Continuing our theme of spotlighting our local dairy council communicators during National Nutrition Month, I’m pleased to have had the time to discuss with Sara Robbins how she translates the theme, Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day, into her daily life as a mom and nutrition professional. Sara is our nutrition and dairy expert in New Mexico, and brings passion and excellence into everything she does – from her work with schools and health professionals to the foods she makes at home with her family. Sara’s unique perspective and philosophy about feeding and eating will inspire you to find the joy in every food.
Sara Robbins, RD, LD, Albuquerque, N.M., Program Coordinator, Health and Wellness and School Marketing
Katie Barckholtz (KB): What brought you to the field of nutrition?
Sara Robbins (SR): Growing up in New Mexico, I wouldn’t say there was one particular thing that led me to being a dietitian. When I started college, I was working toward a pre-med degree. I took a few nutrition courses and I just fell in love with the focus on prevention.
KB: As a mom and a registered dietitian, what is it like at the dinner table in your home?
SR: Every night, we all sit down to dinner together. Breakfast and lunch may be hit or miss, but dinner is a constant. My goals for dinner go back to not only being an RD in an eating disorder clinic, but also being an RD for WIC and looking at feeding relationships. The biggest thing I struggle with is how to separate being a mom from being a dietitian. Your innate focus is to feed you kid so they grow and get the food they need, but it’s also important to create an environment that is fun and makes the two-year-old want to say, “Yes, I want to eat.”
Ultimately, it is finding that balance between letting him eat what he wants to eat on that plate, and me finding that strawberries aren’t a bad thing for him to be eating all morning. As a mom and a dietitian, it is just sometimes hard to separate the two. The most important thing for Max at the dinner table is including him and making sure he feels engaged and ready to eat.
KB: It is National Nutrition Month, Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day, how does this message resonate in your home?
SR: My philosophy on eating is that there are foods that give you nutrients and foods that feed your soul. So finding that balance between those two things is something we all need to consider. Many people either feed themselves to pacify themselves, or consume foods in which they have no interest because they may be on a new “diet” or chasing a crazy fad. Finding how it is to feed yourself to satisfy your nutrient needs as well as eating to feel good about yourself is a really big piece. I hope I can pass this on to Max. We garden and teach Max that food comes from the ground, and then we cook together and eat together as a family. The key is to not only cook the food, but also to sit down at the table and enjoy and share the food together.
KB: And in your job?
SR: We all have many experiences and come from different backgrounds. It’s so funny to see how often I go places and people say, “Oh my gosh, don’t look at my plate.” In reality, it’s not like that at all. Being an RD does not mean being a perfect eater, it is about what tastes good to you and what makes you happy and that you enjoy. Right out of school, my philosophy about nutrition was very different than it is now. Right out of my internship, it was all about the science. Now it is more about how food makes you feel, and how to combine food in a way to make you healthy, but also to make you feel good. It is now about knowing and using that science to prepare and serve foods that you enjoy eating and are also good for you. It is a joy to be a dietitian. We find credibility in any food, and so it is our duty to convey this to others.
KB: What is your message to moms about feeding their family?
SR: First, do not worry that your kids are going to starve. Offer the food first, let them choose if they are going to eat it, and then leave it. Some weeks, Max only eats his fruit, then the next week he only wants vegetables, or perhaps he only wants meat. It is a cycle and it is common. For a kid, it’s not what they are eating at that particular meal, but what they are eating throughout the week. Relax and allow them the ability to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Children have an innate ability to do this, and we should honor that and let them find their way with food. Although, it’s not easy!
Second, show your kids why food is important in their lives. Food gives us nutrients. Food makes us feel better sometimes. Food fuels us for exercise and activity. Food helps us live a better life. It’s hard sometimes to work that into your day – some weeks, like this week, we’ve planned out our meals and cooked a bunch of different items. Sometimes it’s not like that, but the key is that the majority of the time, you are showing your kids that food is a part of their lives and helps them to achieve what they want to achieve.
And third – go ahead and play with your food.
KB: Thank you Sara! Your knowledge and experience are greatly valued and appreciated, and we all can certainly benefit from rediscovering the fun in food.
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