Jenifer Swartzentruber, MS, RD, CDE, is the newest addition to the Nest team. Learn the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist and find out what her favorite hiking snacks and what food we should be sneaking into our diets more often.
Q: What sparked your interest in nutrition?
A: I was 19 years old and taking a biology class at Golden West College in Huntington Beach. The teacher dedicated an entire week to nutrition and suggested reading the book, “A Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappe. I did read it and I was forever changed, and so was my worldview.
Q: What underrated food should we be eating more of?
A: I want to give a shout-out to the little sesame seed. We see it sprinkled here-and-there and on this-and-that but we don’t think much of it. It is so tiny and unassuming but it really stands alone in nutrient density. Sesame seeds are rich in minerals like copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, molybdenum, zinc, selenium, B1 and fiber. I try to add them to many things throughout the day. A quarter cup has about 200 calories and loaded with all the above-mentioned micronutrients.
Q: Food pyramids are always changing - what system should we be following to make sure we're getting the right nutrients?
A: There is an overwhelming amount of nutrition information on the Internet making it difficult to navigate the current food environment. In my opinion, there is no one approach that works for everyone since we all do not respond to foods in the same way. One thing for sure, whether you are Paleo or Vegan, or anything in between, you can’t go wrong with a plant-based, whole food, mostly organic diet. This kind of eating style will assure you a good amount of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, fiber and minimal exposure to environmental pollutants and endocrine disruptors.
Q: What does a registered dietitian eat for breakfast?
A: I’m not sure I’m the typical RD but I usually have a green-ish smoothie for breakfast. Within an hour of waking I blend up greens (kale, spinach, broccoli) one carrot, ½ cup blueberries, 1-tablespoon nut butter, a scoop of protein powder (hemp or grass-fed whey), 1 tsp turmeric, 1-tablespoon chia seeds and maybe a few raisins or a date for sweetness. On weekends I may have huevos rancheros or a veggie scramble.
Q: What are the best snacks to bring on a hike?
A: I recommend staying away from bagged, processed snacks. I’m a big fan of fruit and nuts. There is something very wholesome and gratifying about walking in nature and eating food the way it is found in nature. Tangerines, apples, almonds, pecans and cashews are my favorites. They travel pretty well and hopefully don’t end up as mush at the bottom of the backpack. If it is a longer hike I’ll add in a hard boiled egg and some raisins or dates. If I’m tempted to grab something packaged it is usually a Kind Bar.
Q: What's the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist?
A: The short answer is: a Registered Dietitian is regulated by a governing professional organization, along with professional standards, competencies and a code of ethics. A “Nutritionist” is not regulated. Anyone can be a “Nutritionist”. Being an RD opens all doors in all areas of nutrition and dietetics. Typically, Nutritionists would not be able to work in a hospital or medical clinic. To be a Registered Dietitian one must do the following:
- Hold registration with the Commission on Dietetics Registration (CDR) and must adhere to standards and the code of ethics.
- Complete a 4 year baccalaureate degree from an ACEND (Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics) approved program
- Complete the required 900+ hours of an ACEND-approved supervised clinical program
- Successfully pass the CDR registration examination
- Complete 75 continuing professional education credits every 5 year to maintain registration.
With that said, there are many excellent Nutritionist in the field who are well studied, with a lot of experience, very knowledgeable and are not RDs. The most important thing in choosing an RD/Nutritionist is to find a good fit and do a little homework on their background, education and experience.
Q: What are your interests outside of food, health and nutrition?
A: In addition to reading and studying nutrition books and articles in my free time, I love being outside. I spend most of my time with my 2 and a half-year-old daughter. We go hiking, biking, running, head to the beach or park. I enjoy concerts, festivals, travel, time for reflection and meditation. I’m trying to find a way to add yoga back into my daily routine. As a family we are pretty active. We usually do a couple of long road trips a year camping around the states and Baja, MX.
Q: Are you a good cook?
A: I am a fair cook with aspirations to be a good cook. Although I am passionate about good nutrition I don’t consider myself a “foodie”. I am not a chef. I did not grow up with cooking as part of my experience. Being a busy mother of a toddler I need real-life, practical strategies to make a good meal. Like many of us, by the time dinnertime rolls around I just don’t have the mental focus or energy to dedicate to gourmet cooking. We eat an organic, plant-based diet at home that usually consists of delicious salads, homemade vegetable soups, curries and casseroles. When I make something that is labor intensive I usually prep it at 1pm so it’s ready to go in the oven at 4:30pm. I look forward to breaking out the slow cooker when fall/winter comes around.