As a registered dietician, Ashley Koff has a simple approach to better nutrition. All the nutritional advice we’re bombarded with can feel a bit overwhelming, so Ashley’s goal has been to make eating well a whole lot simpler. Watch her talk below to get a taste of her approach to healthy in eating, and then dive into our Q&A for more insight!
Q: What policies would best support nutrition education and healthy food for kids?
Better nutrition – we (true nutrition experts) know what it is and what it is not – is simple. We need education that communicates better nutrition, simplified. We need education that is action-oriented. As a dietitian, I call myself the CIO in the healthcare system – the chief implementation officer – as my work is to help you, the patient, vet for quality and implement that information in your daily life. The education we need is more focused on implementation, and less focused on the over-simplified or over-complicated conversation of good versus bad. It should teach us things we can put into practice most days.
Q: What are the best ways to educate the general populace about healthy eating?
Start with what we all want – delicious food that contributes to our better health most of the time. If education begins with what is delicious, takes into account what is actually available to us, and enables us to feel empowered to make our own better nutrition for better health choices, we are closer to getting it done daily. Other ideas are to have education that allows us to take credit for what we are already doing right; we are not total health hot messes, yet often education starts from a place of what you are doing wrong and makes us feel like we are doing it all wrong. And finally, education should be education – not marketing. There is a place for marketing of better nutrition, but education should be separate.
Q: What is the biggest misconception in regard to what a healthy food system looks like?
That it isn’t affordable, that it isn’t available for the masses, or that it isn’t delicious. I know that is three, not one, but we seem to rotate through them.
Q: How can we support doctors to educate patients about the importance of a healthy diet?
By reminding them that they are patients / people too. They / we sometimes forget this. I start with a few questions for doctors. How do you feel when you eat better? How would you feel if the hospital had better food choices available? How would you feel if I took your coffee away from you and then told you to get through your day? How do you feel when your family member’s health suffers? I make it personal for them first as a way to connect with what we all want and need – better health – and the knowledge that better nutrition is at the core of that, so it must be available to us all.
Q: How did the Standard American Diet (SAD) come to be so unhealthy?
It’s multi-factorial and if I fall into the trap and blame one group – soda companies or fast food or … – then I miss what I communicate in my talks, that we all need to be part of the change we need to see in our food system – anyone who eats shares responsibility. I think like many other parts of our world, industrialization and now the technology revolution – including biotech – enabled us to do so much more. We got into a mode of more is better, that just because we can do something we should it, and assuming it even means it’s safe and even healthy. Then we got really interested in what isn’t working and we created hypotheses and tested solutions… Then we learned to “brand” them and market them… All the while we lost connection to the basics of food production, preparation, and health education.
Q: What people or organizations in the good food movement inspire you most?
I started my podcast Take Out with Ashley and Robyn as the direct result of wanting to share all the people in this movement who inspire me on a daily basis. I love especially how people turn their own challenges into opportunities to implement creative solutions. I also love the shared connection that the good food movement sprouts, bite by bite or sip by sip. I recently “grabbed takeout with” (i.e. interviewed on the podcast) a college friend about her work running the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, it was two days after the Orlando shooting at Pulse night club and I was feeling so sad about our world. I am going to pick Robyn Barnett Thomas here – which may seem strange to the reader as you asked about the good food movement – but wait until you hear her interview, the similarities and lessons we can all learn from other movements, their leaders, and also how good food fuels them in their success. It’s downright inspiring, and I am so grateful and inspired by her grace, commitment, and love of good food.
Q: What are you working on now, and what’s on the horizon?
Each week, in addition to working with patients, companies, organizations and the media to teach and communicate Better Nutrition, Simplified, I tackle a new area of nutrition that needs help. I work to explain what is better nutrition and how it can be simplified – for example, it might be heart health or better nutrition for dads or how your daily skin care regime may be your biggest diet mistake. Right now, I am passionate about tackling the GMO / organic space – we’ve somehow come to think that better nutrition means non-GMO and yet we don’t realize that non-GMO doesn’t deliver on the quality that organic does – because organic is a system, an imperfect one albeit, but one that can deliver better nutrition – and thus, that certified organic is better nutrition simplified. I am also working on simplifying your better total nutrition which includes resources that help you know what supplements you should avoid, what ones may be beneficial, and what fortification in food products to avoid as well as how to assess your total nutrition. Sounds a bit stressful, eh? Don’t worry! Better nutrition is simple, so simple it fits on ONE SHEET OF PAPER.
Q: What’s one thing anyone can do to help the good food movement?
Eat good food more often.
Head over to Ashley Koff Approved for more resources and information about her work.
We’ll have new Q&As from speakers in our video library each month, so stay tuned!
About the Author: Sofia-Jeanne Roggeveen is on a mission to reimagine how our society relates to food, because everyone should be able to eat well. When she’s not puzzling over ways to forge a sustainable food system, you can find her mentally redesigning our economy and trying to figure out why people do what they do.
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