Maria Ostafew, MS, RDN, CDN
To accurately speak on my journey to becoming a dietitian, I must first mention my fantastic mother. A woman who took it upon herself to research, grow, and cook in a way that would help my brother manage his ADHD through food and lifestyle. At the time, I had no way of knowing that helping my mom plant her garden each year would eventually lead to a deep passion for food as medicine.
It wasn't until later, when I began to develop my own chronic health concerns, that I started paying attention to the things that were often overlooked. Nutrient consumption, quality of sleep, hydration, stress levels, emotional well-being, and many intricate parts of our lives contribute to how we feel and should be considered when designing individualized treatment plans. This is why I love the functional and integrative approach. We are a whole person, and our concerns should be addressed with the root cause as the focal point of treatment. I aim to bridge the gap between knowledge and application in a positive, upbeat way while empowering others to make lifelong, sustainable choices regarding their health.
Navigating the abundant health and nutrition information available today can be overwhelming. With the added pressure of unrealistic beauty standards, it's easy to fall into restrictive patterns. Focusing on what can be added instead of removed is one of the best things you can do for your health. Cultivating a diverse and balanced gut microbiome allows your body to function at its best due to its vital role in our immune system, mood, and cognition. More than 70% of our immune system resides, and 90% of our serotonin is produced in our gut. According to The World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability in the world. As evidence to support the bidirectional relationship between gut and brain health continues to emerge, I strive to provide mental health-informed care to all patients in a safe and open-minded environment.
I completed my Bachelor of Science in dietetics at The State University of New York at Oneonta, where my roots in food as medicine took off. I soaked up every opportunity to learn more about nutrients and the role food plays in the physiological functioning of cells. Science aside, food provides a shared experience through the joy and community it brings. While completing my B.S., I spent two of my summers researching abroad in Peru and Thailand. These experiences deepened my understanding of nutrition's impact on disease burden while teaching me cultural humility. In Peru, I worked in a rural setting, completing nutrition-focused physical
exams on children with developmental disabilities and working with caretakers to improve their quality of life through nutrition. In Thailand, I researched the country's top nutrition-related disease states, toured hospitals, and proposed evidence to support that dietitians and nutrition interventions provide a valuable service to the population.
While completing my Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition at The State University of New York at Buffalo, I minored in culinary medicine. Throughout this time, I looked closer at how inflammation can exacerbate or contribute to chronic disease. Although inflammation is vital to our health for its ability to initiate the healing process, it can impact our overall well-being if it becomes chronic. Physiological triggers such as poor gut health, environmental exposures, and physiological exposures such as stress and anxiety can contribute to chronic inflammation. My favorite part about studying to become a dietitian was the FOOD, especially during my time in
culinary medicine. Food does not have to be plain and bland to be healthy. I love helping others build confidence in the kitchen to create delicious meals they look forward to eating, all while preventing chronic disease.
After passing the RD exam, I began working as a Clinical Dietitian at Buffalo General Medical Center. I provided medical nutrition therapy and managed nutrition support in adult and geriatric patients with conditions such as malnutrition, gastrointestinal infections, and neurological impairments. I learned a lot about myself in the fast-paced clinical space, including that I will
always go above and beyond for the betterment of my patients. My dream is to create an environment where patients feel validated and confident to make decisions regarding their health through food as medicine.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Commission on Dietetic Registration
Certified Dietitian Nutritionist (CDN)
University of the State of New York Education Department, Office of the Professions
Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND)
Dietitians in Integrative & Functional Medicine (DIFM)