Growing up, Leah Mfiteyesu wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. She was eventually admitted to University of Rwanda to do pharmacy, since she did not want to do medicine. When a new course, Human Nutrition and Dietetics, was introduced, it was a dream come true for her that she immediately switched courses. The course is about applying the science of nutrition to prevent and treat disease while promoting health. “From a young age, I was always curious about what the content and their percentages meant on food and juice labels. They labels seemed really important but I never quite knew how interpret them. “The new course, for me, was an opportunity to learn about eating right and living healthy. My parents initially opposed my decision because they thought I was going to learn how to cook. The more I researched about the course, however, the more I fell in love with it, so much that I even inspired my friends to consider pursuing it,” Mfiteyesu says. As a certified nutritionist and dietitian today, she counsels hundreds of clients on intuitive eating, high cholesterol, wellness, and vegetarian nutrition as a tool for successful behaviour change at Nutri-Sante, a nutrition centre located in Kigali. “The diet is different for everyone. Some come with a health condition and are required to lose weight and are on prescribed medicine which relieves the illness. With the right meal plan however, they could deal away with medicine, Mfiteyesu says. For her, it’s about making lifestyle choices that are more psychologically fulfilling and attainable. “I derive inspiration from tangible results, such as people dealing with diabetes who come to us are put on a meal and they stop the insulin injections, or someone curing from hypertension, gastric acid, constipation, joint pain, cholesterol, obesity or other non-communicable diseases,” she adds. Unfortunately, while the country has very many professional nutritionists, there are very few dietitians in the profession. However, even with the many nutritionists available, Rwandans hardly utilise their expertise, Mfiteyesu says. As a result, a lot of nutritional food grown upcountry, such as hibiscus and amaranth, is mostly exported because people don’t know their importance. “Everyone needs a nutritionist and every doctor needs one next door to help patients deal with their illnesses. “The practice is very important, especially because there are so many misconceptions around food dieting and nutrition. For example, people with hypertension cannot leave out salt completely because they need sodium in the body, or some people miss out on vitamin A, D, E and K when they eliminate oil from their food. Tomato paste also has a lot of salt but general doctors cannot warn their patients because they have not studied them in depth. “This is where we, as nutritionists and dietitians, come in and give you a meal plan based on your body mass index and medical report. Eating foods rich in iron, in the right portions is also prevents toxicity found in supplements, which is a healthier alternative,” she says. After a month of follow up for her clients, and four months of nutrition education that yield results, people are able to apply healthy meal plans in their family diet, she adds. Currently, Mfiteyesu’s dream is to own a nutrition cabinet with a nutrition rehabilitation centre combined with a sports centre.