Who better to craft content on nutrition-related issues than a credentialed professional? A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who formerly worked in community settings, Gabrielle McPherson now spends her time writing compelling online articles, blogs, educational materials, and other must-read nutritional content for diverse audiences. For instance, she’s penned numerous articles for Healthline, considered a go-to source for reliable and credible nutrition information written and edited by RDNs and other health professionals.
She also shares her skills on the Nutrition On Demand team, where she marries writing with another personal passion: family nutrition. In our chat with McPherson, she discusses her successful leap into content creation, cutting through nutritional misinformation on social media, and the joys of cooking with her daughter.
What writing projects have you supported at Nutrition On Demand?
I’ve been developing Facebook and Instagram content for Cooking Matters [an organization that works with communities across the U.S. to help parents and caregivers develop skills for food shopping and cooking healthy on a budget]. We’ve identified topics for them that are focused on pediatric and family nutrition. For instance, what are five different lunches you can make for your child over the summer? What are three ways you can safely thaw meat? I’m also helping track metrics associated with their social media content to ensure information is reaching families and resonating with them.
Your first RDN job was as a community dietitian. What were the highlights and challenges of that position?
I was seeing the same families for multiple years. I helped to support and educate them as they continued to grow their family. Building trust with them was without a doubt my favorite part of the job. And the work extended beyond food. There were social issues—trying to empower them and help them become advocates for themselves.
A challenge was trying to determine what motivates someone to make a change in their eating habits and helping them make practical decisions for themselves. Many people come to a dietitian and they say, “Give me a meal plan.” That’s not really what I want to do because you’re not going to eat the same thing every day for the rest of your life. We have to work together to make it realistic to your eating habits. Another part was helping people not be so hard on themselves about their weight. There was so much shame around weight loss that stemmed from appointments with their doctors. When there’s a lot of shame around weight, you’re not going to initially be receptive to a dietitian. There was a lot of combatting the idea of a dietitian being the food police, taking away the foods they love. My job was actually to partner with them. What are the foods that you can still enjoy and what [healthy] foods can you add?
Have you personally ever received this type of counseling?
I joined Weight Watchers when I was a sophomore in college. I was bothered by my health. I learned a lot about nutrition, eating well, and how food could taste really good. I got more into food preparation and cooking. After I lost some weight and reclaimed my health, I was given the opportunity to switch universities. I knew that I wanted to pursue nursing or nutrition and I decided on nutrition.
When were you bitten by the writing bug?
Writing has been a passion of mine since childhood. I entered writing contests and journaled at home all the time. At my previous job, I developed print education materials. I also worked part time at the YMCA and wrote nutritional newsletters. Then I stumbled upon a writing group for dietitians on Facebook. I had an opportunity to submit a topic for a writing assignment for this group about food photography. I had never picked up a real camera, but I wrote the article and it was published. I started pursuing client work and became a freelance writer, in part, because of the flexibility, so I could be home and present for my daughter. I started my own writing business [Fruitful Nutrition] in 2019.
Why is Nutrition On Demand’s mission so unique?
I love how the NOD communications work is so unlike traditional RDN positions. NOD partners with clients to reach health professionals, food & nutrition thought leaders, and consumers in a variety of ways – from digital content to nutrition policy research analyses – and so many other types of credible materials. I think that’s unmatched.
Having reliably sourced nutrition information from professionals seems more important today, since many on social media without a nutrition background are giving advice.
The misinformation out there is scary and unfortunately will only continue to grow. Some of the claims that people are making are dangerous to people’s health. A lot of these practices that people are promoting are unsafe, not sustainable, and short-lived. Credentialed professionals can help translate science-based information in a way that’s understandable AND evidence-based.
Lastly, how do you spend your free time?
I love going for walks, spending time outdoors, and making desserts with my daughter. We have this special chocolate chip cookie recipe that we love. It calls for lemon juice, which is the secret ingredient. They just taste so good!
Interview conducted, edited, and condensed by Fred Durso, Jr.