B-Yourself: Michelle Cardel

Name: Michelle Cardel

Age: 29

My hometown: My family is from Puerto Rico, so I spent my summers there, but I grew up in Orlando, Fla.

Profession: I’m finishing my Ph.D in Nutrition Science at UAB this summer. My dissertation looks at the behavioral, environmental and genetic predictors of childhood obesity.

In your opinion, what is the worst thing to feed children? I don’t believe in classifying foods as “good” and “bad.” However, if I had to pick, I would encourage parents to serve their children water, milk or 100 percent fruit juice (no more than four ounces a day) instead of sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sweet tea).

What is one easy thing parents can do to improve the health of their children? Studies show that children who eat dinner at the table with their families are less likely to be overweight than other children. Make it an enjoyable time and get the whole family involved! You can keep it simple and healthy by adding salads and vegetables into meals and including family favorites, like chili or fajitas.

What have you learned from your research regarding parental feeding? Parents should avoid encouraging their children to be part of the “Clean Plate” club. Most healthy young children have natural, internal cues that tell them to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they are full. Encouraging children to be in tune with their own hunger and fullness cues will empower them to have a mindful relationship with food and prevent overeating as they get older.

What are a few food staples in your home? Salmon, Greek yogurt, cheese, blueberries, chocolate, eggs, avocados, green peppers, apples and popcorn.

My passion: Life.

Who most inspires you? My fiancé, Dominick, is a man of great character and he challenges me to be a better person every day. I adore him.

What is your most marked characteristic? My optimism. I try to see the best in everyone and every situation.

Most treasured possession: Photos

I am guilty of: Saying exactly what is on my mind (which really gets me in trouble sometimes) and giggling in incredibly inappropriate situations.

What is your greatest extravagance? Traveling. It’s pretty much where all my money goes.

What is your greatest fear? I’m terrified of heights but I’ve made myself go skydiving and bungee jumping to try and get over it. Even though I still get slightly nauseous every time I look over a balcony, I think it’s gotten better.

Talents (or talents you wish you had): I have zero talents in the typical sense. When I tell people this, they never believe me. I promise, if I had any real talent, I wouldn’t have done weightlifting for the talent portion of my high school pageant. True story.

What is your motto/mantra? “The best vitamin to be a happy person is B1.”

One day I hope to… Move to Barcelona. Establish a center that focuses on preventing and treating obesity in underserved populations. Ride in a hot air balloon. Get my pilots license.

Which living person do you most admire? My mom. She is the strongest person I know and is the most amazing mother I could ever ask for.

Would love to have dinner with: Barack Obama

What are you looking forward to this year? Finishing my Ph.D, moving to Alaska for the summer, and getting married to the most wonderful man in the world!

Interview and photo by Angela Karen

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