Tell me a little bit about yourself, who is Danelle Del Rosario?
That depends on the day! I wear a lot of different hats – the ones that I wear the most at the moment are being a mom to my kids, helping run my husband’s business, runner, and trying to figure out how to synthesize my interests and professional experience into something new that can help others. I became a Registered Dietitian in 2004 and I was a clinical dietitian in a hospital part-time for 9 years but I finally realized that wasn’t me anymore. I completed a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition in 2013 and I’m planning to put that to use! I started running about 3 years ago and I’m a little bit addicted to it now
What made you want to become an RD?
As a kid, I actually wanted to be a veterinarian. By the time I started college, I wasn’t sure. My mom pushed me towards dental hygiene because several family members worked in dentistry. After a year of science classes, I still wasn’t convinced about that major. When I started researching other majors that could use my already-completed pre-requisites, I came across Nutrition and Dietetics. I figured if I ended up disliking it as a profession, at least I could use the knowledge personally! Once I got further into it and figured out all the fascinating different fields RDs can work in, I was committed.
You take your fitness and nutrition very seriously. Being a mom is very time consuming, do you have any tips for other parents on how to maintain your training while raising children?
The biggest thing for me is to schedule time for it. I go into our shared family calendar and make appointments for longer runs on the weekend (I’m very fortunate to have a supportive husband who is home on weekends) or shorter times during the week when my kids are in school, class, camp, friend’s house, etc. I also tend to pre-register for races several months ahead so that I am more inclined to maintain my fitness level. It is definitely harder when school is out or your kids are smaller but it’s important to keep it high on the priority list. I think my family realizes that I’m a better mom when I have some time to pursue my own interests and de-stress through exercise. When my kids were younger I used a jogging stroller to get in exercise. I also recommend involving the kids in getting active in any age-appropriate way you can – hiking, running around the park, bicycling, swimming, etc. It’s sooo easy to be sedentary in our society and so important to model an active lifestyle! That being said – it’s also equally important to schedule rest days and to listen to your body and know when you need to push yourself and when you need to give yourself a break.
You eat a plant based diet in your daily life, how has that spilled over to the rest of your family?
My husband is a strong believer in the health benefits of a plant-based diet and has read many of the books and materials that I have hanging around. I would say that he eats a 90% plant-based diet. I don’t buy dairy milk and or any meat other than very occasional fish, so access to animal foods is getting more and more limited in our house. My husband is actually getting more and more into plant-based foods and better at resisting the temptations or convenience of other foods at parties, work events, and family gatherings. My mom is actually pretty on-board with it as well but she struggles with putting it into practice and she lives out of state so it’s harder to help her. The rest of our extended families and friends kind of think we’re weird and inconvenient but they do their best to accommodate and they eat and enjoy food we serve/bring. I get excited when they ask me questions about nutrition and I try to answer in a way that doesn’t sound judgmental.
How do you deal with picky eaters in your house? I am sure many parents want to know this one!
Oh, the endless struggle! My mom says it’s payback for my super-picky childhood! I have served a variety of fruits and veggies to my kids since they were babies and they are used to seeing them at every meal. I tried to never make a big deal about them or act like it was unusual for someone to like them or eat them. So it’s rare to have an issue about fruits or veggies in our house, unless we cook them or mix them into something else (what is it with kids and super-plain food?!) However, we have a lot of issues with other items, especially with our daughter (almost 5yo). Some of the things that work for us are: encourage them to try new things (yes, I even resort to small bribes sometimes!), offer a new food on several different occasions (without reminding that they didn’t like it last time), never say “I told you it’s good” or make a big deal so they feel comfortable admitting if they do like something new after they made a fuss about trying it, try to serve at least 1 item at each meal that is familiar/liked, and come up with an easy variation of what we’re eating or set aside part for them before prepped (i.e. plain quinoa vs mixed in a pilaf or salad), and to let the kids choose their own breakfast (from among some standard items that we usually have on hand) so they learn how to select healthy foods and feel like they have some control over their food choices at least for one meal. I’ve also been using a multi-compartment bento box style container for my son’s school lunches which has helped because if he doesn’t like or want something I send, he is not wasting very much and has several other options to choose from.
Do your children eat a plant based diet? If so are there any issues that have come up with them either in school or birthday parties? How do you deal with them?
This is a tricky one for me. I have been in an evolution towards a plant-based diet for 10 years (cutting out various things for health reasons along the way) but it’s only been in the past 1.5 years that I’ve removed the remaining animal foods. My kids were already 5 and 3 at that time with established habits, preferences, and pickiness. We cut out all meat except fish right away, but otherwise the kids’ diets are still a work in progress. They are naturally/genetically very thin so I struggle with the pickiness and the ingrained mom worry about them getting enough to eat. My son is much easier than my daughter (he had always disliked most meat and cheese and asked about being a vegetarian). I’m a big believer in eating as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible – so at this point I’d rather give my kids small amounts of organic, responsibly produced animal foods than get them hooked on faux processed items that are full of questionable ingredients and aren’t “real” food. As they get older they are gradually eating more variety and more plant-based whole foods. I talk to them a little about animal ethics and the environment, and a lot about the health benefits or drawbacks of different foods and how they make our bodies feel or function. I still struggle with the school and birthday party thing. So much of childhood and school is social and while I want them to learn to stand up for what they believe, I don’t feel that they are quite old enough to fully understand and explain the dietary choices of our family. I don’t want them to feel like “the weird kid” who is singled out so for now I let them participate in the pizza and cake, but I usually feed them before going to the party so they don’t eat much. I’m hoping to get a little more confidence in kindly approaching teachers about the types of treats served at class parties and offering to help provide healthier choices for everyone.
Do you have any go to quick kid friendly recipes that your family loves?
My kids love soba noodles tossed with a little bit of toasted sesame oil and tamari. Sometimes I add in shelled edamame or peas and we always serve raw veggies on the side. The noodles only take about 5 mins to cook so it’s something we make a few times a month if we have evening plans and are short on time, or if we know for sure they won’t touch what we’re planning to eat and want to avoid a battle.
So you are currently training for the Rock & Roll Marathon, how have you balanced work, taking care of the kids and training?
I haven’t done quite as good of job training for this race as I’ve done for others, but I’m stubborn and I’ll get across that finish line one way or another! It’s been a big help to have quit my hospital job a couple of months ago so I have many more free weekends to try to get in a long run and get out and be active with the kids. As always, my calendar helps me to balance everything – as does my supportive husband.
What are your top 5 tips for someone who wants to become healthier through diet?
1 – Avoid processed food as much as possible,
2 – don’t skip meals (you’re much more likely to overeat later or crave unhealthy foods),
3 – get in a habit of having fruit/veggies at EVERY meal (better yet, make them the centerpiece of the meal or eat them first!),
4 – don’t snack within 2 hours of bedtime,
5 – don’t drink empty calories (soda, alcohol, many juices, etc contribute a lot of calories but don’t fill you up or give you nutrients)
Do you have a daily routine that you follow?
It varies from day to day depending on whether it’s a weekday or weekend, whether I’m working that day, and whether I have a long run planned. The non-negotiables are breakfast within 90 minutes of waking up (preferably within 20 mins!) and trying to be active every day in some way. I usually run 3-4 days/week and try to walk, play with the kids, do projects around the house, etc on the other days. My neighbor is teaching me some yoga techniques and is trying to get 5 minutes of quiet time/meditation onto my daily list (I’m working on it!)
What is your favorite food?
It’s not exactly a food but I’d probably say green tea. Oatmeal, peanut butter, and salad are right up there too.
How can people reach you if they are looking to work with a dietitian?
I’m still in the process of setting up to work independently, but I’d love to hear from people looking for ideas on plant-based nutrition, sports nutrition, and family nutrition. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org