So what is a scientific advisor, anyway?
Kit Broihier: Well, first off, my position as a Guiding Stars Scientific Advisor is as part of a group—a Scientific Advisory Panel (or SAP for short). The other members of the Guiding Stars SAP are very accomplished professionals from a number of scientific backgrounds, including nutrition and public health, so I’m thrilled and honored to be included on the panel.
What does the SAP do?
KB: The Guiding Stars SAP of nutrition experts was formed to develop a set of criteria which resulted in the design of a now patented algorithm used to analyze food products. That criteria is grounded in the most current scientific evidence and recommendations of leading national health organizations. We have regular calls and meetings where we might debate and discuss issues such as food product labeling regulations. These types of discussions may impact the Guiding Stars algorithm, which determines the stars for food products in the stores. It’s really interesting work to me.
Your involvement with Guiding Stars isn’t the only work you do in the field of nutrition, correct? What else do you do?
KB: I specialize in nutrition communications for a variety of client types, including public relations agencies, food companies and trade boards through my own consulting company, NutriComm Inc. In my work, I write…a lot! I also edit recipes, develop recipes and revise recipes. I have authored and co-authored several cookbooks—the latest one, Everyday Gluten-Free Slow Cooking, came out last winter. I am also in my second term as president of the Maine Dietetic Association, my state’s professional association for dietitians and dietetic technicians. It’s a great opportunity to lead, to give back to my profession and to develop another facet of my professional life.
What do you love most about nutrition science?
KB: Nutrition science, like any science, is constantly evolving, never stagnant—I find that alone really exciting. I always knew I wanted to work in a field that revolved around science—I’ve loved it since I was a child. As far as nutrition, I really didn’t know much about the field of dietetics until I began volunteering as a candy striper at the local hospital. That experience also taught me that I wasn’t cut out for nursing, which was what I originally thought I’d like to do. Dietetics was something my mother thought I’d enjoy, given that I liked to cook and I liked science, it sounded like an appropriate way to go. Yes, I’m one of those rare kids who actually did choose the college major that my mother suggested. I figured out that I really enjoyed learning about how to best nourish our bodies in high school.
What are you looking forward to about working with Guiding Stars?
KB: I’m looking forward to being a contributing member of what is already a great team. Guiding Stars has a great reputation and brings a real service to consumers. I can’t wait to start blogging for Guiding Stars and communicating with the public about the program and about topical food and nutrition subjects.
What’s your favorite part of developing recipes?
KB: Um, would saying ‘taste testing’ be too obvious? Actually, the most fun part of it is trying to make the idea in my head come out on the plate. Sometimes it takes many, many tries and for me that makes it like a science experiment—more interesting than frustrating.
In all your time developing recipes, you must have had a few kitchen disasters–what’s the worst?
KB: Hmmm. My worst kitchen experiment probably would have to be when I was developing desserts using some low-sugar products. Sugar does more than just make things sweet. In baked goods it holds moisture and contributes to texture. Suffice it to say that I neglected to take that into consideration when making a variety of bar cookies. I should have changed the name to ‘brick cookies’—enough said!
Do you eat as well as you suggest other people would?
KB: I do my best to eat well, but I’m not perfect. Sometimes I graze instead of eating real meals during the day, which I’m not proud of. A handful of trail mix, a pickle, some raspberries and a cup of yogurt is not really a meal, but that’s pretty typical of what I might eat from morning until about 1 pm. Dinner is usually really a dinner since my kids eat it with me.
Tell us about your family–how willing are your kids to eat the healthful stuff?
KB: I have two children–a teenage son and a pre-teen daughter. They both love salads and I’m thrilled about that–and I don’t take credit for it, they just always have. They also like a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, but they’re still normal kids with their own likes and dislikes…and fondness of sweets…who did they get that from I wonder? They’ll tell you that I’m a stickler for certain things, like breakfast always including some fruit and dairy, and dinner consisting of three different food items in order to be well-rounded. As far as lunch goes, they are typically at school for lunch—and yes, they eat school lunches. Sometimes people are shocked by that, but hey, I’m busy and frankly, I think it’s important to learn to navigate a variety of eating situations and still be able to nourish yourself reasonably well. Plus, I want my kids to be able to eat what’s put in front of them without making a big deal if it’s not exactly the way they’d have it at home. The world is not going to cut the crusts off your sandwiches.
Any lessons from life as a single mom with her own business for getting healthful food into your kids on a healthful schedule?
KB: My best advice for feeding young children and getting them to eat veggies is this: give them their veggies when they are the most hungry. For most kids, that’s right about when the adults are preparing dinner. There is no rule that says that all dinner foods must be on the plate at the same time! Give your kids their veggies—whether raw or cooked—while you’re cooking and they’ll eat them, they’ll be occupied and you’ll be able to get the rest of the dinner ready.