Every week, I’ve been bringing you new interviews from registered dietitians, all working in different fields and in various parts of the country. These interviews shed light on all of the diverse opportunities in nutrition– there are truly so many routes you can take as an RD!
This weeks spotlight is on Candice Forbes, a spunky RD with lots of class and a great sense of humor. We shared an office in Orlando a few years ago and she always kept me laughing. She has a very specialized position working with children that suffer from epilepsy.
Hi everyone! My name is Candice Forbes and I am a JRD and Jamaica Registered Dietitian. I was born and raised in Jamaica and migrated to the United States by way of Florida at a very prime age. I went to college in cold and gloomy Michigan and attended Andrews University in Berrien Springs, a small town that only a few people happen to stumble upon.
I call my college years the best years of my life. There I cultivated my love for dietetics and nutrition. I didn’t choose nutrition, it chose me. I applied to pharmacy and I was accepted to do dietetics and nutrition. I accepted the call and it has been a great experience ever since. I have no regrets. My graduate studies were done with Walden University I got my Masters in Public Health (MPH) with an emphasis in Nutrition.
I can hardly believe that I have been in Dietetics for a decade. It seems like only yesterday I became an RD. I did my internship at Florida Hospital Orlando and it has also been my only place of employment for my entire career. Currently, I am a Specialized Ketogenic Dietitian working with the Pediatric population have been in this position for a year and a half.
The Ketogenic diet is a medically supervised high fat, low carbohydrate and moderate protein nutrition plan aimed to prevent seizures. It requires the coordination and expertise of an epileptologist, ketogenic registered dietitian, registered nurses, pharmacist and social worker.
The nutrition plan is a precise dietary regime. The exact type and quantity of foods are determined by me and require adjustments during the course of therapy to allow for growth and to achieve optimal seizure control. Foods are measured on a gram scale. The child must consume all meals in its entirety in order for the diet to be most effective. In addition, vitamin and mineral supplementation accompany the diet to ensure nutritional adequacy. Fluids are provided at maintenance levels to prevent adverse effects such as kidney stones and constipation. The diet requires careful candidate selection to rule out contraindications to the intervention. The child must have a strong support system in order to adhere to this strict regimen. In 2013, I initiated 14 children to the ketogenic diet and have some great success stories from a significant reduction in seizures to absolutely seizure free. This has been the most rewarding position I have held an RD. The diet works and the results are fast. Who would have thought I would be promoting a high fat diet as a Registered Dietitian?! Now fats are my favorite food group!
Candice, what’s your favorite part of going to work every day?
My favorite part about going to work every day are the patients. I love receiving calls or emails from my keto patients with updates of more alertness or seizure reduction. I enjoy witnessing patients saying new words, taking steps, holding their heads up, smiling for the first time or sleeping better at night due to no seizures and parents being thankful for my help in getting them on the ketogenic diet. Being valued for what I offer to these families is a great feeling. I get to change lives for the better by simply making a dietary change.
What is the biggest challenge of your job?
There are quite a few challenges of working with the ketogenic diet. What I think is the biggest challenge of all is that parents don’t always facilitate sticking with the diet for the entire 3 months. It is a very time consuming diet. Every meal as to be measured and weighed on a gram scale, twice a day you check blood sugars, twice a day you check urine specific gravity and twice per day you check ketones. If the support isn’t great at home parents can become overwhelmed and want to give up.
Now the question everyone wants to ask an RD: do you follow any certain diet?
I do not practice or follow any particular diet. Being Seventh Day Adventist since birth I lean towards following a vegetarian diet. Balanced eating is always what I promote. Almost everything in moderation is what I like to say I practice.
What is the top tip you give your patients and their families?
The top tip that I give to my ketogenic families is to stick with the diet for at least 3 months to reap the benefits from the diet. Some kids see benefits in one week while others will take the entire 3 months. I advise them that the first few weeks will be the most difficult but to remain encouraged keeping in mind the goal of seizure freedom and possible normal development thereafter.
What is one food you can’t live without?
One food I cannot live without is ripe plantains. Being from Jamaica, I eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is no right or wrong time to eat some plantain. It can be served with everything. It’s a great side dish; sweet and oh so delicious. I love them both fried and baked. Also let me mention that my favorite fruit is MANGO. It goes without saying a mango a day keeps the doctors away.
What is your favorite thing to do in your city?
My favorite thing to do in Orlando is walk around our many various parks. With my daughter running around it’s always fun, free and it’s a good way to get my exercise in.
What advice would you give someone interested in a career in the nutrition field?
My advice to someone considering nutrition as a profession is to make sure they have a passion and a drive for this field. Only choose this career based on one criteria– that you have an unconditional love for nutrition. Once that drive is there it will motivate you to conquer all your dreams. The field is so vast there are so many opportunities to learn and grow. I don’t think any other field offers this much diversity and flexibility. The sky is the limit. There are no dead-end jobs; they are always stepping stones for bigger and greater things.