Jen Brotherton is a certified dietician living in Takoma, WA. She graduated from Southeast Missouri State with a Bachelor’s in Science Dietetics, completed an accredited internship at Emory University Hospital and passed her RD exam just a couple months later. Since then, she has worked in home health, skilled nursing facilities, and is currently working at a weight loss clinic doing outpatient nutrition counseling.
We were lucky enough to pick her brain and get the down low on what exactly a healthy diet looks like in this day and age. Check out the interview below!
Q: What do you typically eat in a day?
A: In general, I do try to eat 3-5 small meals/snacks per day. I make sure to have a healthy balance of protein, high fiber carbohydrates, and plant based fats to ensure I am satiated throughout the day.
Q: Do we need to be eating 3 meals a day? And what are your thoughts on intermittent fasting?
A: There is no one way to eat. We are all different eaters and many factors depend on our eating schedules. It is not necessary to eat 3 meals a day. Some people may experience nausea in the morning making it difficult to eat right away. However, some studies do show that starting the day off with a balanced breakfast may help reduce cravings and overeating later in the day.
Intermittent fasting (IF) may be an effective tool for fat loss by restricting calories. By limiting eating hours people tend to reduce their overall calorie intake. However awareness is key. Just because IF works for some, doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. For example, for some, going extended periods of time without eating may lead to excessive hunger and potential binge eating. I’ve had some clients try IF and find themselves over eating before their fasting period due to concern they would be hungry. In these instances, IF is not beneficial.
Q: What essential nutrients do we need the most in our diet?
A: For our bodies to function optimally, the essential nutrients that we need most include macronutrients (or “big” nutrients) i.e. proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. We also need micro nutrients (or “small” nutrients) i.e. vitamins and minerals, and last but not least water.
Q: What is the most common vitamin deficiency in healthy adults?
A: It is possible to get most of the essential nutrients by following a balanced diet, however, there are a few common vitamin deficiencies found in the Western diet such as vitamin D, iron, calcium, vitamin B12 and magnesium.
Q: What should we be eating to strengthen our immune system?
A: Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells which are essential for fighting off infections. Include sources of vitamin C such as citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, red bell peppers, spinach and broccoli. Ginger and turmeric are both powerful anti-inflammatory foods and may help with our immune systems. Consider adding fresh ginger or turmeric to your meals or enjoy a glass of hot water with ginger.
Vitamin D also helps regulate our immune system and is thought to boost our bodies natural defenses, so include dairy products to your diet. If you are lactose intolerant consider adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet. Finally, probiotics are made of healthy live bacteria that naturally live in your body. When an infection occurs, the bad bacteria in your body is more abundant than the good bacteria which can knock your system out of balance. By adding good bacteria from either probiotic supplements or probiotic foods it helps eliminate the extra bad bacteria and return the body to homeostasis, or balance. Foods that contain probiotics are yogurt, fermented pickles, kimchi, miso, and cottage cheese. There are also fermented drinks such as kombucha or kefir.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you like to share with all your clients?
A: There’s no “one size fits all” approach. I encourage clients to discover their motivating factors for making a health change and use these factors to refer to when trying to be consistent. We all live very busy lives, especially in this day and age, and often we put unrealistic expectations on ourselves, ultimately leading to the cycle of failure and belief that we are not capable of change. I recommend starting with one or two changes and focus on being consistent with the changes until they become habits. One of my main recommendations is to focus on being kind to yourself and reducing critical self-talk.
Q: What does “clean eating” mean to you? It’s become such a popular term in recent years.
A: The concept of clean eating really tries to target reducing intake of processed foods and including more nutrient-dense, whole foods into the diet. However the term “clean eating” can be dangerous. It can be a slippery slope to disordered eating and keep people in a diet mentality. We know that chronic dieting is not beneficial to our bodies and oftentimes leads to restrictive eating. “Clean eating” implies that there is also “dirty eating” which is just another way of labeling food as “good” or “bad.” Ideally, we should focus on food neutrality, accepting that food is fuel for our bodies. Food is food and should not be labeled as good, bad, clean, or dirty.
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