PMC Welcomes New Registered Dietitian!

Erin Knepple is the newest resident of Pondera County; and off to the races at Pondera Medical Center. Erin joins our team as our new Registered Dietician and will oversee all aspects of nutrition at Pondera Medical Center.

Erin comes to us from Columbia City, Indiana; and recently graduated with her RDN from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Erin chuckles when she says she grew up in a small town and says with a smile: “Or what I used to think was a small town!” After spending a summer working at Yellowstone and spending time in the Bozeman area, Erin made up her mind that someday she was going to live in Montana; and that dream has become reality for the “small town” girl from Indiana. She enjoys hiking and biking and being outdoors and fully intends to take advantage of the area. Less than a month into her time in Montana, she has already made use of weekends and evenings by hiking to Hidden Lake with PMC Wellness her first weekend in Conrad, hiking in Glacier Park, and biking all through Conrad and surrounding towns. Erin says everyone has been very friendly and welcoming.

Along with receiving her RDN from Purdue, Erin also has her Personal Trainer certificate. An active lifestyle and high school career contributed to her interest in dietetics, nutrition and health. Erin developed an interest in the nutrition aspect of wellness as she got deeper into her studies in high school and throughout her career as a high school cross country and track athlete. The questions Erin gets most often in her profession are usually regarding weight-loss, the Keto diet, and if carbohydrates are bad?

She shares:

“The best way to achieve weight loss is to begin making small changes. For example: if you drink soda, consider cutting back on the amount and/or replacing it with water. Swap fried/breaded food for grilled options. Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you consume; these are filling with less calories plus additional vitamin and minerals!

Carbohydrates are an important part of our diet; around half of our intake should come from carbohydrates to provide our bodies and our brains with energy. When following a ketogenic diet, we are almost eliminating all carbohydrates. This forces our bodies into starvation mode and we have to use what’s called “ketone” bodies to supply our brains with energy. This is less efficient and supposed to be used as a back-up system for fueling our bodies in, again, starvation mode. In addition, with any “diet” that is restrictive- it is mentally challenging.

Typically with restriction of any food, there is a strong desire to consume the foods we are restricting; and it is common to “break the diet” and over-consume the food that was being restricted. Followed by feelings of guilt, then over-restriction, and then binging, guilt, and the cycle continues. This creates an unhealthy relationship with food. ALL foods can fit into a healthful diet and feelings of guilt and negativity should never be associated with food.

If someone asks how they can improve their diet; a general answer is to increase fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy while decreasing excessively processed food (chips, cookies, sweets, soda, frozen meals). My advice is to be mindful but not restrictive. Allow yourself what nourishes and fuels you and avoid depriving yourself.”

Erin’s role at PMC impacts all three entities that make up Pondera Medical Center: the Rural Health Clinic, Critical Access Hospital, and our Extended Care Facility. As the Registered Dietitian, Erin will do Nutrition Assessments for all the residents in Extended Care, which is a big job for a facility which houses between 50-60 residents at a time. She also supervises and handles payroll for the PMC Dietary Department--a staff of nearly 20. Erin contributes to Cardiac Rehab by providing nutrition counseling and guidelines to patients, which is a service she can also provide to outpatients. Community members and PMC patients can talk with their provider about a referral for nutrition counseling with Erin; or can self-refer. We asked Erin what kind of referrals she might see in her role: “I handle all the swing bed patients’ nutrition but I can also take referrals such as someone with diabetes or someone starting a wellness journey or an athlete training for a marathon, for example. Nutrition plays a huge role in Chronic Disease prevention. I have a passion for community and also disease prevention; and as I get settled into PMC, I would really love to do some community outreach and education.”

Janet Johnson, PMC Nutrition Coordinator, works closest with Erin and says, “It’s awesome to have her here. We really are excited about everything she’s already taught us and some of her ideas. She has a lot of knowledge and we are really lucky to have her here!”

PMC knows Erin will be a tremendous asset to our facility and community. One of the benefits to living and working in a small community is the feeling that your co-workers and neighbors start to feel like family. But being as most of us have only had a few weeks to get to know her, we spoke with someone very close to Erin who could offer some insight. Upon special request from PMC, here is what Connie Knepple, Erin’s mother, shared with us:

“Erin has morphed into a confident, self-sufficient, independent person. She has always had a strong work ethic. From a little girl until now, she has always loved the outdoors and loved animals. She was always physically active; cross country, track, biking, hiking, and became interested in weight lifting. She was always a picky eater and always ate the same foods until she got older. In her late high school years, all the pieces came together and she decided on a degree in nutrition and fitness; and as she went along in college, that developed into her personal training and dietician interest. She had an opportunity to go out west and when she returned home, she stated she was going to move out west and so she did. Her Dad and I are so proud of her. She will be a huge asset to PMC and the community of Conrad.”

We invite our entire community to join us in welcoming Erin Knepple, RD, to our team. We are excited to bring Erin’s passion and dedication to Pondera County and the surrounding areas!

Purdue University alumni, Erin Knepple, RD, stands in front of Pondera Medical Center!



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