Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I graduated from Deakin with my Master of Dietetics in 2014, and following this, worked in several different dietetic positions for a year or so across Melbourne and Gippsland before gaining my current job. I’ve moved back to my hometown in Regional Victoria and am currently working in a full time clinical/health promotion role. Three days per week are my clinical duties; due to the nature of the health service I work with, my clinical role is varied. As our hospital is only about a total of 60 beds, we are not confined to one or two patient groups and as a result see quite a variety of different patients. I’m particularly interested in the areas of GI surgical and am gaining quite a bit of experience in the area. Two days per month I visit another campus about 25 minutes out where I see some inpatients and outpatients, but mainly spend my time in the hostel and nursing home with the residents. Another day per month, I visit a private residential care facility where again I’m assessing and reviewing the residents. For the health promotion component, I’m currently working within a community-led approach called GenR8 Change which is encouraging the community to make changes to the environment so that the healthy choice becomes the easy choice; so this is looking at changing the food environment within schools, food sales in recreation centres, encouraging active transport etc just to name a few.
Then for my life outside of work – I have my blog Broccoli and blueberries. This is my little baby I shared with the world the day after I handed in my last dietetic assignment! I’ll admit life does get in the way and I don’t post as much as I did in the past. On my blog you’ll find recipes that I’ve cooked or loved, nutrition thoughts and tips, food stories and adventures, and some other bits and pieces about life as a grad dietitian, and blogging. It can be quite a diary of my life sometimes.
I also love to bake and cook – I have a recipe collection that is expanding faster than I can try all the recipes I’ve flagged, ripped out of magazines, saved on pinterest and screenshot on my phone. I love going out for dinner, or enjoying a good cheese platter (I’m totally happy with that being a main meal) and I won’t say no to gelato in the middle of winter.
I love to travel and my current focus is South East Asia – I’ve been to both Thailand and Indonesia over the past 6 months, and have booked flights to Vietnam later in the year. I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise but it’s the cuisine and culture of Asia that fascinates me. The food tastes absolutely delicious, and I do my best to not eat Western Cuisine when I’m in those parts of the world. I love their reliance on real, whole foods, and love all the beautiful herbs and spices.
I read your article titled 9 Things I’ve Learned in the Job Search. Was there ever a time when you questioned whether you were in the right career?
To be honest, I didn’t. I was fortunate to end up in a three-month paid position shortly after finishing uni. After that role finished, it was a little bit stressful just waiting on whether it was going to continue, do I need to be looking for another job etc. It was only two to three months, including the Christmas and New Year period, where I was without a paid position before I got my first community role. So, in comparison to my peers I didn’t have an extensive period without a paid dietetic position, so I’m rather fortunate. During this time, I never questioned whether I was I the right career, I had a few areas of interest so I knew something would come up. While all our journeys are different, I get that it is a real disheartening process. Even when you are working several jobs, juggling them while your friends work at one place all the time can be a kick in the guts at times. I got to a point where I was working three jobs at three health services down in Gippsland. I was driving back to Melbourne on the weekends, I was tired, I was kind of based at my Brothers but sleeping in three different beds each week. At one point, I remember having a pantry in my boot. There were tears and sometimes I would half-heartedly say “Do I really want to do this?”.
At the end of the day, being a dietitian was/is my passion and I had worked so hard to get where I was. I loved doing my job and in the end, I believe the right career is the one you truly enjoy doing.
Do you see any opportunities and challenges for dietitians in the future?
I was talking with one of my colleagues a few days ago about food allergies and intolerances, and I believe that is an area we’re going to be dealing with a lot in hospital food service, restaurants and cafes. We won’t be just factoring in lactose free, and gluten free menus. I wonder if we’ll need diet codes like low FODMAP in the future – maybe this is something already being rolled out in larger hospitals?
I feel like in general, as a profession, we are facing challenges now and we probably always will. Our social media space is full of nutrition confusion and misinformation. We witness a lot of celebrities and nutrition professionals saying and promising wonderful things, which are inviting/exciting/sexy to people and give them hope. And then here we are trying to encourage people to eat more fruit and veg (which is nothing new), eat more mindfully, not ban foods or cut out food groups. Encouraging someone to get an extra vegetable on the plate each night isn’t really sexy.
I think we cop a bit of flack for our recommendations, and often because many people within the general population may not understand the research process. We know that recommendations sometimes change as new up-to-date research becomes available, and it can come across that we were wrong. Maybe we were, but at that point in time, that is what the research suggested. Take eggs for example. For many years it was “You should only eat six eggs a week,” but now the updated dietary guidelines do not specify a limit and recommended we can include them daily within a balanced diet. I can understand why people get confused. I believe as long as we have our integrity and be accountable for our decisions, it’s okay for our recommendations to develop and change, because we work off science. We don’t just decide that something is going to cure the world’s problems and get it written in population guidelines.
Nutrition misinformation is not something that will go away overnight – everyone eats, therefore everyone has their own idea about food and what works for them. It’s just reminding people that they don’t get an electrician to fly them to London, or a pilot to rewire their kitchen; so when it comes to nutrition and their health, they should consider the credential of the person they choose to help guide then.
Do you see any reasons why you think dietitians get a bad rap for “defending” sugar?
I wrote a blog post called In Defence of Sugar last year, and while I had a few comments, I wish there were more to challenge my stance. It’s always good to see what other people are thinking and engage in some constructive conversations. In general, society can be very black and white, and our message may not be well understood. When I explain that sugar may not be the enemy, I’m not saying “Yes, go drink the soft drink” or “Yes, you can eat chocolate every day”, but I’m not saying cut it out completely either. Unfortunately there is quite a wide spread notion that there are foods that are good for you, and then there are foods that are bad for you. You should eat the good foods, and not eat the bad foods. We are struggling to understand and/or accept the concept that eating one cupcake isn’t bad for you, and that there is this middle ground that is an okay place to be.
Do you ever feel food shamed in certain situations because you’re a dietitian, even though you are practicing what you preach regarding moderation?
Yeah, for sure. “You’re too skinny…you need to eat a cupcake.”, “Of course the dietitian isn’t eating the cupcake.”, “Oh my God, call 911, the dietitian’s eating a cake.” (laughs)
As the years pass, I am getting used to it and not taking it to heart as much. People that I generally spend my time with know what I’m like, and I’m sure we can all relate to the first time someone finds out you’re a dietitian: “Oh, I better not tell you what I’ve been eating”, “If the dietitian is eating cake, I can” or “If the dietitian isn’t eating cake, I better not.”
It can be disappointing because we actually are not the food police, and I don’t promote an all or nothing approach. And at the end of the day, we’re still human: we still go to birthday parties and we still enjoy cake. Food is one of the biggest pleasures in life, and we shouldn’t give that up.
I also dislike that I’ve tried to justify myself –we shouldn’t have to justify ourselves for what we’re eating because it’s our business, and no one else’s. When I’m out for dinner, sitting opposite you at the table, I’m there for your company, to hear your stories and enjoy a glass of wine. When it comes to your food, all I hope is that it is delicious.
What are some easy breakfast options that you would recommend for people who are looking to try something new?
Well, right now if anyone is following my Instagram, I’m mainly eating omelettes. In Thailand, I had the occasional omelette for breakfast and I loved how they cooked them. It wasn’t until after I got home from Bali that I mastered how to cook one – I watched the cook very intently every morning as he cooked them. An omelette is a super quick breakfast. My favourite combo is 2 eggs, roast pumpkin and marinated feta. Generally, I have it with a slice of sourdough or some precooked sweet potato, and some greens. Panfrying the greens takes a little bit extra time, but it’s worth it. I’m really enjoying it and they’re keeping me powering on through the morning.
Last year I wrote a blog post on breakfast foods that provides some great ideas other than the generic cereal/muesli and milk/yoghurt, and toast. I love to use ricotta or peanut butter on toast, and top it with some fruit. There are a few porridge ideas, including my favourite carrot cake porridge with tahini! I also sometimes make a Bircher muesli that is a grab and go kind of breakfast (great way to use almost empty nut butter jars). I’m a massive lover of breakfast food so check out the post for some great ideas!
Do you have any long-term plans for Broccoli and Blueberries? Or do you just want to keep doing what you’re doing and just do it well?
I actually had a thought about this the other day. I’ve been writing this blog for almost three years, and I thought, “Is this going to be a forever thing?” I’m not really sure, that’s A LOT of blog posts. Nutrition writing and working with the media is definitely something I want to pursue; oh how I would love to write regularly and be in The Healthy Food Guide (it would be great if they are reading this!).
I’m also really keen on specialising in GI surgery in the clinical dietetic setting so for now I just need to keep doing what I’m doing, as much as I can, and keep on (hopefully) doing it well.
Where did the name Broccoli and Blueberries come from?
In my early stages of my nutrition degrees, I always loved broccoli and I still remember (what seemed like at the time) a crisis on broccoli prices; I also always had frozen blueberries in my freezer. When I was thinking of blog names I found it quite stressful – I knew what the content was going to be but I couldn’t seem to quickly grasp a cool, catchy name. My initial thought was Broccoli and Blueberries but I thought it sounded stupid. I ended up naming it something else, something much more cringeworthy and it didn’t feel right, so I ended up changing the name and the look. That’s what felt right for me. I’m a bit weird and random, my blog can be a little random, and broccoli and blueberries together is random, so I think it works.
Is there anything you would like to add to wrap it up?
I really want to say that if you are looking for a one-stop-shop to read about credible nutrition advice without all the confusion, head over to the Storehouse. The Storehouse by Scoop Nutrition is a blog directory of food, nutrition and health bloggers all with established nutrition credentials. I always find something tasty or informative to read on there.
Aidan has been exposed to the most recent and up-to-date evidence based approaches to dietetic intervention. Dating back to well before starting uni he has been fascinated by all things nutrition, particularly the effects of different dietary approaches on body composition and sports performance. Due to this passion, he has built up an extensive knowledge base in multiple areas of nutrition and is able to help clients with a variety of conditions. One of Aidan’s main strengths is his ability to adapt plans based on the clients desires. By having such a thorough understanding of optimal nutrition for different situations he is able to develop detailed meal plans for clients, or he can provide flexible guidance that can contribute to improving the clients overall quality of life.