Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

Here are some of the foods I’ll be eating this holiday season (or will have eaten) and some good nutrition news about them.

Christmas charcuterie

decorative plate with various foods arranged artfully on it
Our Christmas charcuterie from a few years ago
  • Cheese: good source of calcium, potassium, some satisfying fat and protein
  • Sausage (or sausage cheese puffs): satisfying fat and protein
  • Crackers: fiber, B vitamins
  • Various fruits: fiber, water, hydration, vitamin C, vitamin A, various antioxidants
  • Nuts: satisfying and heart healthy fats, minerals like iron and calcium

Also, no cooking required. This is what we’re having after Christmas Eve service so nobody gets hangry while waiting for a meal to cook

My grandma’s applesauce

Carmelized cooked apples in a jar
Click the image for the recipe. Not the prettiest applesauce, but certainly delicious
  • Because it’s made with the peels, it’s higher in fiber than the applesauce you get in a jar
  • Fun fact, my grandpa says applesauce made without peels is babyfood
  • A delicious way to get a serving of fruit
  • Includes lots of cinnamon, a powerful antioxidant and delicious flavor enhancer

Donuts

A donut with red white and green sprinkles
This one is from last year too – it’s just so festive!
  • This is one of the first Christmas traditions that is just me and my husbands
  • We usually have it the day we leave to visit family, or the first day off.
  • Donuts are energy dense – rich in carbohydrates and fats!
  • I always try and have scrambled eggs with them (protein) so I don’t get a sugar crash later

Tri-tip/Steak

yummy cut steak served on table in light restaurant
Photo by Geraud pfeiffer on Pexels.com
  • This is a new Christmas meal for me this year
  • Steak is high in iron and B vitamins
  • It’s also rich in protein

Salad

mixed vegetable salad on a black plate
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com – mine probably won’t look this fancy
  • A serving of vegetables
  • Depending on the contents, provides water, fiber, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K
  • Will probably use a dressing to add some satisfying healthy fats
  • And some seasonal fruit for color and texture
  • Probably the traditionally healthiest thing on this list, but just one part of my Christmas nutrition

Hope you enjoy some festive foods! Curious about what nutrition they might be providing you? Leave a comment!

What this dietitian eats over the holidays – whatever I want

A donut with white, red, and green sprinkles

While I was in college, a friend said to me, “I know a lot of dietitians/nutrition students, and they all basically eat whatever they want.” This is mostly true for me. With some caveats. Keep reading to learn what they are.

My strategy for holiday is eating is pretty similar to what I eat the rest of the time. Of course regardless of what you celebrate or don’t, eating is often a little different this time of year. There are more treats and sweets and traditional foods to enjoy, not just at home, but at work, school, and gatherings.

This is what I do for “healthy eating” over the holidays. It’s not a prescription – what works for me might not be what works for you – but maybe you might find a few ideas helpful. Or you’re just curious what a dietitian eats for Christmas. Whatever!

If you want to skip the rest of the article, it can be basically be summarized as:

Focus mostly on what I do eat, less on what I don’t

How do I do this?

I make time to feed myself.

I feel best when I eat on a pretty regular schedule.

During holidays, schedules might be a little different due to parties or days off or traveling. I might not have my same schedule of meals and snacks, but I try to avoid both constantly snacking and going long stretches of time without eating.

Constantly eating can make it difficult to distinguish true hunger and lead to overeating – or undereating if I never feel hungry enough for a meal!

Going long stretches without eating makes me either hangry, anxious, sad (which isn’t nice for anyone) or just so hungry that when I am able to eat it’s hard to make a good decision. It’s easier to overeat, or choose a less balanced meal, or just be overwhelmed and not want to eat anything!

I don’t eat at the exact times every day, but I try to avoid both extremes. This might mean having a snack before a late holiday dinner or making sure to eat breakfast even if I wake up late. Or making time to have a snack even if I have a busy day.

Just like I make sure to feed my dog every day, I make sure I feed myself consistently too.

I get most of my food groups at most meals, most days

So we’re on the same page, I’m thinking of the food groups as: fruits, vegetables, protein foods, grain or starchy foods.

Dairy foods/calcium-rich foods or healthy fats could be considered their own groups, but enough of my protein-rich foods are from dairy that I don’t think of it separately and I rarely eat healthy fats on their own – mainly they get cooked with or come with other food groups.

I try to get at least 3 out of 4 food groups at most meals. Normal meals and “holiday meals”. For example at Thanksgiving, we had asparagus and salad (veggies), cranberry sauce and apple crisp (fruits), turkey and meat stuffing (protein), and my favorite: stuffing, bread, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese (grains/starches) – all the food groups.

Getting all the food groups helps provide a variety of nutrients, promote satiety and is a positive way to promote “balance” without prohibiting or restricting foods. (As humans know, if we’re told we can’t have something, we want it more) If most of the time I get most food groups, I will avoid filling up only on sweets, for example because I have to make room for the other food groups.

I also know I feel better energy and digestion wise when I get a mix of foods with protein, healthy fats, fiber, etc.

Of course, I also try and choose options from from each group that I enjoy. So you won’t see me eating beets for my veggie serving or olives for my healthy fats because I don’t like those.

That leads me to…

I enjoy the foods of the season I enjoy

Some of these foods we only eat at certain times of year, so I take this time to enjoy it! For example, my grandma’s applesauce (click for recipe) or my family’s Italian stuffing or Ferrero Rocher. I don’t worry about eating a little more than I normally would. I enjoy these foods as part of the celebration.

The other side of this is that I feel free to leave foods I don’t really enjoy. Ham? Nah. Mashed potatoes? I’d rather have bread. Pecan pie? that’s a pass, I’ll take apple.

Of course if I go to your house and you serve me these foods, I will eat them to enjoy your hospitality, but if they’re on a buffet or at a potluck, I can leave em.

I choose the foods I really want so I can enjoy them without feeling too full.

Food gives us more than nutrients. It is often a way for us to gather together, to celebrate traditions, and to enjoy life! These things are important to our overall health and wellbeing!

Now again, these strategies work for me. They might not work for you. I thankfully don’t have any food allergies or intolerance, I don’t have to manage my blood sugar or blood pressure, so I do have a little more freedom to eat whatever I want.

But even with food restrictions, there is probably some room for at least some of your favorite foods. Talk to your friendly dietitian if you’d like guidance on how that might work for you πŸ™‚

What holiday foods are you looking forward to eating?

Read some Good Nutrition News about some holiday foods here

Like the Alfred to your Batman (that’s Nutrition for Real Humans)

I’ve always liked the behind the scenes butler-type character (you know, when they’re not the murderer at the end). Alfred from Batman, Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster, Zhu Li from Legend of Korra. The character in the background who just gets stuff done so the main character can save Gotham, or bumble around society, or execute mad scientist schemes. I want to be that background person for my clients.

My clients are the ones who have to choose their goals and do the work to accomplish them. But I can make it way easier by doing the research, making decisions (collaboratively and respectfully obviously), applying my knowledge and experience, and sometimes by actually doing the cooking or shopping work. That’s my goal – just give you the tools and sometimes the plans, so you can just do it.

Also, those characters are supportive. They aren’t promoting their agenda nor are they critical or judgey of the main person (at least not outwardly). I’m not here to be the food police, make you feel guilty for what you’re eating, or not, or shame you into making changes. I might offer some knowledgeable guidance, or an honest assessment, but you get to choose what to work on and how you want to do that.

Anyway. I’m here to be your Alfred. Are you ready to be Batman?

Watch below if you’d rather listen than read πŸ™‚

I talk about how I aim to support my clients by offering guidance, encouragement, and practical help

Why Honesty Matters to me as a Dietitian

You may be thinking honesty matters to me because if my clients don’t tell me what they really eat I can’t help them. This can be somewhat true, but this is actually about why it’s important for ME, the dietitian, to be honest with YOU.

One of the ways I respect my clients is by listening to their goals, values, preferences, what they feel their limitations are, etc. (Read or watch more)

Another way I respect them is by being honest. When I share evidence-based information, recommendations, practical tips, experienced opinions and advice honestly (but kindly), that means clients can make the best informed decision for them. (A realistic one you know)

And this goes for the way I run my business too — If I think working together will serve you well, I’ll tell you! If I think what I offer isn’t a great fit for your needs, I’ll tell you that too and hopefully be able to point you to someone or something that will be helpful.

That being said, I really appreciate when clients are honest with me, because that helps me help them, but this post is about my honesty.

Watch below if you’d rather listen than read πŸ™‚

I talk about why honesty matters for Nutrition for Real Humans

Why Respect and Collaboration are Essential to Nutrition

Respect and collaboration are essential to Nutrition for Real Humans because solutions I create for clients (meal plans, recipe collections, etc.) need to be realistic for THEM.

I bring my knowledge and experience about nutrition and practical food selection and preparation, but my client knows best what is important to them, what their limitations are, what they care about, what they’re willing to do.

If I don’t respectfully listen to what my client needs and wants or take their ideas into consideration (the collaboration part), likely the solution won’t fit them. It won’t solve their problem, or it won’t be realistic for them, or they won’t like the food I chose because I didn’t listen to their preferences so they won’t eat it.

That’s what sets Nutrition for Real Humans apart from a meal kit service or other meal plan service – your meal plan or recipes are not just tailored to your needs, they are tailored for what you want them to do for you!

If you want to reduce your environmental impact and reduce packaging while increasing your protein intake – we can do that!

If you hate garlic, it will be hard for me because I use garlic in everything, but we can avoid it! If you want to reduce your prep time and effort because you are super busy and just need something that will feed your surprisingly picky family – we can do that too!

Watch below if you’d rather listen than read πŸ™‚

Some nutrition things I’m grateful for (including pizza)

  1. Taste and smell. We could just be like plants and photosynthesize but instead we get to enjoy the experience of eating.
  2. Variety and adaptability. We could just be like cows and just eat grass, or whales and just eat plankton. Our bodies are designed to be able to run on a wide variety of food sources. This not only means that we can enjoy a variety of foods, it means that a healthy diet can look different for different people and different cultures! There are so many delicious ways to be nourished!
  3. Coffee is good for you *. I look forward to my morning cup of coffee every day. Such a simple delight.
  4. I’m privileged to be able to access a really wide variety of healthy, safe, and fresh food.
  5. I do not have any food allergies, sensitivities or medical conditions that keep me from eating certain foods. As much as I like to promote that all foods fit, I realize in some cases not all foods fit because they cause an allergic reaction or pain or dangerous medical consequences. I’m thankful that at this point in my life, I do not have to avoid any foods and can eat cheese without any problems.
  6. This thin crust pizza recipe. (see below) We eat this pizza at least once a month, often when we don’t want to cook anything else and it is always a bright spot.

thin crust pizza slices on a plate
This pizza was spread with pesto and topped with mozzarella and goat cheese. *Fancy* Most of the time we just use tomato paste with spices and shredded mozzarella.

Pour 3/4 cup body temperature water into a medium-large bowl. Add 1 tsp yeast and let that sit for a little bit, until you can smell the yeast. Stir in 1 cup flour, then add 1 + 1/2 tsp salt. Then add 1 cup more flour and stir until you can’t stir anymore. Then either knead in the bowl or on a clean floured counter. (You can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook). Knead 8-10 minutes or until the dough springs back when pinched. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but I just turn on the Great British Baking Show and pretend I’m on the show with them.

Spray a little nonstick spray in the bottom of the bowl (or pour a teensy bit of oil) and roll the dough ball around in it – this is just so it doesn’t stick or dry out while it rises. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for about an hour.

(You can freeze it at this point to be able to treat your future self to homemade pizza)

Preheat the oven to 500 F. Roll out the dough on a silicon mat or parchment paper until it is 1/4 inch or less thick. Place the rolled out dough and the lining onto a cookie sheet (I like to use the back of a rimmed baking tray). Spread on your sauce and toppings of choice. Avoid topping very thickly or the crust will not get crisp. Bake for 8-15 minutes or until the bottom is crisp (check by lifting with a spatula).

You can use either white or whole wheat flour for this recipe. You can even make it without the rising time if you are in a hurry – just let it rest for a few minutes instead of an hour and roll it out right away. Enjoy!

What are you thankful for?

*Coffee is good for you just as much as any food that has shown to be good for you. Coffee in moderation, in general, is not harmful, and there are multiple studies showing health benefits in regular coffee drinkers. Obviously there are exceptions and nuances (like: drinking coffee won’t solve all your problems, and if you also drink it with a TON of sugar it is probably not as healthy) so speak with a doctor or dietitian if you have questions or concerns and don’t drink coffee if it makes you feel bad.

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

Let’s talk about food we hate

Let’s talk about food we hate. Or even foods we just don’t really like.

Tasty GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
How I feel about olives

It’s fine and normal to have foods you don’t like and choose not to eat!

Everyone has their own personal preferences. It’s cool if you never want to try those foods or learn to like them. It’s your choice!

From a nutrition perspective, there is such a variety of food on this earth that most people can have a balanced diet that fits within their food preferences. There might be a few changes and stretches to make, but it’s rare that you will need to eat only foods you hate to be healthy.

If you are concerned that food preferences are so restrictive that they prevent you from getting adequate nutrition, please speak to a registered dietitian or primary care provider.

Here are some foods I don’t like:

  • Beets
  • Bacon
  • Papaya
  • Fresh mango
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ranch dressing
  • Thousand Island Dressing
  • Ham
  • Pork chops
  • over-dressed salad (soggy lettuce πŸ™ )
  • Pineapple candy
  • Cooked or canned pineapple
  • Pickled mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Chicken skin
  • Gristle
  • American cheese
  • Eggplant
  • Licorice
  • Redvines
  • Coconut
  • Root Beer

That being said, some of these I keep trying because I want to maybe someday like them.

Sometimes it’s worth giving foods a few chances before you rule them out forever.

(This doesn’t even take into account not eating certain foods because of religious or ethical beliefs. This is also totally up to each individual and should not be considered just a preference. )

You might discover you don’t like a food prepared one way, but eating it another way, or in another context is delicious. For example, I grew up not liking tuna. But it turns out I just don’t like the mayonnaise that was always in tuna salad. Tuna by itself, or mixed with avocado – I like just fine.

This beet pasta recipe from Nadiya Hussain is another good example. I am not really a fan of beets, but this pasta has so much garlic, lemon, and cheese that it’s all I can taste, but I still get the nutrients and beautiful pink color from beets.

Eating foods prepared differently may be especially helpful if you are sensitive to textures.

Some foods are an acquired taste and it takes a few times (or several times) of eating them before it starts to taste good. So, if you really want to like a food, it’s ok if it takes you a few times.

And tastes change. As kids, our palates are really sensitive, especially to bitter and sour tastes, but we lose some of that sensitivity as we’re older so we’re more likely to enjoy foods like coffee, broccoli, beer, vinaigrette. I used to hate pineapple in all forms and just automatically avoided it until I ate it at someone’s house to be polite and discovered that it was pretty good fresh. Still can’t stand it cooked or canned though.

Read about encouraging kids to try new foods and see more resources here

Here are some foods I use to not like but I do now:

  • Tuna (turns out I just don’t like mayonnaise)
  • Ketchup
  • Hamburgers
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Mustard (still not a fan of straight yellow mustard, but some whole grain or Dijon…alright)
  • Grilled onions
  • Fresh pineapple
  • Asparagus
  • Roast beef
  • Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper
  • Coffee
  • Yogurt
  • Goat cheese
  • Salsa
  • Dark chocolate
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Potato chips
  • Pepperoni
  • Dill

Now, why would you want to eat foods you don’t like on the off-chance that you might start liking them?

Health: Wanting to get the health benefits of a certain food or food group that is not your favorite (salmon for omega-3s, spinach for the iron, chicken breasts for the lean protein, or just generally more veggies for example). It’s why I keep trying beets and eggplant.

Social: This is another big reason and actually a really important one. Sometimes being able to eat a greater variety of foods gives you more freedom in your social life. You don’t have to worry about what’s going to be served at dinner a dinner party, or might be more likely to join a group that’s going out to a new restaurant.

Variety: You’re bored of the foods you are currently eating and want to try something new

Legacy: You want your kids to try new foods and you need to set a good example.

You just want to because it seems cool: I’ll be honest here. While beets are really healthy, the main reason that I really want to like them is that they are sooo pretty! Did you see that pasta? It’s an unreal magenta color! Or olives. It was a great disappointment to my child self that I didn’t like olives because I wanted to be like all the cool kids and stick them on my fingers, but I still don’t like them despite continuing to try them :/

Your takeaway for today: it’s ok to not like all foods, but sometimes it’s worth giving a food a few chances before swearing it off forever because you may someday be able to wear olives on your fingers like the cool kids.

What foods do you dislike? Or what foods are you learning to like?

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

What does a dietitian – nutritionist eat? The truth.

“so what do you eat?”

I get asked this question as a dietitian often enough that I figured I would write out the answer. But I want to start out by saying that as real humans, we have different bodies, needs, preferences, beliefs and values about food. So consider this more of a post to satisfy curiosity than any recommendation.

And not to sound like a broken record (but this is important) this is not a prescription or a recommendation. This is a description. This is just what I eat.

The good news of nutrition is there are lots of ways to eat healthy. So while this is how I eat, (and I consider it healthy) it will not be the right solution for everyone. You might have different dietary needs due to a medical condition, or a family member’s medical condition. You might have different dietary preferences – or a different lifestyle that make these choices impractical. That’s ok.

That’s the beauty of Nutrition for Real Humans, and that’s why I work with each client to design a plan that will make healthy eating work for them.

Now, onto what you clicked on this title for: What does a dietitian eat? (Or more accurately, what does this dietitian eat?)

I thought about it and wrote down some patterns that I tend to follow when I’m deciding what to eat. I don’t really have strict rules; in the words of Captain Barbosa:

A fruit or vegetable with each meal.

At least one, sometimes more. This could look like a banana with breakfast, eating a carrot alongside my sandwich, or adding a bunch of vegetables to the soup I’ve made for dinner.

Benefits of fruits and vegetables

  • High water content (good for hydration)
  • Generally high in fiber
  • Source of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C
  • Source of phytonutrients and antioxidants that we don’t even fully comprehend the benefits of yet
  • Often add beautiful color, flavor, and texture to the meal!

Most grains whole grains.

I try to make whole grains the default grain that I eat. If I make rice, it’s brown rice. When I make bread or muffins or waffles, I make sure at least half the flour I use (if not more) is whole wheat flour. When I buy grain products (tortillas, cereals, pasta), I usually choose products where the first ingredient listed is whole grain or whole wheat.

Benefits of whole grains

  • Higher fiber content (more filling, digest more slowly)
  • Slightly higher protein content
  • Naturally contain more vitamins and minerals than refined grains (although most products made with refined grains have vitamins and minerals added back to make up for this loss)

This doesn’t mean I don’t eat refined grains. When I bake, usually at least part of the recipe is made with white flour because the texture is better, and if I’m making a dessert, I just use white flour.

It’s hard to pass up a good sourdough if it’s white bread, and our favorite instant mac and cheese is made with white pasta.

Protein source with each meal.

Benefits of protein with each meal

  • Personally, I feel full longer and have better energy between meals if I eat some protein.
  • Helps ensure I get enough protein during the day.
  • Spreading protein through the day has been shown to be helpful in building and maintaining muscle mass
  • Many foods that are sources of protein are also important sources of other essential nutrients, like iron, calcium, or B-vitamins.

Vary sources of protein, and include plant-based proteins frequently.

Learn more about protein , and specifically plant-based protein

Benefits of varying protein

  • Gain the different benefits of different types of protein (e.g. omega-3 fatty acids in fish)
  • Spreads out the drawbacks of different types of protein (e.g. high sodium content of cheese)
  • Keep it interesting
  • Eating more plant proteins generally reduces cost of meals and environmental impact

Keep nutrient-dense snacks around.

So when I’m hungry between meals I have something available to eat that will help provide me with more nutrients and energy as well as satisfy my hunger.

Learn more about what I think about snacks.

Some snacks that I like to have around:

  • Roasted salted almonds
  • Roasted salted mixed nuts
  • Yogurt
  • Dark chocolate
  • Cheese
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Hummus
  • Carrots
  • Popcorn
  • Mandarin oranges/tangerines
  • Whole grain muffins
  • Dried fruit
  • Lara Bars (snack bar made with dried fruit and nuts)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Peanut butter
  • Seaweed snacks

I don’t always have all of these around, but these are examples of what might be laying around our house.

Use healthy fats when cooking

I embrace fats in general when cooking, especially olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, to help make a meal more satisfying and tasty. I also really like dairy fats: cheese, butter, full fat yogurt. There is evidence showing that intake of fats from dairy, especially from yogurt and cheese is not associated with increased heart disease or diabetes risk or death. We also personally don’t have any health conditions that would make it especially risky for us to eat saturated fat.

Benefits of fats

  • Take longer to digest, and help promote satiety (satisfaction)
  • Help your body absorb certain vitamins
  • Important carriers of flavor

Drink mostly water, milk, coffee and tea (unsweetened or lightly sweetened)

These are the drinks I have at home. It doesn’t mean we never have soda or juice or alcohol, but we mostly only buy these if we are hosting guests, or if we are out to dinner or as a special treat

(No pictures because I don’t often take pictures of just glasses of water or milk haha).

Mostly cook and eat at home

This is mainly because of how I grew up and how I ate when I was first on my own and didn’t have lots of money. But it also lets me be in charge of what’s in my food.

Probably more sweets than you expect

We both have sweet tooths (sweet teeth?). We probably have dessert at least half of the nights of the week (more if I’ve baked something). This could be ice cream, a handful of chocolate chips, kettlecorn, or a microwave brownie.

This is one thing that I am tempted to feel guilty about. But most of the time I don’t, and my husband really helps me be a balanced, reasonable human here. Dessert is something we both enjoy (and often a way to share celebration or just spend time with other people), and the way we eat it does not cause us health problems.

Benefits of sweets/desserts

  • Delicious
  • Often a way to spend time with people
  • I like baking
  • Sometimes an opportunity to get extra nutrients in: dark chocolate contains iron, kettlecorn is a whole grain, milk-based desserts contain calcium, fruit-based desserts provide extra fruit! Don’t think something is immediately of no value just because it has sugar!

Just in cased you missed that excellent GIF in the beginning, these are general descriptions of what I eat. I don’t follow them like strict rules. Sometimes I just don’t have a vegetable or fruit with a meal, or don’t have a protein with a meal. And again, this is not THE RIGHT way to eat. There is no one right way.

If you really want to know what I eat, just follow @nutritionforrealhumans on Instagram, or Facebook. That’s where all of these pictures are from πŸ™‚

If you feel you must take a recommendation away from this post:

Make most of your guidelines and nutrition goals positive or additive

Notice, that most of these guidelines are things I DO, not things I don’t.

There is some evidence that adding foods, or having positive goals (vs. don’t eat that or eat less this) are easier to maintain. Positive goals are awesome. You get to feel accomplished when you do them!

What small thing can you start doing?