February 2018 Member Spotlight

By Emily Wunder, RD, LDN, PAND Media Team

When would you consider rhyming and singing essential parts of being a dietitian? When you’re Leslie Bonci, MPH,RDN,CSSD,LDN, of Pittsburgh PA, of course. Leslie who regularly appears on Pittsburgh Today Live with her own segment “The Winning Plate” consider jingles a fun part of her appearances. Leslie explained, “I don’t always have a jingle, but I do try to come up with a catchy tag line like the one I’m using for Super Bowl tips– Tackling hunger without sacking your meal plan.”

Leslie, who is the owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie Bonci focuses on one-on-one nutrition counseling, corporate lectures, curriculum development for a summer culinary camp for teens and tweens, and spokesperson work for industry.

Leslie’s unlimited energy is being spent on current projects such as starting a sports nutrition company, developing a culinary program for all ages, and writing her 7th book. Her experience in sports nutrition includes 24 years as the sports dietitian for the Pittsburgh Steelers, 15 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays, and work with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. She is now in her 4th year with the Kansas City Chiefs.

With a thorough education including Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY for a major is biopsychology, The University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health for an MPH degree in Nutritional Epidemiology, classes in nutrition and dietetics, and an NIH fellowship in Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Leslie knows the answers to nutrition questions she faced with in her daily work.

When asked what her family taught her about food she answered, “Food is the best way to show love. From our hearts to our bowls. Meals are a time to relax, converse, and reconnect.” It was the summer following her graduation that she decided to pursue nutrition. She explained, “The first course I took was a maternal and child nutrition course and I was hooked! The rest is history.” If she were not a registered dietitian she would have been a psychologist or stand-up comedian. Now as a registered dietitian, she feels that RDs are passionate, inquisitive, and assertive.

Leslie volunteers to help our profession because it goes beyond making you feel good. She knows it also does good and explains, “The profession survives and thrives because members have been willing to give their time, talent, ideas that inspire to help other acquire the skills and knowledge and aspire to their goals.“ When asked what she would change if she could change anything about our profession she shared, “As a whole, we need to be better risk takers and position ourselves as the expert. WE have been too nice and as a result, there are a lot of non-RD experts in our space. We don’t need to antagonize, but we need to debunk the junk, and help consumers, the media, and other health professionals understand that it is important to get their nutrition info from those that do know.”

She shared the benefits she found of being a member of AND or PAND. This included having colleagues to share ideas, resources to alleviate the need to reinvent the wheel, and opportunities to give back to the profession. She explained another benefit is the opportunity to pass on experience with leadership roles and mentoring. If she could change anything about the eating habits of individuals she works with she would address the desire for an overnight fix and the blame on food. “I would love everyone to take the slo-mo approach. Sit, savor, appreciate what the body does, enjoy the taste of the food we eat, be mindful and be kind to one self with gratitude and a less negative attitude.”

Leslie enjoys exercising, reading, traveling, and spending as much time as possible with her “grandbabies”. She cooks and serves meat but does not eat it as she just does not like the taste. Her favorite food is cheese except for Camembert, Limburger, Blue, Roquefort, and Gorgonzola and she loves kimchi and spicy food. She said, “Anything spicy- bring it on, if my eyes water- I am a happy camper. Horseradish, yes please.”

Leslie not only loves spicy foods, she loves being a registered dietitian, “I love the fact that I can take the subject of nutrition and customize and personalize for my clients, glamourize and strategize for industry, and help my athletes maximize their food choices to optimize performance….We are the Garmin of the food world- directing consumers to a safe, savory, affordable and accessible plate.”