid. Though being a foodie she couldn’t go out and enjoy foods in the same way as before. She had to go back to the kitchen and take it to another level. It was about learning cooking in new ways.
NaturallyNu is a way for Jennifer to share foods she finds good because they are. As well food products which are nourishing at the same time. Some gluten free items are not the most nutritionally dense. NaturallyNu has become a community over time over on Instagram.
[30:30] You mentioned some of these products might not be as nutritionally dense. I was curious what do you look for when you want to create something that is nourishing?
Jennifer looks at the ingredients. Always starting with whole foods and getting the maximum nutrition. Lots of fruits and vegetables. Adding fibre such as legumes. We are all busy being mindful of time. Things that are simple or things that don’t take a long time to prep. Even sheet-pan meals . Looking at your ingredients and common ingredients.
[34:30] Have you found it is easier to navigate your celiac disease over the years?
Yes. It depends on what stage and when you are diagnosed. If you are older than it takes longer for your body to heal. It take -8 months for you to heal. There is even evidence questioning even if you should eat oats. Although the major governing body believes that you should. People don’t understand that gluten can sneak into your diet. Cross-contamination can happen which is something you need to watch for.
Gluten-free products have improved so much over the years. Before you couldn’t get as much good quality products. Gluten-free isn’t going away and neither are the products. Even writing things on the label makes things so much simpler. You want to have fun with your food. For someone with celiac disease even having a piece of bread where it is 1/60th of it being gluten is enough for it to trigger a reaction.
[42:30] Is there any advice you would give to a student or new graduate who wants to become a dietician?
Go for it. If you have an interest in food, the body and how food affects the body than this is a great field. As a dietician you can work in a hospital, public health (which plays a role in policy), being a podcaster/influencer. There are a lot of way you can impact people in positive ways. There are a lot of avenues in nutrition.
Be curious and try new things. For new graduates focus on what you are passionate about. Jennifer is passionate about gut health. Be relatable and try to be as much of a specialist as you can. Don’t be a wikipedia page and communicate it well to people. Even look at complimentary professions. There is so much information out there that you can learn from.
Where can people find you?
Subscribe to our newsletter for details on mentorship sessions, workshops, webinars, as well as career and job fairs across Canada and the US!