Last year for National Nutrition Month and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, I approached 10 dietitians to get their best tips or advice that they not only provide to their clients but also practice in their own lives. This year, I decided to have a little bit of fun and twist the angle. I asked 10 influential dietitians around the country to tell me their dirty secrets and confess to us what indulgences they partake in and how they feel about it.
My clients often think that just because I coach them on healthy eating and wrote books on superfoods that I eat “clean” 100 percent of the time and never get off my regimen. Well, nothing can be farther from the truth. In my opinion, healthy eating is not just about eating “clean” ― it’s about having a good, healthy relationship with food. People forget that registered dietitians are humans, and like everyone else, we fall privy to the temptations of the food world. My confession is that when I travel for work, I sometimes run into a Cinnabon store at the airport. I can’t resist a Cinnabon. I eat it slowly, mindfully, and enjoy every bit. Yes, it is processed and full of sugar, but then I make the conscious decision to have a powerful antioxidant meal later in the day.
Just to be clear, this article is not meant to promote the consumption of high-sugar, processed foods but is intended to help people understand that it is OK to eat these kinds of foods once in a while. Most importantly, I want you to understand and develop a good relationship with food that will not make you feel guilty. To demonstrate this, I want you to look at these top influential dietitians that not only share their food, but also share insights on how they feel after eating them. So, without further ado, let me introduce these nutrition experts with their dirty, secret confessions.
1. “I’m a froyo addict!”
Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT ― Shaw’s Simple Swaps, Co-Author of Fertility Foods, 2017
“Truth be told, I can’t get enough of the frozen delight. As much as I love my banana froyo that I make from scratch, there’s nothing like a delicious fresh-from-the-machine treat, topped of course with almonds, carob chips and mini cookie dough bites!” She also adds that “life’s about balance and moderation; I certainly will embrace the joy in allowing all foods to fit without shame or guilt!”
2. “I want straight chocolate!”
Heather Mangieri, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN ― CEO/Nutrition Consultant at Nutrition CheckUp Author of Fueling Young Athletes
“My confession… I have a serious sweet tooth! I’m not big on chewy candies, donuts or pastries, I just want straight chocolate! And I do not discriminate; it can be dark, milk or white—it’s all good to me! I eat a few bites of chocolate a few times a week, and I don’t think twice about it.” Heather also explains that she does “control the amount I have in the house, which prevents me from overindulging. Allowing myself a piece when I want it prevents me from ever overeating it. A few bites is just enough, and I’m satisfied.”
3. “Cupcakes! I love chocolate and pastries but save my baked goods calories for special occasions.”
Toby Amidor, MS, RD ― nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More than 130 delicious, healthy recipes for every meal of the day
“I live in the suburbs of New York City and usually take the Metro North railroad into the city several times a week for meetings or events. The Metro North goes into Grand Central Station, which has a fantastic food court on the lower level, with a Magnolia Bakery.” Amidor adds that she spaces out her indulgence by stating that “once a month, I will stop by the bakery and indulge in one of their delectable cupcakes (today the special of the day was chocolate glazed raspberry cupcakes). It is totally worth the calories!”
4. “Who doesn’t love ice cream, right?”
“As a registered dietitian, most people think I would only eat ‘clean’ foods. That is definitely not the case!” Stephan explains that by “using a flexible approach to dieting with myself and my clients, I track my macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) I fit in my favorite foods like ice cream, Reese’s Cups, and my girlfriend’s home made lasagna. The cool thing about this approach is it means that no food is off limits as long as you can fit it into your daily totals. This approach works great because as humans we really don’t do well with restrictions, especially when it comes to food! Balance is key and a flexible approach to nutrition and weight loss really helps long term compliance.”
5. “I eat dessert and drink alcohol.”
Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-certified chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families
“People are shocked to discover that I eat dessert and drink alcohol. When I dine out or get take-out, which is a few times per week, I partake in whatever is great that the restaurant has to offer. This usually includes something fried like calamari, beignets, French fries, my kids’ chicken tenders, or egg rolls. Even if I’m at a burger joint, I don’t order the salad, so I get a regular burger and small fry. My magic recipe is I eat ‘whole foods’ about 90 percent of the time, I consistently exercise three days per week, limit alcohol to about seven drinks per week, and get adequate sleep. And I rarely drink sugary beverages, unless it’s a margarita. Obviously.”
6. “I absolutely love Chunky Monkey ice cream.”
Mitzi Dulan, RD ― Founder of simplyFUEL Protein Balls
Dulan shares her experience with ice cream and not having any guilty feelings about it. “I try not to have it more than once a month and struggle to stop eating before the pint is empty! So delicious!” Dulan also touches on how you realize that you don’t have to eat everything at the moment, but save the rest for later.
7. “I love frozen veggie burgers.”
Sharon Palmer, RDN - Author of Plant-Powered for Life
“This is my confessional food that some people may not think is so ‘clean.’” Palmer recognizes that these frozen items are sometimes too processed and have high sodium levels. “Sure, some of those veggie burgers can be a bit overly processed and have more sodium than I might like, but it all works out in the end when you eat a healthful diet. These are my go-to comfort food that I pull out of my freezer on those crazy days. I love one on top of a pile of lettuce or on an open face sandwich (slice of whole grain toast) or simply on the side of a plate filled with veggies and whole grains.”
8. “Sometimes I eat meals with NO vegetables whatsoever!”
Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness.
“As a dietitian, it’s natural for me to think about nutrition, but I don’t over-extend myself fretting about calories, nutrients or lack of balance. Sometimes I go out for a cheeseburger and fries and even order the milkshake. I don’t force myself to finish the plate ― like ‘this is my cheat meal, dammit!’ It’s more about listening to my body register fullness and stop when I am satisfied. Knowing that I always have permission to eat what I want, when I want makes it so I don’t feel guilty or deprived.”
9. “Fried chicken is delicious.”
Angel Planells MS, RDN, CD ― spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
“So, for a confessional, I’d like to eat an occasional serving of fried chicken.” Planells explains his reasoning behind his fried food consumption by stating that he is “one, an advocate for quality of life; two, fried chicken is delicious; three, I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA, where many things are fried and it’s nostalgic properties remind me of home.”
10. “One of my favorite things to do is eat creamy, salted peanut butter straight out of the jar with a knife.”
Corinne Dobbas, MS, RD, RYT ― Registered Dietitian, Life Coach & founder CorinneDobbas
“I also adore picking out chocolate covered raisins and eating them one by one and any and all real Swiss milk chocolate! Other foods that top my list in a health world that shames carbs: sweet potato fries, grainy breads, and croutons. It’s no secret that we want whatever we can’t have and the more you push away foods you really want for something else, the more you set yourself up for a binge (not fun!).” Dobbas adds that “a healthy relationship with food is about honoring your hunger and fullness and foods that bring you joy.”
Manuel Villacorta is an internationally recognized, award-winning registered dietitian/nutritionist with more than 18 years of experience. He is a trusted voice in the health and wellness industry. He is the author of three books, Eating Free (HCI, 2012), Peruvian Power Foods (HCI, 2013) and Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet (HCI, 2015). Manuel is the founder of the Whole Body Reboot App, a weight loss program with emphasis on superfoods. He is one of the leading weight loss and nutrition experts in the country.