Leah McGrath, Corporate Retail Dietitian and Founder of Build Up Dietitians
Leah McGrath is a Corporate Retail Dietitian working for a major US supermarket chain. She is also the Founder of the hugely successful Build Up Dietitians social media platform, which has over 40,000 followers. We caught up with Leah to find out more about what she does.
Hi Leah, thanks for joining us. Please could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a Registered Dietitian from the United States of America. I spent four years working as an active duty officer and dietitian in the Army and a year and a half working in Public Health. However, most of my career has been spent working as a retail or supermarket dietitian. I also run the social media platform ‘Build up Dietitians’, which has over 40,000 followers.
Where does your interest in nutrition and dietetics stem from?
My father had type 2 diabetes and so I have always been interested in the intersection of health and food.
Where did you undertake your dietetic training? Can you tell us about the process of becoming a dietitian in the USA?
I have an undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition and did my dietetic internship with the US Army at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In the USA, the dietetic internship requires us to complete 1200 hours in a variety of different practice areas. Mine included clinical dietetics, food service, outpatients, public health, and administration.
What are some of the biggest nutritional challenges in the USA at present?
Social media and the prevalence of wellness "influencers" has made things more challenging. As you’ll read later, this was partly why I founded Build Up Dietitians.
As a dietitian working in industry, can you tell us more about the clients you’ve worked with?
As a supermarket dietitian, I occasionally work with specific food brands on projects. However, since I am employed by the supermarket, I must be able to represent a variety of products and the needs of a variety of customers across food preferences and demographics.
Could you tell us why you think it’s important for dietitians to work with (not against) the food industry?
There are many dietitians who work for or with food brands. Dietitians help communicate nutrition science and translate that to customers in a way that can help them incorporate foods into meals.
What does the role of a Supermarket Dietitian involve?
I am the only dietitian for our supermarket chain of 200 stores! My days are varied and include everything from social media content creation, to writing articles on various nutrition topics for newspapers, to hosting a radio show about food, agriculture and nutrition. I also lead educational supermarket tours for different groups and frequently do talks and presentations about food and nutrition.
When and why did you set up the highly successful Build up Dietitians (BUD) Facebook Page?
I started BUD in late 2014 at a time when I felt like there was a lot of negativity in the media about dietitians. I felt that there should be a space to celebrate some of the accomplishments of dietitians as well as a forum to emphasize and share science and research about food and nutrition.
Can you tell us about how the BUD group has evolved from when you initially launched it in 2014?
It's grown so much! Once it passed about 20K followers, I realised that I needed help managing and moderating the page. Now there are 7 other people who help me (5 dietitians and 2 graduate students). Most are in the USA but there is one in England and one in Spain.
We now have a Twitter presence as well as a very active Instagram page with almost 10K followers. The biggest change in the past year has been adding private/closed groups for different specialties such as Paediatrics, Research, Sports Nutrition...these have been very successful and popular.
I've also started doing events under the BUD (Buildup Dietitians) banner...both meetups (which are social and networking events) and dialogue sessions (which are more like focus groups). The intent of both is to help dietitians and dietetic students make connections with other dietitians and join groups that can provide science-based resources.
Why is it important for dietitians to have a presence on social media?
This is where the conversations about food/nutrition are taking place. It’s where people are getting their nutrition information from, so we need to be on social media putting out evidence-based messages!
What’s been the biggest learning lesson throughout your dietetic career?
Be flexible, keep an open mind, and be willing to learn new things every day.
And finally, how do you find time to relax after spending so much time on social media?
Putting down the phone or computer and talking to my husband. Taking the dogs for a walk. I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction so I make sure to do that every night. I don't keep my phone on my night stand or even in our bedroom to ensure a good night’s sleep!
Social Media Links: @LeahMcGrathRD @BuildupRdns