Global Voices: Registered Dietitian Mary Purdy

Apr 17, 2020

Mary is a dietitian in Seattle Washington with a unique background in theater and acting who is trying to make a difference in the food system as it relates to sustainability and climate change. She is currently an Adjunct faculty at Bastyr University. In her past life, she worked as a diversity and cultural sensitivity consultant, where she helped big corporations identify ways to be more inclusive.

She has a passion for food and decided to embark on a journey 12 years ago to obtain a master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University. Upon completion, she worked as a clinical dietitian in both the private and outpatient sector. Throughout the past decade, she’s written extensively on the microbiome, nutrigenomics and many other nutrition-related topics. This breathe of knowledge, and exposure got the attention of a publisher, who asked her to write a book on the Microbiome.

Additionally, she hosts, Mary’s Nutrition show, a podcast she started 3 years ago with her husband who has a production background. Topics are focused on functional nutrition and integrative medicine, and nutrition and lifestyle. They strive to approach difficult controversial topics like, should I eat soy? Is Intermittent fasting healthy?

We had the opportunity to interview Mary a few weeks ago and here are her thoughts on plant-based eating and advice on how she deals with individuals who are ready to make dietary changes.

During these trying times with COVID-19, as a dietitian what advice would you give your clients during this time?

Mary believes, ‘it is always about individuality’, when she is asked to provide advice on nutrition. She seeks to look at and understand her clients culture preferences before providing input.

In these uncertain times, she recommends beans and grains as the most nutritious and inexpensive items that should be in one’s pantry. While many consider beans and rice ‘peasant food’, it’s an easy low-cost meal that has many benefits. Additionally, she recommends using onions as an inexpensive food option that can be used to add flavor.

What are two recipes with 3 ingredients or less that are easy, and you would recommend to those who do not cook during this time of stay?

One recipe she refers to often is homemade salsa. Additionally, she recommends picking any preferred vegetable and roasting it in the oven for 20 minutes and Voila.

Homemade Salsa Recipe:

  • Can black beans
  • Can of corn
  • Can of crushed tomatoes
  • Add some tortillas on the sides.

Another recommendation she mentioned that’s often overlooked are eggs for dinner. Simply adding vegetables and a slide of toast makes for a fulfilling and easy meal option.

You’re heavily involved in the plant-forward movement. How are you addressing meat reduction as a nutrition health professional?

When trying to bring about behavior change, telling people what they can and cannot do is ineffective. Her belief is that “meat consumption is personal, and cultural”, therefore, ‘meeting people where they are’, proves to be the most efficient way of getting the message across.

Like other recommendations on behavior change, Mary is a big fan of promoting additions to the diet before removing anything out of the diet, which is why she appreciates the Meatless Monday program. A simple practice for meat eaters, is to “use the meat to flavor to the food’. In her experience, when people are told to remove or decrease meat from their diet, they feel a sense of deprivation, which is why it’s important to work collectively on options that is feasible.

What is your advice for people who don’t want to be vegetarians or vegan?

She doesn’t provide advice to her clients about diets and teach her students to do the same. Collectively, they identify ways to make changes that work best for the client.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve face when it comes to diet change?

Mary talked about how food provides comfort to many and that individual diet varies based on access, need and life situations. The metaphor she uses in regard to asking people to change their diet is ‘it’s like asking people to speak a different language when they only know a few words’. Her approach is to collaboratively identify ideas that will work for that particular individual without necessarily giving advice.

What is your favorite plant-based dish?

"Red lentils mixed with sweet potatoes, collards, and Thai curry."


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