Many strive to be the best in their profession. They put in years of training, learning, and hands-on practicing to improve their knowledge, trade, or talent. Few hardly receive recognition from all of the hard work and commitment to excellence in their respective fields.  For one local business owner, RDN, LDN, and Houma native, Leah Porche, that recognition was achieved in the form of the 2018 Young Dietitian of the Year award.    

Leah’s commitment to nutrition and dietetics can be traced back to her childhood. Her parents pushed for a healthy lifestyle when Leah was a child. 

“We always had to have whole grains. We always had to have vegetables. My mom made her own mayonnaise, granola, and things like that,” she says. “So I grew up being the weird kid with the brown bread, the apple, and all that kind of stuff while everybody else had Doritos and white bread. That was just not allowed in our house. As a kid, it was not fair, but as an adult I’m glad I have a preference for whole grain bread over white bread.”

Being a young athlete, Leah chose healthier options, like vegetables over less-healthy food. She really got into animals and went vegetarian for a year and a half when she was just 12-years-old. 

While she was waiting tables as an adult, Leah got a part-time job at a gym, which she says she got, “basically for the free membership.” There, she started getting into fitness and researching it in magazines. She then came across the word “dietitian,” which she never heard of before. Although she was a general studies major at Nicholls State University, she called about their dietitian program to maybe switch her study.  

“One of my instructors that I ended up getting close to explained it to me: It’s all about food and nutrition and connecting for people how food and nutrition affects your body, your health, and all of those things,” Leah says. “You basically get paid to help people eat better. It seemed like the most obvious and perfect job for me.”

After she received her bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from Nicholls, began and finished her internship, became registered and licensed and started her practice, she decided to partner with Shantelle Abshire. The two opened local Houma café, Root2Rise (R2R). This unique restaurant is not only part-café and part-juice bar, it is also part-yoga studio. Leah brings her expertise to the juice bar (the first one in Houma) and café side of R2R. 

Leah’s commitment to her practice and gained knowledge over the years of nutrition and dietetics has led her to receive the Young Dietitian of the Year Award, given by the State Dietetic Association. Her peers acknowledge her accomplishments and breakthroughs in the field, such as opening her own restaurant, which is uncommon for most dietitians. This got her nominated for this prestigious award that was voted on by statewide dietitians. She feels proud yet humbled that she received this honor. 

“Because it comes from my peers and know they selected me is pretty neat. I work with a lot of really great people,” Leah says. “I feel like there’s a lot of young dietitians in our area doing some really great things.”