More Than Farming: Meet a Nutrient Analyst

MorethanFarming

By Stephanie Vickers, Farm & Food Care

When you want to make an informed decision about choosing a new camera, you go to an electronic store and talk to an expert. When choosing a car, you go to dealership. When making an informed decision about choosing a healthy recipe to make, though, you probably don’t check with an expert — you likely check the nutrition information yourself.

That leaves an information gap. What anonymous expert developed that nutrition information?

Katie Brunke is one of those experts. Her official title is nutrient analyst, and it’s one that Brunke stumbled into during her time at university. 

Brunke found her passion for food and cooking at a young age. Growing up with a twin who had Type I diabetes showed her the impact food can have on someone’s well-being. With that insight, she decided to pursue a career as a registered dietitian (RD).

Brunke started pursuing her career goal by attending Ryerson University in 2010. At the time, she had no idea what a nutrient analyst was, let alone that she would become one herself. During her time at Ryerson, Brunke was the Ryerson student liaison for the Ontario Home Economics Association where she met Mairlyn Smith, who also sat on the association. Mairlyn, a well known professional home economist and Canadian food writer, became Brunke’s mentor and introduced her to nutrient analysis.   

“I started to do nutrient analysis for [Mairlyn] and then through recommendations I gained more clients and it became a thing. I just fell into it really,” Brunke says.

KatieWhiskAs a nutrient analyst, Brunke receives recipes created by her clients to be published in cookbooks or other platforms and finds the nutritional breakdown for that recipe.

To find the nutrient value of a recipe, Brunke standardizes all ingredient measurements and compares them to the Canadian Nutrient File. This file contains the nutrient value for most food ingredients. If Brunke cannot find the ingredient in the Canadian File she will check the American equivalent or hit the grocery store for some product research. By adding together the nutrient value of all the ingredients for a recipe, Brunke comes up with the overall nutrient information. It takes approximately a half hour to an hour to find the nutrient breakdown for one recipe.

I want to inspire people to make healthy food choices, become excited about nutritious foods, as well as build cooking skills and food literacy skills — Brunke

“Sometimes it is really straight forward… and all I have to do is calculate the nutrients for it,” says Brunke. “Other times I could be making the recipe healthy, making adjustments or standardizing the recipe; it completely varies depending on the clients.”

Along with finding the nutrient information of recipes, Brunke also develops her own recipes. Her inspiration comes from fresh, seasonal ingredients and creating straight-forward healthy recipes. She particularly enjoys creating cookie recipes with the goal to making delicious, high-fiber, low sodium, and low fat baked goods.

She contributed two recipes to Homegrown, a cookbook published by Mairlyn, along with completing all of the nutrient analysis for the project.

This autumn, Brunke will move another step closer to becoming a registered dietitian. She has been accepted as an intern with Sunnybrook Hospital, but also hopes to publish her own cookbook in the future.

“I want to inspire people to make healthy food choices, become excited about nutritious foods, as well as build cooking skills and food literacy skills,” she says.

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