Since moving to America, Safa Nooromid has spent more than a decade studying diet and nutrition. She primarily works as a renal dietitian, focusing on kidney health, at a dialysis clinic.
With nearly 150 patients and tasks that include monitoring lab results and checking medication and diet instruction, she describes her work as being both an important responsibility and “very clinical.”
When she isn’t caring for dialysis patients, appearing as a guest speaker for various universities and company health fairs or working with student interns, Nooromid also runs a nutrition consulting service with her daughter, Rachel.
“It’s been very good for me,” said Nooromid. “I love my job, I love working with all my patients.”
Nooromid grew up as part of a Sephardic family in Iran until the uprisings of the Iranian Revolution prompted her to relocate to Israel in 1978. She spent a year in the Jewish State, where she met her future husband.
The young couple eventually decided to make a home in the United States and moved to metro Atlanta. The transition was occasionally difficult, but as a member of Congregation Etz Chaim, Nooromid found a source of stability within the local Jewish community.
“I spent a lot of time volunteering, doing stuff at the synagogue,” she said.
A Hebrew speaker, Nooromid was tapped by the congregation’s education director to teach classes in the language for several years. And in addition to instructing her own students, Nooromid decided to become an adult bat mitzvah, attending Judaics classes and learning how to read Torah again.
“I really loved it; I felt like it was something that connected me to my culture and to my tradition,” remembered Nooromid.
Still, Nooromid had greater ambitions. In her early 30s, she was trying to figure out what to do with her life.
“I always had a passion for the health field, so I was trying to find what would suit my lifestyle,” she said.
She first enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College, where she completed her prerequisites and sciences before transferring to Georgia State. She continued to pursue her interest, even though while attending GPC, her advisers urged her to consider another path.
“My advisers kind of tried to turn me off,” recalled Nooromid, “They said, ‘Oh, there’s no jobs [in nutrition]’ and this and that, but I still pursued it.”
She followed her heart and managed to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Georgia State. After a year in a hospital setting plus an internship, Nooromid passed the state board to become a registered dietitian.
Now assisting patients and clients alike in making better dietary choices, Nooromid’s upbringing still informs her understanding of food.
“Everything was fresh: fresh vegetables, fresh meat,” she said of the food she ate as a childhood. “Our lifestyle, as far as eating, was 100 percent better. There’s not a lot of fast food and processed food. We kept a kosher home, and everyone ate together.”
Some of the main mistakes she warns of when discussing eating habits in America are the “super-size me” attitudes and ignorance of what actually goes into products that we’re consuming. She thinks many of us underestimate how much sugar and sodium go into fast food or dishes at restaurants.
“They [the public] don’t know how much sodium can actually increase not only hypertension, but it can increase the fat cells,” Nooromid said, citing one of many pitfalls.
Even so, she doesn’t suggest cutting every temptation in “cold turkey” fashion. Such an approach, she claims, only sets up an individual for unnecessary difficulty and frustration.
“Being healthy is not about being 100 percent perfect,” she said. “You can incorporate small changes in your life, baby steps, because once you do that, you really learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Knowing that even the best-laid plans have crumbled in the face of every dieter’s greatest adversary – the holidays – Nooromid offers a few suggestions. Many of her own patients are currently facing this challenge as November wanes.
She recommends that eaters cut calories by choosing the right items and paying close attention to labels. She also says you can often modify traditional recipes and make them healthier.
“In fact, I made a very healthy latke last year for Chanukah,” she said. “It was with sweet potato, and instead of frying it, I baked it in the oven. We substituted sour cream with Greek yogurt, it’s really good…nobody knew it wasn’t fried.”
She emphasizes that occasionally replacing restaurant visits with cooking at home with friends can often make a large difference. Furthermore, she reminds that modest goals are often the secret to success and that, when a person is faced with an array of cookies, cakes and pies, sometimes simply maintaining is the key.
From the mouth of a professional: Indulge a little while still being mindful of ingredients, sprinkle in a little bit of your own home cooking, and you’re bound to get through this holiday season unscathed.
BY ELIZABETH FRIEDLY / Assistant Editor
Visit ATLNutrition.com or email Safa@ATLNutrition.com for more information on Safa Nooromid and how she could help you.