A Day in the Life of a Nutrisystem Dietitian

Article posted in: Lifestyle
Nutrisystem dietitian

Whether you’re eating Nutrisystem’s food or trying to clean up your diet, it’s important to know you aren’t alone when it comes to the worry that you won’t be able to stick to your new lifestyle. There are people who have easily adopted this good-in-good-out way of living and no, they don’t wear sweatbands and ankle weights to the office and “splurge” with carrot sticks.

Ever wonder what a day in the life of a Nutrisystem dietitian looks like? Do they eat sawdust and run in a hamster wheel while doing office work? Do they fight with their kids about eating healthy or let a busy day derail them?

Not only do they help in the development of Nutrisystem meals, ensuring the right amount of protein, fiber, vitamins and other nutrients are provided in a great tasting, convenient meal, but Nutrisystem dietitians are a great example of how treating your body right can fit into even the busiest schedules!

We caught up with Mandi Knowles, RDN, LDN and project development manager at Nutrisystem for some tips and tricks on making a healthier you an easier goal to get to.

What made you want to get into nutrition?
I’ve always had a love for cooking and food, but never knew I could make a career out of it other than becoming a chef. I went to school initially for finance and didn’t really enjoy that at all. After my freshman year of college, I moved home. Around that time, my dad needed to have a quintuple heart bypass. After all the instructions on diet given to him and my mom making a conscious effort at home to change the way we ate, it was at that time I realized there was a connection between what we eat and our health. I was enrolled in a local community college and it was there that I took a nutrition class. I was in love and for the first time realized that I could make a career out of this.

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What’s your favorite part of your job?
Being in Research and Product Development, I love being on top of all the new and exciting things happening in the field. Then it’s taking those insights and asking what we can do to improve our programs so that we have a lasting impact on our customers. It’s amazing to feel that ideas and concepts I touch help millions of people live healthier lives.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part is finding inspiration and developing new concepts. It’s kind of like writers block. The ideas don’t just flow easily every day, but that’s also the fun part because it’s challenging and no two days are the same.

How do you schedule workouts while working a full-time job?
For me, working out is a priority in my life. I know that in order to reduce stress, be happy and to feel healthy overall, I need to dedicate time for myself. Exercise to me is about total body wellness. I was an athlete growing up and swimming two to three hours everyday was my way of life. However, I’ve gone through periods of my life where I didn’t make exercise a priority and when I look back those were the times I was least happy, most stressed and felt depressed.

HIITWith a four- and a five-year-old, working full-time and having a husband who works second shift, I could easily find a million excuses to not find the time. However, I believe every person deserves to dedicate at least 30 minutes every day to themselves. I know as a mom, we can often feel guilty about time spent away from our kids, especially after being away from them all day. I feel that guilt, but I also know I’m a better mom when I commit time to myself and I’m teaching them that mommy takes care of herself and that exercise is important.

Bottom line, I just had to make a schedule that works for me and stick to it because I know the end result is something that makes me feel good. Trust me, there are many times I don’t want to get up when that alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. and it’s dark and cold outside in the winter, but when I leave that studio at 6 a.m. with my workout in for the day, I feel on top of the world! That’s what keeps me going… that feeling right there.

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Do you do the same workout every day?
That gets too boring for me. I switch workouts during the week between lifting weights (HIIT) or doing body weight training like TRX, barre and spinning. I’m looking to add in yoga (I could use more zen in my life). I know that I don’t do well working out alone, so group exercise is what I know and love. It motivates me more than anything. I also know that I can’t work out at home. I’ll find any excuse just to do something else. I think the key is to try different things until you know what you really love to do. No one is going to stick to something they hate and doesn’t work.

What is your secret to success?
I try to plan as much as I can, but let’s face it: with two young kids, that plan doesn’t always stick. You have to be adaptable and have some arsenal prepared for when things go awry. I look at my week and then try to plan around that. I always try to have lunches and snacks prepared for work so that I don’t go too hungry and then go off track. Also, going out for lunch every day is a money pit. I keep quick cooking things in my house and try to keep all meals to less than 30 minutes. The crock pot is also a widely used tool in our house. I like to keep trail mix in my car in case I get hungry on the go. I also try to eat really well during the week and leave a splurge or two for the weekends. We usually like to get pizza or go out one night on the weekend.

Let’s say it’s a Monday. You didn’t prep or you forgot your lunch bag. What would you do for snacks and lunch?
I like to eat frequently so I don’t get ravenous. I keep a stash of healthy Nutrisystem snacks and bars in my desk (JOB PERK!) and also some trail mix. Sometimes I’ll stop at Wawa and get some fruit with yogurt or cottage cheese or a nut bar in the convenience area. For lunch, I would head down to the cafeteria and grab a salad from the salad bar mainly or sometimes I’d treat myself to a trip to Panera.

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Do you have “cheat” days or meals? What is your weakness?
I don’t plan for full-on cheat days. If I know there is a party, picnic or dinner that I’m headed to, I try to plan ahead in terms of what I would order (especially for restaurants) and try to make overall good choices. I just don’t feel good if I eat too much or eat heavy foods. But listen, don’t get me wrong: I love good chicken wings, pizza, beer and if any restaurant has shrimp and grits, I’m ordering that! (laughing) But I’m not going to eat poorly the rest of the day and I’m just going to enjoy every bite. If I’m on vacation, I’m going to enjoy it! I’m going to eat well when I can and if there is something I really want I’m going to have it, but it won’t be all three meals of the day.

I would have to say my weakness is chocolate chip cookies. They have to be good though – chewy, gooey and ooey. My kids love ice cream and so do I. If we go for some–I also order a kiddie size. That’s really enough and I savor every bite.

How do you battle cravings? Is it ever OK to give in?
Cravings are interesting and yes, dietitians battle them. I try to figure out why I’m craving something before I decide to eat it. Am I hungry? Am I really stressed? Am I bored? If I’m hungry or just feeling like I can’t stop thinking about my mom’s chocolate cake with caramel icing then I’m going to have a small piece. Really only a taste is all I need to be satisfied. If I’m stressed or bored, I move on to something else–anything else–and that usually works.

Do you have any pets?
We have the most amazing French bulldog named Brody. This guy is a stud. Don’t know what we would do without him.

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What hobbies do you have? Are you a relaxing weekend gal or an on-the-go kinda person?
My hobbies mostly consist of anything the kids want to do, but for me specifically, I love to cook and try out new recipes. I love trying red wines and craft beers. We have a garden. Recently, my husband and I have started playing golf together. I definitely love relaxing and after the kids go to bed you will find me not doing much of anything with the Real Housewives on TV. I should really start doing something more productive. (laughing)

How hard is it to get your family on board? It’s easy to crumble when faced with the worry of inconveniencing others or not wanting to cook a different meal for everyone.

Mandi’s daughter gives a thumbs up to healthy eating.

We are all pretty much on the same page. My husband is game for whatever and enjoys eating healthy. My kids are usually pretty good with eating what we give them. My son Brayden is a little more challenging–it really depends on the day with a 5-year-old. If he refuses something, we ask him, “What will make this taste better to you?” Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Trust me, dietitians aren’t immune to the feeding challenges of a child! It’s NOT easy. But I never stop offering that food to him. Just because he doesn’t want Brussels sprouts today doesn’t mean he won’t want them tomorrow. Kids like to be in control, but we need to keep offering healthy foods to them. He also has food allergies so sometimes that is a challenge. He’s allergic to shellfish, peanuts and peas (weird I know). And it seems new ones can pop up at any minute.

What is your favorite quote that gives you an extra push?
“Nothing is impossible. The word itself says ‘I’m-possible.’” – Audrey Hepburn

So now that we’ve gotten to know you on a more personal level, can you share a sample day of eating and exercise with us?

5 a.m.: Wake up
IMG_6677 Wake

5:45 a.m.- 6:45 a.m.: HIIT workout

6:50 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.: Commute to work with a handful of trail mix while on the road
IMG_6683 commute trailmix

8 a.m.: Protein shake (Shake360) with fruit
IMG_6686 strawberry shortcake

8:40 a.m.: 20 ounce coffee with half and half

10:30 a.m.: Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond Kind Bar
IMG_6687 Kind Bar

12:45 p.m.: Lunch (salad with flank steak and blue cheese dressing)
IMG_6690 lunch

3 p.m.: Snack (taste testing of new food products)
IMG_6693 Test Kitchen

6 p.m.: Dinner (zucchini noodles with meat sauce and fresh Parmesan cheese washed down with a FatHead Headhunter IPA)
IMG_6701 stir in zoodles for dinner

6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Enjoying some time by the pool

IMG_6661 Pool

9:15 p.m.: Full fat Greek yogurt from a local dairy with freshly picked raspberries and blackberries from a local orchard