If you think all registered dietitians — the credentialed pros responsible for doling out food and nutrition information — eat the same, you might be in for a surprise. Below is a peek at what four different RDs eat on a typical day, proving yet again that nutrition isn’t one size fits all.
- The protein and fiber worshipper
- The Circadian-Synced Diet
- The carb lover
- The best way to lose weight boils down to these three things
- The macro counter
- WHAT A NUTRITIONIST WANTS YOU TO KNOW
- Related Stories
- Asked And Answered: What Do Nutritionists Eat?
- Q: What inspired you to become a nutritionist? Tell us a bit about your background.
- Q: Let’s cut to the chase: What do nutritionists eat? Give us the rundown of what a typical day looks like for you and how you choose the foods on your plate.
- Q: What about in between meals? What are some nutritionist-approved snacks?
- Q: How much do calories matter to nutritionists? How does that influence your food choices?
- Q: Tell us about a nutritionist’s grocery-shopping routine. Where do you buy your food? How often do you visit the grocery store?
- Q: Some nutritionists swear by meal planning. Is that something you do as well, or do you tend to wait for inspiration to strike while you’re at the grocery store?
- Q: Is everything you buy organic and/or genetically modified organism (GMO) free?
- Q: Clean eating is a huge trend in the health world right now. What does clean eating mean to a nutritionist?
- Q: Care to share a nutritionist’s guilty pleasures?
- Q: What do nutritionists eat when traveling?
- Q: As a nutritionist, you know a ton about what’s healthy and what’s not. Which ingredients and products do you avoid, and why?
- Q: What’s the biggest health myth you hear as a nutritionist? Now’s your chance to bust it!
- Q: What are the top five foods you can’t live without as a nutritionist?
- 6 Foods Dietitians Eat Every Day
- Nut Butter
- Honorable Mention Foods
The protein and fiber worshipper
Here’s a sneak peek into my daily diet:
Pre-breakfast: Coffee with a scoop of collagen powder and 2 percent milk
I’m intrigued by research suggesting some benefit to tendons, joints, and skin by supplementing with collagen powder. While the science is early and inconclusive, the potential upside (less pain and stiffness, more youthful skin) is enough to sway me.
Fruit (such as mango, blueberries, or cherries), blended with fresh baby spinach, a healthy fat (such as tahini, chia seeds, or avocado), and a sprinkle of antioxidant-rich spices, such as cinnamon or ginger.
I don’t eat breakfast until a few hours after I wake up, but when I do, I want to fill up. I love starting my day knowing that I’ve already scored several servings of produce because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Plus, a smoothie is a balanced meal that keeps me satisfied, energized, and focused.
Lunch: A big salad
Generous serving of pre-washed greens (such as arugula, romaine or spinach) with leftover roasted veggies (maybe broccoli or Brussels sprouts), leftover chicken or a couple of soft boiled eggs, chickpeas, a sprinkle of nuts, and a quick and easy homemade dressing.
I use a basic blueprint that consists of a huge portion of veggies along with protein and healthy fats, but the ingredients change day-to-day. I also adjust portions and ingredients depending on my hunger, say, by skipping the chickpeas if my appetite is on the lighter side.
By loading up on plants, getting enough fiber is never a problem.John Brecher
Snack: An apple with tahini or grapes with a small piece of cheese
Dinner: Ground chicken taco salad
Ground chicken seasoned with taco seasonings, generous serving of leafy greens, black beans, avocado, salsa and a few crushed tortillas on top.
Another formulaic meal here: I always make one main-dish protein, a starchy-carb side dish, and one or two types of roasted veggies. From there, I mix and match portions for me and my 15-year-old son since we have very different needs. For example, on taco night, I have a taco salad but he has his in a whole grain corn taco shell with lettuce and cheese along with a generous serving of roasted veggies (I’m talking half a plate here).
Dessert: A couple of squares of dark chocolate and some frozen, sliced bananas along with a cup of herbal tea.
Key takeaways: Every meal includes generous helpings of veggies, and snacks are also heavy on produce. Heaping portions of veggies provide ample fiber and make meal times more filling. Protein is balanced across meals, which helps keep hunger away and keeps muscles healthier as you age. And meals and snacks are customized based on hunger — more or less food, depending on the day.
The Circadian-Synced Diet
Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN, author of “The Bloated Belly Whisperer”
Breakfast: Latte and avocado toast
Latte made with frothed 2 percent lactose-free milk and two shots of espresso
Two slices Canyon Bakehouse gluten free toast, ½ mashed avocado, and one sliced tomato
Alternative breakfast: Toast with with one-and-a-half slices muenster cheese and a sliced baby cucumber.
Freuman eats within an hour of waking.
Get the better newsletter. Avocado provides a good dose of healthy fats.Claudia Totir / Getty Images
Snack: Two or three clementines or an apple or a handful of dry roasted chickpeas
Freuman goes a long stretch between breakfast and lunch so a mid-morning snack tides her over until she can break for another meal.
Lunch: Mexican-style salad
A bed of arugula topped with black beans, pickled red onions, tomato, pepper, avocado and leftover protein (brisket, grilled chicken).
If leftovers aren’t an option, Freuman uses Pacific Foods Sante Fe Style Chicken Soup and doctors it up with a handful of crushed tortilla chips and some sliced avocado (or she swaps the avocado for some cheddar cheese) for what she calls a “cheater’s tortilla soup.”
Dinner: Turkey pesto meatballs with marinara sauce
Meatballs with marinara sauce are served over a sizable bed of cooked spinach or spaghetti squash with Parmesan cheese
“Five days a week I have some combo of protein and vegetable. The other two days I include a carb with dinner,” explains Freuman, who says that while she skips the starch, the rest of the family will have their meatballs with some pasta.
“Every Friday night, my meal is the same: steak or brisket with a buttered, yukon gold potato and roasted cauliflower,” she says. “I absolutely love baked potatoes with butter so I make room for that at dinner once a week.”
Key takeaways: Freuman front loads carbs and calories at breakfast and lunch. “I find it helps control hunger at night to eat a relatively large lunch with some healthy carbs, and I find myself less likely to need an after dinner snack when I front load well. I often suggest this pattern of eating to my patients seeking weight loss, blood sugar and/or cholesterol management, as there’s good data suggesting it can be beneficial for all these things,” she explains.
The carb lover
Keri Gans, RDN, nutritionist and author of “The Small Change Diet”
Quick-cooking oats made with non-fat milk, chia seeds, and natural chunky almond butter (about 1 Tbsp each), plus a glass of 1/4 cup orange juice, 3/4 cups seltzer, and black coffee.
Gans, an avid yogi and certified teacher, enjoys breakfast first-thing in the morning. “Even on days when I do a yoga class in the morning, I always eat first before anything else,” she says. Starting her day off right means getting some fluids. “I really like to try and start my day with hydration, and for some reason a regular cup of water doesn’t do it here,” which is why she goes for her mix of OJ and seltzer (diluted to reduce the acidity and because she enjoys the taste).
Lunch: Bagel and eggs
Whole wheat bagel scooped (or 100 percent whole-grain bread), toasted and smeared with tofu scallion cream cheese, 1/4 avocado, two eggs (scrambled, fried or poached), and tomato slices. Lunch is served with a 6-ounce container of blackberries (or an alternative piece of fruit) and more coffee.
If you’re wondering how Gans gets away with eating so many carbs, she says portion control is key. “I Iove my carbs so instead of eliminating them, I’ve found a way to still enjoy them but in a healthier way,” she explains when asked about her scooped out bagel.
Snack: One string cheese and four Taralli Italian crackers
“Sometimes I skip the snack and just eat my dinner salad earlier,” says Gans.
Bow-tie pasta tossed with shrimp (or beans), sautéed Brussels sprouts, peas, garlic, basil, ground pepper and parmesan cheese served with a mixed green salad (usually little gem lettuce, grape tomatoes and red onion) with store-bought salad dressing. To drink: 1 extra-dry martini with olives.
Gans eats regular white pasta instead of the often-recommended whole grain version. “I like it better,” she says, “so I go with what I enjoy.”
Key takeaway: Gans finds healthier ways to enjoy her favorite carb-rich foods by right-sizing portions and balancing out meals with other healthful fare. Plus, she keeps snacking to a minimum. “I think that for many, snacking is simply a habit,” she explains. Gans recommends assessing between-meal hunger and identifying any long gaps between meals (say, four to six hours), in which case, a snack may be in order. “Anything less than that, I try to see if clients are eating a balanced enough meal beforehand to hold them over.” She also suggests most people skip an after-dinner snack, unless dinner is on the early side. “For most people who eat dinner after 7 PM, they just need to go to bed earlier.”
The best way to lose weight boils down to these three things
May 31, 201802:11
The macro counter
Emily Field, RD is in private practice teaching a macro-based, balanced eating approach.
Scrambled eggs served with Canadian bacon or turkey sausage, assorted veggies, salsa, and sauerkraut.
This meal hits all the macros: protein from eggs, meat and collagen; fat from egg yolks and cooking oil, and carbs from vegetables. “I add kimchi, sauerkraut or raw sriracha for a little dose of probiotics,” says Field.
Lunch: Tuna salad
Tuna mixed with stone ground mustard, mayo (full fat), garlic, onion, and celery atop a bed of lettuce tossed with cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and other raw veggies.
“All the vegetables take up a ton of room in my stomach, which translates to a meal that fills me up and satisfies me for hours.”
Snack: Apple and peanut butter or jerky and dried fruit
Field makes sure her snacks include a mix of protein and fat or carbs. She notes that most vending machine and office pantry items are predominantly carb-based, which aren’t as filling.
Sliced flank steak cooked in oil, rice, and riced cauliflower along with a mix of frozen stir-fry veggies.
Key takeaways: Macro-based eating is a structured, yet flexible system of creating enjoyable meals based on whole food ingredients. A dietitian, like Field, can help customize macro targets based on your needs and goals and from there, you have the freedom to create meals based on foods you enjoy that fit within the framework. “Eating this way keeps me full and satisfied, avoiding cravings or munchy feelings, and feeling energized all day long,” says Field.
WHAT A NUTRITIONIST WANTS YOU TO KNOW
- Bad nutrition advice dietitians want you to forget
- The best way to lose weight boils down to these three things
- What you need to know about going vegan
- The healthiest meals at top fast food chains
Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Photo courtesy of Mandy Sacher
It’s all well and good to say, “Eat whole foods and practice portion control,” but at the end of the day, we wanted more information—and we wanted it straight from the source. When celebrity nutritionists (like Kelly LeVeque, who’s responsible for the likes of Jennifer Garner and Jessica Alba’s bodies) are off-duty, what do they eat? Do they dive into snacks at 3 PM? How do they maintain their energy all day, through meetings with clients? We asked three celebrity nutritionists—who each have different specialities, but adhere to similar core values—what they eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Here’s what we learned:
Image courtesy of Kelly LeVeque
The “Fab Four” is a light structure to eating that I created to remind my clients what to eat at every meal. It includes Protein, Fat, Fiber & Greens, and doesn’t matter if you eat vegan, paleo, keto, gluten-free, or have never followed a diet or lifestyle plan. It works to turn off hunger hormones, squelch inflammation, and provide the body with the perfect complete meal of essential nutrients.
For breakfast, My #fab4smoothie recipes are my go-to—they’re easy to throw together and take on the run. My favorite is the Spa Smoothie since it’s refreshing, helps me get in extra greens, and lets me start my day by pretending I’m at the spa with a refreshing minty drink! (Protein: Vanilla Collagen, Fat: Avocado, Fiber: Chia, Greens: Spinach & Mint)
Image courtesy of Kelly LeVeque
If you’re an entrepreneur, a parent, traveling a lot for work or fun, or all of the above I’m sure you’ll appreciate a meal you can make with a rotisserie chicken and take to work with you the next day! Try out this Coconut Cauliflower Rice and Sweet Chicken bowl next time your day is packed. It heats up easy but it’s also delicious cold. (Protein: Chicken, Fat: Ghee, Fiber: Cauliflower, Greens: Broccoli)
Image courtesy of Kelly LeVeque
If you’re feeling hungry and need a bit of a bridge between meals, keep it simple with something like a Avocado Hummus and all the veggies (or some flax crackers) for dipping. These “Bridge Snacks” do not to need to comprised of all the Fab Four components but they need to mostly be made of protein, fat or fiber to calm hunger hormones and prevent mindless snacking. (Protein: Tahini (sesame seeds), Fat: Avocado, Olive Oil, Fiber: Veggies, Flax Crackers)
Image courtesy of Kelly LeVeque
With fall right around the corner, I’m looking forward to breaking out this recipe for Turkey-Stuffed Delicata Squash. It makes four servings as-is, but could easily be multiplied to serve more people, or for an easy lunch throughout the week. (Protein: Turkey, Fat: Olive Oil, Fiber: Onion, Celery, Mushroom, Greens: Kale)
Photo courtesy of Mandy Sacher
Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I often wake up feeling hungry and enjoy fueling my body with healthy and nutritious food. I don’t have one favorite go-to meal, but during the week I usually opt for something quick and easy, like a Beetroot and Strawberry Smoothie. On the weekend, I like to share a delicious breakfast with my family, so I always choose something a bit more elaborate. At the moment we love French toast, both savory and sweet.
Photo courtesy of Mandy Sacher
During the week, lunch is often squeezed in-between meetings or between consultations with clients. I don’t usually have time to prepare anything from scratch, so I usually rely on leftover salads or a protein-rich meal. Protein helps keep my blood sugar levels stable and my energy levels high. My favorites include Lamb Koftas or Mini Salmon Quiches. The same meal that lands on my plate often ends up in my kid’s lunchboxes too.
Photo courtesy of Mandy Sacher
If I’m craving something sweet, I look for a good balance of natural sweetness, quality fats and protein. My Beetroot and Spinach Bliss Balls offer all of this goodness in one small serve. If I’m craving savory, I opt for my number one, all-time favorite snack Wholesome Child Flaxseed Crackers. Dipped in vegan cashew nut spread (recipe from my book), these are always a winner and totally delicious.
Photo courtesy of Mandy Sacher
After a long day, a healthy, delicious, and filling dinner is the best choice for your body, your family, and your mind. I start my main meals with a mixed salad and then add favorite family staples. At the moment, my kids and I are loving ‘build-your-own’ meals like this Salmon San Choy Bow or Black Bean Tortillas. Each of us has a different preference and by placing all the elements of the dishes on the table, and encouraging each family member to build their own tortilla, wrap, or lettuce cup, it ensures a happy and positive meal experience.
Image courtesy of Amanda Freer
Ok, so I don’t make Green Shakshuka every day, but my breakfast is pretty much always some eggs with some vegetables. It fills me up right through until lunchtime and I really love a savory, tasty start to my day. I’ll often use leftover vegetables from the previous nights meal and add an egg or two, plus some chile powder and avocado. Heaven! We all need to eat more veggies so I try and share recipe ideas to inspire people to think about ways to include more of them into their diets.
Image by Susan Bell for Amelia’s cookbook, Cook. Nourish. Glow. Published by Harper Wave (US)
In the summer months, it’s always a salad “buddha bowl” style, making the most of the summer produce that I grow in my vegetable garden. This aubergine and chickpea salad is something I eat a version of on a weekly basis. In the winter months I make lots of soups and stews. I always try to include at least four vegetables at lunch and have one portion of fruit as well.
Image courtesy of Amelia Freer
I don’t often snack and try to just stick to water and the occasional herbal tea between meals. However, I always have some of this tahini sauce in my fridge for dressings and it’s the first thing I’ll turn to if I need a snack, usually with some raw or cooked vegetables. I tend to have a pretty well-stocked fridge from batch-cooking a couple of times a week. If not this sauce then some hummus and broccoli would be my go-to.
Image courtesy of Amelia Freer
At the moment, my favorite dinner is a quick and easy dish like this bake. It’s so fresh and so easy! I am a new mama and so life has become somewhat busier and so I am opting for really quick and easy to assemble meals. But dinner is by far my most favorite meal and the one I make the most effort over these days. I’ll often throw together a simple chicken and vegetable curry as an alternative to this bake.
Thank you to Kelly (@bewellbykelly), Mandy (@wholesome_child), and Amelia (@ameliafreer) for the recipes and insight!
Asked And Answered: What Do Nutritionists Eat?
It seems that every day a new study comes out touting the magical health benefits of one food, while another piece of research scolds us for eating too much of something else. The ever-evolving world of nutrition is so tough to navigate that most of us struggle to build a healthy, balanced diet.
But if there’s one group of people who should be able to nail food choices, it’s nutritionists. They’re trained in the proven principles of a healthy diet and stay up to date on the latest research about what—and how much—we should eat.
Armed with all of that knowledge, nutritionists probably fill their fridges with organic produce, stick to the leanest cuts of protein, nosh on celery sticks for snacks, and never indulge in sweet desserts…right? What do nutritionists eat, anyway?
To find out, we asked Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian nutritionist from Dallas, to spill the secrets of what she really buys at the grocery store and eats on the go.
(Spoiler: Her kitchen’s not filled with organic foods, but it definitely has a bottle of red wine.)
Q: What inspired you to become a nutritionist? Tell us a bit about your background.
A: I became interested in nutrition through fitness. In college and grad school, I taught group exercise and was a personal trainer, which enhanced my interest in nutrition and inspired me to look at what becoming a registered dietitian actually involved.
While just about anyone who has learned about diet and nutrition can say they are a “nutritionist,” becoming a registered dietitian requires four years of college, participation in an accredited 9–12-month internship, and passing a credentialing exam. So while people might refer to me as a nutritionist, the registered dietitian credential is what truly makes the difference in my profession.
Q: Let’s cut to the chase: What do nutritionists eat? Give us the rundown of what a typical day looks like for you and how you choose the foods on your plate.
A: For breakfast every day, I eat oatmeal with a decent amount of peanut butter, half a small protein muffin, and coffee with milk. That never changes.
The rest of the day depends on my schedule. When I’m on the go or traveling to a speaking engagement, lots of my meals consist of healthy snack food. I end up eating lots of what I like to call “mini meals.” Lunch might be string cheese, turkey, whole grain crackers, and fruit, or I might eat some apples, grapes, and cheese, or a Kind protein bar or an RXBAR. I prefer these mini meals over heavier lunches, and I typically eat two of them between breakfast and dinner.
For dinner, I might have a salad with salmon, nuts, cheese, and fruit, or green beans with turkey, cheese, and crackers. There are always veggies and protein at dinner, but it can come in different varieties. And of course, a glass of red wine a few nights a week, as well.
Q: What about in between meals? What are some nutritionist-approved snacks?
A: Again, it goes back to my mini meals philosophy. I might do whole grain crackers with cheese, or fruit and cheese, or peanut butter and apples. In a pinch, I reach for a protein bar. The protein helps you feel full.
Q: How much do calories matter to nutritionists? How does that influence your food choices?
A: I have always had to watch what I eat to stay my size, so while I don’t count calories or track the numbers, I can do a quick estimate in my head. I am definitely aware of roughly how many calories are in my meals, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you an exact total at the end of the day.
Q: Tell us about a nutritionist’s grocery-shopping routine. Where do you buy your food? How often do you visit the grocery store?
A: I buy food wherever it’s convenient, often Walmart, Whole Foods, and Central Market. Sometimes I’ll go to Kroger. I typically go grocery shopping about once a week, unless I’m traveling.
Q: Some nutritionists swear by meal planning. Is that something you do as well, or do you tend to wait for inspiration to strike while you’re at the grocery store?
A: Sadly, I don’t love cooking! I’m single, live by myself, and my weeks are so busy with work, travel, and life stuff that meal planning isn’t a big thing for me. I’m a creature of habit, so eating the same variation of things is fine for me. I guess I don’t have the chef gene!
Q: Is everything you buy organic and/or genetically modified organism (GMO) free?
A: Actually, none of what I buy is organic or GMO free. Organic does not make food healthier—I just wash my fruit and veggies well. There’s also no need to spend more on organic dairy, either. In the world of agriculture, which is similar to technology, advancements in science (such as with GMO foods) are key to production. To feed a growing world, genetically engineered foods will be required. There are tons of studies that say GMOs are perfectly safe, so GMO or non-GMO, I eat it.
Q: Clean eating is a huge trend in the health world right now. What does clean eating mean to a nutritionist?
A: To me, it means focusing on trying to eat whole foods much more often than processed foods. It’s not that I never eat processed food, but I try to choose whole, fresh foods as often as I can.
A: I go by the 80/20 rule, which says that 80 percent of the time, you should choose healthy foods. The other 20 percent of the time is about living a little! That’s when I eat food I would not typically eat every day. My favorite appetizer dishes are cheese plates or spinach and artichoke dip with corn chips or pita. Saturday nights are when I tend to have dessert, but I’ll try and split it with someone if we’re eating out or limit myself to a few bites of something sweet if I’m at home.
Q: What do nutritionists eat when traveling?
A: Trays with combinations of cheese, fruit, nuts, and crackers are my go-to snack in an airport. I have eaten this meal in just about every form it comes in. If I’m looking for a restaurant in a new city, I’m hands down seeking out the best place for fish with roasted veggies and some of my favorite sides, like polenta and grits.
Q: As a nutritionist, you know a ton about what’s healthy and what’s not. Which ingredients and products do you avoid, and why?
A: There are thousands of products and ingredients on the market, so it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which ones I avoid. I just try to stick to fresh, whole foods whenever I can. I focus on nutrient-rich meals and try to make the healthiest choice when whole foods are less available, such as at a fast food place.
Q: What’s the biggest health myth you hear as a nutritionist? Now’s your chance to bust it!
A: There are too many nutrition myths to count. The amount of misinformation in the health world is unreal. The one that really irks me, though, is the idea that you have to cut out one particular food or food group to lose weight. Everyone has their own opinion on what that particular food is. But the truth is that there’s no one food that makes you gain weight and there’s no one food that helps you lose weight. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight requires a balance of carbs, protein, fats, veggies, and fruit, and eating appropriate portion sizes.
Q: What are the top five foods you can’t live without as a nutritionist?
A: It would have to be peanut butter, oats, cheese, roasted veggies, and red wine. Oatmeal with peanut butter is the start to every day of my life—the fiber, protein, and healthy fat get me going after my morning workout. Cheese is one of my favorite easy proteins, and I love pairing it with roasted veggies. As for the red wine, it works for dinner, happy hour, and girls’ night out. Sharing a glass with a friend is good for my heart and my soul!
At Intermountain Healthcare, our mission is to help people live the healthiest lives possible. Intermountain employs over 165 dietitians who work every day to share their knowledge of healthy eating with people in our hospitals, clinics, and communities. Our dietitians are a great example of how healthy eating can still be an enjoyable experience. We asked Intermountain dietitians from all over Utah what their favorite foods were and here are some of our favorite responses:
Light Greek yogurt is a tasty way to boost protein intake, stabilize blood sugar, and help with satiety! You can make ranch dip with it and serve with veggies for a fat-free, high-protein snack. Flavored varieties of Greek yogurt are great with oatmeal in the morning (instead of milk) for a filling breakfast to keep you going until lunchtime. ~Jenessa Henrie, Primary Children’s Hospital dietitian
A handful of raw or dry-roasted nuts! These make a great, easily-portable snack anytime you have the munchies as they are really satisfying and are full of heart-healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. ~ Margaret Braae, Primary Children’s Hospital dietitian
I love black beans or any beans for that matter. My kids make fun of me because I eat them ALOT! They are tasty, easy to throw together, very satisfying, and a good source of fiber and protein. ~Valery Shaw, Riverton Hospital dietitian
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Lately, one of my go-to foods has been sundried tomatoes. They work great on paninis, pasta, or pizzas (especially ones cooked on the barbecue grill). By using the dehydrated fruit, you retain the yummy tomato flavor while reducing some of the water content, which can cause sogginess in some recipes. They are a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Some of the ones you buy at the store can be higher in sodium, so make sure to check the label! ~Jessie Hatch, McKay-Dee dietitian
My favorite food is berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.) Not only are they colorful and delicious, they are also high in antioxidants and polyphenols – which help fight chronic disease. Have a ½ cup for a snack or add to yogurt, a green salad or a smoothie! ~Kathryn Kauffman, Dixie Regional Medical Center dietitian
When I’m cooking Italian at home, baby arugula in a salad is one of my favorite ingredients. Its peppery flavor is like nothing else and with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, some olive oil and some parmesan cheese slivers, it is a wonderful, authentic Italian addition to any meal. ~Regan Wilson, Valley View Medical Center dietitian
I love chocolate – the darker the better! Not only does a small piece of high-quality dark chocolate go a long way in satisfying my sweet-tooth, but I love that a dessert can give me a boost of healthy antioxidants and flavenoids! ~Joy Musselman, McKay-Dee Hospital dietitian
Fruit salads are the perfect side at family mealtime – quick, colorful, and delicious! Simply cut 2 to 4 different fresh fruits (about 1 piece of fruit per person) into bite-sized pieces and mix together. Any combination of fruit can work. Some of my favorite combinations are a traditional blend of apple, orange, and banana or try a summer variety of watermelon, cantaloupe, and blueberries or even a tropical mix of mango, kiwi, and pineapple. ~Katie McDonald, Primary Children’s Hospital dietitian
One of my favorite foods is garden fresh cucumbers. I can eat them like candy, and they really are a better alternative for the afternoon munchies. They are also great in salads, sandwiches, and wraps. ~Mary Brown, Dixie Regional Medical Center dietitian (Editor’s note: Mary also shared that doughnut holes are another favorite, “I only buy them 2-3 times a year, but I do love them!” As dietitians we believe all foods can fit in a healthy diet – even less nutritious foods when eaten in moderation.)
Although they may seem cliche as a stereotypical “health food”, this fruit is a must-have in my life. There are many varieties of flavors and textures to appeal to individual preferences. Apples hold up especially well as a travel snack or in a packed lunch, so I usually have one close at hand. ~Marie Stevens, McKay-Dee Hospital dietitian
6 Foods Dietitians Eat Every Day
People sometimes assume that dietitians eat a “perfect” diet—or one considerably better than their own. However, the reality is that most dietitians are busy (just like you). So, while we have the knowledge to plan a pretty stellar diet, this doesn’t mean that we always have the time to make it happen. I’ve learned to keep a few healthy items on hand to help me out on busy mornings or for on-the-go snacking, and I was interested to know if others did the same.
I asked fellow nutrition colleagues to send me their “top-five foods”—not necessarily the five healthiest foods they eat in a week, but rather the ones that are staples in their daily routines due to convenience, taste, and nutrition, plus the ones they rely on to stay fueled and satisfied in the midst of busy schedules. The results? Over 20 dietitians sent me their “top-five” list, and after filtering through 100+ foods, I found six foods that were overwhelmingly consistent among responses. Here are those top foods that dietitians eat daily.
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Berries of all types—from fresh to frozen—were a top food listed by almost all who responded. Something that may surprise readers, though, is that frozen berries were the predominant form most keep on hand—or at least when it’s not berry season—thanks to their convenience and retention of nutrients when frozen quickly after harvest.
But, why berries over other fruits? “Berries are rich in antioxidants and are lower in glycemic index,” says Kelsey Stricklen, MS, RD, CLT. They’re also a good source of fiber and a key ingredient in smoothies. Kelsey Stricklen, MS, RD, CLT, says, “I often cook them into my oats in the morning and add a bit of nut butter for satiety.”
As a daily peanut butter eater, I’m glad to know I’m good company. About 75 percent of dietitians who responded listed either peanut butter, almond butter, or another nut butter as a food they eat on an almost-daily basis. In fact, Jessica Gust, MS, RDN of Element Nutrition Co., said, “I usually eat a tablespoon or two of nut butter a day. It’s an easy way to spruce up meals and snacks with added protein and fat.”
And there appears to be no wrong way to eat it—including my favorite way, which is a spoonful straight from the jar. “I enjoy peanut butter with sliced banana or apple, stirred into my plain Greek yogurt, as part of my recipe for peanut butter cereal bars, in a smoothie, and sometimes, straight out of the jar!” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD.
Whether it’s for the satiating fiber and fat, the creaminess that it lends smoothies and sauces, or just simply because they’re good, avocados were one of the most frequently included “top” foods that dietitians eat regularly. Atlanta-based integrative and culinary dietitian Marisa Moore, MBA, RD, LD, confessed she has an avocado habit. “From avocado toast and homemade dips to adding it as a topping for fish tacos or vegetable soup, I easily eat half an avocado a day,” says Moore.
Maggie Farley, MA, RDN of Meals with Maggie echoed those same sentiments, “I find a way to put avocado in my everyday routine. It is high in potassium, which makes it perfect to add-in to a post-workout smoothie.”
I’m a big fan of oats, but the popularity of this whole-grain (in sea of answers) took me by surprise. Over half of the dietitians who responded listed oats as one of their “top” daily foods.
Turns out a hot bowl of oatmeal is a staple breakfast for many, including NYC-based Registered Dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. “I make rolled oats with milk on the stovetop in five minutes and top with whatever seasonal fruit I have on hand—berries in the summer, apples and pears in the fall and winter—as well as nuts or nut butter.”
But I also found that dietitians are using oats for other things, too. Several shared that they add uncooked oats to smoothies to add fiber and thickness. Or they process oats in a food processor or blender to make oat flour to add to other flours or batters to boost nutrition. In fact, dietitian and yoga instructor Melissa Burton, RDN says homemade waffles made with oat flour are one of her favorite breakfasts.
The nutrition world has been trying to get out the word that eggs are back and are a key part of a healthy diet, and it seems many dietitians are following their own advice. “It can be really hard to get protein in at breakfast, but it’s so important for me to feel full before I start the day. I always find a way to get at least one egg for breakfast,” says Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, LDN.
Farley also agreed and looks for ways to incorporate eggs in all her meals. “Eggs are a complete protein and are so versatile. I make them for breakfast on toast, in egg cups as a snack or hard boiled with a salad for lunch. Sometimes I will eat it on top of a stir fry bowl for dinner.”
Perhaps the best proof from my poll that dietitians take a realistic and balanced approach to food is that 15 out of the 22 dietitians who participated listed chocolate as one of their “top” foods, and that included both dark and milk chocolates. A few even shared how they use daily chocolate to keep their sweet tooth in check and how they like to incorporate a small bite or two daily.
- “I buy chocolate in small single sizes and I enjoy 1-2 pieces a day, usually at night as a treat.” – Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, LDN
- “Cashews and dark chocolate chips make a great snack (sometimes I even add some mini pretzels, too).” – Melissa R. Burton, RDN
- “I think I have some form of chocolate at least one time per day and maybe more depending on the day. I may keep dark chocolate or Hershey Kisses around to help satisfy my sweet tooth.” -Amy Reed, RDN
Honorable Mention Foods
Berries, peanut or almond butters, avocado, oats, eggs and chocolate were without a doubt the most popular answers, but there were a few other foods that didn’t trail too far behind. Here’s a quick look at those foods and favorite ways to use them.
- Broccoli: The cruciferous veggie seems to be the favorite green option among dietitians. And similar to berries, both fresh and frozen are used. Stricklen shares that, “I love buying frozen broccoli in bulk from places like Costco. Microwave it and add some seasoning for a quick side dish, or throw it in with some eggs for a quick and easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. ”
- Leafy Greens: Fresh spinach leaves were popular due to their convenience and mild, versatile flavor that allows them to be used in everything from salads to smoothies. Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD shared, “One of my favorite ways to incorporate most of my top five foods into one recipe is to make a smoothie with leafy greens, frozen cauliflower, frozen fruit, and a scoop of nut butter. It’s so satisfying and helps make plant-based eating easy!”
- Bananas: Bananas can add creaminess and natural sweetness to smoothies, or be used as a quick snack or addition to cereal or oatmeal. “I love to have milk, cereal, and banana for breakfast because I include three servings from three different foods groups in one bowl. I also make a smoothie with milk, banana, and uncooked oatmeal,” says Ward.
- Chia seeds or flaxseeds: Using chia seeds or flaxseeds are popular (and tasty) ways to add omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein to your meals. Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, CLT shares that she adds flaxseed “to boost the fiber in things like yogurt bowls, smoothies, homemade crackers and baked goods, breading on homemade chicken tenders, turkey meatballs, and many other foods.” And nursing mom Sarah Thornton, MPH, RDN, LDN, with TheTolerantTummy.com, says she relies on chia seeds for extra fuel on busy days. “I always stir a spoonful of chia seeds and powdered peanut butter into my morning bowl of granola for extra protein.”
Eat to stay LEAN! You guys always ask me what I eat to stay lean so here it is – a documented version of my daily eats 🙌🏼 I’m not saying this is how everyone should eat – I’m just saying this works for me, my body & my training right now 🙊💪🏼 I’m 6ft tall & train weights 4 times a week + 2 cardio days a week (netball, HIIT &/or fasted cardio). I currently weight 72kg which is healthy for my height 🦒 . . ❤️ Meal 1: High protein Greek yogurt with whole grain flakey cereal + fresh berries & a sprinkle of nuts & seeds. Green tea . . 💙 Meal 2: A boiled egg & a banana 🍌 + a coffee . . 🧡 Meal 3: High fibre wrap with tinned tuna, cheese, grated carrot, lettuce & tomato. Black or herbal tea (no sugar) . . 💜 Meal 4: More high protein greek yogurt with 2 tbsp home made granola (nuts, seeds & dried cranberries) . . 💚 Meal 5: Teriyaki salmon with greens & 100g Brown rice + herbal tea . . 💛 Meal 6: Home made peanut butter protein balls (comment below if you want the recipe & post it on my blog) . . I hope this gives you guys a rough idea of the foods I eat to stay healthy all year round. I don’t count calories or deprive myself. If there’s a celebration at work then of course I’ll eat cake but it’s an occasional food. As are things like alcohol, take away, sweets & fried foods. If you make the basis of your diet whole foods then there’s always room for occasional treats too 🙌🏼🍦🥂😍 Picture inspiration from the gorgeous @joseeksabs 😘😘 #fooddiary #mealprep #eatforgains #girlsthatsquat #eatforabs #strongnotskinny #weightlossinspiration #eattherainbow #healthyfood #healthyoptions #mealplan #weightlossfoods #nourishyourbody