RD Week: Allison Knott

March 12, 2018

It’s Registered Dietitian Week on the AltogetherGreat blog! We’ll be featuring interviews with some of our RDs across Compass all week!

Allison Knott, Regional Wellness Director for FLIK Hospitality Group, shares key insights about her role and views on nutrition. Allison works with clients, chefs, fellow dietitians, and wellness providers in a variety of locations from business and industry accounts to NFL teams. Some days are spent in a café sampling the latest wellness recipe while others include leading a lunch and learn on a hot topic in nutrition.

She works alongside our chefs to create menus that provide a balance of wellness offerings and with clients on aligning our offerings with their company’s culture of wellness. Allison also contributes content for the FLIK Hospitality Group blog and regional social media accounts.

1. What first got you interested in the field of dietetics?

I was recruited to swim for Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and during my freshman year, our swim coach brought someone in to talk to the team about nutrition. I was fascinated! I can remember eating a box of crackers during the session and flipping it over to check the ingredient list after the speaker started talking about the health impacts of partially hydrogenated oils. I saw the ingredient on the list and stopped eating the crackers (and as a college swimmer, that was a big deal because I was hungry all the time!). I happened to have a planned trip home to see my parents that weekend and I told them everything I had heard. My parents pointed out that I clearly had an interest in nutrition and encouraged me to look into it as a career. That’s when I discovered that I could become a registered dietitian, so I ended up transferring schools to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to start a didactic program. A dietetic internship and graduate degree in Nutrition Communication has led me here.

2. As a dietitian that supports nutrition for such a large group of people how do you find the right balance for everyone?

People must have an opportunity to make a choice, but it must be easy to make a choice that supports health. There shouldn’t be barriers to choosing a healthier option and if there is a way to encourage the healthier option via price incentives, product placement, promotions, or some other means then that is even better! My goal is not to eliminate foods, but to add to the wellness options and ensure they are readily available and visible in the café. I also encourage sampling of the wellness options either throughout the café or at dedicated sampling tables. I find that customers are often surprised by how great a healthy recipe tastes.

3. What are the main differences when creating menus for large businesses versus NFL Training Facilities?

When working with NFL teams and other sports teams, the focus is on fueling athletes for performance. We are focused on the timing of nutrients anywhere a player might eat from the café to the weight room and field to home where we provide take home meal options. I work closely with the FLIK Hospitality Group team chef and the NFL team dietitian in each location to ensure that the menu options align with the training schedule of the players and their individual nutrient needs.

In the business world, the menu is focused on variety, food trends, and wellness options that meet the needs of the general population.

4. If you could persuade people to change two things about their diet, what would they be?

Number one would be to eat more plants. I always joke that every talk I give comes back to eating more fruits and vegetables and it is true! There is so much benefit to simply adding more plants to the diet.

This one is more challenging since individual needs vary, but if I had my way, I would eliminate dieting from the conversation around food. Of course nutrition science continues to evolve, but the basics remain consistent – eat mostly plants, avoid excess added sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fat and replace with unsaturated fats, enjoy lean protein sources and plant-based proteins, stay hydrated, and do this over the long-term. Fad diets and sensational, misguided nutrition messages only confuse and distract people from the messages that really matter.

5. What piece of advice would you give to dietitians that are just starting off that you wish you knew early on in your career?

Don’t be afraid of the kitchen. It sounds crazy, but when I first started, I was a dietitian who couldn’t cook (my grad school roommates will tell you I was a disaster in the kitchen). I knew the nutrients in food, but I wasn’t comfortable in the kitchen and wow, has that changed. Food is the basis to what we do as dietitians and we should make an effort to learn as much as possible about how food is grown, where it comes from, and how to prepare it. And we should definitely know our way around a kitchen.

6. What is your favorite meal or treat to indulge in?

I love all food, so to me, I “indulge” every day. I don’t restrict myself from eating what I love, but if I had to say what single food I eat that most would consider to be an indulgence then I would say nachos. I could each nachos every day.