What do nutritionists really eat?
It’s a question many people are curious about, and last year we got one answer when a nutritionist shared pictures of everything she ate in a day on Business Insider.
If you missed the above article, it’s worth a quick read to understand the context of this post.
In this article, I will go over my concerns about the foods that were pushed as healthy in the Business Insider piece.
After that, I’ll show an example of what I ate yesterday, and why.
The Business Insider Article – What a Nutritionist Eats
To be honest, I was shocked when I first saw what the article portrayed as a healthy diet.
But looking into the diet more it closely resembles the national dietary guidelines. Low-fat, low-salt, low-fat dairy, grains, and sugary snacks in moderation.
Let’s examine it in detail.
“I am thirsty when I wake up, so I start the day with a combo of orange juice and cranberry juice. I dilute it with water, otherwise it’s too sweet”.
The last part of the quote is what we should pay attention to. Fruit juice is sweet because it’s full of fructose from the 5 or 6 pieces of fruit it takes to make one glass.
If you eat one piece of whole fruit, the beneficial fiber is intact, and there’s a realistic amount of sugar. Fruit juice has the fiber taken away, and only the fruit sugars left.
“On my way to work, I eat oatmeal with unsalted peanuts and cinnamon in the car.”
Admittedly there are far worse breakfast choices, but it appears there is a fear of salt going on here.
“When I get to the office I make a big mug of decaf mocha-latte coffee, topped with 1% milk. I drink three to four of these big mugs throughout the day.”
“Mocha-latte” coffee makes me wonder about the sugar content, and three or four big mugs of it sure could add up.
And as for the 1% milk; if you read this article on skim milk vs whole milk, you will know that the bulk of the evidence clearly shows full-fat dairy is the better option for health.
“I need a mid-morning snack, so around 11am I eat 1/3rd to 1/2th of my favorite chocolate chip cookie dough bar.”
Also, I’m struggling to see how a chocolate chip cookie dough bar is healthy.
Again, it seems like the nutritionist is avoiding dietary fat, which is one of the biggest nutrition pitfalls.
“I get hungry at between 12pm and 1pm and eat yogurt with fruit, nuts, and fiber one cereal.”
This meal is probably the best one of the day so far, thanks to the yogurt, fruit, and nuts. But it’s worrying that she is always so hungry. Hunger and stress are not signs of a healthy diet.
“I was hungry again at 2 pm and made my own microwave popcorn. I also had baby carrots.”
Baby carrots are okay, but microwave popcorn on the other hand…
“Around 4 pm I was feeling stressed, but not hungry, so I chewed gum.”
“I got home around 4 pm or 5 pm, and I was feeling tired and hungry, so I ate a handful of peanut M&Ms for a sugar energy boost.”
Tired and hungry again.
It’s understandable that she feels tired and hungry, I would do too if all I ate so much processed food and an ultra low-fat diet.
But it’s worrying that M&Ms are considered as a “sugar energy boost”.
“I had leftover Indian for dinner around 6.30pm.”
Presuming it’s a homemade Indian rather than a takeout, then this meal is perfectly fine.
Business Insider portray this as an example of a healthy diet that nutritionists eat. I think this gives the wrong message to the public.
Nobody I know working in nutrition feels tired and stressed all day. They also don’t require energy throughout the day from M&Ms, mocha latte drinks and chocolate chip cookie dough bars.
What Does a ‘Real-Food’ Diet Look Like?
In response to the article above, I’ll show a log of what I ate yesterday.
This is similar to what I usually eat, but the specific meats/fish/nuts/vegetables tend to change on a daily basis.
I ate breakfast at 8 am.
Usually, I enjoy eating the biggest meal of the day for breakfast, and I eat a bit less in the evening time.
Here is a photo of my breakfast:
Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence.
Any kind of egg is great, whether they are boiled, fried, poached, or an omelet like above.
Omega-3 is one of the most essential nutrients for our overall health, so I tend to eat some fatty fish around 3-5 times per week. Today I ate steamed mackerel.
Mackerel is one of the fish highest in omega-3 and lowest in mercury, along with anchovies, salmon, sardines, and trout (13).
Macadamia nuts and dark chocolate might be considered by other people as snacks, but I prefer to eat two times with more food at each serving.
If you prefer three times, you could always just call this plate ‘lunch.’
Eating less often has many benefits for our health, as brilliantly explained by Dr. Jason Fung in his articles about fasting.
I was content with the food I ate at breakfast, so I didn’t feel hungry and had lots of energy. No mid-morning snack was required.
I still had lots of energy and felt content from the nutrient-dense food at breakfast.
The lack of sugar or refined carbohydrate in my diet meant that I didn’t have intense hunger cravings.
I didn’t need to eat lunch, so I skipped it.
I still wasn’t feeling hungry (or tired…or stressed) so I didn’t need any “sugar energy boost.”
I had dinner at around 6 pm.
Here is a picture of what I ate:
As you can see; the meal is based around real, whole foods. And again you can see that I certainly don’t fear dietary fat.
Beef ribs: red meat is one of the most nutrient dense foods around, and bone-in meats provide glycine; an amino acid that is missing from many modern diets.
Chives: One of the tastiest and healthiest vegetable options.
Mushrooms: A delicious food that is full of nutrients – any kind of mushroom is great.
Kimchi: Including a source of fermented food has benefits for our gut health. I like to alternate between sauerkraut, kimchi, and other pickled vegetables.
After dinner, I didn’t eat anything else. And I didn’t feel the urge to either.
Throughout the day I mainly drank water, but I also had one cup of coffee and two cups of tea. One thing I didn’t have is sugary drinks that are full of calories and unhealthy additives.
If you are wondering about the nutrient profile of everything I ate, then here is the data:
Total calories came to just under 2000 calories.
Some days I will eat more and some days less.
61.7g of Carbohydrate – 32.5g of which was from fibrous plant foods. This also shows that grains aren’t “essential for fiber”.
Predominantly monounsaturated fat (mainly down to the avocado and macadamia nuts), followed by saturated and then polyunsaturated fats.
The omega-3 and omega-6 are in relatively good balance, which is important. I couldn’t tell the nutrient logging software that the meat and eggs were from pastured animals, so they probably had more omega-3, meaning this could be an even closer ratio.
More than the average person, but probably a little low for me. I usually have a bit more than this as I enjoy to do resistance training.
I consumed much more than the ‘daily value’ for the majority of vitamins, except for vitamin E. As my diet varies and I eat more vitamin E-rich foods on other days, this isn’t a concern.
The only mineral that I didn’t get enough of (according to the ‘daily value’) was calcium. But cheese also plays a regular role in my diet, so again, it’s not something to lose sleep over.
Nutrient-Dense Real Food or Low-Fat Products?
In reference to Business Insider’s question — “What does a nutritionist really eat?” — this article shows that there is no single answer; different people have different thoughts and ideas.
Due to the demonization of fat as a nutrient over the past several decades, there are still some people who can’t accept that fat is a perfectly healthy nutrient.
This drives many people to low-fat diets full of refined food products. However, the majority of these low-fat products are devoid of nutrition, creating the need for fortification with a range of synthetic vitamins and minerals.
So, the choice is yours; a nutrient-dense diet full of real food, or follow the industrialized food route and trust your health to food scientists rather than nature itself.
I guess it all depends on where you want to get your nutrients; real food or processed food fortified with vitamin powders?