Our Nutritionist Answers Your Most Commonly Asked Questions

Many people use the start of a new year to make positive changes in their lives, including living a healthier lifestyle and practicing self-care. One of the best changes we can make is to start eating more nutritious food. 

One of the most challenging things about making different food choices is that we are bombarded with so many contradictory opinions, that it makes it almost impossible to choose what’s best for our bodies.

So, we went to the expert. Our dietitian Andrea helped us out by answering some of the most commonly asked questions from people trying to improve their health through better eating.

1. Should people take vitamin supplements?
Not necessarily. If people eat a varied and balanced diet, including lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, they’re probably getting what they need. Vitamins are better integrated into the body from food and not supplements, so better to spend on healthy foods than expensive vitamins! The one exception, particularly for Canadians, is Vitamin D in the winter months, and those on special diets.

2. What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?
In Quebec, where I live, there’s no difference. Both are reserved titles. But in other provinces, including Ontario, anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist” and the term “dietitian” is reserved for registered dietitians. It’s important to ask for credentials and background before consulting with any healthcare professional, but know that those covered by professional orders are licensed to provide evidence-based advice and maintain a strict code of ethics, put in place to protect the client.

3. Why are saturated fats bad for you?
Saturated fats are fats that are generally hard at room temperature. There are many kinds and studies show that they are linked to heart disease – raising “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and leading to plaque buildup in the arteries.

4. What is the most important thing to remember?
Choose variety, balance, and real food. We try to make things complicated with diets, but ultimately it comes down to this. My favorite quote that I try to live by: “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” – Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food.

5. What are the best diets for maintaining a healthy body?
The best diets are those that are not too restrictive since they limit nutrients that your body needs. To me, eating healthy should be something you enjoy, so any diet that doesn’t let you eat with your friends and family isn’t sustainable. Health is about making choices that work for your body, so listen to it, and fuel it with what it needs.

6. I want to eat more plant-based. Is it healthy to go vegan?
It is ABSOLUTELY healthy to be vegan, or any variation on the plant-based theme you choose. Plant-based diets are associated to health benefits such as reduced heart disease and type-2 diabetes risk. The more strict the diet, however, the more planning and attention you have to pay to getting certain nutrients. Vegans in particular should be aware that they include sources of B12, iron, vitamin D, calcium and zinc in their diets. It’s also possible that you may need to take iodine if there’s no regular source of iodized salt.

7. Do I need to eat 3 or 6 meals a day?
The advice is always changing. There is no advice that is good for everyone. You want your 2-3 meals a day to include adequate fiber and protein to keep you full and to maintain steady blood sugars. If you get hungry between meals, are well hydrated and do have enough fiber and protein at meals, then maybe your body does need snacks. If you work out, you may also need more nutrition. But if you eat because you’re bored, tired, or “it’s the right thing to do” then that may just be added calories that your body doesn’t need and may contribute to weight gain.

8. What is the biggest reason people fail at diets?
Restriction. Diets are set-ups for failure. People are either “on” or “off” in a way that forces them to feel badly when they don’t get it “right.” But learning about healthy choices, what works for your body, and how to navigate eating through life events (think of busy workdays, birthdays etc.) will always lead to success. And make you feel pretty happy too!

Andrea Rubin studied Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University (BSc, 2002) and is licensed with the Professional Order of Dietitians of Quebec (OPDQ). She’s one of our most valued consultants at Mad Radish, and her passion for healthy eating and nutrition inspires us and is reflected in the food we make!