Great food says something about its cook. For Jamie Vespa, creator of the food website Dishing Out Health, her culinary creations speak to a dedication to create healthy food that tastes as great as it looks. Like the food she makes, Jamie’s journey after graduating from the FSU College of Health and Human Sciences has had unexpected twists, but ultimately her dedication and passion for helping others led her to a rewarding and exciting career.
After earning a bachelor’s in dietetics and a master’s in nutrition and food science from the College of Health and Human Sciences, Jamie began her professional career with the goal of working at a top-ranked hospital in Florida. And she quickly achieved that goal, accepting a position as a registered dietitian. The only problem was that her job left a bad taste in her mouth. “Instead of educating sick patients on how to manage chronic disease, I wanted to help prevent chronic disease with the power of food,” she says.
After three years working at a hospital, she felt she had to make a change, and so she made two moves that proved pivotal for her career. First, she became a nutrition editor at Cooking Light Magazine. Second, she started Dishing Out Health as a side project. Eventually, after years of blogging, Jamie was able to make the switch and focus on her website full time.
Food for the Heart
When she started Dishing Out Health, she was not hoping to turn it into a business. Instead, she simply wanted to share her passion for good food with more people. “I found so much joy in developing healthy recipes that actually tasted delicious, and I thought a blog would be the perfect platform to expand my reach.”
While there are plenty of food blogs online, Jamie utilizes her educational and professional backgrounds to help set Dishing Out Health apart from its peers. She cites her time at the College of Health and Human Sciences as forming “the core of everything I do and the driver behind my passion for developing recipes.”
She also meticulously tests new recipes. Typically, she will try a recipe two to three times, but she mentions that some trickier recipes have taken up to 10 attempts to get just right. Particularly baked goods can take some experimentation, especially as Jamie focuses on using fresher, plant-based ingredients. She chose to focus on vegetarian ingredients to help “lighten up” heavier favorites.
Cooking for the Senses
Jamie does more than turn traditional recipes into healthier dishes, however. She draws her inspiration from a variety of sources, but the biggest inspiration of all is her passion and love for great food. You can see evidence of her care in every aspect of her website, from the recipes themselves to the care she puts into the photography and walkthroughs.
Exploring the world around her helps her elevate her food. She particularly enjoys incorporating seasonal ingredients into her recipes, but she leaves herself open to inspiration anywhere, from magazines to favorite chefs. She even follows her own intuition and develops recipes based on her cravings.
Despite the quality of her creations, she has never had any formal training in cooking. “You have to learn by doing and making mistakes,” she says. “I’ve never made the same cooking mistake twice, and that’s made me a stronger, more strategic cook.”
It’s not just recipe development that Jamie has had to learn. She admits that running Dishing Out Health as her main job has been both rewarding and challenging. “I started my blog as a creative outlet, and it took years to monetize it and turn it into a business.” Much like her approach to recipe development, she learned how to run a business by doing, but eventually turned to podcasts, books, and coursework to get the information she needed. Still, her motivation and commitment to sharing good food with others has helped her build a fulfilling livelihood.
“You have to learn by doing and making mistakes. I’ve never made the same cooking mistake twice, and that’s made me a stronger, more strategic cook.”
A Flavor for Life
In the simplest sense, food is there to sustain life, but such a view is almost cynical, like calling a painting just a collection of colors. For Jamie, food is an expression of love, of flavor, of creativity. You’ll find her constantly responding to fans on her Instagram account, thanking them for their feedback, listening to their experiences, and taking the time to connect with them.
As Jamie says, “Food has so much more power than just filling nutritional gaps. It’s about experience, connection, and nourishing ourselves both mentally and physically. I really strive to find the joy in food and share that through healthy recipes that are both approachable and delicious.” Through Dishing Out Health, she has shared a piece of herself with thousands of fans. In this way, Jamie doesn’t simply have fans; she has a community.