How much rice should I eat in a day? What does one serving size look like? How much should I eat when I’m pregnant? These are the kinds of questions a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) are experts in. RDs are the professionals who provide education and guidance on food and nutrition. They are the individuals who help patients or food establishments design meal plans and find solutions to eating healthy.
To celebrate National Nutrition Month we sat down with our dietitian, Daniel Wong, RDN, CDN, to talk about his work in the community:
DN: You’ve worked at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center for 7 years. What are challenges you often see in our immigrant community?
DW: The majority of our community shop in Chinatown, so they are only exposed to the foods in Chinatown. For example, most Chinatown bakeries often use lard, an unhealthy solid fat, in their products. The whole community is then exposed to a less healthy type of bread. It is a challenge because it is difficult to change the way bakeries operate and make healthy bread more accessible.
The dietary choices we make as individuals are also based on what our family eats. Some families grew up thinking that spare ribs and ox tail are “lean” meat, or leaner because of the less visible fat compared to pork belly. When I tell them that spare ribs are high in fat, they do not believe it. Because this diet has been a part of their upbringing, the challenge is to help them understand what is good or bad for their health.
DN: How do you help individuals overcome those challenges or reach their health goals?
DW: When educating patients, I give them alternatives, and help them find motivation to try changes in their diet. For example, I suggest to seniors to try oatmeal for breakfast instead of congee. Some seniors are new to oatmeal, but because they know it is good for their health and find it more accessible in the U.S. compared to China, they are willing to adapt to it.
I find that the most common motivation for behavior change in our community is to avoid the need to take medication. Explaining how chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes affect them also motivates them to change. Once they are ready to make changes, we set goals together.
DN: Can you share a memorable or rewarding moment during your RDN career?
DW: The most rewarding part of my job is when I educate a patient and they understand and practice what I taught them. They pass it to their kids and the whole family now has a better understanding of what it means to be healthy. Being able to help people is always a good feeling. Some patients appreciate the advice I give them and some do not. But when I see that their lab results and health are improving, it’s a good feeling.
Thank you Daniel for your commitment to help our patients be their healthiest selves! Happy Nutrition Month!