Tower Talks: Registered Dietitian Discusses the Power of Nutrient Dense Food

Amy Fenzel has always been passionate about food, its values, the effect it can have on the body, and how to create meals that are more nutrient dense. Taking up an interest in nutrition in high school, Fenzel went on to major in dietetics and minor in civic agriculture and food systems at Virginia Tech, before eventually moving to Nashville where she became a registered dietitian.

Just by taking a look at Fenzel’s Instagram, you’ll find plenty of beautiful meals made with produce grown on her Tower Garden, as well as meals that will inspire you to get back into the kitchen. Fenzel discusses how to find new recipes, food trends, what she loves best about growing and cooking with her Tower Garden, and more below. 

Q. When did you first get into cooking, and what has that experience been like?

Fenzel: My mom has said that since I was a very young child, I was more into food than any other kid around. Growing up, I did a lot of baking with my mom, and watched her bake and cook and was drawn to it. I’m really big into finding ways to make things more nutrient dense, especially baking. I love that you can still enjoy baking something that is sweet and delicious, but nutrient dense as well. I love making sweet potato brownies. 

Q. What fall recipes are you looking to make with Tower Garden produce? 

Fenzel: We do a lot of dark leafy greens all year round. I prefer not to get them at a store. I’ll do like butternut squash, kale sauteed with pecans, and prepare them in a skillet. Or a smoky collard soup with an acorn squash. 

Q. How did you first start growing with Tower Garden? 

Fenzel: I thought it was a dream Christmas wish list item. We ended up getting one. It has been so amazing. I speak so highly of it to everyone I know. It really changes your home, kitchen, and atmosphere when you have a Tower Garden growing plants, veggies, and fruits right in your home. I’ve had it almost two years. It’s just nice to have it, because I do not have the time and energy to be gardening outside. Tower Garden is both time and energy saving for someone like me, who wants to grow their own food when gardening outside doesn’t seem feasible. 

Q. Do your kids enjoy having a Tower Garden?

Fenzel: My daughter loves it. That was a huge draw. I appreciate the opportunity to have this, and for the kids to learn how to make their own food, seeing where and how it’s grown. I love that my daughter enjoys sprinkling seeds in the rockwool and watching sprouts grow. I’ll say, “Go grab 5 leaves of Swiss chard,” so you can practice math, too. There are so many educational moments that Tower Garden brings. Cooking and growing brings so many opportunities for teaching moments. 

Q. How do you compare growing your own food with previous spending at the grocery store?

Fenzel: I was buying so many heads of leafy greens every single week, which didn’t compare in quality, taste, or nutritional value to Tower Garden. Half of our Tower Garden is growing kale; we incorporate it into everything we make, such as an egg frittata or a black bean bowl with quinoa or smoothies. We could not have it fresher. I don’t ever buy any greens at the grocery store. My favorite part is not having to wash a thing. It’s so nice to know that it’s clean; there’s nothing on them. And it’s time-saving. 

Q. As a dietitian, are there any food trends you try to avoid or steer others away from? 

Fenzel: I tend to be on the side of things, where I’m a ‘no diet’ dietitian. I really try to steer away from strongly labeling diets and ways of eating in that way, just for the sake of having a healthy, positive view on the foods that we’re eating, and avoiding restrictive diets, unless it's medically necessary for someone. I try not to label any type of diet when I work with patients. I try to empower people to eat the best that they can for themselves. 

Q. When did you start consuming more of a plant-based diet? 

Fenzel: When I was in middle school I was diagnosed with a muscle disease, which is what led me to do my own research and got me thinking more about food and nutrition in general. I started going to these free plant-based classes at Whole Foods, and I became passionate about a plant-based diet and the numerous benefits it has for our bodies. 

Q. Do you have any advice for those getting into cooking or those not feeling as motivated to cook lately? 

Fenzel: Social media is a great place to find food ideas or meal planning ideas. We have access to so much now. Going into the local food movement helps too, like being a part of a CSA. With a Tower Garden, it’s kind of like having a CSA, because you choose what to grow. With a CSA, you get a basket of seasonal produce every week or two, and you’ll be challenged to step outside of your comfort zone and cook it. You could even start with cooking for the season, stock up on what’s in harvest right now, and create more seasonal dishes. A lot of markets offer recipes or resources, too.

We want to thank Amy for sharing her story! Have a story you’d like to share? Reach out to us via our official Facebook page. Happy growing!

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