I've seen "day in the life" articles where dietitians share beautiful photos of what they ate and I'm probably not the only one who wonders if that's how they truly eat. Every. Day. Really?
Maybe they do, maybe they don't. One thing's for sure - a 24-hour diet record is the least reliable way to measure eating patterns. It's far better to look at eating habits over time. You get lots of data, but you also get a better idea of your true habits.
Confession: My meals are usually WAY less colorful and Instagram-worthy than what you might see in those aspirational posts. Yes, I'm a dietitian, but I'm a real person. So here's my version of What Do Dietitians Eat!
I start the day with a mocha to wake myself up. Most days that's around 5:00 am. I'm an early riser! Steamed low-fat milk, 2 shots of espresso, and a Dove Promise (hey, at least it's dark chocolate). If I'm going for a run, I usually have a small bowl of whole grain cereal like Cheerios. I might have another mocha when I get back from working out, around 7:00 am. My daughter Cammie loves to help me -- she gets to press the buttons and put the chocolates in the cups.
Second Breakfast (yes, I'm a hobbit)
I typically eat around 8:30 am at my desk at work. My fave thing right now is 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a bit of honey, and some vanilla extract mixed in. Lots of protein here... close to 30 grams! I also have a small serving of fruit -- an apple, some berries, etc. -- for fiber.
Usually around 12:30 or 1:00 pm. This varies from day to day... sometimes it's leftovers, other times it's a combination of a bunch of random things. Avocado toast, a sandwich with deli meat and extra veggies, oatmeal... whatever I'm feeling! I eat lunch at home so I have some flexibility.
I'm usually ready for a little something around 3:00 pm and it's usually a protein-rich food combined with carbohydrate (could be grains, fruit, or vegetable).
I usually choose a couple from the following list:
- Cottage cheese with a bit of jam mixed in
- Carrots and celery with 1 tablespoon of dip
- Slice of cheese
- 5-6 oz container of light Greek yogurt
- Small bowl of cereal
- Piece of fruit
We usually eat between 5:30-6:00 pm. It really varies from day to day, but I often serve leftovers from the weekend or something I made ahead and froze. I really like to make soups, stews, and casseroles, and these usually incorporate some kind of whole grain (like rice or pasta), protein (like chicken, sausage, beef, beans, or seafood), and veggies. At least one night per week we have breakfast for dinner with veggie and cheese omelets, whole grain pancakes, and bacon.
I always make up a small plate of what we are eating so our daughter has the opportunity to try it. The other night she ended up eating all of her broccoli and then the rest of mine. I fully admit, though, we often end up making peanut butter toast or a grilled cheese sandwich when she refuses what we're having. Toddlers are weird!
Around 8:00 I will have something sweet, like a piece of fruit and another Dove Promise. Then it's off to bed! Most nights I'm sleeping by 8:30 pm... I've always been that way. I like to think I'm an old soul.
I've been tracking my food for long enough that I've learned a few things about myself:
- I almost always choose whole grain versions - pasta, bread, cereal,
you name it. This comes naturally to me because I actually like the
taste better. Plus, I find whole grains to be way more satisfying than
their refined (white) counterparts.
- I eat plenty of fruit.
- I mostly drink water.
Where could I improve?
- I often don't eat enough vegetables. I'm a champ when it's come to fruit (I LOVE IT), but veggies? Not so much.
- I like sweets. I almost always exceed my sugar recommendation or come close to it.
- I like fat, particularly from cheese. Mmmm.. cheeeeeese.
Right now, I'm not overly concerned about the sugar and fat because I'm training for a marathon, but when that's over and done (pray for me!!!) I will probably need to pay closer attention.
So there you have it. Total transparency from me and an honest look at what I do well and not so well. My perspective is that keeping track of what you eat is very useful for identifying areas to improve. Try to remember that those "day in the life" posts are just that -- one day! Dietitians are not perfect with their eating patterns and I don't expect you to be, either.