With so many food options out there, trying to figure out how to eat healthy can be quite hard and confusing. Sure, most of us know that fruits and vegetables are the way to go, but a healthy diet goes way beyond that. We also need to take into consideration other factors such as nutritional ingredients in the form of complex carbs, polyunsaturated fats, complete and incomplete proteins — and how to choose the right nutrients based on our own health issues, fitness goals, and lifestyle. This is where a nutritionist or dietitian comes into play.
Nutrition coaches are people trained in helping you eat better and improving your relationship with food. Often, they have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics and food science. Some have advanced degrees to also deal with an individual struggling with an eating disorder like emotional eating, anorexia nervosa, or bulimia.
Basically, nutritionists do for our eating habits and food choices what dermatologists do for our skin, nails, and hair. In any case, nutritional coaches spend their careers on foods and nutrition and the direct relationship between the food we consume and how our bodies react to it.
Nutritional sciences experts should always be up-to-date on the latest research on how food affects our health. Nutritionists are in the best position to offer us personalized advice on how we can improve our diets and meet our goals. Whether we want to lose weight, gain muscle, improve our mental health, boost our iron intake, or just learn how to eat healthy over the long-term, certified nutritionists are here to help.
So, how exactly can a nutritionist help you? Below are several common examples of where dietitians can change our eating habits for the better:
Weight Loss Techniques That Last
Most of us have put ourselves through all sorts of crash diets, hoping to slim down in time for summer or to lose the weight we gained over the holidays. And while some of these quick-fix techniques may have worked for a short time, others didn’t manage to get us even one step closer to our weight loss goals. Whichever the case, it’s important to realize that people’s bodies and physiologies are not all the same. What may have worked for one person will not necessarily provide the same results for another.
Equally as important is to understand that diets, by their very concept, are (at best), a temporary solution. You may put yourself through a harshly restrictive diet, and you may lose some pounds in the process. But sooner or later, you will stop losing weight, either because you couldn’t take it anymore or you’ve hit a weight loss plateau due to your body’s natural tendency to adjust.
Whatever the case, proper weight management refers to long-lasting changes, not quick fixes. Whatever pounds you may have lost trying out this or that diet, you’ll immediately put them back (and then some!) once you stop. Real change – permanent change – comes from improving your habits and making healthy eating NORMAL.
When it comes to health conditions like type 1 or type 2 diabetes, as well as pre-diabetes or osteoporosis, your medical history and medical nutrition therapy play key roles. Yet, there are plenty of misconceptions concerning nutrition and these health issues. Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) was shown in several studies to have beneficial effects on people suffering from both types of diabetes. (FYI, Medical Nutrition Therapy is defined as “nutrition-based treatment provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist.”)
According to the 2017 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, “Each person with diabetes should be actively engaged in education, self-management, and treatment planning with his or her health care team, including the collaborative development of an individualized eating plan.”
Food is one of the most basic treatments for diabetes, so getting the proper education and nutrition program for diabetes is crucial.
Dealing with Food Allergies and Special Diets
Several years ago, we had a gluten-free craze start circulating around. And while a gluten-free diet is recommended for those with a gluten sensitivity or suffering from celiac disease, it’s a hard way to try to eat long-term. A gluten-free diet requires limiting (or eliminating) certain types of food you can eat. Among these, there are plenty that we tend to over-indulge in, such as sweets, bread, pasta, pizza, etc.
But by eliminating so many foods from our diets, we can end up with deficiencies in essential nutrients such as fiber, zinc, iron, folate, or niacin. Before you go ahead and cut important foods from your diet, a certified nutritionist can determine if your symptoms are actually due to food allergies, intolerances, sensitivity, and other health risk red flags. Plus, you may learn that you are lactose intolerant or at risk for heart disease. A nutritionist may even help you identify acid reflux triggers.
In addition, nutritionists can also guide you through other types of special diets such as Kosher, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, low-FODMAP diet, and more.
What Supplements You Should and Shouldn’t Take
Unlike most other foods, the dietary supplement industry is under what’s known as a post-market regulation by the FDA. In other words, companies are free to bring their product to market without any pre-approval. Only after something bad happens will these products come under the scrutiny of the FDA. There’s a *lot* of junk in the nutrition supplement field. But there is indeed a place for sensible nutrition support with supplements. You just have to know what to take, how much to take, and the right brands. Dietitians who do their research can tell you which ones are safe and effective, and which ones are not safe for you to take.
Making Healthier Eating Easier and Tastier
Based on your tastes, eating habits, and nutritional goals, dietitians can also help you choose better and healthier alternatives to the foods you normally eat. They can direct you to healthier snacks instead of potato chips or pretzels, and they can help you wean yourself away from sweets or unhealthy beverages without trying to quit cold turkey. In the end, choosing a healthier meal plan should never be a miserable experience. Instead, it should be something that you truly enjoy doing so that you can keep it up over the long-term.
Your relationship with food should be a pleasant one, not a chore, and a good nutritionist knows how to help make that happen.
In addition, nutrition professionals can also help you choose better, smarter, and healthier alternatives when you are eating out. For instance, you can avoid the bread basket before your main meal arrives at the table. Likewise, you can avoid ordering large meal options, as you can always order more later if necessary. You can also swap cheese or cream sauces for vegetable or tomato ones. You can also swap alcohol or soda for water or mineral water. There are plenty of such examples that your nutritionist can give you based on your preferences and needs.
In short, a nutritionist or dietitian assesses your medical history, your current relationship with food, and any health issues relating to your food choices. They can help you make simple yet effective tweaks to your diet – that won’t feel like a burden – but will still have the desired effects. If you are interested in nutrition counseling, either online or in person in Nashville, get your free no-obligation consultation and tell us more about you, and we’ll tell you how we can help.