Since it’s the New Year, I’m sure many of you are resolving to get back on track with nutrition and are resetting the ol’ system after the holidays. I thought it would be an appropriate time to sit down with my fellow spin instructor and friend, Katie, who is on her way to becoming a registered dietician. (And by sit down, I mean email back and forth. You could not pick two people with more opposite schedules! We pass each other coming on and off the bike) Anyways, I’ve been getting really interested in nutrition lately as I’ve been working at a gym that primarily focuses on weight loss and nutrition, and wanted to pick Katie’s brain about how she got started and what it’s like working full time in the nutrition field. Get ready for some serious knowledge to be DROPPED up on yo face.
What inspired you to become a registered dietitian? Did you have an “a-ha!” moment to find your true calling?
Well, I guess you could call it an “a-ha” moment – but I think of it as more like an “a-ha” explosion! I was working in corporate finance and had been traveling like a mad-woman. Although I knew I wasn’t in the right field, I never had any time to sit down and think about what I really wanted to do. When the financial market crashed in the fall of 2008, I suddenly had some free time on my hands. I was really interested in fitness and nutrition and found myself reading nutrition blogs with gusto. But I was frustrated by the amount of misinformation out there. I couldn’t believe that people with little to no education or background in nutrition were making blatant recommendations for lifestyle changes on their blogs! That really got my you-know-what in a wad. I thought, “we really need someone who can both understand the science of nutrition and communicate it to the public.” And that is what I call an “a-ha!” explosion.
What’s the biggest challenge you face when working with patients?
Wow – that’s a loaded question! It really depends on what patient population I’m working with. It’s challenging to work with people who don’t believe that nutrition has a place in the hospital setting. It’s challenging to work with people who think it’s “too late” to make positive changes in their lives. But the most challenging people to work with – and this isn’t limited to patients! – are the people who just don’t believe that nutrition is based in science. While I hope that is slowly beginning to change, it is very challenging to sit down with a patient who plans to educate me about proper nutrition. I compare it to showing up at my accountant’s office and trying to do his taxes
Being a spin instructor and fitness junkie, I’m sure you’ve heard tons of people say “well I work out all the time, so I can eat whatever I want”. What do you have to say to the nay-sayers?!
Ah if only it were so simple! Our bodies are such complex and impressive systems, which makes it challenging to maintain or lose weight. It is never one simple fix but rather a lifestyle approach that will make a significant difference in the long-term. Sure, you could be one of those blessed individuals who can eat a ton of junk food, hit the elliptical for 30 mins, and maintain a svelte physique. But have you ever thought of your health from the outside-in? You’ll find individuals with heart, liver, or lung disease who may look “healthy” from the outside, but are far from it on the inside. It is so common, especially this time of the year, to get wrapped up in quick fixes, that we forget how important it is to balance both food and exercise for overall health. Guilty admission here – I used to be a Special-K bar, Light and Fit yogurt, sugar-free anything junkie. And while that food may have helped me maintain my weight, it wasn’t nourishing my body the way I know it should. Whole health is a balance of food and exercise, and I can’t imagine giving up either!
What advice do you have for people that have a busy lifestyle, but want to have a healthy diet?
Great question. And one I feel very qualified to answer because my lifestyle is sometimes more than I can handle! There are a couple ways to ensure that your healthy diet doesn’t get overlooked, and I categorize them based on your personal lifestyle:
- If you like to cook: Keep healthy frozen and pantry items on hand at all times. There should always be a couple dinner options available for nights when a trip to the store for fresh ingredients isn’t in the cards.
My go-to’s include Rising Moon Organics frozen tortellini, Amy’s canned soups, Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers, baked beans + frozen perogis and veggies, and homemade grilled cheese with whatever vegetable happens to be lurking in the fridge.
- If you like to eat out: Remember if you’re eating out every night, it isn’t aways a “special occassion.” When I lived in NYC, I ate out probably 5 nights a week, but I had to remind myself that it was because I didn’t have time to cook, not because it was my birthday! Think of how you would prepare a meal at home – do you have a bread basket AND an appetizer AND wine AND dessert? Probably not – pick one and leave it at that. In terms of your meal, control your portion by ordering 2 appetizers or sharing an entree with a friend. And use the Balanced Plate method – half of your meal should be veggies and the rest of your plate should be 1/4 lean protein (fish, beans, chicken, pork, lean beef) and 1/4 starch (whole grains, squash, potato, sweet potato). Skip the heavy cream sauces, fried entrees, and pretty much anything stuffed with something else
- If lunch is a challenge: Consider brown bagging it! It is so easy to overdo it during the day if you’re grabbing what’s available on-the-go. Even if you can’t pack an entire meal or don’t have a fridge or microwave to use, always keep some hearty snacks on hand for times that your options will be limited.
My go-to’s include: KIND bars, Larabars, Biena Roasted Chick Peas, Stonyfield Smoothies, Chobani yogurt, and Babybel cheeses.
What’s a RD’s favorite unhealthy, splurge meal?
I should have known you’d ask this
I’ve never been a sweet tooth, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a guilty pleasure. My favorite indulgence is good New England seafood. Lobster rolls, fried oysters, clam chowder are all at the top of that list. I grew up spending a couple weeks in the Cape in the summer and some of my favorite memories are of eating seafood. Here in Boston, I am constantly heading to B&G Oyster or Neptune Oyster in the North End for side-by-side comparisons
Oh, and you haven’t lived until you’ve had the Spicy Scallop roll at Sushi Seki in NYC. To. Die. For. I’ve been known to eat 3 in a sitting (shhhhh…)
You and I have talked about Paleo before, but would love for you to share your opinion on it with our readers. The good AND the bad. We’re ready for it…!
Ah, the question of the hour! While I rarely like to soap box about nutrition issues, the hoopla around the Paleo diet definitely deserves some attention. If you are unfamiliar with why dietitians have issues with Paleo, I definitely recommend checking out my girl Rachele’s post on the topic: http://www.strong-process.com/paleo-shmaleo/
Rather than restate all of her well-documented points, I will highlight the ones I feel most strongly about:
- It is literally impossible to follow this diet as prescribed because the food no longer exists in the same form. Period.
- Removing certain food groups from your diet, such as dairy and grains, will have outcomes that you may not see, but you will certainly feel down the line. Most North Americans are already vitamin-D deficient, so removing the only dietary source (other than fatty fish) of vitamin-D can lead to complications like osteoporosis (especially for ladies). Unfortunately I can’t prove this point to you in the short-term, but once you’ve started feeling the effects of vitamin-D deficiency later in life, it is too late to reverse the outcome.
We enrich grains in this country because they are the food group we consume in the highest volume. I believe we all over-consume grains, but regardless, if you remove these completely from your diet you are no longer consuming the thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, and iron that the grains are enriched with. While you can absolutely find the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin) and iron in protein foods, folic acid is only in legumes (off limits), citrus fruits (off limits) and leafy green veggies. That’s a whole lotta kale.
An important note – the enrichment act is in place as a way to ensure women who are pregnant or going to become pregnant have enough folic acid. Why? Having enough folic acid can prevent major birth complications like spina bifida or anencephaly, which is when a baby’s brain doesn’t develop properly. Women who are deficient in folic acid can also develop anemia, which is also common in pregnancy due to increased blood volume.
Removing these food groups without considering these long-term implications can have serious consqeuences that often aren’t discussed. It is important that you understand that these foods play a role in your health.
- Finally, the protein issue. This is a big one because I feel it is so misunderstood. While the Paleo diet clearly states that high fat meats should be avoided, I have yet to see someone following this rule. Instead, I see pork shoulder wrapped in bacon, burger wrapped in bacon, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and bacon sandwiches…wrapped in bacon. This brings me back to the point I made in the beginning about things that frustrate me – the science is there folks! A diet high in saturated fat has been associated with heart disease, obesity, and certain types of cancer.
While Paleo sites tout the benefits of saturated fat, I have yet to see a scientific basis for those claims.
All that being said, I know that people commonly experience positive outcomes from “going Paleo.” However, I often hear these outcomes associated with a gluten sensitivity or undiagnosed lactose intolerance. Naturally if you cannot digest lactose and you remove from your diet, you will feel better! But that’s not because of a miracle diet. That’s because your body was trying to tell you to avoid dairy.
Paleo is a diet, and it has its faults just like any other diet. While I certainly like some aspects – reduced sugar, lean meat, unprocessed foods – I am more apt to just make those recommendations than prescribe a set of standards to live by.
What’s been the most satisfying experience in your job so far?
The crazy part of the dietetic internship is how different each experience is. Sometimes I feel really effective and sometimes I just feel plain frustrated. But the most satisfying moments for me, whether at the hospital or at the studio, are when a client or patient tells me I’ve helped them make a positive change. Even if that means eliminating one negative habit, or getting them comfortable trying single taps in a spin class, I know I’ve done something positive for that person’s health and future. And nothing could be more satisfying than that.
If you don’t already follow Katie’s blog, check her out at The Aspiring RD
. Great posts, way more informative than mine, not to mention she has the cutest French bulldog puppy, who she posts pics of on the reg. Informative AND cute puppy pics? WIN.
Thank you Katie!!