Meet Home Office Dietitian Sarah Wechsler, who’s celebrating her ninth year with SAGE this month. Sarah shares her thoughts on staying satisfied at work, getting your fruits and veggies, and finding reputable sources for nutrition info.
How did you get into the field of nutrition?
I went to college for biology, but two things happened. One, I became a vegan and then ran a marathon, so I got really interested in nutrition. Two, I did an internship at an animal refuge. The animals scared me, so I decided against animal behavior. As soon as I graduated, I cancelled my internship and took Nutrition 101. I went back to school for another year and a half of undergrad to get the background before I could do my internship and get my master’s.
What about SAGE has kept you interested?
I particularly like analytical, detail-oriented tasks like recipe analysis and food allergen tagging. The diversity of projects I get to work on really keeps me interested. It’s not only recipe analysis or menu review or blogs—it’s all those things, plus being able to work with people in different departments.
Plus, I know that my contribution creates an impact in the communities. For example, by developing a new formula for the Spotlight Program, I got the ball rolling for the system-wide update [coming Fall 2018] that will help our communities build a more nutritious plate.
What makes our Nutrition Department stand apart from and above the rest?
Well, first off, there are five of us! Having such a strong team enables us to push out and support innovative nutrition programs.
We provide online allergen tagging, ingredient lists, and recipe analysis, which help our Managers navigate food allergies as they build custom menus for their communities—and guides our community members’ decisions as they check out the online menus, digital line signs, and mobile app. One of us actually reviews every menu that goes out for nutritional balance, variety, and allergen-free options.
Our updated Spotlight Program, which reflects the most recent Dietary Guidelines, will continue to help our community members build a balanced plate by indicating an item’s nutrient density with colored dots. Our Performance Spotlight Program helps student athletes eat the right nutrients in the right amounts on training and game days. And our eating disorders awareness program helps kids at risk for disordered eating.
What’s your go-to nutrition advice?
Fruits and veggies are key, and most people don’t get enough. If you’re not getting them in at breakfast or lunch, how the heck are you going to eat enough at dinner? Most likely, you’re not. So I try to eat a fruit at breakfast and a fruit as a snack, and then work vegetables into my lunch and dinner.
How do you stay satiated throughout the workday?
When you get hungry, you just want to eat anything, and you make decisions that aren’t wise. So planning is huge. In my purse, my car, any place where I might get stuck unexpectedly and be hungry, there’s food. I have a huge drawer of [sunflower seed] butter, dried fruit, granola bars, and “fun foods” like chocolate-covered pretzels at work. I try to stock healthy choices that’ll keep me full until I can get to the next meal.
How do you keep on top of science-backed nutrition practices?
I always start with reputable sites like .orgs, the USDA, and eatright.org, which is our professional organization for dietitians. If you can go to the primary literature, that’s great. If not, look at multiple sources—are they telling you the same thing?
And what do you do for fun?
Honestly, having a kid zaps all your time. [Laughs] But I do enjoy reading, especially nonfiction on subjects I’m curious about. Occasionally, I’ll read a memoir, or for fun, a bit of mystery.