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10 lessons nutrition experts have learned

Posted March 11

You may think of nutritionists and dietitians as the food police. Many healthy lifestyle gurus and fad diet promoters may lead you to think this way. But many nutrition experts who have years of physiology, biochemistry, food science, psychology and behavior change education and experience don’t usually take the food police approach. Registered dietitians and other nutritionists who have the background to help you make healthy food choices that will stick are in no way the food police.

Here are a few quotes about what registered dietitians have learned about nutrition and how they eat since becoming registered dietitians.

  1. "I am much more focused on whole food rather than nutrients. I preach less and try to help people with how they want to eat and respect their preferences. I also realize now that telling someone they should eat a certain way — like five servings of fruits and veggies daily — is a process that takes time." — Elizabeth Ward, RD, of Better is the New Perfect
  2. "Before I went back to school to become a dietitian, I thought I would learn all about food and nutrition perfection. It was almost like I thought becoming a dietitian would finally enlighten me to the 'magic bullet' of health and nutrition, so I could better help others. Guess what — it still doesn’t exist. I quickly realized that there is no perfect eating prescription, no magic bullet, no 'one size fits all.' And despite learning all the fine details of human metabolism, organic chemistry, anatomy, and micro and macronutrient details, I believe now more than ever that everyday nutrition should be simplified and scalable for each individual." — Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, LDN, CLC, of Nutrition to Fit
  3. "I definitely started my career as an RD focusing on calories and creating meal plans. In recent years, I've changed to a more intuitive eating, mindful approach with clients. … Tuning in to our bodies and giving ourselves permission to eat is where I've found the most success in those I work with!" — Kim Hoban, RD, of KH Nutrition
  4. "I've focused more on a mindful approach, body acceptance, and the mind-body connection. I always kind of ate in an 'all foods fit' approach in my personal life and during school thought that I wasn't always being a 'good nutrition student' when I would bake cakes and cookies and the like, but as I've entered the professional world I've realized there is no black and white way of eating. I can be kind to my body, love it for what it is, eat foods that satisfy me mentally and physically, and be considered an awesome dietitian! To me, that approach is what truly makes up nutrition, and I encourage everyone I work with to listen to their body and give yourself some grace." Emily Holdorf, RDN, LDN, of EmPowered Nutrition
  5. "I used to be the pickiest eater growing up! Never wanted to try anything new and stuck with unhealthy options because I was afraid to try something new. Since becoming an RD, I'll try any food out there! I know how important it is to eat a balanced diet; not only to look good but to feel good and provide the body with the proper fuel it needs. Having the knowledge is what's expanded my taste buds and my food choices!" — Kristen Peterson, MPH, RDN, LDN, of KP Creations
  6. "For so long I was focused on calories in versus calories out to maintain a weight I thought I 'should' be, but as I’ve learned more about the science of nutrition and food I’ve been able to focus on how great I FEEL, how much more energy I have, and how much better I sleep when I eat real, whole foods … and as a bonus I’ve found the happy weight that helps my body thrive!" — Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, private practice dietitian and nutrition consultant in New York City
  7. "Food is not a fast fix, but a way of life. This 'way of life' is to live my healthiest and happiest for many years to come!" — Katie Pfeffer-Scanlan, MS, RD, LDN and food blogger for One Hungry Bunny.
  8. "Having lived in Barcelona now for seven years has shifted my approach to food and health. I understand how culture, community, lifestyle, and the overall pattern of eating wield far greater power over short-term and long-term health than any superfood or fad diet." — Denine Marie, MPH, RDN, of Healthy Out of Habit.
  9. "I now realize that good nutrition means something else for every single person. I used to think if everyone just ate healthy everyone would be healthy. I now realize that healthy means something unique to each person's physiology. What works for me may not work for you!" — Kelli Shallal of Hungry Hobby Blog
  10. "In the past few years of being an RD what I've found over and over again is that people don't need to be told what to eat — they need help understanding the 'why' behind their eating decisions. And they need support to give themselves permission to NOT follow all the diet rules they've absorbed over the years, too. I focus on helping clients reduce stress about food decisions — to help them to make the healthier choice simpler and easier, but also to remind them that it's okay to not always make the healthier choice, too, so long as it's mindful and intentional rather than a fall back." — Anne Mauney, registered dietitian, blogger at fANNEtasticfood.com, and co-creator of the Joyful Eating, Nourished Life Program.
Here’s how my view of food and eating have changed since becoming a registered dietitian and working with different groups of people over the past three years.

I am much less strict in what I eat compared to when I was a student and a new dietitian. I found that following eating rules and trying to show my good example of a dietitian by eating really healthy foods all the time was exhausting. I also really missed out on foods that I wanted ... and then binged. I had many instances binging after returning from dinner with friends. I didn’t eat much and was hungry still. I changed my tune to focus on eating more nonstarchy vegetables, choosing more whole grains than refined grains, eating more plant-based proteins.

With those changes came freedom from feeling like I have to eat a certain way. When I go out, I order what sounds good. Honestly, the nutrition composition doesn’t matter to me when I eat out on occasion, because I know my body is generally being nourished well. And by focusing on eating more of certain foods, I don’t feel deprived, and I also don't force myself to avoid certain foods that aren't as nutrient dense as the aforementioned foods. I try to incorporate this into my work with clients, my goal is to help women in particular release themselves from the relentless grip of diets and to enjoy eating.

Research suggests that dieting and restriction lead to weight gain, less healthy habits and feeling bad about yourself. If you’re done dieting and feeling bad about yourself, now’s the time to break free. You can work with a registered dietitian to eat better, feel comfortable in your skin and live a healthy fulfilling life. In the meantime, you can claim a complimentary guide to make eating well easy and quick.

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