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Q&A with the DNI's Melanie Dwornik


The Dole Nutrition Institute is happy to welcome our new Nutrition and Health Communications Manager, Melanie Dwornik MA, RD, to the team.  Melanie is a Registered Dietitian with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Montclair State University and a Master of Arts in Food Studies from New York University, as well as a graduate of the Culinary Honors program at The French Culinary Institute.  With both retail and corporate experience, she is a wonderful addition to the Dole family.  We sat down with Melanie to learn more about her and what nutrition tips she has for us this upcoming fall season.


Why did you decide to pursue a career in the nutrition field?

I am passionate about food!  When I was a little girl, one of my fondest memories was playing under the kitchen table while my grandmother folded dough into pierogi above.  At a young age I learned that food is so much more than nourishment and necessity, in my family it was about culture, relationships and love.  I have always been adventurous with food, always willing to try new things, and I think that is an important part of a balanced diet.  I went into the field of dietetics because I was determined to show that it is possible to eat the foods you love and maintain a healthy balanced diet.

What most excites you about your new role as Dole’s Nutrition and Health Communications Manager?

It’s a dietitian’s dream to focus on the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and now it’s my full time job!  How lucky am I?  My goal is to ensure that others know about the resources that Dole has to offer to help our customers get to their 10 servings a day!    I am excited to build new relationships with retailers and dietitians in the retail industry as well as forge new ways to work with health professionals across the country. 

Do you have a daily eating routine?

I sure do!  Anyone that knows me knows that I usually like to eat lunch at noon and dinner around 6pm.  More recently, I’ve added a morning snack and afternoon snack too- so if you were to spend a day with me- it’d look like I just eat all day long!  I find that this routine helps me to eat intuitively (eat when I truly feel hungry) but I also tend to eat less at mealtime. 

What are the best fruits and vegetables to incorporate in our diet this autumn?

In my opinion the best and most flavorful fruits and vegetables are those of the season.  Most of us may not realize that more popular items like apples, cauliflower and sweet potatoes actually have a season- and fall is when they’re at their peak!    Some other seasonal favorites to experiment with include squash varieties like acorn, butternut and pumpkin which provide a good dose of fiber, vitamin A, C and Potassium – delicious when roasted or baked.  Fruits to keep on the radar include pomegranates and pears.  I like to add them to salads for a sweet and bright surprise with a bonus of fiber and vitamin C.   And lastly, if you’re lucky enough to find Brussels sprouts on the stalk you may intrigue your children to get involved in the prep work and the eating too! 

What are some of your favorite fall dishes?

One of my favorite fall dishes is quiche.  It’s quick and tasty to make, easily packs 1-2 servings of vegetables and is a huge help when it comes to using up left overs.  My go-to combo is spinach and broccoli with low fat cottage cheese.  If I’m trying to fancy it up, I’ll lay thinly sliced pears on the top to complete the presentation and add a hint of sweetness. 

Can you give us a sneak peek into some of the nutrition research going on at the Dole Nutrition Institute?

The North Carolina Research Campus, where the DNI is located, is constantly buzzing with new and exciting research.  That’s what makes it such an interesting and fun place to work.  Right now, the DNI is collaborating with researchers at Appalachian State University and recruiting participants for a study focused on investigating the combined influence of bananas and blueberries on exercise performance.  Blueberries are high in polyphenols, which may provide added benefits during recovery from vigorous exercise while bananas unique carbohydrate profile provide the perfect fuel source for generating all that energy to work out.  We’re all excited to see what these two powerhouse fruits, when used together, will have to offer athletes when consumed as part of an exercise regimen! 

Additionally, in our very own Human Metabolism Lab we are exploring the mechanisms behind why phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables could potentially affect the gene expression responsible for our own in-built protection systems. A previous collaboration with UNC-Chapel Hill illustrated that this occurred in a test-tube, we are now designing studies to see if we can see the same thing after actual human consumption.  If successful this would provide another fundamental reason for why fruits and vegetables are so healthy for you and so why it’s very important you eat enough of them!

Published September 1, 2017  

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