Qianzhi Jiang Of The Nutrition Changer: 5 Things We Must Do To Inspire The Next Generation About Sustainability And The Environment

An Interview With Martita Mestey

Martita Mestey
Authority Magazine
9 min readMar 23, 2024


Farms provide great learning opportunities outside of classrooms. Kids learn about complex science concepts in a simplified, vivid way that they can resonate with on farms. I took my kids to a farm in March for a maple sugaring tour where they learned about where maple syrup came from and how climate change could negatively impact the production of maple syrup.

As a part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Qianzhi Jiang, PhD, RDN, LDN.

Dr. Jiang is a registered dietitian nutritionist. She is building The Nutrition Changer, a nutrition service provider that empowers working parents to raise healthy, happy children while taking care of their own health. She also teaches Food, Culture and Society at Framingham State University, where students have an opportunity to explore how they can promote a more sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural system in the US.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I was born and raised in China. My father is a Chinese professor at a university and my mother, an accountant. My father set a good example for me with his strong work ethic and meticulous attention to detail. As an incredible self-taught cook, my mother spoiled me with scrumptious food throughout my childhood. Before I learned all the science behind “eat a rainbow”, my mother had been practicing this for decades which she learned from her mother. Food has always been a very important part of our culture at all times. We communicate, celebrate, and pass down our traditions through food.

Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?

When I first moved to the US from China, I noticed how different the varieties of fruits and vegetables both countries had. I saw less variety here compared to what was available in China. For example, most grocery stores here in the US basically sell one type of corn, which is the same type across the country — the sweet corn. However, as I grew up in China, I used to eat a variety of different corn, sweet corn, waxy corn, yellow corn, purple corn, multicolored corn, etc. As I did a little research into the history of corn, I was amazed by how many species humans used to cultivate. The germplasm bank of the ​​International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico City carries over 28,000 collections of maize and is one of the largest contributors of Svalbard Global Seed Vault, where over a million seed samples from all over the world are safely guarded. The expansion and modernization of agriculture has caused massive losses of biodiversity over time. This is when I realized we needed to rethink our agricultural and food systems.

Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?

Find your own passion, which will lead you to everything that happens next. Do not panic if you are clueless and totally lost at first. Growing up, I had never imagined that I would become a dietitian one day. I accidentally discovered my love in nutrition and health after my initial plans had all failed. I continued my journey when I realized how happy I was learning about food and disease management. This success further fueled my passion in becoming a leader in nutrition and the food environment.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

I teach Food, Culture, and Society class at Framingham State University (FSU) where students learn about different cultures in the lens of foodways and how we can reshape our food systems to be more efficient and sustainable. For example, many students were amazed by how people maintained their relationship to Mother Nature through cooking and celebratory food in certain cultures such as the indigenous populations. Through discussions they also discover the impact of our modern agriculture, on both positive and negative sides. They then will have to decide how they are going to use the knowledge to promote a more sustainable and equitable food system in their future careers. The Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning at FSU has great programs and resources for its students and the public to learn more about our Earth and the universe. My favorite is their high quality fulldome films. One film features our climate, the ecosystems, and the damage caused by human activities, which is geared towards middle school students and up. I have always encouraged my students and parents to take their children there to learn more about the space where we live.

Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?

  • Be educated

Many conflicts are actually caused by misinformation. Education is the key to clear up the confusion and doubt the general public may have towards climate change and environmental conservation.

  • Take small steps

It is difficult to change from 0 to 100 overnight. However, small changes do add up. You can take steps that work best for you. For example, if you are not quite ready to start a vegetable garden, you can learn more about how plants grow.

  • Re-evaluate your lifestyle

Ask yourself these questions: Are you happy with how you live? Are you constantly buying more than you need and then regret it? Is your house overwhelmed by a ton of toys that you kids have not played in years? This kind of evaluation can be helpful to decide which changes should be prioritized first.

The youth-led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion, what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement?

  1. Visit a farm

Farms provide great learning opportunities outside of classrooms. Kids learn about complex science concepts in a simplified, vivid way that they can resonate with on farms. I took my kids to a farm in March for a maple sugaring tour where they learned about where maple syrup came from and how climate change could negatively impact the production of maple syrup.

2. Start a home garden

Big or small, a home garden can contribute to the overall sustainability of our agricultural practices. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, when done in the correct way, home gardens may contribute to social equity and justice, biodiversity and nature conservation, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and overall wellbeing of the residents. You can start with simple steps like burying the pumpkins from Halloween in your backyard and see what will happen the next spring.

3. Focus on plant-based food sources

Plant-based diets help reduce the impact of human activities on the environment. They also provide numerous health benefits. One activity I do with my kids is “eat a rainbow”. My 7 year-old son comes up with a list of fruits and vegetables that represent each color in the rainbow. At the end of the day, we count how many colors he has tried and liked, or disliked. It is totally OK if kids do not like certain fruit or vegetable, encourage them to keep exploring new varieties or recipes. You will be surprised by how much they love that spinach salad one day.

4. Reduce food waste

Americans waste 38% of all the food in the country, which is enough to feed millions of people. You can involve your kids in multiple ways to downsize your food waste:

  • Come up with a meal plan for the week and shop with a shopping list.
  • Let the kids decide what and how much they want to eat.
  • Donate what you do not need or join a local goods and services exchange group to pass on anything unneeded in your home.
  • Use every part of the food, for example, roast the seeds when you buy a whole butternut squash, use veggie scraps to make a stock.
  • Compost if you can. You can definitely start with a small pile or participate in your local composting programs.

5. Attend educational events

I love to attend educational events with my kids. Although I have a PhD in science and have been involved in research and higher education for over a decade, I am always amazed by how much I learn at these events. Last fall, we attended an event at the zoo where we learned all about climate change including the disappearance of the rainforest and the devastating effect on the cocoa industry. My son was very concerned about not being able to have chocolate in the future. This type of events help the kids understand what climate change and sustainability really mean.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

The two most powerful factors when consumers make decisions related to food are taste and cost. I believe businesses in the food industry can thrive when focusing on these principles while still contributing to a sustainable food system. One example is Misfits Market, which is a company that collects “misfit” produce that would have ended in food waste and resells it at a much lower price. They take in “ugly” fruits and vegetables and produce that does not meet retailer specifications or simply surplus produce. The company is now on track to hit $1 billion in sales in 2024 after it acquired another company with similar services. This is a win-win-win situation for all parties involved including the environment.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

No words can describe how grateful I am to my husband, Yinan, who is a biologist and has been through the highs and lows in life with me. I have been inspired by our countless conversations about science, life, how we can raise a generation that is caring, responsible and can think critically. He has always been there emotionally and financially to support my dream in nutrition and promoting a better environment for all.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to see more applications of urban farming especially in urban schools and workplaces all over the country. There are spaces in urban settings where sustainable agriculture can fit in to support the environment, food supplies and the education of our next generation. For example, we could grow herbs on walls, and build vegetable gardens on rooftops. Schools can incorporate sustainable agriculture and nutrition into their curriculum, shaping our children’s eating habits from early on.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

“The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and the willingness to work hard for them.” Michelle Obama

As an international student and then a first generation immigrant, I had to overcome numerous obstacles to become a registered dietitian, to raise a family and to fulfill my dream. During the early years of my studies here in the US, I struggled with VISA issues, financial concerns and was questioning whether I was on the right path. Upon the realization of how much time I had wasted contemplating what I should do, I reassessed my dreams and created a to-do list for me to achieve my dreams. Hardwork did pay off. It felt so unbelievable when I crossed every single thing off my to-do list. Now as I set new goals for the next five years, I am ready to cross off new items from my new to-do list.

What is the best way for people to continue to follow your work online?

You can find me at my website The Nutrition Changer, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!