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Nearly a decade into my career as a private practice dietitian, there could hardly be a better time than now to put virtual pen to paper and express to you some of the broader nutrition philosophies I’ve developed during that period of time.
Those who have worked with me over the years will find familiarity in what I’m about to say next, while I’d like to think potential clients, as well as nutrition students and my colleagues alike will read the paragraphs to come with some interest.
Here they are then, presented in no particular order.
Many styles of eating can work, but I don’t necessarily advocate for all of them.
It’s clear to me through both professional experience and intense scientific inquiry that, given sufficiently proficient guidance, many different styles of eating can be implemented successfully.
Let’s use the two broad examples – veganism and the ketogenic diet – to explore this claim.
These two styles of eating are very different and yet in some ways very similar.
They are inherently different because one excludes all products of animal-origin and the other, in the vast majority of cases, includes them amply.
They are inherently similar because both are technically “restrictive” in the sense that they both omit several food families and as a result require curated guidance to be done optimally.
They are also similar from the perspective that I do not explicitly advocate for either, even though I’ve helped many people master both.
I’ve never told someone they should “go vegan” or “go keto”.
Decisions to arrive at these styles of eating are again different because someone is much more likely to go vegan for concerns related to ethics, the environment or animal welfare than someone who goes keto – even if motivations for both could include the desire to be “healthier”.
There are two steps to mastering nutrition from the physical health perspective.
I want to be very careful with this one because there is A LOT that goes into being at peace with one’s personal food intake including a lifetime of experiences, trials and tribulations – not all of them pleasant ones.
That being said, I am of the belief there are two primary steps one can take towards mastering their nutrition to enhance their physical health.
The first is to understand which families of foods (examples of food families are things like fruits, fish, red meat, veggies, grains, protein sources, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy etc) are most important to balance and optimize their diet.
I can help with that, by the way.
The answer to this question can be similar for some people, but it can also be very different particularly for those with specialized health concerns or who follow more curated styles of eating – for whatever the reason.
The second, is to pursue variety in each of these food families.
If we acknowledge that, let’s say, eating vegetables is fundamental for long-term health – then we must also acknowledge that different vegetable varieties have different compounds in them.
The eye-health nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin are found in by far the richest supply in spinach and chard, whereas lycopene is found primarily in tomatoes.
Oranges and other citrus are the only compounds that contain flavanones where as berries are among very few foods rich in anthocyanins – both flavanones and anythocyanins by the way are strongly linked with a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive decline later in life.
I have many more examples of this nutritional nuance, but you’ll have to work with me or explore my writing more deeply if you’d like to tap into that knowledge.
It can take years to achieve mastery over your nutrition, or just a few months
There are so many reasons why this is true, and with all of the competing voices and overpowering influence of social media it may be harder today than ever before for someone to achieve a sense of tranquility around their direction with food and nutrition.
I always tell my clients that, in spite of this reality, that I see my job as a dietitian to condense that timeline through education, strategizing, support and accountability.
While it’s true that short-term goals like lowering cholesterol or blood sugar for your next blood work or gaining 5-lbs of muscle can be achieved in a relatively short time period, they can also be achieved without truly mastering your personal nutrition.
To me, mastering one’s personal nutrition means knowing how to adapt one’s food choices and mindset around food choices to the majority of situations they face in daily, weekly, monthly and yearly life.
It’s vary hard to quantify this sentiment but some examples of what this means:
1. Feeling comfortable eating out at restaurants or family events or on trips
2. Understanding you can’t eat “perfectly” all the time
3. Not being overly restrictive
4. Having sufficient confidence in your trajectory so as not to be swayed by others
5. Understanding where your gaps are nutritionally, knowing how to resolve them
6. Knowing how different foods effect you and adapting accordingly
7. Waking up with confidence on a daily basis regarding your food choices
These examples are no small feat, nor are they necessarily conclusive or mandatory – but they give a sense of where I’m going here.
The reality is that the ability to master one’s personal nutrition both on the state of someone’s health and their state of confidence in their nutrition knowledge and its application.
This is precisely why I might only need a few appointments with a very savvy client to make a serious impact on their health whereas someone who is far away from their desired tranquility may need much more support and guidance.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either, in fact it isn’t much different from how someone who has played a sport for 2 years needs more coaching than someone who has played a sport for 20.
It’s [more than] okay, and almost preferable, to take the path of least resistance
I use the term “path of least resistance” with my clients quite often because in spite of my endless curiosity for all the nooks and crannies of nutrition science, I appreciate more than most the need of the vast majority people have for efficient, economical and enjoyable nutrition strategies.
I spend as much time as I do understanding nutrition broadly in part to be able to distill down the science in a highly digestible way – don’t mind me giving myself a pat on that back for that one.
Now the concept of “path of least resistance” can mean different things to different people, and it’s my job to help you figure out what it means to you.
Some examples include:
1. Stocking the freezer with frozen meals as a plan B or plan A
2. Being comfortable with “breakfast for dinner” and why that can be 100% okay
3 .Using nutrient dense packaged snack or other products to make life easier
4. Knowing some of the healthiest foods are canned foods
Let me dwell on point four for a second here.
Fatty fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel as well as low GI high fibre legumes like chickpeas and lentils are both readily available canned.
I’m of the belief that the vast majority of people in North America would vastly improve their health by eating a can of fish and perhaps ½ a can of beans per day.
They could be pan fried together too, how convenient.
I can help you find your path of least resistance
Doing the best you can with what you’ve got will take you places in the world of health.
Part of mastering your personal nutrition is to understand and embrace the fact that the nuance of your personal life will shape your ability to modify the way you eat.
As much as I’d love to work out twice a day and eat home cooked meals seven days a week, that is not compatible with my other life goals.
Equally, I try to help my clients understand that there is peace to be found within the notion that no matter where you are in life that you can implement efficient nutrition solutions to better your health.
Part of this is understand that those solutions won’t look the same as young professional as they will as a new parent, for example.
If you are struggling to get to this place in your own nutrition journey, helping you to do so is my specialty.
Does this sentiment resonate with you?
Want to chat further about how I can help?
Reach out today via email or at 647-886-2197.
Andy De Santis RD MPH
PS: STAY TUNED FOR PART II!!