This week I’m putting the spotlight on Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, LDN. Ginger is a freelance writer and blogger based in Chicago, Illinois. She works for the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment, where she specializes in whole-food plant-based nutrition and supplementation. Ginger is also the President for the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is very active in the Chicago-Nutrition community.
Ginger started out as a personal trainer and loved working with clients at the gym but was frustrated that she had to meet sales goals selling supplements even though she had no formal training or expertise on that area. She did her research and found that becoming a real nutrition expert required a lot of education and credentialing– so that’s just what she did. Ginger spent two years at naturopathic Bastyr University in Washington State earning her Master’s of Science in Nutrition. She completed her Dietetic Internship at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Illinois, became a registered dietitian and has lived and worked in Chicago ever since.
I get up really early in the morning and write before work. I have writing deadlines for various blogs and articles and I’m working on a book proposal right now as well. After that, I work at the Block Center in Skokie, Illinois where I see my oncology and wellness patients for nutrition education, lab interpretation and supplement discussions. At the Block Center, I get to work with people from around the country and even from around the world; it is always fascinating and rewarding to develop such a close relationship with my clients. I also get to cook and provide food demos in our on-site kitchen twice a week so culinary skills are a big part of my job as well. The Block Center is a great fit for me because of it allows me to practice nutrition in an open-minded, integrative way. In the evenings, I work on projects for the organization I lead, the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I will often have a conference call or meeting with them or with the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or Vegetarian Dietetic Practice
Group. Of course, I have to find time to be active so I’ll take a Tabbata or yoga class in my neighborhood and make dinner with my husband. We are still receiving our CSA veggie box this fall so I’ll make whatever the farm produced that week for dinner.
What got you interested in nutrition?
I first discovered the nutrition industry while working as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor in a gym. I soon realized that in order to practice nutrition, especially Medical Nutrition Therapy, you really need to know what you’re doing and you need to be research-based. When I found out the type of education that becoming a true nutrition expert required, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It is really important that all professionals work within their scope of practice so going back to school for nutrition made a lot of sense to me.
Do you follow any certain diet?
I’m a plant-based dietitian and I strongly believe that reducing animal products in the diet is a healthy approach to eating. I refer to myself as a vegetarian.
Do you take any supplements?
I sure do! I always take vitamin D and fish oil. I play around with different things, following current research very closely. Some of my other favorites are CoQ10, DIM and NAC right now. A healthy person should be able to get most nutrients from a balanced diet but I think that supplementation is fascinating and really helpful, especially for people with certain disease states. I would say supplementation is a huge part of of support for my oncology patients.
Is there any food that you won’t eat?
One of my earliest childhood memories was refusing a ham sandwich – I won’t ever eat pork or beef. Otherwise, I avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils as well as corn syrup by reading all my labels. I do like to be as flexible as possible on foods, especially if I’m traveling so I don’t have a lot of rigidity in my diet.
Is it calories in vs. calories out for weight loss or is there a bigger picture?
I wish it was that easy…calories are important as a basic approach and a lot of people do need to eat fewer calories. However, the types of foods and timing of eating should be considered. I’m also quite interested in the environmental and hormonal factors that influence weight. A highly trained specialist (ie, dietitian) is needed to assess all of these factors on an individual level. I like to practice weight-management with people in a very integrative way, also addressing physical activity, emotional and sleep issues.
What is your favorite place to go or thing to do in your city?
The restaurant scene in Chicago is incredible. I think that my neighborhood, Logan Square, has some of the best food in the city. When people come to visit me, the hardest part is figuring out our eating schedule so we can fit my favorites in! I like to write restaurant reviews – you can see my favorites from Seattle, Chicago and New York on my blog.
What would you like to accomplish (can be career or non-career related) in the next 5 years?
I am getting ready to take my Board Certification as a Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and am planning on on pursing my Adult Weight Management Level 2 Certification as well. I enjoy leadership so much that I hope to continue in these types of roles post-Chicago Academy Presidency. I have some big travel plans coming up; I love exploring food in other countries! Southeast Asia and the Middle-East are my next big trips.
There’s been talk that becoming an RD may require a masters degree in the future. Do you think an MS should be required?
I do, though I know a lot of dietitians with Bachelors degrees who are excellent and very accomplished. I think this is an important step for our profession and we should follow the lead of other similar careers such as Speech and Physical Therapy as they have continued to increase education requirements recently. I hope to go back and complete doctoral work someday – there is so much to learn!
Do you have any advice for those out there that are thinking about getting into a nutrition-related field?
Go all the way. Yes, it’s very hard course-work with a ton of math and chemistry but being a dietitian is worth it. I love this career so much and if you want to truly be a nutrition professional, put the work in and achieve the most education you can. I believe it’s absolutely worth it – this is the best career in the world!
Thank you Ginger for sharing your love for nutrition and your career with us!
Be sure to connect with Ginger:
And check out my other featured RD’s in the Dietitian Spotlight Series to see what other dietitians around the country are doing with their careers!