SALT LAKE CITY — Nutrition may be one of the most confusing and overwhelming topics. There are a lot of opinions, ideas and personal experiences shared between people — whether in conversations, at gatherings, on social media or elsewhere.
It may seem like there are a lot of conflicting ideas on nutrition, but that’s because there are a lot of conflicting opinions, not conflicting facts. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you may want to pay attention to who you are getting your information from. Everyone eats, but not everyone is an expert on eating — kind of like owning a home but not knowing how to build a house.
Instead of giving into trends or attention-grabbing headlines, registered dietitians are trained in how to help you create long-lasting, sustainable, realistic and positive behavior changes with your eating and food selections.
To help set the record straight, I reached out to several registered dietitians, asking them to share what they wish people understood about nutrition, including practical ways to implement their advice. Here’s what they said:
There's no 'good vs. bad'
“When it comes to nutrition, I wish people could understand that there is no morality attached to food. In the mainstream media and in every fad diet we hear of food being described as good versus bad, but approaching food through this lens only creates unnecessary guilt, fear and shame around eating. Taking a more neutral stance toward food can help take the guilt out of eating and make food more enjoyable again. Instead of asking yourself, 'Is this food good?' or 'Is this food bad?', I would encourage you to think more about how your body feels in response to that food. How does the food taste to you? Is this food satisfying? How does the food feel in your body? These types of questions can help you approach food from a place of curiosity rather than judgement.”
—Crystal Karges, registered dietitian nutritionist at Crystal Karges Nutrition
Learn the basics
“Mastering the mundane basics of nutrition will cover 90% of your needs. Spend time figuring out what’s really holding you back from the boring advice we’ve heard our whole lives — fruits, veggies, water, moderation, etc. — instead of chasing whatever flashy, hot topic is splashed across headlines in the moment.”
—Lindsey McCoy, registered dietitian at Crave Nutrition RD
Everybody is different
"Just because a certain eating pattern works for you doesn’t mean it will work for anyone else. Good nutrition looks different for everyone because we all have different nutrient needs, food preferences and lifestyles. Find a way of eating that makes you feel your best — both physically and mentally. Working with a registered dietitian can be a huge help on this journey!"
—Nicole Stevens, registered dietitian at Lettuce Veg Out
Don't fear carbs
“Carbohydrates are important because they’re the preferred source of fuel for the body. If we don’t eat enough carbohydrates, it’s common for a person to experience strong cravings and seek them out. Without adequate carbohydrates in our diets it’s also likely that we begin to use precious muscle for fuel. It’s recommended to eat carbohydrates consistently throughout the day, so adding them to every meal (and your snacks if that’s what works best for you) is a good practice.”
—Kathleen Meehan, registered dietician at Kathleen Meehan Nutrition
Spread the protein
“Most people, even athletes, don’t need to focus on getting more protein in their diet because they’re already eating plenty. What can help with satiety, health and performance is spreading your total protein intake throughout the day. Aim to include more at breakfast and snacks while reducing portions of meat and protein foods at lunch and dinner.”
—Kelly Jones, registered dietitian at Kelly Jones Nutrition
Look at the big picture
“We need to see the big picture when it comes to what we're eating and view our diet as a whole instead of just individual components where foods are labeled 'good' or 'bad', 'healthy' or 'not healthy.' Instead, ask yourself how your whole diet stacks up. Does it provide the nutrients your body needs, give you energy to do the things you want to do, help you feel good? Remember, foods work together to fuel our bodies, help us grow, repair injuries and satisfy our hunger.”
—Marie Dittmer, registered dietitian at Health Ideas Place
Sleuth your sources
“I love Google. Unfortunately, though, its algorithm is not designed to filter between true and untrue information — that’s left up to the reader. When it comes to nutrition, there is so much true/untrue stuff out there and it’s really hard to determine which is which. One tip is to look for the source. Not every website must be written exclusively by an expert in order to be credible, but the author should at least cite credible sources. However, articles written by experts in the field are generally more likely to be accurate. These authors not only are able to cite sources, but have the training and expertise to critique these sources.”
—Ann Scheufler Kent, registered dietitian at Peas and Hoppiness
Make changes based on patterns
"Healthy eating is not about one food, one meal, one day or even one single week... it is about patterns over a longer period of time. Pull back and ask yourself, 'What am I doing most of the time, over a period of weeks or months?' That is what matters in terms of impact of food choices on health. For instance, if you notice that your fruit/vegetable/plant-based food consumption (a general pattern that we know has been tied to positive health outcomes) has been low the last week or so, ask yourself why? Are you buying foods that you feel you should be eating rather than foods that sound appealing? Are you buying foods that need more prep time than you have and so you are not eating those foods? Maybe it's winter and you keep buying salads and they keep going bad but when you stop and think about what really sounds delicious, it's a warm soup.”
—Lisa Zucker, registered dietian at Nutrition Kai
Eat a wide variety of foods
“No one food is 'bad' for you or will make or break your health, that is unless you're allergic! You can eat a wide variety of foods including salad and brownies and still achieve health. The nutrients in a brownie do not detract from the nutrients in a salad. Furthermore, NOT eating a wide variety of foods can be a predictor for nutrient deficiencies. ALL foods contain a different variety of nutrients that our bodies can utilize. I'd recommend making sure to plan a wide variety of foods including foods that you know are nutritious but also foods that you truly enjoy regardless of their nutrient quality.”
—Amy Good, registered dietitian at Toledo Center for Eating Disorders
Listen to your body
Lastly, I’ll add my thoughts:
We are so disconnected with our bodies. Instead of more nutrition information, you likely need more practice in listening to what your body is communicating to you. I’d encourage you to be intentional about listening less to what everyone else is doing and spend more time thinking about what you need. What is your body communicating to you and how can you be more effective at meeting it’s needs? Are you consistently tired and run down and need to prioritize adequate sleep? Would meal planning help so you can be prepared when you get hungry? When you reach comfortable fullness after a meal, are you able to respect that cue and stop eating? These are some great questions to consider.
Editor’s Note: Anything in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended, nor should it be interpreted, to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition; Any opinions, statements, services, offers, or other information or content expressed or made available are those of the respective author(s) or distributor(s) and not of KSL. KSL does not endorse nor is it responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any opinion, information, or statement made in this article. KSL expressly disclaims all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on the content of this article.