Nutrition is a hotly debated topic and fad diets and conflicting information are everywhere. We sat down with registered dietician Kelly Issokson to answer some common questions.
Q: How do I know which diet is right for me?
Issokson: In general, a Mediterranean diet is recommended to help prevent and manage chronic disease. However, there is no one diet that can meet the needs of everyone. Diet needs are very individual and can depend on many factors—including age, current medical conditions, medications, intestinal function, and more. A registered dietitian can help tailor a diet that meets your individual needs.
Q: How many times a day should I be eating?
Issokson: Again, this varies and depends on your goals, medical needs, etc. For example, recent studies suggest that intermittent fasting may be beneficial for weight loss and longevity. On the other hand, people with nausea or reflux may benefit from smaller and more frequent meals.
“No foods should be considered off limits.”
Q. What are some simple ways I can improve my nutrition today?
Issokson: Eating foods cooked from scratch is one of the best ways to improve your health. If this isn’t possible, try to buy foods that are minimally processed, like roasted chicken as opposed to sausage, baked potatoes instead of chips, or fresh fruit instead of fruit snacks with added sugars. The less processed a food is, the better it is for your health.
Q: Should I count calories?
Issokson: I don’t generally recommend this. Being more mindful about what you eat and why you’re eating can help with weight management. Savor your meals and think of how your food will nourish your body. Listen to your body’s hunger and satiety cues—eat when your body tells you that you need nourishment, and stop when your body tells you you’re full. Chewing your foods well and eating slowly helps you better understand your body’s needs.
Q: Should I avoid carbs?
Issokson: Research shows that carbohydrates do not contribute to weight gain, but overeating does. Eat a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for best health—minimally processed versions are best.
Q: Does time of day matter when it comes to eating?
Issokson: Our bodies follow a circadian rhythm (24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep, wake, eat), and some research shows that we metabolize foods poorly when eating at irregular times (e.g., sleeping during the day and eating at night). Try to eat at similar times on a daily basis, and don’t eat right before going to sleep.
“No one diet can meet the needs of everyone.”
Q: Should I do a juice cleanse?
Issokson: Your body naturally cleanses itself. There is no research to support cleanses—they can be expensive, and they can lead to unhealthy relationships with food.
Q: What’s one food item or ingredient you advise people to avoid?
Issokson: I get questions like this often, and I think a better way to think about eating is that no foods should be considered “off limits.” Try to eat foods that are minimally processed and have little to no additives on a regular basis.
Cooking for yourself and eating a mostly plant-based diet can do wonders for your health—I think this is one of the most underappreciated and basic principles about eating. But having a donut every once in a while is OK, too!