SALT LAKE CITY — Don’t eat bread. Don’t eat sugar. Sweet potatoes are great, but don’t eat white potatoes. Diet soda is poisonous. Eggs have too much cholesterol. Don’t eat butter. Eat lots of butter. Avoid all carbs.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Everyone eats, but that doesn’t mean everyone is an expert on eating. Just like the elementary school game of “telephone,” nutrition misinformation can spread like wildfire.
Part of a dietitian's job is to make sure that consumers have scientifically sound information. That way, people can make food decisions from a place of certainty and fact, and not out of fear.
Let’s take a look at some of the top questions that dietitians get asked on a daily basis.
Question: Can you just tell me exactly what to eat?
Answer: My role as your dietitian is to help you learn to make healthy balanced choices on your own. Anyone can follow a “diet” or eating plan for a little bit, but eventually (they give) up because their taste preferences and cooking time/schedule does not line up with whoever made the diet or plan. My goal is to help you establish lifelong healthy habits. Meal plans can be great to use as a guide or reference, but ultimately you should be trying to learn to make those choices on your own.
—Danielle Osborne, registered dietitian
Q: Are protein powders necessary after a workout?
A: No, not at all. It’s recommended that you consume a source of protein within 1-2 hours post-workout in order to repair and rebuild muscle that is damaged during activity. However, it’s not necessary to consume that protein in the form of supplemental powder. Foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, whole grains, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein and will provide the same building blocks for muscle repair as would a protein powder. However, one benefit to using a protein powder is they are shelf-stable and highly portable, meaning you can leave protein powder in your bag or gym locker without needing to refrigerate it. This can be helpful if you’re constantly on the move and know you won’t have time for a meal within the couple hours after you’re done exercising.
—Alex Smith, registered dietitian
Q: Do I need to eat everything organic?
A: Organic products, including produce, have not been shown to be more nutritious than conventional products. True, they may feature lower levels of certain pesticides, but an organic orange still has the same vitamin C as a conventional orange. Personally, if you are concerned about nutrient content, it’s better to choose local over organic. However, choosing nutritious foods of any kind — including fresh, frozen or canned products — offers positive health benefits. In the end, purchasing organic products is a personal choice, so if you enjoy them and your budget allows you to do so, go ahead!
- Dana Peters, registered dietitian
Q: What supplement should I eat for (xyz condition)?
A: Many people come to me expecting to be given bottles of magic pills instead of helping people consume nutrients from food. While there is a place for supplementation in the nutrition world, eating a balanced diet rich in a variety of foods can give people many nutrients that you can't replicate in pill-form.
—Lauren Manaker, registered dietitian
Q: What can I do to lose weight?
A: I usually reply with a question, asking them what is it that they are hoping to accomplish by losing weight. A common answer is “I want to be healthy.” I would then ask, what does “being healthy” look like to you? How do you see yourself as this future “healthy” person — what would you be doing, how would your life be different from the one you have now? I would then discuss how we can engage in health-promoting behaviors which may or may not result in weight loss. These behaviors can improve our health regardless of our body size. They may include things like engaging in movement that makes your body feel good, having access to consistent meals and snacks, managing stress and getting an adequate amount of sleep.
—Lisa Melo, registered dietitian
Q: You must only eat salads, right?
A: Nope! My philosophy is that all foods fit. Having this approach has helped me, and clients, ameliorate a fraught relationship with food. By not restricting my diet, by not judging foods as "good" or "bad," by not letting food define me or be some pronouncement of my worth, I have developed a more intuitive approach to my wellness. It means eating nutrient-rich foods, mostly plants most of the time, exercising in ways that I enjoy — and when I want some gelato, I’ll have some gelato!
—Lisa Wartenberg, registered dietitian
Q: Why am I hungry ALL the time?
A: Your body likely needs more food than you’re giving it! It’s asking for more. Restricting your intake, like sticking to a set calorie limit or macro goal, will likely cause you to undereat, increasing hunger and frustration. Instead, when your body feels hunger, honor that. It will give you energy and prevent over eating later when you finally allow your body food.
—Colleen Christensen, registered dietitian
Q: Should I do a juice cleanse to detox?
A: Nope! Your kidneys and liver do a great job of removing toxins from your body. Juice cleanses do not contain enough calories to support your daily functions and will most likely leave you feeling tired and unhappy. Any perceived weight loss is likely due to fluctuations in water weight or lack of nutrition and will likely be reversed as soon as you start eating again.
—Rose Mattson, registered dietitian
What other nutrition questions do YOU have for nutritionists? Leave them in the comments below.