Karen Austin, ProfDip, mBANT, rCNHC
Registered Nutritional Therapist and Registered Nutritionist
My Nutrition Journey
My nutrition journey began when I was a teenager and became a vegetarian. To understand what I needed to do to stay healthy, I built on my school nutritional education with my own research in to healthy vegetarian diets. My interest in nutrition continued to develop and when the opportunity arose, I turned my interest into my profession. I achieved a certificate in Diet and Nutrition Advice before going on to study Nutritional Science & Practice at masters level. I now have a Professional Diploma (equivalent to a postgraduate diploma), and my MSc dissertation is in progress.
Why did I want to become a nutritionist and nutritional therapist? Simple – our bodies are amazing! The number of processes that go on all the time without us even realising it is incredible. As baffling as biochemistry is, the interactions between the processes is fascinating, and scientists are discovering more about us all the time. For all these processes to work properly we need to look after our bodies – this includes giving them the correct fuel and raw materials. Think about it, our food and drink is what powers our body. Apart from the air we breathe we do not need to put anything else in, if we are in good health. Nutrition is essential and I want to help you balance the nutrients in your diet/menus to support good health.
Despite our bodies needing essentially the same fuel and raw materials to work properly, we are all different. We place different demands on our bodies, live in different environments, and have different experiences and lifestyles. All these things mean the balance of our nutrient intake needs varies. It is therefore important that I get to understand you to understand your needs.
Prior to becoming a nutritionist/nutritional therapist, I was a process auditor which helped me to develop my active listening skills and objectivity. These skills help me to listen to what you say, not just hear the words you speak. Having no other agenda than helping you optimise your health through nutrition, means I can listen and be objective. These skills are also important for Alible Nutrition’s non-nutritional therapy services. Reviewing the information that you provide in consultations and questionnaires and/or menus still require objectivity.
I recognise and accept that people follow different dietary paths for a variety of reasons. As my client, I will work in line with your own beliefs, without prejudice or personal agenda.
As a qualified nutritional therapist and nutritionist, I aim to give my clients constructive advice and support, not just knowledge.
Meal time differences
As a vegetarian with a meat-eating family, I am familiar with the challenge of catering for different diets within a household. Even within my own small family we have experience of balancing three different diets due to preferences and allergy needs! I believe this has helped me to better understand some of the challenges clients face.
I appreciate that not everyone has the culinary skills of a chef, or the time to prepare complicated recipes. Personally, I enjoy cooking, but I tend not to be patient enough for recipes with lots of ingredients or too many steps and waiting around. I prefer simple meals and use recipes that I find in books, magazines or on the internet. However, I frequently tweak them to fit family preferences, the ingredients I have available or to increase their healthfulness.
Do you only have the local facilities, finances or time to do one main shop per week? Me too! The idea of calling in at the greengrocers, bakery, butchers or fishmongers each day sounds idyllic, however we can’t all do it. I have an allotment that gives me fresh food as well as fresh air and exercise. However, with weather restrictions and time pressures, in practice it is far from “The Good Life” image of freshly picked ingredients for each day’s meals. May be if the plot was in my garden or I had retired from work it would be different. This is why it is so important for me to get to know each client individually, so that the advice I give is realistic for them in terms of sourcing foods and preparing them.
Must we all eat organic food? Well, there certainly are benefits to organic foods, and wild, not farmed, fish. But, they simply aren’t accessible to everyone. As a nutritionist, I recognise the health benefits of organic food, but I also know that the hefty price tag puts it out of reach for many. If a client is able to buy organic foods, that’s great – if not, we will work with what is practicable.
Tip: To reduce pesticides in your diet without the organic price tag, try being more selective and choosing foods that have less chemicals on them. This website is a good place to start: www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen-and-clean-fifteen.
Working with you
As mentioned above, a key element of my consultations is getting to understand my client’s nutritional needs, history and lifestyle. In the case of business clients, their business requirements too! This helps me to understand not just nutritional need, but also the challenges clients face. We need to work together to find ways to make improvements that are realistic and sustainable. If change is too big and too hard, the longevity of the changes may well be limited!
A Few Quick Facts About Me
The potato. Potatoes tend to get a lot of bad press, they are after all a carbohydrate and not a vegetable in healthy eating guidance. But, they do contain many beneficial nutrients, and are versatile, easy to grow and can be stored for months. May be it is being a gardener and having a family history of gardeners that leads me to stick with them. However, it is important to consider your dietary needs and quantities of each food when deciding whether to include potatoes in your diet.
Raspberries. I don’t normally get big crops of soft fruit on the allotment, but I enjoy them when I can. Full of antioxidants these small fruit can be included in fruit salads, added to desserts or used as a porridge topper…. and more!
Ultimate convenience food:
Eggs. They are nutritious, cheap, versatile and can be very quick to cook. They can be eaten as part of a meal, a protein-rich snack, or in recipes.
Biggest food dislike:
Out of the vegetarian foods, it must be coconut. I don’t like the smell or texture. Saying that, I am now eating more things with coconut oil in them….. as long as I can’t taste it!
Favourite, not-so-healthy, food indulgence:
Chocolate cake… with a few berries on the side to make it appear more healthful.
I found a lovely Sweet Potato Brownie recipe on the internet. It is a great way to include more veg in your diet while still enjoying treats. With this recipe you could easily add dried fruit, berries or nuts to increase its nutritional content. I am looking to reduce the sugar content to make them more healthful. They freeze well – putting them in the freezer (cut first!) helps to reduce the temptation to snack mindlessly on them. The recipe I like can be found here: www.wellplated.com/sweet-potato-brownies
My main nutrition hazard:
I am conscious of my tea habit, in particular at meal times. Tea contains tannins and other elements that can interfere with our nutrient absorption. Iron absorption is my main concern (iron from non-animal sources is not as well absorbed as iron from meat). I therefore need to consider not only my iron sources, but also balance the foods and drinks that can enhance or reduce its absorption.
Top tip for healthy eating:
Make friends with your freezer. Most foods can be stored in freezers and many of those bought frozen contain more nutrients than their ‘fresh’ counterparts. For example, fish may be sold as ‘fresh’ when it is more than a week old, or even frozen then thawed. It is always worth checking the small print!
Freezers are also useful for batch cooking – great for managing budgets, and a way to have healthful convenience foods for when you are short on time.