There is a widely held belief that health & wellness professionals (and especially dietitians) eat some type of “holier than thou, pristine diet”. Many dietitians feel like their diets are constantly under a microscope and that they must live up to the public’s perception of what it means to “eat healthy”.
There is a pressure for dietitians to present themselves this way (the media largely shapes this) and there is a danger of being “found out”, that we don’t actually eat as well as we are supposed to eat, and that ultimately, if we are to be “found out” that we will lose the trust of the people we are trying to help eat healthier. I’m here to tell you that I’m TIRED OF THIS TYPE OF THINKING and that the public’s perception of the dietitian eating the perfect diet does more harm than good.
To demonstrate how a dietitian eats (and in full transparency) I want to share with you what my fiancé, Kathleen, and I eat for our meals and snacks and I’ll let you be the judge of whether I eat like a dietitian should eat (and whether you can trust my nutritional advice).
For breakfast Kathleen typically eats a bowl of cereal or oatmeal with skim milk, with or without a banana. The cereals we tend to eat are:
- Cracklin’ Oat Bran (with sugary cereal topper)
- Honey Nut Cheerios (with banana)
- Frosted Mini Wheats
- Post Oh’s (with banana)
Our Sugary Cereal Toppers are
- Cascadian Farms Oats and Honey Granola
- Cocoa Pebbles
By sugary cereal topper I am referring to pouring a ¾ bowl of Cracklin’ Oat brain and then “topping” it off with a sugary cereal such as Cocoa Pebbles to give it a little extra kick.
I, on the other hand, tend to eat a THOMAS’ 100% whole wheat bagel with cream cheese every morning.
Obviously both of us could be criticized for our choice of breakfast foods – Kathleen for the high sugar cereal choices and myself for a saturated fat containing bagel and cream cheese but we enjoy these options and find they start our days off right.
Every weekend (Saturday or Sunday) we eat a breakfast of eggs, breakfast potatoes, and some type of breakfast meat. This is usually made at home, so we can incorporate extra veggies we have laying around into the eggs (usually spinach or mushrooms).
We both also drink at least 2 cups of coffee every morning and use creamer and/or regular sugar.
For lunch we tend to switch back and forth between one of the following meals
- Salad – Spinach, Romaine, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, bell pepper (green/red/yellow), shredded cheddar cheese or feta, hard-boiled egg, sunflower seeds with lite Ranch, Greek or Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing.
- Spinach Mushroom Quiche
- Zesty Quinoa salad
- Chicken Salad
- Ham or Turkey Sandwich
- Peanut Butter and Jelly
Commonly eaten side dishes/snacks to go along with our “main dish” are
- Greek yogurt (sometimes with granola and/or frozen fruit in it)
- Whole wheat tortilla with hummus
- String Cheese
- Baby carrots
- 1-2 fruit options (e.g., grapes, bananas, peaches, pears, apples, strawberries, oranges)
- Cheez-Its, Wheat Thins, pretzels
- Cottage Cheese
- One Hard boiled egg
- Granola bar
We try to plan for 4 dinners/week. When planning these dinners, 2-3 must provide us with left overs to either supplement our lunches or another night’s dinner. Most weeks we also plan out at least one crock pot meal because this eliminates a lot of cooking time.
To make grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking easier we utilize an application on our phones and computers called the Paprika Recipe Manager. Before we started using the Paprika Recipe Manager we made 20 or so recipes over and over and over again. These were the only recipes we knew how to make and were comfortable making but our diet was pretty monotonous. Since that time we have "branched out" quite a bit and we currently have over 51 recipes to choose from.
One of the recent updates to the Paprika Recipe Manager that has made our "branching out" easier is Paprika’s new Google Search recipe function. Within Paprika, you can perform a Google Search for new recipes and import them directly into your Paprika recipe manager. This feature makes finding and importing new recipes so easy!
We are also trying to incorporate more fish and vegetarian dishes into our diets but many of the meals we have traditionally eaten are meat based. There’s nothing too special about the meals we eat for dinner.............they just aren’t horrible for you and we eat them in moderation. Here’s our list of dinner meals that we eat frequently, occasionally, and rarely.
Side dishes (usually some form of vegetables, 1-2 options most nights) include:
- Roasted mixed vegetables
- Baked Acorn squash
- Raw veggies with hummus or ranch dip
- Side salad
- Steamed broccoli/mushrooms/bell peppers/asparagus
- Roasted Brussels sprouts
- Baked Sweet potatoes
- Baked white potatoes
- Boiled small red potatoes
- Fresh bread or rolls with soup or red sauce meals
- Pasta salad
- Potato salad
- Grilled ears of corn (summer favorite!)
Sweets and Desserts
I really enjoy ice cream treats, so we usually have some sort of ice cream in the freezer, although that has decreased in frequency with Kathleen’s recent reluctance to eat so many sweets. I am also a big fan of Doritos, the occasional Sunday morning donut, cheese and crackers, and drink one diet Mountain Dew/day.
I can’t lie, we enjoy having a drink or two most nights of the week, either at home or out with friends. Craft beer, wine, and cocktails all are fair game. It usually just depends on our mood (or which friends we are meeting up with).
The vast majority of our meals are eaten within the home or prepared in the home and I have written on the importance of this before. We're not Puritans and we do like to eat out or order pizza in but we don't make a habit of doing so. It is possible to eat healthy when eating out but if you eat out infrequently like we do, I prefer to "pig out", eat what I want, and as much of it as I want.
Kathleen and I don’t have any special plan or secret sauce that allows us to remain active and healthy. We are always tweaking our routines and “getting back on track” when we fall off the wagon. With all the crazy programs and diet advice out there, we find that it’s best to keep it simple. As I have said before, use a Fitbit to find out how much or how little you move throughout your days, use the Paprika recipe manager to meal plan and grocery shop, join a gym or exercise group to strength train 2x/wk, figure out what your obstacles to health are and find solutions to them, establish your own nutrition rules, and for God’s sake, be happy, be healthy, and enjoy life!!!!!!!!!! It’s much too short to do otherwise.
Todd M. Weber PhD, MS, RD