As we explore who is involved in providing nutritious food in ways that foster community and build on the strengths of the vulnerable, let us introduce you to…
Cristel Moubarak is a registered dietitian, founder of nutriFoodie, and all-round food-nut. She is a jill-of-all-trades with her love of nutrition, food, education, entrepreneurship, counselling and people. She shares knowledge and educates people on how their bodies work and how to get the most out of what they put on their plate; all while watching how much comes out of their wallets.
Cristel’s goal is not short-term gains, or ‘just’ weight management, but on the complete package: long-term health, and enjoyment of everything you munch on. She is focused on clients, their happiness and their lifestyle. Food is a big part of all of that, and if you are not enjoying what you’re eating, it’s pointless.
What got you interested in sustainable food?
I’ve lived much of my life in Lebanon, where sustainability was not all that recognized, or implemented. So when, in September 2010, I had an opportunity to work with Chef Steve Golob in a self-directed studies course on sustainability at UBC, it really resonated with me. I became involved with the Farm to Cafeteria program that focused on educating children on where our food comes from, and how the system can be made sustainable and applied within our foodservice industries.
Today, that has translated into using as much fresh foods as possible, while reducing waste. I love to create meals out of leftovers or stale ingredients. I believe that home cooking is important to health, and that’s my core practice in nutriFoodie; bringing our food habits back to what our grandparents grew up on. Now that’s sustainable!
Through your work, what changed in how you see food and health?
The key to nutrition and health comes from a good relationship with food, and that begins when we are young. As with most things, eating – the what and how much – is learned in our formative years (“don’t leave the table until you finish everything on your plate” sound familiar to anyone?). By focusing on children’s camps, my hope is that I can teach children how to identify “real” food in grocery stores, get them away from processed items, and learn to enjoy meals in a communal manner while raising an appreciation to what they’ve cooked from scratch; to give them a healthy relationship with food from an early age, and set the up for nutritional success for the rest of their lives.
When I graduated from UBC I believed I knew everything to start my career. Needless to say, I quickly realized: “the more you learn, the less you know” – the best part about my profession, though, is that it’s a lifelong learning process and I’m more than happy to accept the challenge. I keep learning and growing in my practice: I learned that eating is not about counting numbers, it’s about quality; it’s not about forceful restriction, it’s about understanding your body cues.
What do you need to reach your bigger goals around kids gaining a good relationship to food?
My largest stumbling block at the moment is space. I need a well-equipped, clean kitchen with plenty of space for little kids to be moving about in as well as the camp leaders to supervise and teach; no easy task. It’s such an important set-up. Children get to see the food, touch it, taste it, make it and share it. They need to learn what they are eating, where it comes from, and make it real. They need to have their minds inspired to ask questions about what goes into their body, and to learn what real food looks and smells like. All of that needs to be at an affordable rate, as my goal is education of our future generations – all of them – and thus I would like to keep the cost within the realm of most parents. Those that are not as well off are far more likely to engage in poor diets, and that is the demographic I’d like to target first. As a dear friend reminds me of Michael Pollan‘s words: “the rich get organic, and the poor get diabetes”.