January 03, 2011

Meet Katie Eliot: Foodie, Health Advocate, Mentor

Katie Eliot, who directs the undergraduate nutrition and dietetics program, is a chocolate aficionado (dark, please, it's higher in antioxidants), whose favorite food is pizza.

"You might think that sounds a little strange coming from a nutrition professional, but pizza happens to be a very versatile food," Katie says. "You can make it as healthy or unhealthy as you want."

Katie became a dietitian more than a decade ago because the career was a perfect way to blend her love of food with her desire to work in health care.

"Food is what connects people. It's how we are hospitable. It's how we celebrate. I love using food to help make families healthy and help make their dreams happen. I like to encourage people to have fun with their food and eat treats."

We nabbed Katie between classes, student appointments and interviews with reporters (she has a regular gig on KMOV-TV Ch. 4) to get the skinny on the life of a dietitian.

What's your dream job?

I'm doing it! I get to meet with prospective students and help them decide if the nutrition and dietetics program at SLU is right for them. Once they come here, I help them through their college experience. I mentor them. I help them identify their strengths and introduce them to opportunities like finding the perfect part-time job or meeting with dietitians in the community. To me, this is the ultimate opportunity to pass on all of the wonderful mentoring I've received. The students are excited and inspired, and that is contagious.

What sets SLU's nutrition and dietetics program apart?

Students love our hands-on cooking classes. We're one of two programs in the entire country that combines culinary arts, which is the artistic side of food, with nutrition, which is the health side. We take more of a one-on-one approach, and the small student to faculty ratio really draws people. As the country's only dietetics program to weave a sustainable foods thread through our courses, we put environmentalism into action. We grow our own vegetables in our garden and even have chickens, right in the middle of an urban neighborhood.

How did you wind up in St. Louis?

We came here for my husband to do his residency at SLU's Center for Advanced Dental Education. He graduated in June and opened his own endodontics practice in July. We had fully planned to return to his home state of Oklahoma, but honestly, we both fell in love with SLU and St. Louis. We love living here. St. Louis has everything a big city, like my hometown Dallas, has. People here are friendly and down to earth.

What's your favorite thing to cook?

Mexican food. We have lots of good Tex-Mex where I grew up. When I use those wonderful herbs and spices, the great flavors bring back childhood memories.

What is the most common question you are asked?

What can I eat to lose weight? And my answer is lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats and whole grains and to get moving. I'm a big believer in exercise.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by kindness - those things that people do that you think, "wow, you really went out of your way." I am inspired by students with fresh ideas, enthusiasm and a general zeal for life. I am inspired by opportunities to make a different in the lives of others.


Read Katie's blog about life at SLU.

Watch an interview Katie did on dietary changes. 

Learn about Fresh Gatherings, the on-campus cafeteria operated by the nutrition and dietetics department.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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