The top three things dietitians’ clients do wrong

Three common misconceptions  I  see regularly in my practice. Is your thinking wrong too?

Flickr photo- Struensee

Flickr photo- Struensee

As a dietitian with a private nutrition counselling service, I’ve seen it all through my many years of practice – from weight loss and weight gain issues to eating disorders, diabetes, cholesterol lowering and healthy eating for pregnancy or for optimal sports performance.

On their first visit, I talk with clients about their intended goals and what they usually eat. They keep food diaries for three or four days prior, including weekend days, of what they have eaten along with the time of day and amount of food. But no matter what the client is seeing me about, three common misconceptions about healthy eating always seem to emerge during the consultation.

Are you suffering from the same faulty thinking?

Misconception: I know exactly what I do wrong: I eat lots of junk food. I eat okay all day long and then in the late afternoon or evening, I eat very badly.

Reality: The misconception here lies in what people think they are doing wrong. In fact, the junk food isn’t the culprit – it’s the symptom. The real problem is clients’ definition of what constitutes ‘okay’ eating.’ Large dinners or late afternoon and night-time nibbling are often the consequence of imbalanced meals or going long hours without eating.

Making eating a priority at the top of the day is important – and frequently overlooked – when it comes to avoiding feeling like a bottomless pit later on. Include servings from at least three food groups at meals and be sure to include small amounts of protein-rich options at each meal. In addition, go for at least about 20 per cent of your day’s caloric total at breakfast and about 30 per cent at lunch. The desire to munch all night may then disappear on its own.

Misconception: Now that I’ve found the right balance of foods for a healthy diet, I should stick to my meal plan each and every day.

Reality: Eating healthy is certainly about achieving a healthy balance, whether that means consuming more fruits and vegetables and whole grains instead of refined sugary foods or opting for fish on a regular basis. But sticking to the same choices day in and day out does not take into account a fundamental principle of healthy eating: variety.

Variety is more than the spice of life – it’s the key to achieving optimal nutrition. When you consider that we need more than 50 different nutrients each day or that there are thousands of different phytochemicals in plant foods, it’s understandable that eating the same foods on a daily basis – even if they are healthy foods – might leave you short-changed.

Just compare apples to oranges. While both offer fibre, oranges beat out apples in the vitamin C category while supplying cancer-fighting citrus bioflavonoids. But apples provide a different assortment of heart healthy antioxidants than do citrus fruits. And even within apples, different varieties contain assorted antioxidants.

By eating an assortment of foods, you also minimize the amounts of different nutrients or substances that you might want to steer clear of. For instance, if you’re always eating a particular fruit or vegetable which may contain a certain pesticide, the amounts you take in will be higher than if you eat a diverse range of produce.

Eating the same flavours can also result in fast boredom – which spells trouble for dieters. You can make a lacklustre dish come alive with vibrant flavours and up your nutritional score at the same time. Top a plain tomato pasta sauce with fresh basil and a splash of a fragrant extra virgin olive oil and not only does it taste sublime, you also reap new benefits. The basil supplies anti-cancer compounds while the olive oil enhances the lycopene absorption (the red antioxidant and anti-cancer pigment in the tomatoes) while providing a wide range of disease-fighting compounds itself.

Misconception: I have to be prepared to give up all my favourites in order to eat right.

Reality: For anyone who loves food, this thinking is a major barrier to making permanent changes. You may be willing to sacrifice the pleasure of food for a period of time but if you think you can do so forever you’re fooling yourself. Before you know it, you’ll want your old favourite and your vow to eat right will have vanished. Then the binge begins.

If your favourite treat doesn’t score nutritionally, look for ways to include the same flavours on a regular basis without loading up on fat or sodium. If you’re a nachos fan, turn the treat into something you can eat regularly by using baked tortilla chips, light cheddar and refried beans, then adding your favourite salsa. Do have the burger but make it a lean regular-sized one.

If you love decadent delights such as rich desserts, decide to have only your favourites and only those that measure up to your expectations. Use the ’10’ rule: take one bite and rate it on a scale of one to 10. Then only eat the 10s.


What’s your take on these misconceptions? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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