Anchorage dietitian spills the beans
Interview with Amy Urbanus
January 1, 2023 | View PDF
"Don't be afraid of the dietitian." – Amy Urbanus
You eat every day, but are you eating the right stuff? Find out here. And don't be afraid of the dietitian.
Amy Urbanus has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for 22 years. During that time, she did employee wellness for a large regional grocery store chain, worked at Southcentral Foundation as an outpatient dietitian, put in some time at the Providence Diabetes and Nutrition Center at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, and lots more.
Currently she is the director of the undergraduate dietetics program at UAA, where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate students, and has a part-time position with the Anchorage Senior Center. I had the good fortune to interview Amy early in November. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Weiss: What services do you provide at the Anchorage Senior Activity Center?
Urbanus: There is a need for nutrition education for seniors, so my role primarily is to fill that space. I provide bimonthly nutrition education classes that are just an hour long. We're kind of in this hybrid model where I teach class in at the senior center, but people can join via Zoom.
And then I also offer on Mondays one-on-one consultations with people. There is no charge. All people need to do is schedule an appointment with the senior center. I have some times on Mondays that are available, and individual consultations are an hour. I'm providing what I would consider more medical nutrition therapy, where folks who have specific needs can have that conversation and I can develop an intervention, or a plan, or set some goals, or just provide ideas that are a little better, more personalized compared to the nutrition education group class.
Weiss: Could you just give examples of the most common questions you are asked on issues you address regarding Alaska seniors?
Urbanus: They're extremely varied. I would say weight loss, weight maintenance and weight gain. When I discuss weight management, I take that approach because we do have lots of members that have struggled with cancer diagnoses and treatments and other things that have made it so that they've lost weight and they're trying to build their strength back up. Otherwise, questions really get to be specific to what an individual senior's main priority is, as far as their health. I've had a decent amount of members who have some form of kidney disease. I've had lots of people who have diabetes and prediabetes. I've had members who have had different types of surgery, and then definitely cancer. Sadly, I think cancer diagnosis is one that pops up a fair amount.
Weiss: I hope you will forgive me, but I have to ask this question: Does an apple a day keep the doctor away?
Urbanus: I think it does in the sense of when we fuel ourselves with whole food, real food, an apple sort of indicates this idea of fresh fruits and vegetables. When people eat whole food – whether it's frozen, fresh, canned – we're healthier. So yeah, I think an apple a day, or getting some fruits and vegetables in there, does help keep the doctor away.
Weiss: How can seniors find out about your services and presentations?
Urbanus: So the main way is the Anchorage Senior Activity Center's publication. It's called the Aurora Borealis. There is information about the nutrition education sessions that we're doing. We've kept them set at the same times, the second and fourth Monday of every month at 11 a.m.
Weiss: How can Alaskan seniors contact you with questions, or for more information about your services?
Urbanus: My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. That's the best place for people to contact me and send me a note. The other is to just contact the senior center at 907-770-2002. Every Monday I have some time slots available for one-on-one nutrition consults. Just contact the senior center. They can schedule them so it doesn't have to go through me. But otherwise, my senior center email is the best way.
Weiss: Are there a couple of online resources that you would like to recommend where seniors can explore the question of nutrition?
Urbanus: Yes. The website eatright.org. There are specific articles and things that people can read for seniors. If there's a specific condition that somebody is interested in, especially when it comes to chronic disease – whether it's cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension or high blood pressure – the major organizations have done such amazing things with their public facing websites. The Nutrition and Aging Resource Center also has great resources, and that's very specific to seniors and the aging population.
Weiss: Our time's up, but thanks so much for helping us better understand the services you offer.