Ask A... Food Blogger with Jess Cording

Hi, guys! I’m Jess, a registered dietitian and food blogger. Aside from creating recipes and other posts for my own blog, Keeping It Real Food , I also write for a variety of health, wellness, and lifestyle publications—maybe you’ve seen me on Fitness or Elana Lyn. I also work with food companies on projects like recipe development and social media campaigns. As a dietitian, my approach is all about making no-drama healthy eating an enjoyable part of everyday life, and I love that I get to be so creative in my day-to-day work and make healthy, delicious food accessible by writing about it. In today’s post, I answer a few of your questions about food blogging. 

How do you come up with the topics you write about? Do you ever feel like you are out of ideas or like “it’s all been done before?” - TA

I’m inspired by client questions and conversations with colleagues. I get recipe ideas from all over: travel, foods I try at events or in restaurants, happy kitchen accidents, or plain old curiosity. I also try to keep things seasonal — posting a recipe that calls for summer tomatoes in the dead of winter just doesn’t make sense. 

I’m selective about which brands I work with for sponsored content, but I love getting creative with using a product in a recipe or reviewing something new that my clients would be interested to know about. I also keep an eye towards what topics are trending in the media. 

It’s fun to nerd out on stuff like analytics, but it can make you crazy if you let it. I do think about it, but I don’t let it run my life. Staying true to myself and my “brand” (I hate that term, but it is what it is), is important to me, so whenever I’m struggling, I think about who my readers are and what they come to my blog for. If a post I’m considering aligns with that, it’s a go, but if not, I go back to the drawing board. 

I’ve noticed some people have negative reactions to food pics. Do you ever think about this? Why do you think this is? - JS

I honestly feel that the anonymity the Internet provides makes it easier for people to unleash what they might not in real life. I also imagine insecurity and dissatisfaction with one’s own life factor in. I know that I certainly have days (usually if I’m covering a weekend shift at the hospital) where I see a gorgeous brunch spread on someone’s social media feed and feel a rush of negative emotions rooted in feeling left out. 

I do sometimes think about potential negative reactions when posting, but I also know you can’t please everyone. My priority is that I come across as, well, me. I take my work seriously but I have a hard time taking myself seriously. I also never want to come across as preachy or insensitive, so I gravitate towards hashtags and descriptions that add some lightness and humor so readers and followers know I’m rolling my eyes at myself a little, like, “Oh look, it’s another dietitian posting a kale salad!” #clichedforareason

How’d you get started? Practice? Writing recipe/classes? What’s your creative process look like for recipe development? - NM

When I first started my blog back in 2009, I would occasionally post a recipe—usually a vegetarian kitchen experiment, since my boyfriend at the time was a vegetarian, and I was trying to learn how to cook meatless meals that were still satisfying. Part of my nutrition training included a culinary course and lab (my knife skills exam was nerve-wracking!) as well as several food service courses where we learned about things like quality control, food safety, and recipe standardization, and I use that stuff all the time. 

To stay organized, I keep a spreadsheet of my blog editorial schedule and another of recipe ideas to draw from. I also have a spreadsheet to help me track project deadlines. For client and media assignments, I’ll brainstorm a list of ideas and go from there. 

I set aside a couple days a month for recipe tests and photos. Spending that time working with my hands and “away from the machines” is restorative and rarely actually feels like work. I’ll type up my recipe notes and edit photos later when doing work on the computer. That said, sometimes I’ll squeeze in an extra test or tweak. If I get an idea on the fly while cooking dinner, I snap a picture and type up a recipe draft. Sometimes the best things happen when you’re not thinking about it.