The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Vegan Chinese Food

Posted on August 27, 2015 by Nina Casalena

By Emily Li

Growing up in a Chinese family in America, I always felt a certain degree of embarrassment regarding my Chinese heritage. I hated celebrating Chinese holidays, eating Chinese food and, most of all, speaking Chinese. I wanted to Americanize as much as I could of myself and distance my identity from my ancestors. It wasn’t until I moved to China when I realized just how silly I was. Only when I started to accept my background as a part of me had I truly begun to understand the roots of my culture and appreciate the richness and diversity of it.

As with any culture, food is an essential aspect in China. One of my favorite staples, besides rice, is mantou or steamed bun. Mantou, similar to Western bread but lighter and airier, is a staple in northern China, whereas rice is the staple of southern China. Mantou is made of just flour, water and yeast and steamed until it is big and fluffy. It is served alongside vegetable dishes, dipped in soup or even eaten plain! My favorite variation of mantou is adding in a bit of fresh pumpkin, which adds a hint of sweetness as well as a beautiful tinge of orange.

Youtiao, deep fried dough, drenched in doujiang, soymilk, was a childhood pastime for me. With a similar texture as a cruller, youtiao is a golden crunchy stick, but the dough typically does not contain any milk or eggs. It may sometimes be fried in animal fat, so be sure to ask what kind of oil they use. While this isn’t the most nutritious way to start off your morning, this combination is typically eaten as a quick breakfast meal.

In China, holidays are usually synonymous with lots of food. During Chinese New Year, large family reunions are a must. Whether celebrating the holidays at home or at a restaurant, there will always be a table full of food. A favorite dessert of mine is Tangyuan, small glutinous rice balls filled with sesame paste in a sweet soup. Eaten on the Lantern Festival, the last day of Chinese New Year, Tangyuan symbolizes the reunion of families, happiness and good fortune. The white balls bear some resemblance to a full moon, hence why it is eaten on the first full moon of the year. While Tangyuan is traditionally filled with black sesame seeds, you can easily find or replace the fillings with ones of your choice, such as red bean paste, peanut sauce, or even plain sugar. In some restaurants and pre-packaged tangyuan, they may use animal lard in the filling, so always double-check the ingredients before indulging.

Another one of my absolute favorite sweet treats is Zongzi, eaten on Duanwu Festival, also known as Dragon Boat Festival. When opening the triangular shaped Zongzi, which is wrapped in a bamboo leaf packet, you’ll find a dense layer of sticky glutinous rice covering the inner filling. The fillings vary from sweet to savory depending on where you are in China. In Beijing, jujube dates and red bean paste are traditionally used. Traditionally, no animal products will be used when making this dish.

My last favorite is another sweet dish: lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice and guihua (osmanthus) syrup. When served, the lotus root is sliced into thick slices with small rounds of sweet sticky rice and drizzles of guihua syrup. Since guihua syrup is not that common, some restaurants may use honey instead, so don’t be afraid to ask the restaurant to leave out the honey. This dish is truly delectable, and is a must-try when in China.

Emily Li is a Vegetarian Resource Group volunteer living in China.

My Internship with The Vegetarian Resource Group

Posted on August 27, 2015 by Nina Casalena

By Anne Custer

My two month internship with the Vegetarian Resource Group has been a rewarding, educational experience. My first day on the job, I was generously given many books and pieces of literature all about veganism and educated on the definition and objective of a non-profit organization. This truly set the tone of my internship and I was anxious to get started and learn all I could.

I appreciate the freedom and consideration given here in the office. When I told Charles my short and long term goals, he gave me assignments based on my interests, skills, and what I want to do. I want to volunteer abroad through the Peace Corps and I was able to interview a past intern on her experience eating vegan while volunteering in China, Nepal, and Egypt, just to name a few. I want to spend part of a summer working on a vegetable farm so I was given another previous intern’s contact information who worked in Hawaii through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). After interviewing both Yasmin and Devlyn, I was able to write articles about these topics.

I posted on the blog about vegan options at SaladWorks, reviewed restaurants such as Ipanema Café in Richmond, VA and Liquid Earth Café in Baltimore, MD, and wrote answers to Teen FAQs based on my own experiences. My other projects included working on our retention survey with fellow intern, Ivy, reviewing new vegan products for the Veggie Bit section of the Vegetarian Journal, and creating questions for our online vegetarian game. As a future dietitian, I was given the opportunity to interview Molly McBride, RD for Veggie Action which spawned a new piece on “How to Become a Corporate Dietitian.” I even got to translate an article about Raw Southwestern Cuisine into Spanish due to my interest and background in the language. The main project I worked on was compiling nutrition information about different faux meats on the market and analyzing the data to come up with product charts for each type and brand of vegan meat. I wrote a comprehensive article about these substitutes including the nutrition and ingredient information as well as helpful comparison to meat.

While not in the office, I worked booths at the Richmond Vegetarian Festival and the Animal Rights Conference. This is where I could connect with fellow vegans, activists, and attendees answering questions, providing resources, and chatting about our shared experiences. These outreach experiences provided the opportunity to expand my knowledge of veganism and the interrelated issues of environment and animal rights.

I cannot thank the dedicated staff here at VRG enough. The work they are doing for the movement is truly incredible and I am grateful to be a small part of it. I was assigned tasks that directly related to my future career and life goals which is an irreplaceable opportunity. Seeing my work published online and in the Vegetarian Journal and being able to provide those resource to others is truly rewarding. I encourage any one who is interested in doing an internship to email vrg@vrg.org stating your information and interest and apply! You will be met with welcome arms and people who want you to succeed.

For more information on internship and volunteer opportunities, visit: http://www.vrg.org/student/.

How do you respond to “You know you aren’t going to change anything, right?”

Posted on August 26, 2015 by Nina Casalena

By Anne Custer

Shortly after my transition into veganism, I was eating lunch with some
girls from my English class. Unexpectedly, one of them turned to me and
said, “You know you aren’t going to change anything right?” The uncalled
for comment made my head spin, but as a meek high schooler, I just
sighed to myself and went back to eating my hummus.

Now that I’ve had a tad more life experience (2 years) I can say that I
feel bad for that girl. She has little to no belief in herself or her
capability to enact social change as a human being. I know I will not
convert everyone I meet to being/becoming a vegan, but knowing that I
am not contributing to the cruelty and suffering animals endure for
unnecessary means is enough for me. Animals are innocent creatures and
we tirelessly abuse them for food, clothing, and entertainment, which
are all things we can and should get elsewhere. They don’t have a voice
to speak out to the cruelty being done against them, so someone has to
advocate for them.

My feeling is if everyone thought they couldn’t change anything, nothing
would ever get done. If you aren’t passionate or you don’t care about
anything, then you likely aren’t going to go out of your way to change
something. Too many things need changing in this world for anyone to be
an apathetic bystander. If I could go back to that moment, I would say,
“No, I don’t know that I am not going to change anything, because I am.”
The way she phrased the question was almost a trap for me to fall into.
She didn’t give me the option to say what I was doing to make change or
explain myself. She put that lie into my head that I wasn’t capable of
changing anything. It left me feeling defeated, but then I did some
research. Raising livestock is one of the leading contributors to global
warming. By not eating meat for five years, I have reduced my carbon
footprint and expanded my knowledge about the environment and respect
for our Earth. I have spared countless animals from being consumed,
become more aware about animal rights, and even inspired people to give
veganism a try.

My passion for justice for humans and animals drives me to be an
advocate and desire to see and enact change. One of my favorite quotes
says, “I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the
waters to create many ripples.” Don’t let small-minded, apathetic people
steal your passion; find something you care about and run with it. Find
people that are fighting the same fight and do something! Don’t be
afraid to talk to others about it either. Your efforts could just be the
stone that sets off a chain reaction.

For more resources on how to be an advocate, go to:
http://www.vrg.org/teen/#activism.

Question: What should I serve to non-vegans when I am hosting a party as a vegan/vegetarian?

Posted on August 25, 2015 by Nina Casalena

By Autumn Burton, VRG Intern

Many vegans know the feeling of being the odd one out at any social gathering. You may be accustomed to the feeling of being the black sheep chomping on carrots among a herd of dainty white sheep scarfing down hamburgers. Mumbling to the party host about vegan options – before you even RSVP – in that awkward exchange with your host is all too familiar. And at that this point, you can probably find the melody to the harmony of groans that accompany your frequently asked, “Does this contain any animal ingredients?”

But what if the roles were reversed and you no longer had to feel like others had to go out of their way to help you on your quest to accommodate animals? What if you were the one in charge? What if you were the server or the host? That would be awesome, right?

Not quite. As vegans, we know that eating with non-vegans is not as simple as an egg-less pie. So, when you are given the responsibility to not only eat with non-vegans but to decide what will be eaten as well, things can get a bit hairy.

Should you serve everyone a vegan meal, even if you are the only vegan? Debra Wasserman, co-director of the Vegetarian Resource Group says, “Yes, I always do.” She points out that it “all depends on what you are serving.” As an example, she told me about the Chinese themed menu for her son’s Bar Mitzvah. Typical, commonly loved Chinese dishes like Lo-Mein were served, as well as vegan Japanese sushi. When the kids licked their chops after dining on orange seitan stir-fry, Debra knew she didn’t have to worry about anyone crying for beef and broccoli. To top it off, they had a local vegan bakery cater the event with a smorgasbord of mini vegan desserts; that way, the kids could sample a variety of vegan treats ranging from cookies to cupcakes. All in all, the party was a success without any animals harmed in the process.

Debra explains that her rule of thumb to vegan hosting is to consider your guests. If you know that you’ll be serving adventurous folk, impress them with your meatless culinary skills (or expertise in the art of vegan boxed dinners) by introducing them to marinated tofu or curried tempeh – don’t hold back! “If you’re feeding a pickier eater, give them Italian.” Give them something they know like pasta with marinara sauce to easily satisfy without having to open up your heavy vegan recipe book.

However, there can also be the dilemma of feeding very conservative guests that just will not eat without their meat (aka my family). What do you do when your guests who turn up their noses at the sight of veggie obsessed vegans think nutritional yeast belongs in cake and want to throw holy water on anyone who speaks of seitan? Vegans tend to be strong willed people who are firm in their beliefs; we can and will debate/brawl to stand by our animal rights activism. But even so, we are caring people. We want to make the world a better place. So, sometimes that means respecting others’ decisions even when we do not agree with them.

Samantha Gendler, senior editor of the Vegetarian Journal, can attest to this. As she lives with and has friends that are not vegetarians, she says she has learned to compromise when it comes to serving cuisine. “I wouldn’t say it’s a decision on my end; it’s my partner’s decision. I’ve chosen to live with someone who has different food values than I do, and that means being open to compromise.”

When asked what to serve both omnivorous and herbivorous guests, Samantha said, “I serve vegan food. However, I live with my partner who also shares a role in hosting and he buys things that are not vegetarian.” She points out that this does not mean that anyone is left out or unaccommodated. “For example, we have done ‘make your own pizza’ nights where the dough is vegan and I offer an array of vegan toppings including vegan cheese. He might also have animal-based cheese available for people who are interested.” Having customizable dishes such as these at your next fiesta are a great way to add some extra fun and socialization while giving everybody the freedom to mix-and-match to their liking. Pizza, of course, isn’t the only option when it comes to this; create your own taco, salad, wraps, rice bowls, or even pasta are all other great examples of themes for customizable cuisine at your party.

But what if you’re low on time or don’t have the cash to prepare a plethora of food for numerous guests? It’s simple, have a potluck! With a potluck you can serve your favorite vegan dishes and your guests can bring in their comfort foods as well. You can even suggest a theme for the dishes to make it easier for guests to bring accidentally vegan items. It is probably best to inform your guests of your veganism so that they may be more inclined to bring a meat free dish as well. Another suggestion, set up two tables: one for vegan dishes, and the other for non-vegan items. Everyone gets lucky with a potluck.

So in sum, enjoy your opportunity to serve your favorite, exotic vegan dishes to your explorative guests, but if you’re serving a pickier eater, give them something they’re more familiar with like PB&J, pasta, rice, fruit salad, etc. If you have time to plan, get a variety of ingredients and serve a customizable entrée like burritos. If you don’t want to settle with a single entrée or are low on time, have a potluck!

Quick and Easy Ideas for Preparing Dishes with Corn

Posted on August 25, 2015 by Nina Casalena

The following is from the August issue of Vegetarian Journal. To subscribe visit: http://www.vrg.org/bookstore/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=3

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD, CCE

Fresh, frozen, or canned, corn adds wonderful texture to just about every item on the menu. Keep some frozen corn and canned corn on hand to spruce up meals. Also, take advantage of fresh corn and purchase more than you need. Clean and wash fresh corn, cut off the cob, place in freezer bags or containers, and store in the freezer until ready to use.

Corn Broth, Corn Soup, or Corn Chowder

Use the corn cobs to create a corn broth. Just boil corn cobs with a small amount of carrots, onion, and celery for a delightful broth that can be used as a base for vegetable or bean soups, or as a cooking liquid for grains or rice.

Fresh “cream” of corn soup or corn chowder can be a “meal in a minute” by placing silken tofu, fresh corn (cut off the cob), thawed, frozen corn, or drained, canned corn, a small amount of tomato paste, and seasonings you enjoy, such as black or white pepper, onion powder, ground thyme, etc., in a blender. Blend until smooth, or until the texture you like is achieved. Add some more corn kernels, and some pieces of cooked potato, if you have some on hand, and heat on the stove until warm. If you have the time, you can sauté some diced onions and bell peppers and add to the soup while it is warming for extra flavor.

Central American-Style Corn

If you have extra fresh corn on the cob or some frozen corn on the cob, you can prepare it Central American style. For fresh corn, peel back the husks (but don’t remove them) and clear out the corn silk. Spread a thin layer of vegan mayonnaise or mayonnaise-style dressing (such as Thousand Island) over the corn, sprinkle some minced garlic or minced chilies (or both), and re-wrap the corn in the husk. You can place these on a barbecue grill or in the microwave and allow them to cook until the corn is just soft.

For frozen corn, spread with vegan mayonnaise and seasonings, wrap in foil, and cook on a barbecue grill or in a hot oven (about 400 degrees) until corn is as soft as you like it!

Corn Relish

Corn relish is a traditional condiment that can be used to spice up menu items or can even be used as a sandwich filling. Combine cooked, cooled corn with chopped pickles or pickle relish for a fast corn relish. You can use this with cooked or cold entrées, or add to soups or cooked vegetables.

If you are feeling like doing a bit more chopping, you can combine corn with chopped pickles, chopped red or green bell peppers (or both), chopped sweet onions, chopped fresh tomatoes (or drained, diced tomatoes), and black olives. Use this as a condiment or as a salad filling, combined with leftover cooked beans or diced extra firm tofu or seitan.

Corn “Pilaf”

Make a corn “pilaf” by sautéing finely chopped onions in a small amount of vegetable oil until golden and then adding corn kernels. Toss and sauté until the corn is a bit toasty and serve hot. Chill leftover corn pilaf and use it as a salad topping the next day or stir it into vegetable soup, minestrone, or bean soup.

Corn Pudding

Corn pudding can be made by using a simple “corn mush” recipe (think of cream of wheat made with corn meal), stirring corn meal with water or non-dairy milk over low heat until thick and smooth. Add in corn kernels, raisins, cinnamon, ground ginger, and maple syrup or molasses and allow to cook until desired thickness. Corn pudding can be served plain, either warm or chilled with sorbet (which will allow it to become even thicker) and sliced and served with sliced pineapple or sliced peaches.

Corn Bread and More

If you are in a baking mood, cut fresh corn kernels into a cornbread mix, top with corn kernels and bake. You can also toss corn kernels into burrito fillings, sandwich mixes, cooked grains or veggies, and even salad dressings.

Freebirds World Burrito Vegan Tempeh Calabacitas

Posted on August 21, 2015 by Nina Casalena

By Jeanne Yacoubou

Since its 1987 California beginnings, Freebirds World Burrito now based in Austin, Texas is a fast-casual restaurant chain serving burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, bowls, and salads. Listed on its website as of August 2015, there are nearly one hundred locations in the western United States: California, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. See http://freebirds.com/locations/ for complete restaurant contact information.

Tempeh Calabacitas

Introduced on its blog in March 2015, the tempeh Calabacitas is a vegan option offered at Freebirds. According to Director of Culinary Chef James Sanchez “…our calabacitas dish is completely vegan friendly and includes no animal products or byproducts.”

According to a Freebirds press release, tempeh Calabacitas can be added as a protein to any menu item including burritos, tacos, bowls and salads. Chef Sanchez told us that “Our calabacitas, like all our meals, can be personalized to the guest, so if they wanted to add a sauce or side item they certainly could do so.” All menu options at Freebirds are made-to-order and “made-from-scratch” with fresh ingredients.

From a press release on the tempeh Calabacitas Chef Sanchez stated:

“The dish was inspired by my grandmother’s recipe,” said Freebirds Culinary Director James Sanchez. “We have been looking to expand our menu offerings and tempeh offered an interesting opportunity for both vegetarian and vegan guests as well as those looking for a tasty new alternative.”

He described the tempeh Calabacitas in an email to The VRG in this way:

For our calabacitas recipe, the tempeh is chopped into half-inch cubes, quickly fried and tossed with seasoning [including cumin and cilantro]. It’s then braised with peppers and onions, squash, corn and zucchini. The mixture is then combined with our salsa and chipotle, and lastly the tempeh is folded in.

In a later email Chef Sanchez elaborated on how the tempeh is prepared:

We utilize canola oil for sautéing and cooking the tempeh dish, and we use a soy oil for deep frying the tempeh before it’s used in the dish. The fryer used for frying the tempeh does not prepare or come in contact with any animal products. The only animal products cooked in our restaurant are in the oven or on the char grill.

The VRG learned from Chef Sanchez that:

Our kitchens are very organized, with utensils that are color-coded and pots that are designated animal-only and vegan-only, to ensure there is no cross-contamination.

The grill is all for animal protein but we do not use the grill for tempeh. The pot that we cook the tempeh in is not ever used for any recipe that has animal protein.

To help make its tempeh Calabacitas menu option a success Freebirds World Burrito has partnered with Austin, Texas tempeh supplier Hearty Vegan.

Freebirds Side Dishes

Freebirds diners may personalize their order in anyway by choosing from a wide selection of side dishes many of which are vegan. Chef Sanchez told The VRG, “Both the rice and the guacamole are vegan.” Here is more information about the Cilantro Lime Rice and the Spanish Rice dishes:

Both rice dishes use no animal products. No animal-based seasonings. Both are made with white rice. Both are cooked in a brazier pot that is never in contact with any animal product. This pan is signified for rice only.

Bread products offered at Freebirds include the flour, spinach, cayenne and wheat tortillas. They also offer a corn tortilla and flour tortilla for tacos. All menu items including the tacos, tortillas, burritos, quesadillas and nachos are made only with these. Patrons may select which to use with their chosen menu dish according to an email response from Freebirds. The Director of Culinary told The VRG that “…all of our tortillas are free of lard and L-cysteine.”

There are three bean side dishes on the Freebirds menu: (un)refried beans, black beans and whole pinto beans. The VRG was informed that all three contain no lard or animal-based flavorings.

[There are] no animal fats or flavorings in the any of our beans.

The roasted veggies side dish comprised of several types of vegetables is prepared in a vegan-designated pan in vegetable oil without any animal seasonings. In the chef’s own words:

Red bell peppers, green bell peppers, and yellow onions [prepared in] canola oil with fresh chopped garlic and a dried season mix of cayenne, paprika, kosher salt and ancho chile powder…These vegetables are prepared on a cutting board specifically designated for vegetables only. The vegetables are sautéed in the same brazier pot that we cook the rice in…Only vegan-based designated cooking done in the brazier pot…and prepared only with all-vegetable ingredients.

The Freebirds House Salsa is vegan. Here is the recipe reprinted from the Freebirds blog:

Freebirds House Salsa

The Goods
5 lbs ripe tomatoes
½ lb rough-chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped cilantro
½ cup lemon juice
1 jalapeño
1 Serrano pepper
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp chipotle en adobo
2 tsp garlic
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp salt

The Magic
Roughly chop the tomatoes, yellow onion, cilantro, Serrano pepper and jalapeño
Throw it all into a food processor along with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth
Give it a little taste and add a pinch of salt to your liking
Serve with warm tortilla chips

This restaurant chain also offers two seasonal salsas called the Creamy Jalapeno Salsa and the Roasted Tomato Salsa which are both all-vegetable. The Culinary Director told The VRG that in the Creamy Jalapeno Salsa there is “no dairy; it is creamy from the emulsification of oil during the blending process.” The staff at Freebirds tries “…to offer seasonal salsa on a quarterly basis….They are available at all restaurants.”

There are several other salsa and sauces on the Freebirds menu. These include the Death Sauce, habanero sauce, fire-roasted corn salsa, and pico de gallo sauce. The VRG was told by Chef Sanchez that all of them “…are vegetable-based and free of animal products.”

Among the dressings offered by Freebirds, there are three tomatillo dressings (mild, hot and roasted) which Chef Sanchez told The VRG are all-vegetable. A vinaigrette dressing is no longer offered according to Freebirds.

On the Freedbirds website, there is a “Special Dietary Information” page which lists food allergens including milk and eggs in their menu options. There is some ingredient information that may be useful to vegans.

The VRG also learned from the Director of Culinary at Freebirds:

The barbeque sauce at Freebirds contains anchovies.
The ancho dressing contains honey but is otherwise all-vegetable.
The ranch dressing contains dairy but does not contain gelatin.
The sour cream contains dairy but does not contain gelatin.
The cheeses are made with animal rennet.

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, join at:
http://www.vrg.org/party/index.php

Donate at:
http://www.vrg.org/member/donate_buttons.php

To receive email updates, sign up at:
http://www.vrg.org/vrgnews/

Sign-Up for The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Vegan Dinner in Nashville, Tennessee Before the Price Increases on September 5, 2015!

Posted on August 21, 2015 by Nina Casalena

On Sunday, October 4, 2015 at 6 pm, The Vegetarian Resource Group will host a dinner gathering in Nashville, TN at Sitar Indian Cuisine.

Network with Vegetarian Resource Group staff, volunteers, and other dietitians from around the country during the annual meeting of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dietitians, VRG members, students, and the public are invited. Location is near the Lowes Vanderbilt, a FNCE (conference) hotel.

BUFFET MENU:
Samosa (potato and pea turnover)
Salad
Papadum (thin and crispy lentil crackers)
Roti (whole wheat bread)
Chutney
Rice, Tea
Yellow Dal (lentils)
Chana Masala (chickpeas)
Baingan Bhurtha (eggplant)
Bhindi Masala (okra)
Vegetable Patia (fresh vegetables with sweet and sour mangoes)
Fruit

PRICE INCLUDING TAX AND TIP:
Payment before September 5, 2015: $25
Payment after September 5, 2015: $30

Refunds only made if we can replace your seat.

To pay, send to The Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203, call (410) 366-8343 Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, or go to www.vrg.org/donate and write in the comments Nashville Indian dinner and names of attendees.

Visit IGIVE and Support The Vegetarian Resource Group

Posted on August 20, 2015 by Nina Casalena

igive-com-logoEverybody who joins IGIVE shopping to support The Vegetarian Resource Group and tries the iGive Button through 10/15/15 means a $5 donation for The Vegetarian Resource Group.

See: http://www.iGive.com/VegetarianResourceGroup

Vegan Food Being Served at New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York

Posted on August 20, 2015 by Nina Casalena
Image courtesy of Strongheartscafe.com

Image courtesy of Strongheartscafe.com

The New York State Fair in Syracuse, New York runs from August 27th through September 7th, 2015. This year there will be a vegan food option in the International Building. Strong Hearts Cafe fair menu will include smoothies, salads, sandwiches, wraps, side dishes, and a select few of Strong Hearts vegan milkshakes.

For info on the State Fair see: http://www.nysfair.org/
For info on Strong Hearts Cafe see: www.strongheartscafe.com

How to Become a Corporate Dietitian

Posted on August 19, 2015 by Nina Casalena

By Anne Custer

The health field is constantly changing and expanding with new
technology, new research, and new jobs. The growth rate for dietitians
is expected to increase by 21% over the next ten years. Dietitians work
to educate patients and the public on proper nutrition for optimal
health. They work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, nursing
homes, non-profit organizations, public health clinics, government
agencies, food service settings, and the corporate world.

A person who is interested in nutrition, education, health,
helping others, and cooking may be best suited for this profession.
A dietitian’s day-to-day tasks may include, but are not limited to
assessing a patient’s nutritional needs, counseling on healthy eating
habits, developing meal plans, evaluating progress, and promoting
healthy eating.

A dietitian working in the corporate world may have different
day-to-day tasks compared to a dietitian working in a hospital.
As a corporate dietitian, Molly McBride, RD, LD works for the retail
food chain, Kroger, offering food and nutrition expertise, answering
product inquiries, creating recipes, writing blogs for the Kroger
Simple Truth blog, and acting as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for
Kroger brands.

Education
Aspiring dietitians must complete a Bachelor of Science degree in an
accredited program. These programs can take many names such as
Nutrition; Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise; Dietetics; or Nutritional
Science. When researching programs, confirm that they are accredited by
the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics of
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. After completion of an
undergraduate degree in Dietetics or a related field, the next step is
supervised practice, or a dietetic internship (DI). This is usually
1,200 hours of hands-on experience that lasts about a year. These are
all over the United States and Puerto Rico and can emphasize Clinical,
Community, Food Service, Sports Nutrition, Medical Nutrition Therapy, or
be a general program that dabbles in many areas. Once this is completed,
the soon-to-be dietitian must pass a registration exam. In most states,
a license to practice is required as well. For Molly, her education
began at Eastern Kentucky University and continued at The Christ
Hospital and Good Samaritan hospital of Cincinnati and Miami Valley
hospital of Dayton, OH for her DI. Once she passed the exam, she began
working for a long-term care facility. After three years, she had the
opportunity to interview for Kroger. She accepted the job and began
working at the corporate call center.

Experience
Those looking to enter the field must have significant work and/or
volunteer experience. Because the internships are extremely competitive
(only 50% match rate), it’s crucial to set yourself apart as an
applicant. A quick Google search will reveal that most resources, like
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommend some type of
experience. This increases your chances of being matched and solidifies
your choice to become a dietitian. Valuable work and volunteer
experience relates to the health and nutrition field or the specific
track of dietetics you are interested in. Someone who wanted to be a
clinical dietitian may seek opportunities in hospitals or clinics.
Examples of this in my pursuit of becoming a registered dietitian (RD)
include volunteering for a hospital and a children’s fitness camp,
interning here at The Vegetarian Resource Group, shadowing an RD, and
working at my school’s gym as a fitness assistant and nutrition analyst.
It can also be helpful to have experience in food service. For example,
McBride started working at Panera Bread. While in school at Eastern
Kentucky, she worked as a student caller then manager for the school’s
alumni office and as a nutrition associate working alongside a dietitian
at a local hospital. These experiences helped her land an internship as
well as provided her with skills needed for her job at Kroger. Those
looking to work in the corporate world may seek out work in corporate
fitness and nutrition or as an associate of a retail food store.
Programs are also looking for leadership skills so if possible, try to
stick to a few activities and focus on moving up and taking on more
responsibility. There are many opportunities out there to get involved
in your community and your university to diversify your application; you
just have to find them!

Training
The training aspiring dietitians receive is mainly through the
supervised practice in their DI. Each rotation varies greatly depending
on the program and its focus. Students will spend more time working in
say a free clinic if the focus is community or in a rehabilitation
center if the focus is medical nutrition therapy. This allows the
student to explore and learn about different aspects of nutrition in
practice. The training received after completion of supervised practice
is dependent on the employer. Registered dietitians must also complete
continuing education credits throughout their career.

Location
Corporate dietitians work for businesses that need nutrition consulting.
This type of dietitian can work in a variety of places such as a large
drug store, a fast food chain, or like McBride, a retail food chain.
These professionals develop menus, check nutrition facts, create food
labels, and consult with the company on its products and nutrition
information. More specific tasks would be established depending on where
you decide to work. McBride says, “My day-to-day includes being a final
escalation point for our call center product team ambassadors to answer
questions for our millions of customers, managing information in a
product knowledge database, providing nutrition education, developing
nutrition-related materials, writing digital/social media content, and
of course being a resource for plant-based nutrition.” (McBride has been
a vegan for four years.) Her office is based out of Blue Ash, OH which
is a satellite location from the downtown corporate building. However,
this type of work may be flexible. McBride is getting married and will
be moving to Columbus, OH after the wedding. Her employer is allowing
her to work full-time from home and come into the office just two days
out of the month.

Hours
Hours vary from job to job and even day to day. McBride usually works
from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday and says, “Sometimes important
meetings, some community events, or continuing education retail RD
conferences, are in the evenings or weekends, so my schedule is flexible
enough to accommodate these.”

Networking
“I have learned a lot from dietitian conferences I have attended,
befriending other dietitians on LinkedIn, diving into areas of nutrition
that pique my interest, and learning about all the moving parts of my
job,” explains McBride, “For example, working in the grocery retail
setting, it’s also important to know about agriculture, manufacturing,
branding, and regulations.” Her advice for aspiring dietitians is to
network with other dietitians and areas of nutrition that inspire you.
LinkedIn can provide a great resource to do so.

Retail Dietetics
“The job of a retail grocery RD is a newer concept,” says McBride, “RDs
in this sector are a growing trend, as RDs are being recognized,
especially if they have a background in business or develop a strong
understanding of it, for their impact to [the] company’s ROI (return on
investment), health & wellness strategy, food and culinary insights,
product development ideas, food safety expertise, and
labeling/regulatory knowledge, as some examples. I work with two other
RDs at the Kroger corporate level and we have a strong working
relationship with numerous departments including pharmacy, regulatory,
corporate brands, consumer affairs, corporate food technology, digital,
and social media, amongst others. We are viewed as food and nutrition
subject matter experts for the Kroger organization.” More and more
companies are beginning to realize the benefit of having a dietitian on
staff thus creating more opportunities for corporate dietitians.

Visit www.eatright.org for the latest news on the dietetics profession and helpful resources for your career.

Anne Custer wrote this article while interning with The Vegetarian
Resource Group.

  • Donate

  • Subscribe to the blog by RSS

  • VRG-NEWS

    Sign up for our newsletter to receive recipes, ingredient information, reviews of new products, announcements of new books, free samples of products, and other VRG materials.

    Your E-mail address:
    Your Name (optional):



↑ Top