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Feature Fridays "Expert Edition": Nutrition with Shana Spence

We chatted with Shana Spence, MS, RDN, CDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in New York. She created her platform @thenutritiontea to have open discussions on nutrition and wellness. Her counseling approaches are HAES (Healthy At Every Size) and Intuitive Eating based.

1. What memory comes to mind when thinking about your love for food? 

Definitely my dad's cooking. He loved to create dishes in the kitchen and cooking was also his way of showing love.

2. What is your definition of nutrition based on your experiences with food? 

Nutrition has become somewhat of an over complicated subject. What I mean is that we spend so much time and energy thinking about what foods we can't have or won't allow ourselves, we forget that food should also be pleasurable. Different foods will provide us with different attributes, for example some foods will provide more fiber, some will provide more iron, and some are meant to nourish our souls and feel good. Not to mention that even "healthy" or nutrient dense foods should taste good. All foods can fit.

3. How has your relationship to food changed over the years?

I definitely had a complicated relationship with food in college and in my early 20s. I used to count every calorie and track it which led me to disordered eating and only viewing food in terms of numbers.

4. How do you create your meals according to the seasons? 

I don't really have a plan, I honestly go with what I'm in the mood for. I will say that fall and winter will bring on more soups. I love making soup with leftovers and whatever is in the fridge that has to be used up. It really makes me use my creativity. Summer and spring are more "light" meals as in not using the stove a ton. Charcuterie boards, sandwiches, salads, etc. It's also helpful to purchase produce according to the season when it's cheaper and tastes best.

5. What does comfort food look like for you? 

Most comfort foods for me are what my parents made growing up. My dad's curry chicken and my mom's mac and cheese are examples.

6. How has your outlook on food affect the relationship you have with your body? 

It took awhile to get to the place of food freedom where I truly felt like I could eat unconditionally. Once I started being comfortable with food and knowing that it was okay to have food as a comfort in addition to nourishment, I began to feel peace with my body as well. My body changed in some ways and I began to have peace with that and feel okay with it.

7. What is one ingredient you think we need to incorporate into our meals? 

Love. I think so often people cook to make meals the absolute "healthiest" instead of cooking from a place of love. We have recipes passed down from family or even ones that we found online and we only think of how to make it healthy by taking out so many ingredients. I think people sometimes need to go back to cooking with their heart and soul.

8. How do you practice mindful eating? 

I like to really think about what I'm eating as far as color, texture, and smell. I used to eat really fast and not pay attention to my food, but I've learned how to slow down and really pay attention to what's in front of me and enjoy it. We eat with all of our senses and it's important to use all of them for mindfulness.

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