Kaitlin Sandberg

Kaitlin Sandberg

What influenced you to pursue a degree in nutritional sciences?

I decided to pursue a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences after realizing that I wanted a career change. Before pursuing my master’s, I spent nearly a decade working for various food and beverage brands. My roles involved researching, designing, and marketing new products and I spent my days trying to answer the question “What do consumers want?” For a long time, my plan was to pursue a marketing career in the food industry.

My work experiences in marketing and product innovation eventually made me question my sphere of influence. As a product manager, I could impact what ended up on the grocery shelf, but my day-to-day didn’t allow me to understand the deeper context of an individual’s health. I realized that I wanted to support the people buying food rather than the companies selling it.

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to pursue a new career path that continued to foster my love of food and allowed me to work more directly with the people I was impacting. Once I was able to identify those values, becoming a Registered Dietitian and pursuing a degree in nutritional sciences felt like a natural next step!

Why did you choose UW?

I was initially motivated to apply to UW because of the coordinated dietetics program, which would allow me to stay in Seattle for my internship and re-enter the workforce more quickly. I was also drawn to UW’s reputation as a research institution, the experience of the faculty, and the strong connections with organizations in the Seattle community. At the time of my acceptance, I didn’t fully recognize the value in being a part of the School of Public Health. I want to mention it here because I’ve found that it’s a unique and important aspect of the program’s curriculum. While the MS degree curriculum varies from that of the MPH, the program still allows for much discussion on systemic factors that influence a person’s health. The public health aspect of my UW education has had a huge influence on my outlook as a future dietitian and is an integral part of the Nutritional Sciences Program. Looking back, I’m so happy that I chose UW because I don’t think I would have found the same elsewhere.

What kind of research or internship are you doing?

I won’t start my internship rotations until next year, but as an MS student, I will pursue the MNT track with a focus on gaining rigorous clinical experience. Prior to starting the internship, I’m working on a graduate thesis with the guidance of Michelle Averill and Cristen Harris. My thesis is a mixed-methods content analysis that will investigate the healthy food landscape on TikTok. The topic was driven by my experience as a Teaching Assistant for NUTR 200, during which I heard many undergraduates talk about the ways that TikTok has impacted their views on nutrition and body image. Through this research, I hope to contribute to a growing body of knowledge that seeks to understand social media’s impact on food culture.

How would you describe the benefits of your research or how it may potentially impact public health?

Social media platforms are actively shaping the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of their users. As the leading mobile video platform with billions of downloads worldwide, TikTok has become an emerging driver of food culture, particularly for young people. A deeper understanding of the healthy food landscape on TikTok will provide an important baseline for articulating how the platform is shaping our views of health and nutrition. My hope is that uncovering both explicit and implied messaging surrounding healthy food will provide insight into how health is characterized in popular culture and what we can do as evidence-based practitioners to ensure that nutrition messaging is safe and inclusive.   

What are your future goals?

I hope to work as a clinical dietitian in the short-term, and eventually become a diabetes specialist (CDCES). Diabetes is a strong interest area for me because it is always changing, requires individualized and collaborative care, and is a complex space where disordered eating and weight stigma are prevalent. My goal is to provide personalized care to patients experiencing diabetes, particularly those who may also be working through an eating disorder or disordered eating. No matter where I end up, I aim to contribute to a growing group of dietitians that practice weight-inclusive, trauma-informed care.

What extracurricular activities do you enjoy?

Unsurprisingly, I love to go grocery shopping and experiment with new recipes. I’m not the best cook or baker, but I really enjoy the experience of making and appreciating food with others. I also love to be outside, which usually looks like walking around the block with my dog and exploring the many mountains and parks around the greater Seattle area.

What do you like most about living in Seattle?

So many things! I moved here 4 years ago after spending about 10 years in Los Angeles, CA. While it was difficult to adjust to the winters here, I really appreciate that Seattle offers both city life and solitude. A weekend in Seattle might entail city exploring one day and an epic hike the next. The energy in Seattle is progressive and grounding at the same time.

What advice would you give a student who is considering graduate study with the UW Nutritional Sciences program?

Reach out to current or past students (myself included)! Don’t be afraid to ask for a 15-minute informational interview to learn about someone’s experiences and reflect on whether they align with your future goals. Here are some pieces of advice I’ve received and have found helpful:

  • Ask lots of questions.
  • Write down your values and priorities on paper and come back to them often.
  • Match your critical thinking with an openness to new perspectives. Your graduate studies will provide the opportunity to explore challenging topics and live in that uncomfortable gray space where there are no right or wrong answers – be ready to embrace it!

Are you interested in studying nutritional sciences as a graduate student? Explore graduate study and RDN training offerings in the UW Nutritional Sciences Program.