With season winding down, it’s time for most Neapolitans to take a break from the bustle of busy schedules—but for registered dietitian and nutrition blogger Kate Moran, the craziness is just getting started. As the sports dietitian for the Minnesota Twins and their player development academy in Fort Myers, Moran spends her time improving the health and wellness of professional baseball players. In honor of National Nutrition Month, we caught up with her to talk nutrition, diet fads, and how a dietitian can help you—athlete or not—live your best life.
NI: Tell us about your background in Naples.
Moran: I am originally from Boston, but I got the job with the Twins and moved down to Naples in August of 2015. I’m here full-time, so I work out of Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers—that’s where the Twins have their player development academy and spring training.
And your career in nutrition?
I started my dietetic career in higher education food service developing a new role as the dining services dietitian for both Brandeis University and Bryant University. There, I worked with Division I athletes, which ignited my interest in sports nutrition. In 2015 I moved from New England to Florida to start a nutrition program and become the Minnesota Twins’ first sports dietitian. In 2016 I launched my private practice and blog, The Educated Plate. Balancing building my business and traveling to affiliates across the nation and the Dominican Republic, I enjoy every moment of building my career. Hard work always pays off!
What kinds of things do you help people with as a dietitian?
I work with individuals one-on-one to help improve their health, wellness, and—from an athlete perspective—their performance. I take a very education-centric approach, and really base what I do on the needs of the client. If they’re looking for a meal plan that’s really spelled out, I’ll do that, or if they want to go to the grocery store together, I’ll do that, too. It’s about helping them improve skills individually to meet their goals.
From a group standpoint, at the academy, I talk to the team, the coaching staff, and training staff as a whole to make sure we’re on the same page. I do a lot of group education on protein, hydration, recovery and so much more. Twice a year, I travel to all seven of the Twins minor league affiliates and major league in Minnesota, speaking to each team while also making sure pre-game and post-game meals are following our guidelines.
At both the Fort Myers academy and Dominican Republic Academy, I work closely with the culinary team and staff to make sure the menu, preparation and portion sizes are following the program. Basically, I oversee all food and beverages that the Twins provide. I was hired a year before the MLB and Players Association made it mandatory to have a dietitian, so some teams have had them for years, building nutrition programs and developing healthy offerings. It’s not that the Twins didn’t have anything before, but we’re now focusing on building a strong sports performance nutrition program.
What are a few of the most basic diet changes people can make to improve their health?
Another change is reducing sugar, fat, and sodium—those are the three things that make food taste really good but can really negatively affect your body. When people say “everything in moderation,” it’s still not necessarily good for you. Eating to fuel and nourish your body is the goal. There are so many ways you can get heart-healthy anti-inflammatory foods, like choosing avocado, nuts, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
What are some foods that would especially benefit older people?
Generally, the elderly don’t eat or drink enough. People will often lose weight in their elder years, so it’s good to make sure you’re having enough fluid intake and eating foods like fruit and vegetables that are high in water content and rich in vitamins and minerals—the term I like to use is “nutrient-dense whole foods” because they’re rich in nourishing nutrients and they’re minimally processed. Outside of food, mobility is another big issue. Exercise and sleep go hand in hand in nutrition, and I prioritize those just as much as a nutritious diet.
What areas of their diet do people struggle with changing the most, and how can they do better?
People tend to eat larger meals, or not eat and then have a large meal at the end of the day. Rather than letting yourself starve and then overeating, you should eat healthy snacks throughout the day.
Change is really hard for everyone in general, but being open to change is the biggest part. The person has to want to change as an individual, they have to see the light and have a reason for why they’re making the change. It’s important for me to know why that is to connect it to the plan, and I think that understanding why they want to change is important before they hop on some Instagram diet or follow a trendy diet from the internet.
How would it benefit someone to work with a dietitian?
Dietitians are food and nutrition experts; to become one, you have to have a bachelor’s degree and now master’s degree, and complete a year-long dietetic internship all accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Just like medical specialists you turn to for other health concerns, dietitians are professionals to turn to when you’re trying to use food in a way that betters your life. If you’re looking to improve your health, talk to a Registered Dietitian.
What are the most important things to look for when choosing a dietitian?
Find an individual that you can connect with and ideally specializes in what your needs. Many dietitians will specialize in a particular age group or medical diagnosis—for example, there are dietitians who work with with patients who have eating disorders, diabetes-certified dietitians, and dietitians who specialized with digestive issues. As a sports dietitian, I work with athletes, former athletes, and people who have a general interest in staying active, but I also work with the general public connecting through presentations, my blog and social media. Nowadays, you can work with a dietitian online instead of seeing them in person, but depending on your needs and goals it may be more beneficial to meet in person, such as when you want to go to the grocery store or have a pantry make over.