This article is written by Lizzie Kristal, a 2022 summer intern at BethanyRD Nutrition. Lizzie is a student at the University of Miami who is interested in the field of nutrition. She is a certified personal trainer and loves learning about the human body.
Is the “gut health” trend just diet culture in disguise? Important things to consider when trying to improve digestion
Diet culture has been around for decades. Cut out carbs, drink only green juices, take this pill, and all your body fat will naturally disappear. Thanks to educational media, most of us have grown smarter. These ridiculous fads don’t work, and we are finally starting to realize it. Unfortunately, this means diet culture has to get smarter and sneakier. Now, it’s surfacing in a seemingly helpful trend: gut health.
To start, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive issues are very real and can be very debilitating. But society has begun to justify disordered eating through digestive issues. Digestion is an incredibly complicated topic which makes it the perfect target for the next dieting fad. For example, gluten can be a problem-food for many people, so it’s often eliminated from a diet. Is it cut out because it will truly help decrease irritability and pain, or because carbs are a fear food?
Elimination diets can be very helpful for people experiencing real digestive issues. Most elimination diets are used as temporary tools to improve gut health, eventually to the point where problem foods are digestible again. The goal is usually never to completely knock out a whole food group forever. The diet culture version of elimination diets don’t follow that.
Influencers all over social media are preaching this diet, almost always including a before and after of them bloated followed by a flat tummy. Anything including a flat stomach will always attract attention and followers. Sometimes they’ll even include a product promotion, like greens powder. That’s an even bigger hint that the so-called “gut-healing” habits they found are a blanketed form of diet culture.
All disordered eating can cause gut health issues, so when elimination diets are implemented where they don’t need to be, it can cause further digestive damage. For many cases, it’s a game of the chicken or the egg: which came first, the disordered eating or the digestive issues? A diverse diet with an appropriate amount of fiber (not too high, not too low) greatly improves gut health, so eliminating food is counter productive, both for your digestive and mental health.
Additionally, these elimination diets often cause stress, as do any forms of disordered eating. Stress is among the top causes for gut issues. The gut is often called the second brain because of its immense connections to the central nervous system. When you’re stressed, it puts the body in a fight-or-flight mode, taking a massive toll on your digestion. Mental health takes a step back during diets like these, and so does the gut.
It’s a societal reflex to blame fear-foods for deeply rooted body image issues, but don’t fall into the trap and cause yourself more harm. If you truly want to improve gut health, it goes back to the basics: regular and consistent meals and snacks, reducing stress, getting sleep, eating dietary fiber, getting diverse foods, and pre/probiotics. There are no shortcuts for improving digestion as trending gut health fads are describing.
Sidestep this diet culture agenda, and keep an eye out for the next one.
How being mediocre can help you in eating disorder recovery
I started dance lessons at the ripe age of 28 years old. While other women my age had left their years of dance behind, I was just beginning.
I’d never been to a formal dance class before – and did I mention that I decided to start with ballet? Somewhere I’d read that one should start with ballet, because it is the foundation of so many dance styles.
I showed up to my first class in leggings, a tank top, and wore my socks for the first class, instead of ballet slippers. I was a complete novice amongst women who had danced since childhood, or were teachers at the dance studio. The instructor was kind, but intimidating, all at the same time. I so wanted to do well…and to fit in.
Despite barely being able to keep up, I signed up that night after my first class. And I kept coming back for the next 2 years.
Suddenly I had dance-fever
I went out and bought myself a pair of ballet slippers. Not long after that, I purchased a few leotards and tights to wear to class.
I poured over books about ballet for beginners, watched YouTube tutorials, and practiced my choreography with dance workouts.
When the school year was done, I took a ballet class at a different studio, meant specifically for beginners. That Fall I added a tap dance class to the lineup.
I was hooked…and I loved it.
But was I a good dancer? Was I talented?
I wish I could say that I became a really awesome dancer. But while I did improve, I still was (and am to this day) a below-average dancer.
And I’m okay with that.
So what does this all have to do with eating disorder recovery?
While there are many factors at play when it comes to developing an eating disorder, a few common cognitive patterns appear frequently in the clients I see:
All-or-nothing thinking (also known as black-and-white thinking)
These tendencies often both help AND hinder a person in life, depending on what one does with them. For example, my perfectionist tendencies help me zoom in on the fine details of how to do things. This means that if I need to do a task a very specific way, I can follow through. It can hinder me though, when I combine perfectionism with all-or-nothing thinking: “Since I can’t seem to do this perfectly, I may as well not do it at all!” I can be prone to giving up too quickly, and trying to avoid failure by never starting.
When we allow these traits to dominate our life, we miss out on many opportunities. Challenging perfectionism helps me try new things, and stick with them, even if I don’t do them correctly the first time (or even the first 100 times). I learn that “failure” can actually be a learning experience. By challenging all-or-nothing thinking, I see that instead of their being only 2 options in ALL aspects of life, there is often a 3rd option…or even a 4th or 5th!
While these tendencies may stay with a person all through their life, they don’t have to keep them from doing things they enjoy. By doing the work in eating disorder recovery, we do a lot of the same things I did by trying out a new hobby:
Challenge the all-or-nothing mindset – In eating disorder work, this often looks like removing the arbitrary labels of “good vs. bad” foods. Likewise, there doesn’t have to be a hierarchy of activities I can participate in, based on my skill level. If I enjoy dance classes, I can do them, AND not be very good at dance.
Letting go of perfectionism – In eating disorder work, this looks like letting go of the concept of the “perfect diet” or the “perfect body.” I tell my clients that they don’t have to be perfect in order to deserve a session with me. In fact, when they come with questions or share about how they struggled or “messed up,” those are the times when the most learning and growth happens. Similar with dance, I can keep coming back to class, even if I don’t remember all the steps.
You don’t have to be “the best” ateverything. For many individuals with eating disorders, their identity gets wrapped up in what they eat and how they look. As we challenge that belief, we reveal a person who makes mistakes, isn’t perfect, and is usually mediocre at a thing or two! I want you to know that your identity is about who you are, not what you do! This includes your hobbies: it’s a part of your life, but not the be-all-end-all of your identity.
Is there something you want to explore or learn about, but you keep telling yourself things like:
I’m no good at that
I tried that before and I “failed”
I’m too old to start
Everyone will laugh at me (trust me, they won’t and if they do, find a nicer bunch of people to learn with)!
…insert whatever your inner-critic says to you!
Whatever it is you’re telling yourself, I’d encourage you to explore what it might look like to try something and be mediocre at it. You just might surprise yourself, and find a new hobby while you’re at it!
Binge eating is a common concern among the clients I see. It affects people of all shapes, sizes ,and backgrounds. But why does it happen? (hint, it’s NOT about will-power!)
Getting to the root of a binge-eating episode
Binge eating is a common (and even natural) response to restriction.
Sometimes the restriction is physical, due to not eating enough.
Physical restriction can take many different forms, such as under-eating early in the day, skipping meals, “saving” calories for later, cutting carbs, sugar, or fat, and even being on a diet.
Think of it this way: if you’re swimming underwater, you’re holding your breath. When you come up for air, do you take a nice, quiet breath ?
Your body’s reflex is to take in a loud gasp for air, to make up for the lack of oxygen. When we restrict the intake of oxygen, our body wants to compensate and make up for it.
The same thing happens when we’ve been restricting the intake of food – our body is going to swing the pendulum and make up for it. You’re not broken, or lacking in willpower. You actually have a body that’s doing a good job in keeping you alive!
When I first meet with clients, I like to look at their typical food intake and eating patterns. Most of my clients who deal with binge eating have a few common intake patterns:
They are trying to restrict or control their caloric intake
They don’t eat much earlier in the day, sometimes in an effort to “save up calories” for an inevitable binge
They are trying to limit certain food groups (often carbohydrates or fats)
They are following some sort of diet or eating pattern which limits 1) overall intake, 2) types of foods they can eat, or 3) the timing of eating
Their eating patterns are inconsistent or chaotic, sometimes skipping meals or grazing in an effort to avoid eating a full meal
All of the above patterns are a form of physical restriction and over time will lead to overeating or bingeing.
When I see these patterns with clients, our first plan of action is to get back to good nutrition hygiene. We all follow many daily hygiene routines for our personal well-being. Many of us think of hygiene as bathing and brushing our teeth, but we don’t often think of our habits with food.
Eating regular meals and snacks is an act of self-care.
Eating in a regular, predictable way is the foundation for good nutrition hygiene.
How does this look from day to day? I encourage most people to start with a few key tenants of eating:
Eating 3 meals per day
Eating snacks between meals, usually 2-3 times per day
Trying not to go longer than 3 hours between meals or snacks
Including a variety of foods, across all food groups (if you have to avoid certain food groups for medical reasons, work closely with your dietitian to come up with a plan for you, as well as to maintain a positive relationship with food)
“But what if I’m not restricting food at all – in fact I feel like I’m doing the opposite!”
Here’s where the second type of restriction comes to play– mental restriction.
This type can be harder to spot, but oftentimes mirrors the types of restriction mentioned above.
When it comes down to it, mental restriction is connected to our thoughts and beliefs about food. These thoughts and beliefs may be coming from:
Old diets we’ve been on, which preach things like: “sugar is poison” or “carbohydrates cause weight gain” (both of which are untrue, by the way)
“Healthy lifestyles” which are just diets in disguise
Statements made by loved ones, either made about themselves or directed at you (examples: “I shouldn’t eat this, I’m being so bad” or “If you eat that food, it’ll go right to your hips”)
The mental restriction can be the more tricky piece to the binge eating puzzle. This is an area that I help my clients work through in my nutrition counseling and coaching, as it can be difficult to spot, and equally challenging to come up with a strategy to work through.
Take a moment to reflect: what type or types of restriction are showing up in your life right now?
If you like to do journaling, begin to get curious about how restriction is showing up in your life. It can also be helpful to reflect on your circumstances and emotions– what was happening in your life leading up to a binge episode. Looking back the hours or even a day or 2 before a binge can be really eye opening to begin to connect the emotional dots of binge episodes.
Here are a list of questions to ask yourself (or journal about) post binge-eating episode:
I’m very excited to be offering a new way to connect with me for nutrition coaching.
Just as a refresher (or possibly an intro), I’m Bethany Motley, and I’m a registered dietitian nutritionist, based out of the Twin Cities of Minnesota. I work with clients from all over, helping them improve their relationship with food and their body!
Intuitive Eating teaching and support
Eating disorder treatment and recovery
Help with digestive woes
Getting out of the endless dieting cycle
Body image work
…and much much more!
My approach to nutrition is unique; I like to tell people that I’m not your average nutritionist. I don’t make you count calories, check your weight weekly (or really ever!), and I won’t put you on a diet. I meet my clients right where they’re at, so they can experience true peace with food.
While this may sound AMAZING, it will most certainly take some time.
It also might be a very challenging process, with a lot of emotional ups and downs.
This is why I don’t want you to have to go it alone!
Through nutrition coaching and counseling, you get the ongoing support you need, and the chance to ask lots of questions and be provided with tools and a strategy.
By trying out one of my mini coaching sessions, you’ll get a taste of how I work and if we’d be a good fit, prior to committing long-term.
Going gluten-free is really popular, but when is it trendy, and when is it vital for your health? Whether you have frequent digestive issues, or other health problems and are considering cutting gluten out of your diet, it’s important to get to the root of the problem first.
In this blog, I’ll explain why ruling out celiac disease (CD) should be your first priority, not just for yourself, but for your family members as well.
What exactly is celiac disease?
Most people know that celiac disease means you need to follow a gluten-free diet. But beyond that, there’s a lot of confusion. Curious family members and friends ask questions, such as:
“So, you’re just allergic to wheat?”
“You can have a little bit of gluten, right?”
“Aren’t wheat and gluten the same thing?”
Celiac disease is technically an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. When someone who has celiac disease eats anything with the protein gluten (found in wheat, rye, or barley), an autoimmune reaction is triggered. This reaction causes the body to produce antibodies, which end up damaging the villi — small finger-like structures found on the lining of the small intestine. The villi have a very important role: absorbing nutrients from food. As the villi become more and more damaged, less nutrients are able to be absorbed. This begins the cascade of medical issues that make up the symptoms of celiac disease. There is no cure currently for CD. The only treatment is following a life-long gluten-free diet.
What are the symptoms of celiac disease?
When people think of eliminating gluten from their diet, it’s often based on digestive issues. While stomach and gut-related symptoms can be present for those with CD, digestive issues are more frequently observed in childhood cases of celiac disease. Here are some of the common digestive symptoms to be on the lookout for:
Frequent, excessive gas
Stomach pain or cramps
Fatty, foul smelling stool
Additionally, if you’ve been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but have never been screened for celiac disease, you will want to get tested for CD. This is especially important if you’ve followed the low-FODMAP diet and notice relief of your symptoms, as low-FODMAP eating is very low in gluten-containing foods.
You may be surprised to learn that other symptoms may be present as well. Seemingly unconnected health issues, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies (specifically iron, B12, and vitamin D), fatigue, skin rashes, migraines, and infertility have all been linked to celiac disease. Because nutrient absorption is hindered in those with CD, people may present as underweight or be unintentionally losing weight.
Many of these symptoms are often seen as the primary health problem, but they are signs of a greater problem. The root of the issue is the damage that’s already been done in the body. Until gluten is removed from the diet, the villi will be ineffective at absorbing nutrients including vitamins, minerals and any supplements.
Those at a higher risk for developing celiac disease
Because celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, those with other autoimmune diseases have a higher risk of developing CD. Some associated conditions are:
Type 1 diabetes
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
The Celiac Disease Foundation provides a comprehensive list of symptoms common in children and adults. But some who receive a diagnosis of celiac disease have no symptoms at all.
So, what should I do if I think I have celiac disease?
What I’m about to say will sound very counterintuitive, but do not eliminate gluten right away!
Let’s first talk about why proper diagnosis requires keeping gluten in your diet until all testing is completed.
When gluten is eliminated before diagnosis, the antibodies used to aid diagnosis will begin to decrease in the blood. Also, the villi begin to heal. These are both positive things, but will skew the results of testing. Your doctor will not be able to properly diagnose you with CD, and you may discontinue the gluten-free diet, or allow for too much cross contamination, keeping you sick and experiencing negative symptoms.
Having as little as 10 mg of gluten per day can cause symptoms in those with CD. That amount of gluten is found in approximately ⅛ of a teaspoon of all purpose wheat flour! Having a proper diagnosis can be helpful in knowing how diligent you need to be in avoiding gluten in foods, including non-food items you may ingest, like medications and lipstick.
How is celiac disease diagnosed?
There are 2 parts to the testing process.
Blood work – antibody testing
Initial bloodwork will look for antibodies that indicate the body is seeing gluten as a threat and initiating an immune response to it. Some common antibody tests include tTg-IgA, EMA, and total serum IgA. Working with a gastroenterologist will ensure that the appropriate initial bloodwork is completed.
Positive blood results are not an official diagnosis of CD, but an indication to move on to the next portion of testing – an endoscopy of the small intestine.
Upper intestinal biopsy
Biopsy of the small intestine is considered the “gold standard” for diagnosing CD. By obtaining tissue directly from the small intestine, your doctor will be able to examine the samples for villi damage that is typical of CD. Healthy villi will be tall and “finger-like.” Villi that has been damaged due to CD will be short and stubby. This visual confirmation will confirm a celiac disease diagnosis, and a life-long gluten-free diet should begin immediately.
Genetics and Celiac Disease
DNA testing may also be appropriate for those who have immediate family members with CD. The prevalence of celiac disease is 1 in 133 for the general population. But for those who have an immediate family member with CD, the prevalence is 1 in 22. This is because of the genetic component of celiac disease.
Individuals with CD have either the HLA DQ2 or DQ8 gene (or both). The presence of either of these genes is not a diagnosis, nor is it a guarantee that an individual will end up developing CD in their lifetime. But testing for these genes may help CD be caught sooner in at risk individuals. If the genes are not present, the individual will never develop CD.
If you have CD, immediate family members (parents, siblings, and children) should be screened to evaluate if they have the disease as well. Catching celiac disease early can prevent many of the medical issues associated with reduced nutrient absorption.
The bottom line…
Getting a proper diagnosis before going gluten-free can help prevent a lot of damage to your body, especially if the root issue is celiac disease. By having an official diagnosis, you can rule out other health issues that can have overlapping symptoms as CD. And if you have CD, but never diagnose it, you may continue to damage you small intestine by being too loose with your gluten-free diet. And finally, your family members can be more vigilant in screening early and often for CD.
If you think you or a loved one might have celiac disease or be at risk for developing CD, use this screening tool from the Celiac Disease Foundation
Whether it’s just for one day or a whole lot longer, constipation can really make us miserable. You feel uncomfortable and bloated, your hunger cues are off, and you’re especially irritable or crabby. Maybe you’ve tried laxatives or other medications and you don’t like how they make you feel. You want solutions!!
I gave a talk on my Facebook page about this subject and I wanted to share with you the 4 strategies for relieving constipation, as well as how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is when a person has hard, compacted, difficult to pass stool. This can be due to many things: diet, activity level, dehydration, medications, or a side effect of other illnesses. If you are going less than 3 times per week, you are likely not going often enough.
Frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person. For some, going daily is normal. Others may only go every other day, and some go as often as twice a day. It’s important to take note of how often you go, and also how your body feels with that frequency. Someone may go every other day and feel fine, while another person may have the same frequency but feel bloated and too full. Paying attention to how your body feels is one of the best indicators for determining if your current frequency is right for you.
So if you are someone who struggles with constipation, whether it’s fairly often or only once in awhile, below are the 4 things you need to promote healthy poops.
People often think of increasing fiber first as the solution to constipation. But I talk about fluids before fiber because eating more fiber without enough fluidwill only aggravate constipation! The first step, especially when you’re already constipated, is to drink plenty of water, as well as other fluids.
Part of the large intestine’s job is to absorb water from digested food into the bloodstream for the body to use. The more water absorbed into your body, the more firm your stool will become. If it gets too hard, it makes it difficult to push out of your body. This is why dehydration can lead to constipation. The body will need enough fluids in the blood stream, and it will utilize more water from the large intestine to try and keep things in balance.
So how much fluid do we need? The general recommendation is 64 fluid ounces per day, or eight 8 ounce glasses of water. But if you are pregnant, physically active or it’s a very hot day, you’ll likely need to drink more. Remember, if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re likely not drinking enough water.
If you need help remembering to drink enough fluids, try starting your day with a glass of water. Incorporate it into other habits you already have, like brushing your teeth. You can also fill up a pitcher with 64 ounces (which is equal to half a gallon or 8 cups) and drink your water from that container. That way you can see how much you have drank for the day.
Additionally, temperature of the water can help. Bowel muscles can be stimulated by what we eat and drink, and warm water tends to help. You can encourage your body to be ready to go by drinking warm water after you’ve eaten and have some time to hang around the bathroom.
When it comes to regular bowel movements, eating enough fiber is key. The recommended amount of fiber per day depends on how many calories you eat. Women tend to need about 25 gm, and men need closer to 30 gm. Babies only need about 5 gm per day, and children need anywhere from 10-20 gm, depending on age and how much they eat. Adults over 50 years old may find that they need a bit more fiber to keep things regular, or they may need a bit less due to lower calorie intake that can come with aging.
Foods high in fiber are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Did you know there are 2 types of fiber? Soluble and insoluble; most foods have a combination of both kinds, with some having more of one than the other.
Soluble fiber is soluble in water, meaning it dissolves. It forms into a gel-like substance and can add bulk to the stool. It acts like a sponge allowing water to remain in your stool, making it softer and easier to pass. It slows food’s transit through the large intestine which can be helpful in keeping your stools from being too loose, and to make sure your body has enough time to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat. It can also be helpful in getting your gut back to normal after a bout of diarrhea . Some examples of foods that are good sources of soluble fiber are apples, oats, pears, bananas, and brown rice.
Insoluble fiber, however, speeds up transit through the large intestine. This can be beneficial to prevent too much water from being absorbed out of the stool (which makes it more difficult to pass). Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, but remains intact as it passes through. It acts like “nature’s scrub brush,” helping to naturally cleanse the colon as digested food passes through. Examples of foods high in insoluble fiber are: wheat bran, whole wheat, many vegetables, the skins of fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Foods helpful in dealing with constipation
Incorporating foods such as cereals, bread, oats, chia, ground flaxseed, and oat bran can be helpful in preventing constipation and keeping you regular. Fruits such as prunes, pears, kiwi and mango can be added to your regular eating patterns as well.
If you are frequently constipated, take note of your eating habits. Following a keto diet can cause and aggravate constipation, as it is high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates (our main dietary source of fiber). Additionally, some may find they are sensitive to dairy products and get constipated easily when eating them often.
And remember: too much of a good thing turns into NOT a good thing! A very high fiber diet (over 40 grams) can ALSO cause constipation! Our bodies like to be balanced, so finding the sweet spot for your own fiber intake is key.
We don’t often think of our activity habits factoring into our bowel habits, but the two really are connected. There’s a reason going #2 is called a bowel movement: it takes muscles!
Our intestines are not just a simple tube – they’re made up of muscles whose job is to keep that digested food moving on through. So the next time you’re feeling sluggish in the gut, getting up for a bit and moving around can help simulate those muscles.
If you find that you have trouble staying regular, and live a generally sedentary lifestyle, try to get into the habit of taking walks after meals. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, jogging or running can stimulate the bowels too.
Pairing regular physical activity with adequate fluids and fiber can really help to move things along, and even help you feel better in other ways too!
4. Our Mind
This last factor in our bowel health is something we often overlook: the brain-gut connection.
Also referred to as the mind-gut connection, our brains play a powerful role in our bathroom habits. High levels of stress can be correlated with constipation. Think about it: if your body is frequently in a state of stress, your bathroom breaks are likely not the first thing on your brain’s priority list.
Here’s a simplified version of what’s happening inside: the stress response kicks in; digestion is not being prioritized, due to low blood flow to the GI tract. This low blood flow causes those intestinal muscles to slow their moving and consequently food is not being pushed through .
So what can we do to combat this?
If you’re realizing it’s been awhile between poops, slow down, relax, and think about going poop. It sounds crazy, but even just taking a moment to think about going can help get those muscles going!
Allowing yourself adequate time for a bathroom break after finishing a meal can be helpful in getting that brain-gut connection going. Give yourself 20-40 minutes after a meal where you’re near to the bathroom. Give yourself a break time. Relax, even wait on the toilet, but not too long as this can irritate hemorrhoids.
A few final considerations
Travel constipation – start paying attention to your fiber several days before leaving. Give enough time to have a bowel movement before leaving if possible, and be sure to maintain the 4 bowel habits as much as possible while away from home.
Pregnancy and Postpartum – Pregnancy hormones can cause a lot of changes in a woman’s body, including their digestion and bowel habits. Also, giving birth can make post-partum pooping feel pretty scary! Even many months after birth, there still may be lingering affects, such as hemorrhoids or even prolapse, both of which can cause feelings of fullness and make pooping difficult. If this is something you’re struggling with, working with a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor PT can be incredibly helpful.
Eating Disorders – chronic under-eating and undernutrition can significantly impact bowel habits. Even people who appear to eat very “healthy,” including lots of fruits and vegetables in their diet, can still be suffering from the effects of an eating disorder. If you’re feeling chaotic or fearful about food, please take this assessment and seek help, either from myself or an eating disorder provider local to you.
Finally, please talk to your doctor if you’ve tried all this and are still constipated. Medications and other health issues may be at play, and should be investigated further.
Regular bowel movements don’t have to be an elusive dream! If you want to work on own eating habits to create better bowel health, sign up for a nutrition consultation with me here!
Wait, I can make recipes with avocados, besides guacamole? I can use them in baking?!? Yes my friend, I hope your world has been positively changed by this public service announcement!
One of my favorite ways to use leftover avocados is to make chocolate chip cookies with them. I simply replace half the butter with avocado and proceed as usual with the recipe. if you’d like an avocado chocolate chip cookie recipe to follow, here’s one from Allrecipes. The cookies have a fun, slight green tint, and the texture is very cakey, especially once it cools.
Another cookie I like to make is this one for Oatmeal Avocado Breakfast Cookies from Love One Today®, a website all about the nutritional benefits of avocados. These cookies are much less sweet, and perfect for breakfast or an easy snack. I sometimes like to skip the dates and add 1 cup of chocolate chips instead, making them more of a light dessert!
If you’re not already including avocados in your diet, I would encourage you to give them a try. They have lots of healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as fiber, which makes them a satisfying addition to a meal or snack. And they have a number of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, vitamin E, vitamin K, and 6 different B vitamins.
Need some help with baking and cooking? Contact me for an in-home visit and I can help teach you what you’re wanting to know about nutrition and food preparation.
We’ve all been there: you’re given a task to complete with the assumption that you know what you’re doing. But the truth is…you have no idea!
There’s a funny story in my family about a situation like that, when my uncle went to visit my aunt while they were dating. If I’m remembering right, it was my uncle Mark’s his first visit to his future in-laws’ house. Here’s how the story goes, according to my aunt Jane:
“Dad [my Grandpa Harry] had been out hunting and walked into the house, greeting us with his typical greeting: “I’ve got a project for you two!” He then explained that we were to skin the two rabbits he had just shot so Lucy [my Grandma] could make rabbit stew for supper. We promptly explained that neither of us had any idea how to skin a rabbit, but he thought we should be able to figure it out (well before the days of Google) and he left us with the dead bunnies. I was mortified and I can only wonder why Mark did not pick up and run right then and there. Luckily [Uncle] Kenny came in and we somehow talked him into doing it for us. To top it off we had to eat rabbit stew for supper. 🤮 I’m sure rabbit stew can be tasty, but this was not!”
Why do I tell you that story? What’s the connection? I believe many of us are put into “skin-the-rabbit” situations in our life, and especially when it comes to our health. We are told to “Eat right!” and given a list of foods to eat or not to eat. We’re told to “be healthy” and “get exercise.” That’s like being handed the rabbit with the expectation of producing rabbit stew, when you really have no clue what to do.
Unfortunately, the diet culture is like my grandpa in this story. They only provide one piece of the puzzle and expect results from a one-size-fits-all program. But that’s not how I operate.
Here’s what I want to do for you as your dietitian:
Be a Teacher
The irony of the story I shared is that my Grandpa was a teacher at the local school. In theory, he could have sat down with my aunt and uncle and taught them how to process the rabbit. As a dietitian, I understand the importance of teaching and education as part of the path to health. I have undergone numerous hours of classroom education. My role is to pass that information on to my clients. With all the misinformation out there, it’s important for me to teach science and evidence based approaches, not fads and trends. I strive to take the complex principles of nutrition and human metabolism and break them down into easy to understand concepts.
In addition to giving education, I give practical resources to my clients. For example, I might provide a list of healthy foods to try, along with recipes that incorporate those foods. Other tools might be recommending credible websites and books, different apps to utilize or cookbooks. Without the right resources and tools, the education can be forgotten and never applied. Which leads to the next way I can help you.
In addition to my classroom education, I was required to attend labs and clinicals to practice the skills I was learning. We got into the kitchen to practice cooking and baking. We went to the local hospital and visited with real patients, practicing our medical nutrition therapy. I found that I remembered the concepts better when I put them into practice. I also got more comfortable and confident as I practiced.
In the same way, my goal is to encourage you to take the education and tools I provide and use them! Together we will come up with ways that you can practically apply that knowledge and use those tools. This is a step that can be tough. And you’ll likely need some help as you’re learning. This is where the final step comes in.
These days it’s easy to get information, tools and resources on the internet, many of them for free. But all of these resources won’t know your unique story and history. They can’t take your individual needs and situation into account. I believe nothing can replace person-to-person interaction. I strive to provide an individualized experience for each client I work with. We can work together to take the education and tools I’ve provided and apply them together. Through services like in-home visits, we can practice meal prep and cooking, working side-by-side in your kitchen. On grocery store tours we can practice picking healthy options for your family and discovering where new food items are located.
Ultimately, I want you to be able to learn and apply the information so well that I work myself out of job.
A dietitian’s role isn’t the food police (contrary to what some people might think) but that of a teacher. A good dietitian will figure out what you already know and what you want to learn. A good dietitian will be a coach and help you figure out your goals and how you’ll achieve them. I want to help you learn to prep that metaphorical rabbit, make stew, and have it taste good too!
The one thing about healthy eating almost everyone can agree on is this: vegetables are good for you! Different veggies provide different nutrients, so eating a wide variety of types and colors (and even using different cooking methods) can help you with healthful eating. Plus variety makes things interesting!
But incorporating vegetables into your meals can be a challenge when you aren’t used to eating them. To help give you some ideas, I’ve complied a few strategies that I use or others have shared that help them eat more vegetables. Use what works for you!
You don’t have to eat veggies plain, unless you enjoy them like that. Don’t be afraid to add a small amount of oil or butter, a pinch of salt or other spices to cooked veggies. If you enjoy ranch or another type of dip or dressing with your vegetables, go for it. Just be mindful of the serving size.
If there’s a vegetable you haven’t enjoyed in the past, try it a different way. Cook it instead of eating it raw (or vice versa). Try adding it in to a recipe, like a pasta, soup, lasagna or stir fry. You might just be surprised
You can also create delicious meals where vegetables are the star of the show. Salads are a great example! Get creative! Add in protein, some dressing, and a grain (croutons, tortilla chips, a dinner roll) and you have a complete meal.
Soups and chilis loaded with vegetables are favorites of mine in the wintertime. Have a small cup with a sandwich. And speaking of sandwiches, use your favorite sub shop as inspiration and create your own veggie loaded sandwich at home.
Other ideas: add veggies to your omelet or scrambled eggs. Even baked goods with shredded veggies (zucchini and carrots) can be a way to get a bit more nutrition with your treats!
For some more inspiration, here are a variety of ways to prepare and eat different types of veggies:
• Salads: try different blends of different types of lettuces. Some ideas: romaine, arugula, radicchio, spinach, kale, red or green leaf. Even iceberg has its place with adding some crunch. • Carrots: raw or cooked. Did you know cooking carrots increases the availability of the vitamin A for our bodies to use! • Peas: raw or cooked, great in salads or added to soups. Peas in edible pods (such as sugar snap peas) go great in the lunchbox! • Broccoli and cauliflower: great raw with a bit of dressing or dip, or cooked. I enjoy steaming both and serving with a bit of cheddar or parmesan cheese • Jicama: this veggie tastes like a milder, sweeter carrot. Just use a veggie peeler to take off the outer skin and cut into strips • Cucumber: try mini cucumbers or seedless (also called hydroponic) if you don’t care for the large seeds. • Cabbage: in cole slaw or on fish tacoes • Bell or mini bell peppers: munch on them raw or stir fry them with onions • Radishes: a nice accompaniment to a salad • Tomatoes: raw slices with fresh mozzarella and basil • Green beans: fresh are delicious steamed, or saute in some oil and add a sprinkle of thyme. Even some bacon bits makes a tasty side dish! • Asparagus…with butter! • Brussel sprouts… also with butter! • Celery: eat with dip or peanut butter, or add to your stew or stir fry • Zucchini and yellow squash: fried, steamed, grilled or roasted. Or baked into bread or muffins
Remember, you don’t have to like every vegetable on the face of the earth. But don’t be afraid to try something new. If you need more help with cooking and meal prep, or have or questions, reach out to me (email@example.com)! I’m here to help! Leave your comments below of what you like to do to eat more veggies!
You’re finally to the point where you’re ready to get help or make changes surrounding food. And you’ve decided to consult an expert. But there are a lot of people out there who claim to know about nutrition. There are dietitians and nutritionists and doctors and health coaches, and more! So who can you trust? Who is the expert?
First off, I will explain the distinction between a dietitian and a nutritionist and why it matters. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Every Registered Dietitian is a Nutritionist, but NOT every Nutritionist is a Registered Dietitian.” To become a registered dietitian requires a 4 year degree in nutrition or dietetics from an accredited school. The coursework is very heavy on the sciences, as the field of dietetics is science based. It also requires supervised practice hours under a registered dietitian before taking an exam to become registered (similar to nurses taking their boards). After registration, dietitians must complete continuing education (currently 75 credit hours over a 5 year cycle). Additionally, dietitians also must be licensed or certified to practice in their state, depending on what the laws are for that state. All of this assures that only individuals who are qualified to work as a dietitian are allowed to use that title. Registered dietitians may also choose to use the term “nutritionist” or “registered dietitian nutritionist” if they wish, which explains the first part of the phrase, “Every registered dietitian is a nutritionist.” (See http://www.eatrightpro.org for more info)
The term “nutritionist,” however, is not a protected title in most states and anyone may decide to call themselves that. This is also true for coaches: health, wellness or nutrition coaches. Typically, all a person must do is take a nutrition certification course, followed by a test or exam. Because there are many different agencies offering courses, the amount of education a person may have can vary greatly. The amount of time to complete the certification is often shorter (sometimes only a few weeks) and anything from a quiz to an exam is needed for completion. Often no supervised practice under another health professional is required. And there is no credentialing agency or governing body to regulate what coursework is needed. This means that little to no scientific study may be done by someone calling themselves a nutritionist. As you can see, “not every nutritionist is a registered dietitian.”
There are also other people who may give out nutrition advice, including health professionals. Many popular diet and general nutrition books are written by doctors. But doctors may only have ONE CLASS covering basic nutrition in all of their medical schooling! Likewise, we must remember that not everyone who holds the title of doctor is a medical doctor.
As you can see, registered dietitians are the nutrition expert, and rightly so, given all the coursework and hours of hands on experience needed prior to being able to practice. So how can you tell the difference? Is there a way to know for sure? Here are a few steps one should take to make sure they are seeing a nutrition expert, as well as someone who is also a good fit for them.
Look for their credentials. Those letters after their name mean something and a simple Google search will help you figure out what they mean. Bethany Motley, RDN means that I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I could also use the credential RD for registered dietitian. Some dietitians have completed higher education such as a masters or doctorate, and others have advanced certifications. These can be helpful to understand, depending on what you are seeing a dietitian for. Some examples include CDE for certified diabetes educator or CSSD for certified specialist in sports dietetics. But overall, if RD or RDN is not one of their credentials, they are not a dietitian!
Ask about their education and prior work experience. If you are unsure of their credentials, ask about where they went to school, what their degree was in, and what sort of work they have done leading up to this point. As I said above, if their degree is not nutrition or dietetics, they likely aren’t a dietitian. Ask about internships, clinical rotations, past jobs and even volunteer work. This will also help you understand where they may specialize, or if they’ve worked with clients like you in the past.
Find out what areas they specialize in, if any. This last step may or may not be important for you. It all depends on your reasons for seeing a nutrition expert. But it’s a good question for you to ask before choosing someone to work with. That way you’re upfront with them about what you hope to learn, gain, or accomplish by working together. If they are honest, they’ll help you find someone who is qualified if they don’t believe they can help you.
There are many wonderful health professionals who help people in the area they specialize in. Just like how I see a dentist for my teeth and not for a broken leg, it’s important to see a nutrition expert for all your nutrition needs! Ultimately, the choice is yours for who you choose to see, but I hope you will consider a registered dietitian.
I would be more than happy to have you reach out to me and we can schedule a time for a brief phone call or video meeting to talk about your nutrition needs.
Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and thank you for considering me for your nutrition needs!