National Nutrition Month is the time of year to get perspective and focus on issues pertaining to your nutrition and health. Today, March 9th, just so happens to be Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, a day to celebrate the contributions of dietitians all around the country. But what exactly are dietitians?
These food experts have proven their dedication by earning a bachelor's degree in nutrition or a related field, by completing an intensive supervised practice averaging one year, and by passing a registration exam required by the Academy of Dietetics and Nutrition (the world's largest organization dedicated to food and nutrition). Many registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) hold graduate degrees, and some are even certified nutrition specialists in areas such as renal nutrition, diabetes education, or even sports nutrition. Registered dietitians work in settings such as hospitals or inpatient care facilities, and many other have private practices. Others work in research, in community and public health centers, as teachers of nutrition, or as consultants to the corporate world for wellness programs, consumer affairs, product development, and such.
Since it is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day and National Nutrition Month, I decided to interview 10 dietitians across the country who are influential movers and shakers in the nutrition and dietetics field. I asked them for the advice that they not only provide to their clients, but also practice in their own lives. So let's now introduce these nutrition experts with their top nutrition recommendations.
1. Eat More Whole Plants. Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian and author of Plant-Powered for Life says that "no matter what your eating style, you can gain more health benefits by filling up your plate with at least three-fourths plant foods, such as beans, lentils, whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice, and farro; vegetables, and fruits. Plus this eating pattern is better for the planet, too."
2. Combine Your Food. "Combining foods is so important for increasing your metabolism and controlling hunger better" says Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, sports dietitian and weight management specialist, founder of Family. Food. Fiesta. "When you combine foods such as a carbohydrate and protein, you will feel more full and satisfied than if you just ate one of the foods by itself. For example, have you ever eaten a fruit and still felt hungry? Add some peanut butter, almond butter, nuts, cheese, or yogurt to the fruit and you are a happy camper. When it comes to food combinations, an easy rule of thumb is to remember to eat at least 2 food groups for a hearty, satisfying snack. Double the pleasure. Double the benefits."
3. Make Time to Eat with Those You Love. Toby Amidor, MS, RD author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, values family meal times with her loved ones. "As I have school-aged children and their weeknight schedules are hectic, I make a point to eat breakfast each morning together with my kids. I am able to ask them what is in store for the day and make sure they leave my house with their bellies filled with a nutritious breakfast and a smile on their face."
4. Have A Plan of Action. Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-certified chef and creator of Clean Eating Cooking School: Monthly Meal Plans Made Simple recommends that you look at your kitchen, see what you have on hand, and plan what you need to get. "It's all about being armed with streamlined recipes, planning for the week, and having a calculated grocery list to stock your pantry strategically. A well-stocked pantry also helps with last-minute meals at a moment's notice. You don't need to keep a lot of food on hand, just the right food on hand to produce balanced meals, meaning proteins, vegetables and whole grains. Broth, dried herbs and spices, a couple oils and a few vinegars also boost flavor."
5. Plan, Prepare and Store Healthy Meals for the Week. Heather Mangieri, RDN, CSSD, owner of Nutrition CheckUp in Pittsburgh, PA and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics acknowledges the fact that "we are all busy. Work, school, extracurricular activities and house work are realities for many families, but they should never be at the expense of your health." Heather suggests to "take 3 to 4 hours on a day that you have some extra time to cook 4-5 healthy meals for the week. Store those meals in the refrigerator so that you and your family can just reheat, eat and go. Preparing meals in advance takes the stress away from healthy eating, even when practice runs late or the unexpected happens."
6. Get Real with Your Food. "Cook as much as you can" says Robyn Webb, MS, award-winning cookbook author, culinary instructor and Food Editor of Diabetes Forecast Magazine. She recommends to get intimate with your kitchen and "learn knife skills, grow some of your own food if you can. Good nutrition will sort itself out if you learn all about your food. Don't diet, don't cleanse, and don't hop on any bandwagon of the moment. Just get real with your food and find your way into the kitchen and garden."
7. Get to know Your Body. "Meal plans and calorie trackers are great learning tools, but a healthy relationship with food is the best tool in your tool box" says Jim White, RD, ACSM EP, Owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. "You can start by using your body's physiological responses to learn what is helping or hurting you (hunger, stress level, energy levels, digestion, etc.) Assess your sleep, daily routines, and environment and how it affects your eating. Stop and ask yourself, 'why am I eating this?'"
8. One Meal won't "Make" or "Break" Your Health. Christy Wilson, RD, Health and Wellness coach at the University of Arizona and founder of Christy Wilson Nutrition Consulting Service advises that you should look at your overall eating pattern. "Every meal is an opportunity to get your health on-track" says Christy. "One meal won't "make" or "break" your health but the trends in your diet will. What you eat on a regular basis will help keep you healthy or will gradually contribute to illness, so regularly, most of the week, choose to fill half your plate with plant-based fresh foods and less of the plate with meat. Choose whole grains, beans and fish over highly processed foods. Also, move more and sit less!"
9. Punch Up Your Fiber. Shelly Marie Redmond, MS, RD, LDN, and founder of Skinny Louisiana, says that in her practice "when any client walks through the Skinny Louisiana doors, we focus on PUNCHING up fiber. Fiber has a ton of health benefits but for weight loss, it keeps us FULL! Instead of a 'ho-hum' granola bar, boring cereal flakes, or random whole grain look for the ones that pack the punch of fiber. Goal: pick ones with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving."
10. Quality Over Quantity. Marjorie Nolan Cohn, MS, RDN, CSSD, CEDRD owner, MNC Nutrition in New York City recommends to not "worry about calories or fat and focus on eating whole foods that are prepared simply."
Manuel Villacorta is a nationally recognized, award-winning registered dietitian/nutritionist with more than 18 years of experience. He is a trusted voice in the health and wellness industry. He is the author of Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good (HCI, 2012) Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes (HCI, 2013) and his newest book Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss (HCI, 2015).