Ask a Nutritionist: Nutritional Awareness

March is National Nutrition Awareness month, and what a better time to introduce our newest wellness series featuring the Wel Nourished team. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift in health focused nutrition and the desire to optimize our routines to live a healthier, happier life. To support you in this journey, we’ve partnered with local dietitian group Wel Nourished to help answer all of your burning health questions, to debunk all the food myths, and provide guidance throughout the year. In this four part Ask a Nutritionist series, we’ll be covering nutritional awareness, food influence on mental health, nutrition for the whole family, and staying healthy over the holidays. We couldn’t be more excited for this series, and hope that it can be a resource and provide encouragement to focus on health, discover balance, and find greater happiness!

Alyssa Justice, RDN

So let’s dive in! In part one of our Ask a Nutritionist series, we are covering nutritional awareness. Below you will find a Q&A between our Homegrown team and the Registered Dietitian Nutritionists at Wel answering some common food, health, and nutrition questions.

What supplements should I take?

This is a great question! Since every single one of our bodies and diets are different, there isn’t one answer for this. Getting your vitamin and mineral levels checked regularly can help you identify which supplements to take for your own individual body. A good place to start is making sure you are getting a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, with different colors, to ensure you are getting in many of the nutrients that your body needs without supplementation. 

How do I eat healthy on a tight budget?

Filling your pantry with fruits and vegetables that are frozen and canned is a good way to eat healthy on a budget. While fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t super expensive, sometimes they can go to waste when not eaten in a timely manner. Buying frozen and canned fruits and vegetables is a helpful way to not waste your money. Look for canned fruits in 100% juice and low sodium canned vegetables. Planning your meals ahead of time and going to the grocery store with a list are other helpful tips to save you time and money. 

What are the benefits of eating citrus fruits?

Citrus fruits are packed with fiber, Vitamin C, and flavonoids! Having enough fiber in our diet is very important for adequate digestion and satiety. It also can reduce the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. Vitamin C supports our immune system function and acts as an antioxidant! Antioxidants and flavonoids work to remove free radicals in the body that can potentially cause cancer. 

What is the difference between a Registered Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

Registered Dietitians must obtain a Bachelor’s Degree with nutrition coursework, 1,000+ hours in a dietetic internship after graduating with their bachelors degree, pass the Registered Dietitian exam, and have to complete 75 continuing education hours every 5 years to keep their credentials. Nutritionists are different in that anyone can essentially call themselves a nutritionist and the requirements vary by state. Some states only require an online course to qualify as a Nutritionist. You can trust a Registered Dietitian and their nutrition knowledge more based on their background education.

What does a balanced meal/diet look like?

We often overcomplicate nutrition. A balanced diet is simply pairing healthy proteins, fats, and carbohydrates with fruits and vegetables. Make 1/2 your plate fruits and vegetables and the other 1/2 protein and starch. A balanced diet may also look like adding in a fun dessert or treat. Make 95% of your diet healthy foods and save 5% of your diet for fun foods! 

Should I intermittent fast?

Fad diets, like intermittent fasting, offer short-term results. Fasting causes dips in our blood sugar and the reintroduction of food causes a spike. Blood sugar balance is essential to overall health but also plays a huge role in maintaining a healthy weight. Eating regularly throughout the day has demonstrated better results in both weight maintenance and blood sugar balance. As a general rule of thumb, avoid any diet that endorses cutting out whole food groups or participating in restrictive practices. 

What should I look for on nutrition labels?

Nutrition labels can be SO confusing! I recommend starting by reading the ingredients. Choose foods with fewer ingredients and ingredients that you recognize. Additives are an important part of food processing and can be essential in food preservation. However, the majority of our diet should be coming from whole foods. Reading the ingredients list makes us mindful of the foods that we are putting in our body. 

What is the best way to lose weight?

Weight loss is a combination of diet and exercise. Focus on adding in healthy habits rather than cutting out unhealthy habits. For example, focus on adding in fruits and vegetables rather than cutting out “junk food.” Or focus on adding in more water rather than cutting out soda. Working with a registered dietitian can help you establish these healthy habits.

When should I look for organic in the grocery store?

Both organic and nonorganic produce are healthy options and contain the same amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber! If reducing the amount of pesticides you consume is important to you and your family, you should look for organic produce when shopping for produce that has an outer covering you do not remove prior to consuming, such as berries, apples, peaches, and tomatoes. Remember, choosing any type of fruit or vegetable is a healthy choice!

Is fruit bad because it contains sugar?

Fruit is most definitely not bad and can be part of your diet. Avoiding fruit because it contains “too much sugar” is a common misconception in today’s society. Fruit contains natural sugar and is safe to be consumed by the average person. Fruit also contains a plethora of necessary vitamins and minerals our bodies need, as well as fiber. A healthy diet includes fruit, so enjoy 1.5-2 cups per day! 

Should I avoid gluten and dairy?

This is a hot topic in our society, but the answer is subjective to you. If you realize that you have an allergy or intolerance to gluten or dairy, you should avoid it. However, if you do not, both gluten and dairy should be part of your diet. Products that contain dairy and gluten often contain important nutrients that your body needs. For example, milk is a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin A, riboflavin, and more. Restricting either of these unnecessarily can cause you to be deficient in important vitamins and minerals. All food groups can be included in a healthy diet! 

Can I still snack if I want to be healthy?

Snacking is an important part of a healthy diet, so I would encourage you to have 1-2 snacks throughout the day. The key with snacking is to build a balanced snack. A balanced snack looks like a protein or fat + starch/fruit/vegetable. Some examples include a cheese stick paired with an orange, apple slices topped peanut butter, and whole wheat crackers dipped in hummus. Snacking is important because it keeps you full and satisfied throughout the day, as well as prevents overeating during the evening hours. Successful snacking usually includes some planning, so I recommend having a list of some go-to snacks on hand so that you do not have to think about it when you are hungry. Happy snacking!

If you’ve made it to the end here, thank you for reading along with us! We hope that you found this discussion informative and encouraging. If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for part two of our Ask a Nutritionist series coming soon! In the meantime, stay in the know with all the farm happenings over on Instagram and give the team at Wel a follow for more wellness and nutrition tips for healthy eating. If you have more questions to ask a nutritionist, leave a comment below and we will try to answer them throughout the series.