When did you first take an interest in nutrition?
It was almost by accident. Although a good student, I was one of those young people who do not know what they want to do in terms of a job. By chance, I met a friend who told me that she was studying nutrition and was so enthusiastic about the course that I was left with no doubts at all.
How has your experience been as president of the Order of Nutritionists?
It is not at all simple, it is very taxing, it requires a lot of discipline, a great deal of willingness to do it and, above all else, it requires you being able to view a profession in the present and taking it forward into the future. Ever since I started working, I have thought that what we needed was a structure that would safeguard the profession, that would promote it and, on the other hand, that would defend individuals who are looking for nutritionists, which is exactly what the Order does now. I was just into my twenties when I decided to run for the presidency of the then Portuguese Association of Nutritionists, with the aim of working for the creation of the Order and promoting the profession. We did an interesting job and managed to put nutrition, diet and nutritionists on the agenda.
«THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO EAT WELL, BUT WE HAVE ONE THAT IS PART OF OUR TRADITION: THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET»
The low number of nutritionists in primary healthcare and their absence in
schools have been two of your struggles. Have the Ministry of Health and the
Ministry of Education shown themselves open to address these issues?
There are some places of excellence in terms of nutritionist presence: in primary healthcare, which is where the onset of illness is prevented and health is promoted, but also in schools, which is where our children spend much of the day and take almost every meal. If we have a school with nutritionists that allow the food environment to be healthy and promote food education, children and young people will have more food literacy and will be able to make good choices. ‘In the schools’, we have two nutritionists: one in the services of the Directorate General of Education and another in the Directorate General of School Establishments. I will not even go into what I think about this. The Order presented a proposal to the Ministry of Education, with our view on school food. ‘It’s on the table’. With relation to the Ministry of Health, in Health Centres, there are just over one hundred nutritionists. The Order recommends at least one nutritionist for every 20,000 inhabitants. We should have 500 across the country. This year we opened a tendering procedure for the recruitment of 40 nutritionists. That’s great news! There has never been a call for candidates with so many places in one go. Hopefully this means that in subsequent years there may be other recruitment drives.
You launched the book Comer Bem é o Melhor Remédio [Eating Well is the Best Remedy]. What is the intention behind it?
For it to be an instrument that is easy to read and for it to be possible to transform scientific language, which is heavy, into an appealing, everyday language, and that anyone reading it could take advantage of messages that are easy to put into operation. It also has some recipes, but it was a challenge for the publisher. So I invited chef Hélio Loureiro, because I share many ideas and many mealtime attitudes with him.