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By JULIE DRAKE
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | Words like dietitian, nutrition and healthy eating are common in popular media. However, it was not always that way, especially in Northwest Colorado. A dietitian was a novel, poorly understood profession and the messages they taught were thought to be crazy and irrelevant.
I know because my mom was the only registered dietitian in Northwest Colorado during the 1960s, ‘70s and early ‘80s. She traveled throughout the region consulting with hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. She lived in Yampa but drove to Craig, Steamboat and Kremmling several times a year. Although her bachelor’s and master’s degrees educated her on the impact of carbohydrates, protein and fiber bulk in a diet, she expressed frustration that all the “kitchens” really wanted were ideas and tips for “quantity cooking.” She taught hospital cooks how to stretch a cookbook recipe to feed 25 or more people.
Occasionally the “progressive doctors” would ask her to review a patient’s diet plan. She was glad when one Steamboat doctor began referring constipated pregnant mothers to her for dietary advice. I remember being a small child and hiding under the table as she advised people who were too skinny or too fat on their diets, but direct patient consultation was rare.
As our sheep herd grew, she gave up most of the dietitian work, but continued to judge “foods” at all the local fairs (even in Rio Blanco County), educate coaches and parents on the importance of “food for sport,” spoke often about healthy eating and the importance of exercise. She taught my brothers and I to cook and eat healthy. She grew a huge garden and processed much of our own meat in more “sensible” portions and cuts. My mom died a year and half ago, but her lessons about health and nutrition still live on. I have most of her nutrition books and cookbooks and will share some of the “pearls” from them in my next columns.
Julie Drake is the Public Health Director for Rio Blanco County.