Basic nutrition is pretty straightforward, but actually learning how to eat healthy? Now that’s confusing. Aside from being bombarded with all the latest studies, there are way too many diets and eating plans to choose from (low-carb, intermittent fasting, keto, etc.), with varying theories and opinions on which one is the best. If that’s not intimidating enough, there are loads of foods being marketed in a way that makes everything seem healthy when that’s just not the case. Sigh. It can feel like an uphill battle. But to help alleviate some of the confusion, we tapped a few nutritionists to share the diet questions they receive most often. Because let’s be real: We’re probably asking the same ones.
Do I need to give up my favorite things?
When you’ve made the decision to reset your diet and stick to healthy, non-processed foods, this question will obviously cross your mind. The good news? Peggy Kotsopoulos, nutritionist and author of Kitchen Cures, says you don’t have to give up your favorite things: “Many times we think in order to eat healthy we must give up all the things we love, which just isn’t so. We now live in a time where there are healthy options and substitutions for all of our favorite foods.
“Even if you don’t have time to meal-prep and create lavish guilt-free goodies at home, there are tons of healthy grab-and-go choices. This is especially key during periods of time of pressure or stress. Stress affects our mind in a way that often fuels poor choices. Better-for-you alternatives like Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Crunchy Cookies are perfect for those anxiety-ridden moments when you’re craving a crunchy and sweet snack.”
Should I cut all carbs?
It’s the question we all dread, and luckily registered dietitian and nutritionist Amy Shapiro of Real Nutrition NYC says the answer is no. “Portion control is important, but completely eliminating foods from your diet will only backfire,” she explains. “You should cut processed and empty carbs, but not whole grains, sprouted breads, legumes, fruit, and veggies.”
Should I go keto?
Sure, we’ve all heard about the keto diet, but Shapiro says it’s not a sustainable diet for most people. “In my training, we worked with keto diets for patients who had Parkinson’s and epilepsy, however for most people who sit behind a desk or drive a car around with minimal to moderate exercise, keto isn’t the magic bullet it is set out to be,” she notes. “Also, with such a minimal amount of carbohydrates allowed in the diet, you miss out on fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are in a well-balanced diet.”
Do I need more protein?
Americans love protein, and it’s really easy to meet your needs without eating half a pound of protein at each meal. “The average woman needs about 46 to 50 grams of protein a day. That’s easily accomplished by enjoying a plant-based protein powder in a morning smoothie, 3 to 4 ounces of chicken in your salad at lunch, and 3 to four ounches of fish at dinner. Not to mention you get additional protein from plants, grains, seeds, and nuts,” explains Shapiro.
What are some great snacks I can eat?
Even though you shouldn’t necessarily graze all day, Shapiro says it’s important to be well-prepared in order to prevent yourself from eating things you don’t want or need. Keep various areas—like your office desk drawers, bags, briefcases, and even diaper bags—stocked with healthy snacks to curb your appetite and keep your energy up. Some of Shapiro’s suggestions include Health Warrior chia bars, Kind Bar minis, individual packets of nut butter or nuts, Chomps jerky, HU Kitchen dark chocolate, and RX bars.
Should I try intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet per se—it’s to give you an eating window rather than restricting yourself. “I recommend most of my clients fast for 12 hours [and then have a 12-hour eating window], as taking a break from eating is great for the digestive tract, and research shows fasting can help with disease prevention, longevity, and wellness,” says Shapiro.