Amber Kastler, Fort Dodge Hy-Vee dietitian, spoke with students at St. Edmond Catholic School Thursday about her job and being healthy.
Many students recognized Kastler as the voice giving them tips and advice as they walk down the grocery store's aisles.
"A dietitian is a nutrition expert," she said. "As with anything, you learn constantly. There's always something to be updated on."
Kastler explained a Hy-Vee dietitian helps people with their nutrition.
"I see individual clients that come in for weight loss, or if they've been diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension, high blood pressure, any allergies," she said. "They come in and I help them modify their diets to meet their diagnosis or nutritional needs."
Kastler said she often meets with clients who take advice from a popular television show featuring a famous surgeon.
"Would you want a dietitian to do surgery on you?" she asked. "You should say no. I don't have the qualifications to do that. So you shouldn't be taking nutrition advice from a surgeon. He has very minimal nutrition education."
To become a dietitian, Kastler had four years of college and six months internship with the American Dietetic Association before becoming certified.
Kastler also writes articles on nutrition and does programs for various companies.
"I try to be in the public eye and help people make healthier choices," she said.
Kastler explained how Hy-Vee's NuVal nutrition system works. Items are given a number. The higher the number, up to 100, the healthier the food choice is, she said.
"It's a big algorithm," she said. "It makes it really convenient for people who have no idea how to read the nutritional facts label."
Examples of healthy options were shown. For instance, bottled cranberry juice, because of its sugar content, got a 2 rating, the same as soda.
"You should eat your juices, with the fruit," she said. "Anything fresh is always going to be higher."
Kastler warned about quitting unhealthy habits "cold turkey," whether it's for losing weight or reducing cholesterol.
"I tell people to take baby steps," she said. "If you go cold turkey, chances are you're going to fall off the wagon, revert back to your old ways."
An alternative, Kastler said, is finding a food item with a higher NuVal rating. For examples, regular Oreo cookies have a 10 rating, but the reduced fat version have a 22 rating. Canned carrots, because of their salt content, have a 23 rating, but fresh carrots have a high 99 rating.
"If you know you're not making good choices, you can just find a better option in that category and slowly work your way from (unhealthy choices)," she said.
Students mostly had questions about drinks. Kastler noted that diet soda helps make a transition away from regular soda, but still is not a healthy choice.
"Aspartame is a chemical," she said. "And you shouldn't be putting chemicals into your body."
Kastler said that while they are young and energetic they're burning these bad choices, but are also creating longer-lasting bad habits and should start making healthier choices now.
"It isn't necessarily cutting out the bad things and incorporating more good things. It really is more moderation," she said. "I am living proof you can have ice cream almost every other day and still maintain a healthy body weight."