Why Freelance Nutrition Writing Is Such a Great Career

Are you considering a career in freelance nutrition writing? Check out my post on how to get started, or like A Love Letter to Food on Facebook for more tips!

Need a professional health and wellness writer? Contact me at Sarah@ALoveLetterToFood.com.

If you don’t know me personally, you might not know that the writing I do here on A Love Letter to Food isn’t my only writing. Not by a long shot, actually. I’m a freelance writer–and not in the sense of one-off articles published here or there. Writing is my main gig, my bread and butter, my livelihood. I spend anywhere from 15 to 30 hours a week cranking out content for a number of publications and private clients (and probably would do more if I weren’t also a wife and mom to three school-aged kids).

As a licensed nutritionist, I primarily focus on nutrition, health, and wellness writing. I’ve been fortunate enough to land articles (and sometimes recurring work) with respected sites like Eat This, Not That!, Healthline, Verywell Fit, Greatist, and–coming soon!–Eating Well and Prevention. I also do quite a bit of parenting and spirituality writing for publications like Today’s Parent, Busted Halo, Aleteia, and Amendo…because I’m more than just a nutrition professional. I’m a mom and a Catholic Christian. I figure my writing can reflect all of these facets of my identity. And so far, I absolutely love this career path.

Quite honestly, before now, I’d never had a career I really liked. I’ve been an adjunct German professor, children’s museum tour guide, a secretary, a YMCA customer service rep, a substitute teacher, and–a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away–an ice cream scooper at Cold Stone Creamery. In each of these positions, I was always seeking more: more opportunity, more money, more ice cream (Ha! But seriously.). But now, with my freelance writing career, I find there’s no limit on my achievement or how far I can go.

I’ve written on this blog before about how this nutrition freelance writing journey began. In fact, it’s one of my most popular posts! Check it out for practical tips on getting started. But now I wanted to share some of the reasons this is such a rewarding career. Whether you’re considering dipping a toe or taking the plunge into freelance health and wellness writing, I hope this list offers some encouragement that propels you forward. (Or, if you’re looking for a writer, visit my Work With Me page.)

Here are five things that make freelance nutrition writing an awesome career.

1. Flexibility

Let’s say I want to meet a friend for lunch or need to pick up my kids on an unexpected early release day at school. No problem! The freelance career means that I make my own schedule and can roll with the punches of unexpected schedule changes. (Which we all know happens often, especially with kids.) If need be, I can get my work done at night or on weekends. Heck, as long as I have my laptop and internet access, I could even leave the country. I sure wouldn’t mind tapping away at a window overlooking the Eiffel Tower!

2. Recognition and Purpose

One of the saddest things I ever heard from colleagues when I was interning as a diet tech at a local hospital was, “We don’t actually know if the doctors read our notes.” Wait, what? You don’t even know if all the work you’re doing charting on patients actually does anything for their care? Major NOPE moment for me. (In addition to the fact that the dietetics office adjacent to the cafeteria that smelled like dirty mop water and overcooked tater tots.)

Personally, I want a job that I know actually makes a difference to someone, somewhere. Even though I might not know my readers’ names or how my writing impacts their lives, I believe that creating trustworthy nutrition and health information has a certain nobility and purpose. That means a lot to me.

3. Money

Raise your hand if you like making money. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The nutrition industry is notorious for grossly underpaying its professionals. I happen to know that several employers in my area start their NDTRs at under $15/hour. And when I worked for a health and wellness non-profit–one with a top-notch national reputation, mind you!–I literally made minimum wage. For most of us trying to make an actual living, this is not sustainable. And as nutrition professionals, our knowledge isn’t worth such low compensation!

That’s why I love freelance writing. In a given month as a writer, I make anywhere from four to seven times what I made for around the same number of hours at a non-profit. Yes, skills and experience matter for scoring higher pay, but I don’t have to attend seminars or trainings or even necessarily obtain my RDN. I just have to research well and communicate well.

4. Independence

I’ll be honest…I never had a boss I loved. Several companies I worked for were oozing with hierarchy, which, when you’re at the bottom, can be pretty discouraging. (Or, to be more blunt: It sucks.) Plus, I’m not crazy about getting micromanaged. (True story: I once had a manager write me a note that said, “Write a note that says…” and then wrote the entire thing herself.) But I really don’t mind working for myself!

As a freelancer, I can pitch whatever publications I have the guts to approach, set my own hours (see #1, Flexibility), and go after as much or as little work as I like. I work in tandem with clients and editors, but I’m in charge of my own career.

5. Minimal Hassle

Long commute? Mandatory meetings? Dress code? Nope, nope, and nope. There are definitely some things I miss about working in an office setting with fellow co-workers, but I sure do love not having to deal with a lot of the hassle.

If you’re a dietitian or diet tech, I’d be willing to bet you face another hassle: wondering whether your patients or clients actually listen to you. Your training qualifies you to be an expert on all things diet-related, but is that high-cholesterol patient really going to take your advice and stop eating burgers and fries five days a week? Maybe, maybe not.

The beauty of putting your writing out into the universe is knowing that, very likely, you won’t get pushback about it. You won’t have to hound anyone about counting their carbs or cutting back on sodium. You’re simply creating solid health information–and you can feel good about that. Rest assured that plenty of eyeballs will see your work. Whether or not the owners of those eyeballs take your good advice and translate it into practical change isn’t up to you. For me, that’s a relief. People change on their own timeline, not mine.

Convinced yet that freelance nutrition writing is a great career? I wish you all the best! Don’t forget to check out my post on how to get started with freelance health and wellness writing, or like A Love Letter to Food on Facebook for more tips!

If you need a freelance nutrition, health, wellness, or parenting writer, I’d love to work with you! Email me at Sarah@ALoveLetterToFood.com.

Apricot-Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies


It may only be October, but it’s definitely NOT too early to start thinking about Christmas cookies. In fact, in my house, it’s apparently not too early to think about anything Christmas-related, especially presents. All of my kids have already made their Christmas lists, all of which basically read like Target ads. My middle son actually wrote “all items sold at Target” in large font at the top of his list. Got it, thanks, buddy.

As for me, though I thoroughly enjoy all things fall, I’m also excited about Christmastime. One of my favorite things to look forward to is our annual white elephant Christmas party, celebrating its 15th year this year! I love putting together a vibrant, eclectic menu to serve our guests, and I’d like to think it’s partly the food (and not just the terrible sci-fi DVDs, clown paintings, and poo-scented candles) that keeps people coming back year after year.

Probably my favorite portion of the menu to plan is the dessert spread–for which I believe these Apricot-Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies are a strong contender. I usually like to plan a mix of bars, candies, cookies, possibly a pie or trifle, and at least one show-stopping cheesecake for the event. Past favorite cookies have included mint chocolate candy cane cookies and pumpkin chocolate chip. But the unique hint of savoriness is where I think these apricot-rosemary thumbprints really shine, either on their own or as part of my larger holiday cookie combo.

These don’t take many ingredients, but fresh rosemary is essential. (I’m fortunate enough to have some in my garden, but if you don’t, you can always freeze it if you end up with too much from another recipe!) Also, as you’re making these, you may think, “Holy saturated fat, that’s a lot of butter for such a small batch.” And you’re right. But these come out sooooo perfectly rich and fluffy, I’d say they’re worth the hefty dose of butter. Combine that richness with the earthiness of the rosemary and the fruity sweetness of the apricot jam and you’ve got a Christmas cookie that will disappear fast.

Got a party coming up this holiday season? I’d love to hear if you try these thumbprints!

Apricot-Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies

Sweet and savory, these buttery thumbprints disappear fast!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time14 mins
Total Time1 hr 29 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/3 c. apricot jam
  • extra powdered sugar for dusting

Instructions

  • In a small bowl stir together flour, cornstarch, rosemary, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter with a hand mixer for 30 seconds or until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and almond extract and beat again.
  • Beat in as much of the flower mixture into the butter mixture as you can with the mixer. Work the rest in with a wooden spoon.
  • Collect the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge and form into about 16 balls, placing them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Press a divot into each cookie with your thumb or a spoon and fill in with a little apricot jam.
  • Bake about 14 minutes. Cool, then sprinkle with additional powdered sugar.

Notes

Green Bean Casserole {No Soups, No Mushrooms}

There was a time when I thought condensed cream soups were God’s gift to the home cook. I specifically recall a Crock Pot chicken recipe I used to make that involved cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup (and maybe Velveeta cheese?). Yes, it was creamy, and probably tasty, but also crazy high in sodium and pretty highly processed.

I’ve come a long way since those days. Now, whenever I can, I prefer to make sauces for casseroles, meat, or pasta dishes myself. I’ve found doing so cuts back on mystery ingredients, reduces sodium, and honestly just results in better quality food.

Enter this condensed soup-free Green Bean Casserole.

If you’ve ever made green bean casserole with a traditional recipe, I’ll bet it called for cream of mushroom soup. I know the recipes in both my Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks start this way. But now that I’m a fan of homemade sauces–and since I’ve never been fond of mushrooms–when I wanted a green bean casserole to go with a grilled chicken dinner recently, I thought I’d try my hand at a 100% from-scratch version. (Except for the fried onions on top. Those I’m happy to outsource to good old French’s.)

This recipe came out full of savory flavor, thanks to shallot, sage, and thyme. And thanks to a vegetable broth base, it’s totally vegetarian. Even though Thanksgiving may be several weeks off, I’d make this again for a veggie side dish any day!

Give this one a try if you’re looking for something a little less processed, or if someone in your family has the good sense to not like mushrooms. 🙂

Green Bean Casserole {No Soups, No Mushrooms}

Not crazy about mushrooms? Prefer not to use condensed soups? This delicious from-scratch Green Bean Casserole is for you!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 24 oz. frozen French-style green beans
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • generous 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. dried sage
  • 1/4 + 1/8 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 1/4 c. vegetable broth
  • 6 oz. crispy fried onions

Instructions

  • Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add green beans and cook about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Wipe out the pot and melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour, salt, pepper, sage, and thyme and whisk about 1 minute.
  • Add milk and vegetable broth and whisk to combine. Increase heat to medium and whisk occasionally until sauce thickens. (It's ready when the whisk leaves a defined trail.) Remove from heat and stir in green beans.
  • Spray an 11 x 7-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in green bean mixture and smooth. Sprinkle with fried onions.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Notes

A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.

Dutch Oven Cooking Class

Helloooooo again! It’s been far too long since I’ve posted! Things have been pretty crazy around here, and I don’t just mean run-of-the-mill busyness. If you don’t follow A Love Letter to Food on Facebook or Twitter (and if not, I’d love it if you would!) let me fill you in:

Last week I went to New York City to be featured on the Today Show! Their producers invited me to be on the show for a segment about a crime I was the victim of several years ago. You can watch my appearance here. After my stint on the show, my husband and I stuck around for a few days to catch the best of NYC. (And, in addition to all that, yes, some run-of-the-mill busyness has also been keeping me occupied.)

With anchors Craig, Sheinelle, and Dylan (and my husband Anthony)

Today, though, I’d like to tell you about one other interesting event I recently experienced. With some of my girlfriends, I attended the Becoming an Outdoorswoman weekend in Prescott, AZ. This unique program, 25 years running, is 48 hours of classes (plus socializing and other fun stuff) devoted to teaching women useful skills for the outdoors. I’ll be honest, as someone with basically zero camping experience, a whole lot of it was outside my comfort zone. Examples: putting up a tent, eating javelina stew, sharing a bathroom with four other women…

One thing that was TOTALLY up my alley, however, was my class on outdoor Dutch oven cooking, aka cowboy cooking. I have a totally romantic notion of living in the American West a hundred-plus years ago, harbor a (probably completely unrealistic) fantasy of homesteading, and have always wondered how cooking over a campfire differs from cooking in a kitchen.

Here’s what I learned!

First, explained our lovely instructor Barb of Cowgirls Forever (pictured here in all her Western glory), you have to build your fire.

Once we had laid a nice bed of kindling, Barb added mesquite charcoal. She lighted the coals and allowed them to burn until large chunks were gray.

Meanwhile, we got to work on preparing our ingredients.

Barb had brought a literal truckful of food and said it was up to us to decide what to make! Here are just a few of the ingredients we had available.

Among the dozen or so women in the class, we decided on the following:

  • Roasted vegetables
  • Green chili with ground pork and hominy
  • Elk stew
  • Biscuit breakfast casserole with sausage
  • Bon bons (rolled around a Hershey’s hug)
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Peach cobbler

Yeah, it was a lot of food. And let me tell you, this lady did NOT fear butter. Although none of our recipes were scripted (more “a can of this plus a stick of this and a shake of this”) if I were to guess, I’d say we went through five pounds of butter. NOT KIDDING.

When enough mesquite coals were suitably gray, it was time get cookin’. Barb grabbed her tongs and pulled several coals aside to sit underneath our first Dutch oven. Then, since she instructed us to never cook in an uncreased pan, we set the Dutch oven on top of the coals and poured in some oil (or butter. Lots of butter). Once this was shimmering, we started on our green chili by browning ground pork–the idea being that chili can simmer a long time while everything else cooks. We then moved on to our other savory dishes.

Each time we added a new ingredient, we’d top it with the lid of the Dutch oven, then cover the lid with coals. The ideal ratio of top coals to bottom coals is apparently 1/3 on bottom and 2/3 on the top. And, as a rule of thumb, you can take the number of the Dutch oven’s size (they come in sizes like 12, 14, and 16) and double it to get the appropriate number of coals to use in total. By this metric, the interior of the oven should stay at around 350 to 375 degrees.

Amazingly, according to Barb, you can stack up to five Dutch ovens for space-saving. Alternately, you can make groupings of coals for individual ovens, especially if you frequently need to access the inside to add ingredients or stir. For handling the extremely hot pot lids, Barb came equipped with special lid lifters suited to the task.

By the end of our three-hour class, our feast was complete! Since it was far too much food for our group, a number of ladies from other classes wandered over (drawn by the enticing smells, I’m sure) and enjoyed the various dishes with us.

Everything was decadent and delicious–and truly had that warm-you-from-the-inside-out feel that you only get eating campfire food on a chilly day. I absolutely loved this class and would 100% take it again!

I highly recommend looking into the Becoming an Outdoorswoman program in your area (they’re in over 40 states), and if you live in AZ like I do, Barb from Cowgirls Forever does catering and private classes–check her out!

Sangria Cake

A delicious, fruity Sangria Cake for any summer special occasion!

Did you know that August and September are the months with the most birthdays? It’s probably the result of couples getting cozy around Christmastime nine months earlier–or some science even suggests the body is biologically predisposed to procreate in the winter months. Whatever the reason, in my own family of origin, it rings true: Both my parents have August birthdays, and I’m right behind in September.

Every year I bake my mom’s birthday cake. It’s a super fun exercise in creativity because she gives me free reign to make whatever I like, from this Chocolate Mint Layer Cake to this Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake.

This year, inspired by some gorgeous cupcakes I saw awhile back, I thought a sangria cake sounded perfect. Fruity, colorful, and a little different, it seemed just right for a summer birthday.

Once made, the flavors in this cake were actually rather subtle–not overpowering, but definitely with a fruity depth and a hint of orange. I especially loved the frosting, which was pretty in pink and just the right level of sweet. And I must confess I geeked out over decorating the exterior with an arrangement of fresh fruit. With the alcohol baked into the cake and just two tablespoons in the frosting, even my kids were free to partake. (And I think my mom liked it, too!)

So, for a special celebration, give this sangria cake a try! (My birthday is next week, hint, hint…)


Sangria Cake

Happy summer! This Sangria Cake makes the perfect pretty, fruity celebration for a summer birthday or other special occasion.
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time35 mins
Servings: 16

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. room-temperature sangria
  • 6 drops pink or red food coloring

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 4 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. sangria
  • 4 drops pink or red food coloring

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in orange zest, then add eggs one at a time. Mix in orange juice and vanilla.
  • Mix in dry ingredients and sangria, alternating between the two, until fully incorporated. Stir in food coloring until well mixed. Divide between cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make frosting: In a large bowl combine butter and powdered sugar. Add orange juice and sangria and mix until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Once cake is done, let cool at least two hours. When cake has cooled, frost to your liking.

Notes

Cake adapted from Liv for Cake, recipe A Love Letter to Food Original.