I’m very excited to chat with Janea Ifill, a registered nutritionist from Barbados who completed her studies in the Caribbean. I met Janea on LinkedIn last year and have been following her as she’s grown into an entrepreneur and nutrition professional promoting sustainable practices in preventing health conditions within Barbados! I’m over the moon to have a local nutrition professional represented in these features.
Why is diversity important in Nutrition & Dietetics?
Janea Ifill Registered Nutritionist
Where you can find her:
Instagram: @nutritionnea (Personal) @bajandietdesigns (Work) @greenhub.bb (Business)
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your current role?
I’ve spent all my life in Barbados, gem in the Caribbean sea and I’ve recently graduated (less than 6 months ago) from the University of the Southern Caribbean with BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics (Hons). I am currently working as a registered nutritionist in a private practice where I see clients with a range of general conditions. Initially I wanted to specialize in diabetes management and childhood obesity prevention.
However, as I got into the field my passion has guided me towards general disease prevention. Our Caribbean population is swamped with several noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). This decreases our quality of life, and our diets- which are often high fat, high calorie and low fiber, continues throughout generations.
My personal goal is to assist in changing this tradition.
Returning to our land for our food to encourage a healthy lifestyle is one of the ways I intend to reach this goal. This has guided me to start Green Hub with a fellow nutritionist where we supply garden start up boxes to help garden newbies. The box includes all the basics to start a garden, along with a full recipe book to use your
When did you first know you wanted to pursue nutrition and dietetics?
Up to 16 years old I wanted to be an educator. I love literatures in English and even contemplated becoming a writer. When I applied into the 6th form program I had to choose an additional major- so I chose food and nutrition. Honestly, I only choose this subject cause it came natural to me- I knew I could pass the exams with ease. Little did I know I would fall in love with nutrition. In the first year I started to learn about the function of food beyond just for survival. Food is medicine.
Once I realized my passion was changing, I started to research all the careers I can choose with a background in nutrition. It was only then I discover what was a ‘dietitian’. I started to look for volunteer opportunities to become acquainted with the field. It was then that I started to work closely with the Diabetes Association of Barbados. I still continue to work with them and have worked with them as program coordinator and worked with their annual camp (for children living with diabetes)
What was your most interesting client encounter?
My most interesting client always stuck with me, not because it was a clinically exciting case but because it showcased an issue that we do not realize exists in the Caribbean-Food Insecurity. Part of my internship rotations allowed to me intern at the Grenada’s General Hospital. It was here I had to care for an ill boy (around 7 years). As this case developed, it was noted that the root cause of his condition was food insecurity.
These issues are usually very delicate as they are multi-factorial. The entire team must be involved, especially the social worker and dietitian nutritionist. This age group is one of the most fragile periods, as this is where growth occurs, and without optimal nutrition, these children can suffer in many areas as they age.
This issue identifies that policymaking affects everyone, including this age group. I would also like to emphasize that Nutritionists and Dietitians NEED to be apart of the decision making on our food bill and food security issues in the Caribbean.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced moving into this field?
Dietetics is a very specialized area, and a lot of persons do not appreciate the role of a nutritionist/dietitian. A perfect example is now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The main message being spread is to protect yourself- sanitize, wear a mask, practice distancing. These are all very important messages, but what also needs to be encouraged is building your body to fight the COVID-19 virus.
COVID is very real! It can happen to you. The importance of building a strong immune system needs to be a part of the education. NCDs are a major role in increasing complications if you contract COVID-19. It is time to be your healthiest self, it may be the difference between life and death. That is a hard reality people do not want to face.
Dietitians/ nutritionists play an important role in teaching people how to do so, but also give people the tools to both maintain and improve health.
What’s your favourite drink?
I love wine. My life goal is to own a vineyard, lol.
What are your thoughts on diversity in N&D?
Diversity is absolutely needed in Nutrition and Dietetics. Food is very cultural. To speak to any client you must understand and know the culture they have; there must be a connection. Without understanding the culture of people, your nutrition message cannot be received.
More so, we need more Caribbean registered dietitians and nutritionists, especially in research fields, so we can to learn about genetic needs and document the food and culture of Caribbean people.
What’s your biggest pet peeve in terms of being a registered nutritionist?
My biggest pet peeve is quite petty. It is when on the instant realization someone know your career, they ask for a meal plan. I think to myself, people really think that is all we do?
Black or Blue ink pens?
Black. Just has this sleek look to it
If you could summarise your career as a nutrition professional in 3 words, what would they be?
Refreshing, dynamic and mind-boggling (this one I have to explain, in fear of misinterpretation lol). Nutrition is one of those areas that are multifaceted, dynamic. There are so many opinions from the regular person and professionals. Often you have to search through tons of information to find the truth, and sometimes that truth lays on your professional opinion. Yes, nutrition is science-based, but there are so many topics in nutrition that are under researched, that sometimes it requires you to make a personal judgment- mind boggling.
What advice would you give to black youth considering nutrition & dietetics as a career?
There are so many open areas in the n/d field, find one that you absolutely love. There are not many specialized dietitians and nutritionists in the Caribbean. Find your niche and welcome to team!