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Working As A Plant-Based Culinary Nutritionist, With Jackie Newgent

Who says healthy eating can’t be delicious? Jackie Newgent begs to differ. With an impressive and multi-faceted career and entrepreneurial journey as a plant-based culinary nutritionist, Jackie has made healthy eating a delicious experience. In this episode, she shares with us how she grew into her career as a classically trained, plant-forward chef, registered dietitian nutritionist, award-winning cookbook author, professional recipe developer, media personality, spokesperson, and food writer. Jackie also dives deep into her mantra around great taste and combining that with being plant-based, teaching culinary nutrition, and co-founding a plant-forward pet food business, Peterra Kitchen. Plus, she shares how she navigated through the pandemic, whether kids now eat better than before, and how those seeking a career in nutrition can make an impact.

 

Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit pathwise.io/podcast/. A full written transcript of this episode is also available at https://pathwise.io/podcasts/jackie-newgent

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Working As A Plant-Based Culinary Nutritionist, With Jackie Newgent

On Her Impressive Multi-Faceted Career And Entrepreneurial Journey

My guest is Jackie Newgent, with whom I went to high school in Copley, Ohio a long time ago. Jackie is a Co-founder of Peterra Kitchen, a plant-forward pet food company. She’s also a classically trained plant-forward chef, registered dietician, nutritionist, award-winning cookbook author, professional recipe developer, media personality spokesperson, and food writer. Jackie is the author of several cookbooks, including her newest, The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook.

She was a healthy cooking instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York for more than twenty years and is a plant-based food coach. She is also a former national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has made guest appearances on dozens of television news shows. Her mantra is, “Go for great taste, aim for plant-based, try not to waste.” Jackie earned her Bachelor’s degree in Allied Health Professions from the Ohio State University, and she lives in New York City.

Jackie, welcome. It’s great to reconnect after so many years.

It’s great to see you.

You too. You and I went to high school together as I mentioned in the introduction. We suffered through many of the same classes. Mrs. Deeser, I’m thinking of you, in case you’re reading.

Suffer is the right word for that one.

I’ve never been able to think about Moby Dick in the same way [since taking her American Literature class].

Did you know then that you wanted to make a career as a nutritionist or did that come later?

No, I didn’t know back then. I knew I wanted to be in the health field, and both of my parents were nudging me into being a doctor because they wanted a doctor in the family, of course. I started pre-med when I went to Ohio State. It was part of what I was passionate about that led me to go into the program called Medical Dietetics rather than staying on the pre-med route. My mom was a caterer, and I was always in the kitchen with her and cooking, so I’m like, “Maybe my mom will be happy if I’m a food doctor.” It’s all worked out well.

You were describing before we started that you were doing some different things when you first left Ohio State. You were exploring things before you went off to Chicago to get your degree as a Chef.

It was a lot of good career advice about trying to get a vast amount of experience under your belt and even trying to do some clinical work, even if that’s ultimately not the arena that you’re going to be in. I worked at a place called Central Ohio Nutrition Center, working with obesity and doing some consulting with rehab centers and long-term care facilities. There were other things I probably can’t even remember because it was so long ago, but it was a lot of good experiences under my belt before. I was like, “It’s time to move to the big city.” At that time, Chicago was a big city for me.

What led you to pursue getting the chef’s certification?

It goes back to the passion part. When I was working as a dietician, I kept finding myself bringing in cooking to anything I was doing. One of the jobs I had in Chicago, and this is going to sound silly, was working at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on the National Consumer Hotline – this is before the internet – answering questions from consumers about all sorts of nutrition topics. That was one of the jobs.

At the time, I was also then doing corporate wellness programming. During the corporate wellness programming when I was teaching about nutrition, I always felt like, “If I can make sure the information is more practical for them, they’ll probably learn and be able to use that information better.” I started doing cooking demonstrations and everyone seemed to love that as part of the wellness programming. I thought, “This is something that I should pursue.”

At that time, there was no such thing as being a dietician and a chef. You couldn’t be doing both at the same time. Now it makes a lot of sense, but back then, it seemed like these were opposite sides of the spectrum. That’s when I decided, “Culinary school it is.” After I finished culinary school, I thought, “Time to be in a big food city.” I thought, “That must be New York,” even though I’d never been to New York in my life. I took the plunge and went to New York, and I’ve been here ever since.

It’s pretty amazing from our days in suburban Akron, Ohio that you ended up in New York and I ended up in London, at least at this point.

I’m curious, going back to your hotline days, did you get a lot of calls on the hotline? Were the phones ringing off the hook?

The phones were ringing off the hook. There were constant wait times. As I said, it was before the internet, so we were basically the internet of nutrition. It was a free call at that time. It was constant in answering questions, which was an excellent experience for me to be a spokesperson and do work on TV and radio and whatnot. It was back in the day when the questions were a lot more fat-focused like, “How many fat grams is this?” People had very odd questions too, like, “If I mix cookie dough with my hand, will my hand get fat?” We had some offbeat questions.

They were the old ladies who had nothing better to do. They needed some attention and wanted to call and chat with us. We kept it nutrition-focused. Anyway, 90% of the time, it was very solid nutrition questions. It kept me on my toes, and now I pretty much can answer about anything off the cuff based on my experience there.

You were in New York and teaching at the Institute of Culinary Education. Who were your students? Were they people looking to cook recreationally or professionals?

When I first started, there was no such thing as a recreational program. It was in 1997. People were taking a class on Healthy Cooking and that wasn’t on the radar for most people. I started teaching Nutrition and Culinary Nutrition to career students, and then that led me to teach the chefs at the Institution of Culinary Education how to teach nutrition within all of their programs.

All the chefs took over the reins and tried to incorporate nutrition into their programming. I moved over to the Recreational Division teaching consumers. Initially, my classes weren’t all that busy, but they became sellout classes after a few years. It was like, “This healthy cooking thing, there’s something to this,” and, “Healthy cooking, it could be delicious.” It was a lot of different classes, like superfoods, plant-based cooking, and cooking for fitness. They all had different themes, but all around healthy cooking.

The plant-based cooking wasn’t the only thing you were teaching at that time.

That evolved and even my own eating habits have evolved. I was always what I would call a plant-forward eater, but I was never exclusively plant-based. I’m still not exclusively plant-based, meaning I’m not a vegan. As I gained knowledge in nutrition and as my palate changed over time, and being more interested in how to prepare vegetables and plants in a unique way, I am now in that plant-based and/or plant-forward space.

You have a mantra around great taste as well and combining that with being plant-based. My daughter, I didn’t tell you this before we started, but the one who’s working on her PhD in Biology likes to cook. She has an Instagram account where she posts about her cooking, and she follows you.

That’s wonderful. I need to follow her back. I’ll get her handle after.

I will definitely get that to you. The classes were a series of classes that you were teaching for a while and then the recreational thing started and has become huge in and of itself. Were you doing private cooking classes as well?

Yeah, I was doing some private lessons. Part of the reason behind that is that when I was teaching at the Institute of Culinary Education, it wasn’t a full-time job. I loved teaching. When I was teaching courses at the Institute of Culinary Education, I was teaching 15, 12 or 20 students. It was never hands-on or as much hands-on as I wanted it to be ideally. I was like, “How do I capture those people who do want a lot more individualized attention?” I started doing some individual cooking lessons and that was interesting. It’s one of those things that some people and couples were doing it.

People like athletes are like, “When I wasn’t an athlete and I was eating this way, and now I’m no longer an athlete. Now, I don’t know what to do because I know I have to change the way I’m eating.” Everyone had a different reason why they chose the classes. I still do some of this. I love giving individualized attention and knowing that it’s making an impact immediately for them.

What else are your favorite parts of teaching culinary nutrition, and what other parts do you like to class?

One is gauging what’s happening in the world in terms of knowledge about nutrition and cooking. I’m focused on the other side. I know what I know but I’m like, “What do consumers know? They know this, but do they really know this?” It’s keeping the pulse on what consumers know, what they have questions about, and what their skill levels are. It helps me be a better communicator and writer. Overall, my advice is better received because I have that experience.

It’s funny. I think about when we were kids, and we were probably taking Health classes. The ubiquitous umbrella of Health class and learning about nutrition and realizing our parents didn’t know anything because they’d grown up a generation before and been taught in their own Health class, and all of that stuff that was outdated. Now that’s me, at least. I don’t feel like I’ve kept pace with all of these things as much as I should have. It’s changed. Our knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work has changed a lot over the years.

It’s constantly evolving. Even as a dietician, I have to keep abreast daily of new research and what’s happening because advice does change. Instead of 10 studies, now we have 100 studies on this and because of those additional 90 studies, our philosophies and our advice have to change based on that. It is something you have to keep abreast of. That’s what I’m supposed to do, so then you don’t have to do it. I can teach you about this.

Instead of 10 studies, we now have 100 studies on. Because of those additional 90 studies, our philosophies and advice have to change based on that. Share on X

You were teaching among many other things that we’re going to get to, and then the pandemic hit. School had to shut down, so I’m sure that forced somewhat of a pivot for you. What was that time like for you? What did you end up doing to adapt?

A lot of different things. One, because the teaching was part of what I was doing. Other than that, I was always doing some type of writing for consumer magazines. I was doing some spokesperson work for some food companies. I did a lot of recipe development work for food companies, magazines, and cookbooks. I’ve written several cookbooks, so a lot of the other work was picked up a little bit more.

The spokesperson works for food companies instead of doing that, let’s say going to a TV station and doing an interview, it would be doing a lot more Zooms and teaching courses over Zoom or teaching even other dieticians. I would do a lot of webinars for dieticians that worked in the media, and I would teach them how to cook in this certain way. I did a lot more online programming, but I stayed busy other than the first maybe 4 or 5 months. I definitely stayed busy with everything else that I had on my plate.

You’re a Cofounder of a plant-forward pet food business.

During the pandemic is when I started thinking about this and I have another dietician friend who does a lot of the same things I do. She was one of the few people who I saw during the beginning of the pandemic. We were like, “We don’t know what the future holds.” We want to do something together, and we’re trying to figure out, “What should we do together?” She had adopted a dog at the time, and I had baked up some treats for her dog. We’re looking at these treats and her dog loves these treats like, “What should we do as we’re looking at these treats?” I’m like, “We have an idea of what we should be doing.” She’s a dog lover. I’m a cat lover. I’m a dog lover too, but I have a cat.

I’d always baked treats. My nephews have a dog. I baked treats for my cats. It went from there. I’m like, “This is something that we could do.” Everyone has pets, and they’re still going to have pets after the pandemic. We think we have something different to bring to the table since we’re human dieticians, and I’m also a chef. I thought that that would be something that would add some intrigue to what we could bring to the table. We launched this product, Peterra Kitchen. We have some organic baking mixes for dogs and cats, and we launched in October. It’s brand new. I’m getting off the table here and trying to figure out the next steps, but it’s a huge learning curve. It’s very exciting, but there’s a lot to learn.

I would imagine, among other things, you’ve probably felt some pressure to learn about dog and cat nutrition.

Of course, it’s definitely not the same as human nutrition, but there’s more overlap than we probably realized.

How are you thinking about the distribution of your products?

We decided we wanted to be ready like Whole Foods came in and says, “We want your product, and we want to order 10,000 baking mixes.” We wanted to be ready for that. We then work with a co-packer who is in Upstate New York and does all of our mixing. They package it up, and then we ship it over from there to a 3PL, which is ShipBob, a Third-Party Logistics. They house or warehouse our product, and then we sell it online.

We are now going into stores in New York, and we are in four stores so far. I’ve never thought of myself as a door-to-door salesman, but that’s a new skill apparently I have to go into these stores and saying, “Look what we have, and you need us.” Some of them are like, “We need to put your product on our shelf.” I know it’s a long game, so I have to be patient in figuring things out. It’s something new and exciting. We hope to have a lot more products other than these baking mixes. One step at a time.

The baking mix also becomes somewhat participatory for the person who buys it. It’s good for families that they can bake something for their pets.

That’s the whole point. It’s been a little bit of a challenge to make sure people know about it. Luckily, because I have a media background and so does my cofounder that helps us in terms of getting the word out. We have to keep plugging away.

You’ve had your own business more generally since Chicago days, the mid-1990s. What’s the scope of what that covers? All of these things that you’re filling in on the side.

Everything on the site is an appetizer platter or maybe midday. That’s how I work. I have worked in a lot of different buckets and that all create my career. That creates my business. There’s not one thing that I say, “This is absolutely what I do.” I call myself a plant-forward culinary nutritionist, and that embodies everything that I’m doing in that world. It entails writing. I do some writing for TheHealthy.com. I am on the advisory board of Forbes Health. That’s in the writing area. It is pretty cool. I still do some spokesperson work, but I’m very particular about the clients that I work with. Most of my clients are usually commodity boards rather than a brand.

Although I have done some branded work, but that entails talking to the media about their products and spreading the message as long as it aligns with my health and nutrition messaging. I still do a tiny bit of private cooking lessons. That’s one of those things that’s great to have in my repertoire of activities that I can do as part of my career. I can do more of it if some things are not as busy as others.

That’s what I find. I don’t usually have to pound the pavement, make phone calls or send emails. I usually get far too many opportunities and have to turn them down opportunities, but there are times when I’m like, “Where’s all my work? I’m on my last contract. Maybe I need to make some phone calls or send some emails.” That’s when I’m like, “I can do some private cooking lessons to fill in the gaps if there’s any gaps.”

You mentioned you’ve written several cookbooks. It’s six.

I’ve lost count. 5 and then I’m on 6, so technically, 6. I have about ten more recipes to test on my next cookbook that comes out in October 2023, hopefully.

What was the first one, and how did that come about?

It was because I always wanted to write a cookbook. After I finished culinary school, that was when I was like, “Writing a cookbook is something that interests me,” but I had no idea even where to begin. With that process, I’m like, “No one knows me in that arena, so how do I break in?” It’s always getting to the right people or knowing the right people sometimes. I went to a professional meeting that was IACP, International Association of Culinary Professionals.

I happened to go to this meeting. I’m like, “I should network and figure out who I need to talk to about getting into cookbook writing.” I went into one session, which was for publishers and for writers. We all got to introduce ourselves. It’s a small enough group that we could do that. I’m like, “I’m looking for the love of a good publisher.” I put myself out there and talked about what my experience was.

Lo and behold, there was a publisher there from American Diabetes Association, which is association publishing rather than going through a major publishing house. He said, “Your background is interesting. I would love to see what you might want to write about if you’re interested in the diabetes arena.” I’m like, “Absolutely. I’m interested because my dad has diabetes.” I had always been developing recipes for him and my mom, although I don’t know how much they ever used my recipes.

My dad wanted to use my recipes, but I’m like, “I have this skill and I know I could bring this to more people.” I pitched them my first book, and I’m like, “If my dad isn’t going to make all these recipes, I know a lot of other people who will want these recipes.” The first book was The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. I lost track of the year that this came out but at that time, natural and diabetes didn’t go together.

CSCL 48 | Plant-Based Culinary Nutritionist

It was almost that, “If you have diabetes, you should do things like alternative sweeteners or artificial sweeteners.” It was about what you take away from your diet rather than, “There must be another way to eat healthfully while you have diabetes. You don’t need all of these things and artificial sweeteners.” When my dad was diagnosed, I thought, “This is odd. If you have diabetes, you want to eat healthier.”

All these products are highly processed, and they’re made with things that don’t seem to fit being extra nourishing. I thought, “Let’s try this natural route.” The American Diabetes Association at the time was like, “We’re not so sure if everyone is on board with this concept, but we’re going to take a chance on it.” Luckily, they took a chance on it and me. That book did well and led to me being able to write other cookbooks since I had my first one that did well.

You won an award for it, the Gourmand World Cookbook Award.

Yes, I did. For my first cookbook, I won this award. I went to London to accept the award. It was an exciting time. I’m like, “I’m on the right track here.”

I think you are too because I know you’ve won awards for several of your other books as well.

Three of them are diabetes related, but one of them is the big huge fats book that’s about low-calorie eating. It’s like the Betty Crocker of healthy low-calorie recipes for the people who are in that camp. I did another one that was in the Big Green Cookbook. I did this before people were on board with, “There is something happening called climate change.” I came out with that early on. I wish I was coming out with it now instead of when I did because I was almost a little too soon on that schedule of climate change.

It’s a second edition, new and improved recipes. You were ahead of your time. I was thinking that as I was getting ready for the discussion, as you were saying the focus on nutrition, in general, starting at a time when people were running away from learning how to cook. I can remember when I was working at McKinsey, one of the guys I worked with did a project for one of the trade associations. It was shocking in terms of how little at that time people were sitting down to have a family meal together.

It was almost like cooking is dead. That’s the way I felt after hearing him describe what they learned in this research that they’ve done. This is when you were living in Chicago, and I was living in Chicago, so it goes back many years. Since then, it’s completely taken off. I know you’ve done some work with the Food Network. People are way back into cooking and nutrition came in and plant-based came in, and you were way ahead of your time.

Maybe so, but maybe people are starting to catch up to me. I feel like people are definitely cooking. They might be cooking differently than they used to, so they’re getting delivery of all their ingredients, and then they’re preparing food or all different ways. It’s interesting. Keeping my hands on the pulse of what consumers are doing is very important.

Keeping your hands on the pulse of what consumers are doing is very important. Share on X

How do you like the writing part of what you do, the Forbes Health Advisory Board work, your membership there, and the writing you do for them and others?

That’s something I’ve discovered where I fit best because, for years, I was writing just to write, like someone would call or email, and they would say, “Would you like to write about chicken.” I’m like, “I’ll write about the chicken because I know chicken,” but it wasn’t something I was passionate about writing. I got to the point where, “I don’t need to write just to write. I want to only write about things that I feel very strongly about and aren’t covered well or not covered at all, so I have something new to add to the whole body of nutrition and culinary information out there.”

It’s much more that not editors asking me to write, but me pitching them like, “I have this great idea. I’d love to write about this and here’s why. Let me know if you’re interested.” I don’t do as much writing as I used to, but now, it’s much more impactful and meaningful. I enjoy it a lot more than writing just to write.

How about the TV and radio part? Do you do a lot of that?

When I first moved to New York, I then applied to become a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Part of that was because I had worked on that hotline for many years. I knew how to answer questions. I’m like, “I could do the same thing on TV. They know who I am. They know I’m capable of this, even though I had one TV spot that I did before I moved to New York, and that was my very first TV spot.” It was Good Morning America.

Nothing like being thrown into the fire. Live Good Morning America flew me from Chicago to New York and there I am. I’m like, “This is me being on national TV. I have no idea if I’m going to do well.” Luckily, I did well. That helped me get this gig to be a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. I did that for three years. With that, I did probably at least 50 interviews a year for them. A lot of them were TV and some of them were radio. This is before the podcast, so it was some print magazines that people don’t read anymore.

I did a lot of that. That was exciting because I felt like, “I’m able to make a bigger difference than doing something one-on-one. I’m now reaching millions of people and giving this message that I thought was very good advice that I’m giving and there’s a lot of not-so-good advice that people might be reading.” That was exciting. After I did that for three years, I still do that, not quite 50 interviews a year, but it’s much more email interviews for online magazine things. It’s still exciting to be part of that. I still get a little bit nervous every time I do TV, but it’s good nervous rather than a sweaty nervous.

We’ve done some pretty big names. You’ve done Today, Martha Stewart Living, Dr. Oz, and Dateline. Those are all household names and national shows. What are the 1 or 2 that stand out for you as being particularly memorable?

Good Morning America, the very first one is obviously the most memorable. It was because I wasn’t sure if I was going to mess up royally or if I was going to do a good job. It was on behalf of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which at the time was called the American Dietetic Association, ADA. Many of the people that worked there were like, “We want you to make sure you say this in your interview. Make sure you use the phrase, ‘Medical nutrition therapy,’ sometimes whenever they ask you a question.” All these people telling me how to do this, and I’m like, “How am I going to remember to do all of this?”

Anyway, I did. I managed somehow to do everything that I needed to do. Lo and behold, that launched me into doing more media work. That’s definitely the most memorable. The other memorable one was when I was sent, and this was when I was doing some spokesperson work for a company. They will be nameless. I was doing this spokesperson work, and they sent me to do a radio spot.

For some reason, they want you to be live to do the radio spot live. I’m like, “I’ll go and do the live.” I wasn’t like wearing anything fabulous, and I didn’t have makeup on it. It turned out to be a national TV spot instead. That threw me for a loop. I remember that distinctly. I didn’t work for that company that much longer. Every once in a while, things like that do pop up. I remember that, but not for good reason.

It’s always unfortunate when those things happen. You’ve done some work with healthy children and healthy futures as well, so talk a little bit about that.

It was an after-school program that was started by Strang Cancer Prevention Center. That was the organization that initially sponsored that. The program started as teaching nutrition to kids, the information that they weren’t learning in schools. It then evolved into a program that was like Train the Trainer, in which I would go into schools and teach the parents how to teach nutrition to their kids.

This is great if we teach kids directly, but if the parents still cook this way or if they’re telling their kids this about nutrition, that’s not going to work. We’re like, “We need to teach these parents how to go grocery shopping and what to buy and why to buy it, and then how they can prepare foods or pack lunches or whatnot for their kids.” I then went all over the country to Train the Trainer or these parent education groups like in Dallas and a lot of inner-city groups.

CSCL 48 | Plant-Based Culinary Nutritionist

Jackie Newgent: We need to teach parents how to go grocery shopping, what to buy and why to buy it, and how they can prepare foods or pack lunches or whatnot for their kids.

 

It was in Dallas, Houston, the LA area, Chicago, and Baltimore. It was about anywhere where I felt the education was going to be very well-used. It was exciting to work with them and know that it was making this impact because they did some studies. I was a part of doing the studies of this after the fact, but there was an impact on children’s health based on this program. That’s always good to hear that what you’re doing is definitely making a difference.

What’s your sense? Do you think kids eat better than they did when you and I were kids? I know I ate a lot of junk food.

My sense is yes and no. That’s a horrible answer, but yes and no. It’s because they have access to so much more information. They read things about plant-based eating. There is more vegetable consumption happening. There are more vegetables available to them than we had. We had the basics. There’s a wide range of accessibility that we didn’t have back in the day. That’s one thing. There still are the busy parents and then the kids eating whatever they get their hands on, whatever the parents have available to the kids.

Sometimes that will be healthy and other times, they’ll be what the parents think might be healthy but it might be highly processed. There was a lot more bar consumption. “Let me eat a bar for my meal rather than skip a meal.” Maybe I’m not skipping a meal but they might be eating something that’s more like a candy bar than an actual nutritious bar. There are some things I would say more plants, but there are still a lot of highly processed products. Unfortunately, we don’t have as much eating around the family table as there used to be. That’s the downside.

CSCL 48 | Plant-Based Culinary Nutritionist

Jackie Newgent: Unfortunately, we don’t have as much eating around the family table as there used to be.

 

Across all these different things you do, what’s your support crew look like that helps you keep all of this in motion?

It’s a skeleton crew and sometimes there’s no one. In my early days, I thought I needed a lot of people to support what I did and to grow. I had two different agents that were working on my spokesperson projects. I had two literary different agents that helped me within the cookbook arena. I had a couple of assistants helping me with my recipe testing. I would develop the recipes, and they would help me test them in the kitchen. Especially when I had a book that was 1,000 recipes, I needed some help with that.

I would always work with dieticians who were also chefs like people who had my exact skills, so I knew that they knew what they were doing when they were testing my recipes in my own kitchen. It’s because I’m one of those people that I need to be involved in every step of the process. There was a time when I had all these different people and these moving parts. Now I have one and a half literary agents. I’m only using one now, but I might use one of the other ones for something else. Other than that, no assistance.

This next cookbook that I have, hopefully, will come out in October doing this all myself. I love what I do, so I want to be the one doing the work and I know it will get done right. I don’t like to be a manager, so I know that’s not something like having a whole team doing my cookbook for me. I won’t enjoy the cookbook process as much. I love doing the cooking. I love going grocery shopping to buy recipes for my cookbook. Maybe because I like to do so much, I might not earn as much money. Ultimately because I’m doing a lot myself, but I’m happier. I feel like I’m more successful because of that and people appreciate that. They know I’m doing the work myself.

Would you describe yourself as a member of the hustle culture? You’ve got been hustling around to keep all these things going at points nearing your career.

I would say yes, but the hustle is like a yo-yo. Sometimes there’s a lot more hustle than others. As I speak to you, I don’t feel a part of it, but after I’m done testing my recipes for my cookbook, I’ll probably feel like, “I need to get busy doing something else to bring in to make sure I’m making money.” Ultimately, yes, I’m part of the hustle culture. It’s not always as harried as it seems.

Across all these things, what are the strengths that you’ve drawn on, and what are the areas that you’ve had to work to develop? You’ve talked about some of those already.

The one that I didn’t learn in school that I’ve come to use a lot is my negotiation skills. I didn’t learn how to negotiate a contract. I used to learn that. When I became a dietician, it was to do good. I wanted to help impact the health of people. It wasn’t about going into an industry where I’m going to make a lot of money. It was, “I’m doing this because I want to help impact someone’s health.” Initially, if someone said, “This is what we’re going to pay you,” for years I was like, “Okay, that’s fine.” I would never come back and say anything. I would accept $15 an hour, even if this job was worth $100 an hour because that’s what they offered me and I didn’t know.

I didn’t feel confident enough to ask for anything different. That’s completely changed. Part of the help was knowing that I can do this over email rather than sitting there across from someone trying to ask them to get more money. Being able to write it was my entrée into being able to negotiate. I’m like, “People are okay with this.” I found that people, in some cases, strangely respected me more because I was asking for more money and I felt my skills were worth, or what I brought to the table was worth a lot more than what they initially were offering. I don’t ask for more than I think I’m worth, but I’m usually worth a lot more than people suggest.

I’ve heard this from other people, too. In some ways, charging more almost gives you more credibility. They’re like, “They’re charging that much. They must be good.”

There is some of that. It must be something psychologically that tricks someone’s brain like, “They must be worth this then.” I am. I always feel like I am. I don’t have a problem doing it anymore.

For someone who’s considering getting into a career in nutrition, what advice would you give them?

I would say do it. It’s a growing arena. It’s exciting. You can make an impact, but you can do whatever you want with it. Years and years ago, when I first became a dietician, it was almost like, “You can be a clinical dietician. You can work in a hospital. You can work in a long-term care facility.” There weren’t that many outlets to be a dietician, and now you can do anything you want. I suggest if you want to go into nutrition, make sure you have a focus.

It’s almost like being a doctor. You become a pediatrician, a radiologist or an ophthalmologist. You have different specialties. The same thing applies to nutrition. Make sure you’re understudies. When you go to college, you all have a general program, but then make sure you do something so that you can start focusing pretty quickly on the area that you want to work in. I’m trying to think of a word better than passion, but that word best describes it. It’s something that you have a passion for.

I always had a passion for eating and cooking. Going into culinary nutrition was the natural avenue for me. People see how excited I am talking about it. They can feel that passion. It ultimately can help to increase your success later in life if you’re bringing that passion to the table, whether it’s I’m an athlete, we’ll go into sports nutrition. Whenever you can bring in that specialty, that something extra, people will sense that, and you’ll enjoy it that much more.

It ultimately can help to increase your success later in life if you're bringing that passion to the table Share on X

What’s ahead for you other than finishing this book that you’re working on?

I started one other program, not that, “How do I have time for all of this?” I did start one other area, and it is being a nutrition coach for a company called My Peak Challenge. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of My Peak Challenge. It is a whole-body wellness program that involves challenges. It was started by Sam Hueghan, the lead actor of Outlanders. I did a lot of nutrition videos for them and developed a lot of plant-forward recipes for them.

That’s one thing that I started doing a lot more a couple of months ago. I am a nutrition coach. I’m Coach Jackie for My Peak Challenge. That’s one thing that I’m doing and probably see me doing a little bit more of, and then launching this cookbook hopefully in the fall. I’ll be busy doing some work surrounding that book, and then trying to grow my plant-forward pet food company, Peterra Kitchen, and then who knows? It’ll be something completely different than we haven’t talked about now that I’m sure I will have. If we talk a year from now, there’ll be something else to add to the table.

That’s what makes a portfolio career fun with all these different things going well. It’s been fun to catch up. Thank you. I appreciate your time and hearing a little bit more about what you’re doing. I’m sure my middle daughter will be very interested in hearing some of what you’re doing. She’s heading down a different path. She wants to do cancer research, but she does love to cook, come up with recipes, and post about them.

I want to learn more about her and hopefully, I can connect with her and stay connected to you. It’s been awesome to see you and to catch up after all these years.

Hopefully, we won’t count the number of years. It’s been a long time. Thanks, Jackie.

Thanks, Jr.

I’d like to thank Jackie for joining me. It was fun to catch up and also to discuss the breadth of work she does as a plant-forward cooking instructor, recipe creator, award-winning cookbook author, writer, speaker, spokesperson, and influencer. If you’re ready to take control of your career, visit Pathwise.io, and if you’d like more regular career insights, you can become a Pathwise Member. Again, it’s free. You can also sign up on the website for the Pathwise Newsletter and follow Pathwise on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Thanks and have a great day.

 

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About Jackie Newgent

CSCL 48 | Plant-Based Culinary NutritionistJackie Newgent is a co-founder of Peterra Kitchen, a plant-forward pet food company. She’s also a classically trained, plant-forward chef, registered dietitian nutritionist, award-winning cookbook author, professional recipe developer, media personality, spokesperson, and food writer.

Jackie is the author of several cookbooks, including her newest, The Clean & Simple Diabetes Cookbook. She was a healthy cooking instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education for more than 20 years and is a plant-based food coach. She’s also a former national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has made guest appearances on dozens of television news shows. Her mantra is “Go for great taste. Aim for plant-based. Try not to waste.”

Jackie earned her Bachelors’ Degree in Allied Health Professions from The Ohio State University and she lives in New York City.

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