Guest: Laura Ali, RD
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Laura is a Registered Dietitian and the Manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the StarKist Co. She has more than 25 years of nutrition experience ranging from clinical and outpatient nutrition counseling, retail and most recently with the consumer packaged goods industry.
In her current role at StarKist Co. she serves as the company nutrition advisor, recipe developer and driver of their health and wellness initiatives.
Segment overview: In this segment, Laura Ali, a Registered Dietitian and the Manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the StarKist Co., discusses health and wellness initiatives focused on seafood.
Health Professional Radio – Wellness Seafood
Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program today. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio. Our guest today is Laura Ali, she’s a registered Dietitian and Manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the Starkist Company. She joined us here today to talk about Health and Wellness Initiatives that are focused on Seafood. Welcome to Health Professional Radio, Laura Ali.
Laura Ali: Thank you very much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
N: Glad that you could join us today. Give our listeners a little bit of background about yourself. You’re currently manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the Starkist, obviously you haven’t been with Starkist your entire life. Give us a little bit about yourself as a Registered Dietitian?
A: Sure. So I’ve been working as a Registered Dietitian for over 20 years. I started out as a Clinical Dietitian. I worked in a hospital, I did that for almost 15 years, I worked with cancer patients and then I worked with just people who wanted to be healthier, lose weight, they had issues of cholesterol or heart disease. So I worked with them on designing meal plans, then helping them to come up with healthy ways to eat and to live. I did that for about 15 years, then transitioned over to the food industry. I realized that part of what I really enjoyed about being a Dietitian was teaching people how to eat healthy food and where they could find healthy food. I, thru some discussions with other dietitians in an industry, I realized this really would a good fit for me. I could work with the food companies and help them design products that are healthy and will meet a variety of people’s health and nutrition needs.
N: Now as a registered dietitian, you’re obviously involved deeply in the recipes that come out. How are the products are processed in these companies that you had the ability to work for? In your current role at the Starkist Co. Talk about how you ensure that we’re getting health wise what we are told we’re getting.
A: Sure. With Starkist, we provide … table seafood products and primarily Tuna and Salmon. Both are on their own very healthy products. Seafood is a very healthy lean protein. Working with the company here I helped them if you want a flavored product we look for flavors that are delicious and that will complement the seafood. So things that will make it exciting for people to try to eat more seafood. We look at the nutritional value of the products we provide. We are a healthy food company so we want to make sure that the products we’re putting out there will meet people’s health and nutrition needs. We look for different ways to get people to eat more seafood because Americans are not getting enough seafood.
N: Being a dietitian and working for such a huge corporation that supplies products worldwide, talk to our listeners about the vast difference between a dietitian who does the things that you do on behalf of health and wellness as it pertain to companies’ products and someone who’s a chef who focuses on healthy eating.
A: As a dietitian, I’m trained in nutrition as well as food. I kind of combined the two, and by having those sets of skills I can help people find foods that, number 1 will meet their nutritional needs or their medical needs as well as finding things that are delicious and teaching them ways to incorporate those foods into their diet in a healthy and delicious way.
N: Do you ever focus on recipes that are for a specific part of the population when you talking someone who’s got a certain type of digestive problem or specific need? Are there products that you are developing that assist those folks specifically?
A: We do have, do come up for products with various needs. For instance we have a number of different low sodium products that would be appropriate for someone who maybe have high blood pressure or kidney disease who needs to watch their sodium intake. We’ve been looking at different products, and are trying to provide products that are gluten-free. So that they would meet the needs of people who have Celiac disease. Yes, we do look it different ways to incorporate qualities and characteristics in our products that will meet a wide variety of people’s needs.
N: How much collaboration is there between the Starkist Company and other regulatory companies when it to comes to the products and how you make sure that these products are safe or as safe as or above and beyond certain standards?
A: Sure. Our quality team work very closely, we know the guidelines that FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) puts out so they work very closely to make sure that our products meet those guidelines or exceed those guidelines for food safety. Other organizations that have a role in making sure that our food is safe.
N: How often is their consultation between you and physicians either employed in the industry, the food industry for purposes of consulting with the companies such as yours, and you being a health practitioner yourself?
A: Sure. We do talk with other healthcare professionals on a fairly regular basis, more along the lines we work close with a variety of different dietitian groups because they’re really the ones who are teaching consumers about food and nutrition. We work very closely with registered dietitians in a variety of practice areas. Then we have worked with other types of health care practitioners over the years to kind of educate them on when seafood is appropriate, why they should be encouraging their patients and clients to eat more seafood. Especially when things like the dietary guidelines come out. We focus on that and really get out to practitioners and say “You know the dietary guidelines and the American Heart Association are recommending that Americans to eat 8-12 servings or ounces seafood a week.” We know that Americans are getting a quarter of that. We have worked very closely with a variety of health care professionals to get that word out.
N: What type of nutritional and wellness initiatives has Starkist been involved in focused on our younger population? Especially with those packed lunches and different snacks and pre-packaged snack items that Starkist offers to our younger folks?
A: Sure. We have a number of different flavored products that we’ve kind of targeted not just for kids but they are really are things that are kids friendly. Like the ranch or honey-barbecue flavored tuna as a way the kind of encourage kids to start trying seafood. Again, children aren’t eating enough seafood so we thought by adding some flavors to it maybe that would be a way to help encourage them to eat more. We also go to talk to the school nutritionist then talk to them about different ways that can start incorporating tuna or seafood into their menu cycles. And talk to children about seafood and getting from them what they like and you’d be surprised because they actually like tuna. I think it’s the adults who are afraid that they’re not going to like it so we don’t give it to them but when it’s presented, they do love it.
N: Where can our listeners go online and get some more information about some of the nutrition and regulatory efforts there at Starkist Co. and about Starkist in general?
A: You can visit our website at www.starkist.com
N: Great. Thank you for giving us this information today Laura.
A: Thank you.
N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard in studio with Laura Ali. She’s a registered Dietitian and a Manager of Nutrition and Regulatory Affairs for the Starkist Company and we’ve been here talking about some of those nutrition and health and wellness initiatives that are focused on seafood. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm. You can subscribe to this program on iTunes, listen in and download at SoundCloud.