Hilary Rombeck wants people to know a dietitian does more than help people lose weight.
Rombeck, the owner of Embrace Nutrition, 2029 Vanesta Place No. 16, works with people to maximize all areas of their eating habits, but she focuses on families, especially children and pregnant women. She said anyone can find ways to make mealtime healthy and less stressful.
“As a mom, I know having someone to walk through this is helpful,” she said. Rombeck’s interest in food and nutrition started at a young age. She did food projects for 4-H and said her mom has photos of her giving project talks on food at 8 years old. As a teenager, she worked at a nursing home and noticed how the same food might be made differently to accommodate different people’s dietary needs.
“I saw how they could get different textures but enjoy the same flavors,” Rombeck said. “They would make something in a puree or maybe someone with heart disease would have less salt.”
During her time as a student at K-State, Rombeck worked in the dining center and then got clinical experience at a hospital before working with the Women, Infants and Children Program. Between that job and having her first child, she decided to go into private practice and focus on children and families.
“Parents need support,” Rombeck said. “We can start with children and start good habits.”
Now the mother of two, girls ages 6 and 4, Rombeck tries to help parents address a number of issues with their kids, from helping sick kids get special nutrients to catch up on weight gain to convincing picky eaters to try new foods to creating a calm, stress-free mealtime.
Lindsey Krajkoski worked with Rombeck about six months ago for help with her son, Jace, 6. She said dinnertime had always been a struggle but her family has been able to improve that environment.
“Every night ended in tears,” Krajkoski said. She said Rombeck told them to try introducing foods several times before giving up. At Rombeck’s suggestion, Krajkoski said she has also tried to include Jace in preparing meals so he has a stake in them.
“He likes to help prepare and he’s more willing to try it,” she said. “Obviously it’s not a perfect situation but definitely nights end in more happy situations.”
Krajkoski said Rombeck helped her understand that the processes take time. “She didn’t make me feel like a bad mom,” Krajkoski said. “She encouraged me and understood that it doesn’t happen overnight.” Rombeck said these skills can also apply to things like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorders. Some children with these conditions have food aversions, such as not liking certain textures or colors, and Rombeck said a dietitian can assist parents or a child’s other caretakers to make sure the child is still getting the necessary nutrients.
“It’s about their quality of life if they’re not enjoying mealtime,” she said.
With her own daughters, she said she tries to avoid the “clean plate club” and let her kids eat as much as fills their stomachs. This way they learn to feel when they are full rather than just clearing their plate.
Rombeck also tries to avoid the ideas of “good foods” and “bad foods” as well and find a balance while showing her daughters examples of a healthy diet.
“We just made cookies the other day, but we don’t do that every day,” she said. “We do have fruits and vegetables and a protein every day.”
Another key part of her mealtime plan at home is her husband, Andy, a firefighter with Manhattan Fire Department.
She said he cooks more and looks at food labels more after they made decisions about their family’s needs. He’s even shown his coworkers in the firehouse how to read labels.
“Bringing in a partner to be on the same page and be on the same practices is important,” Rombeck said.
In her work with clients and at home, Rombeck hopes to show people that nutrition is more complicated than healthy food equals healthy kids. Different families have different routines.
“When people think dietitian they think of weight loss, but it’s so much more,” Rombeck said.