She might kill me for this picture!
This week, the dietitian spotlight is on Kristina DiSanto, an RD I worked alongside at Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts last summer. Together we taught cooking classes and food demos, planned personal nutrition programs for each guest and hoarded the almond butter from the resort’s kitchen.
Kristina is currently pursuing her dream of becoming a sports RD. After two years of working primarily in the nursing home and rehab field, she recently obtained a Sports Nutrition Intern position at Baylor University in Waco, TX where she works under Anne Hogan, the Director of Sports Nutrition there.
Currently my day is pretty crazy! I get up anywhere between 4:30-5:30am and get to the athlete training center at Baylor. Depending on the day, the football team may have an early workout, or a variety of other teams may be in the gym or training in the indoor football field. I spend most of my day doing a lot of grunt work: cutting fruit, making PB&Js, stocking sports drinks, waters, and bars, making recovery shakes for teams, running DEXAs, and just in general making sure all the small details are taken care of. There’s lots of players always coming in and out of the office so it’s fun to get to talk to them about nutrition. I do usually get a chance to work out at some point during the day which is great. I end up working about a 10-14 hour day depending on what needs to be done. After work I usually just go home, shower, and crash!
What got you interested in the field of nutrition?
I’ve been interested in both sports and food ever since I was young. My parents always encouraged myself and my 3 brothers to play outside and be involved in team sports. I’m also all-Italian and my mom is a fantastic cook/baker so she’s been teaching me her secrets ever since I was a little tyke (though I’m not much taller now!). I was always reading and trying out recipes from either family members or magazines, so I went into college knowing I wanted to major in nutrition. After joining the rugby team, and seeing the poor habits of most of the athletes on campus as well as the lack of guidance they received, I narrowed my interest in the field to sports nutrition.
What is your ultimate career goal and where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My ultimate career goal at this point is to get a job at a university working as the Director of Sports Nutrition. I see this as a fairly attainable goal so I would like to be there in the next year or so. I also would love to be back in the Philadelphia area. I have an attachment to one of the local rec centers in Philly so I would be so happy if I could get more involved there.
What is your favorite part of your day as an RD?
My favorite part of my day is definitely talking to the athletes. They wander in and out of the nutrition office all day long– whether they are getting a DEXA scan, asking a nutrition question, or are just hungry. Every time they sit down you make a new connection.
What is the biggest challenge of being a dietitian in your field?
I think the biggest challenge right now is weeding out all of the bad information. With so much new information, the theories and practices surrounding nutrition are constantly evolving. Staying on top of that information when working long hours tends to be a challenge, but one that I thoroughly enjoy keeping up with!
The question everyone wants to ask an RD: do you follow any certain diet?
As most of the other RD’s I’ve met during my time in this field: No! To be honest, I’ve hardly even tried dieting in the past. I did Paleo for about 6 weeks with some friends out of curiosity- but thats pretty much it. Though I probably sound like a broken record, I really do just try to eat in moderation. One thing I definitely focus on is having both a carbohydrate and protein at every meal and snack I eat. I’ve recently been trying to cut down on processed foods as well, but that will most likely be a pretty long process.
What is the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
I love this question! The most memorable meal I’ve ever had, hmm…. Well my family and I have a friend who owns an Italian restaurant on South Street call Georgio’s on Pine. We’ll usually go there for special occasions. Georgio is from Italy and started cooking school when he was 13 so needless to say, every meal there is life changing!
What is one food you couldn’t live without?
Peanut Butter- I’m obsessed. In college I think I went through a jar a week. I am not recommending that as an RD (wink).
What food or nutrition related book or documentary do you think everyone should read or watch?
Though I’ve never been a big fast food eater, I enjoyed Supersize Me. I think it was one of the first documentaries that really opened people’s eyes to the dangers of fast food and the growing obesity epidemic in our nation. If you’re addicted to one of those chains- it’s a must see.
What is the top tip you give your patients/clients/friends?
Stop asking me if a food is good or bad!! My answer is always ‘Compared to what?’. For example: You can eat a bag of baked chips as a snack. It’s better than a twinkie, but worse than an apple. Get out of the habit of labeling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It’s only going to make you want those ‘bad’ foods even more.
I love that answer and I’m sure most other dietitians will as well. What is your favorite place to go or thing to do in your city?
Since I’ve only been in Waco, Texas for two weeks and know almost nothing about the place- I’ll talk about Philly instead. My favorite place is the rec center I do gymnastics at. There’s an adult gymnastics program that is awesome, and I’ve made some great friends I know I never would’ve met otherwise. We compete, learn new skills, and even started a book club. It keeps working out fun and exciting, and I get to be with people I genuinely enjoy every time I’m there. I also get to hang out with teenagers on a regular basis! They’re so funny, and I’ve loved watching them grow up over the past two years. The things we all end up teaching each other are great, and they keep me up to date on all the fads going on as well.
Kristina also introduced me to gymnastics this summer– we went every week to a small local gym and I got to try things I never thought I could do (she’s a great coach). Who would have thought clumsy me could do a standing back tuck (heavily spotted of course!)?
Last Question: What would you say to someone interested in becoming an RD or getting into the field of nutrition? Any advice or caution?
To me, understanding that when counseling people, assessing their readiness to change is the #1 thing to do. If a person is sitting in front of you because someone else is making them, they are not going to be on the same page as someone who sought you out. No one starts at the same point, and being patient and ready to work with all types of people will make you a well-rounded and successful RD.