A SLICE TO SAVOR: Three major keys to nutrition

Kelly Burgess

Kelly Burgess

Yes, I am a nutrition major. Yes, I did agree to dress up as an Oreo for Halloween with my boyfriend this year. Yes, I love ice cream and always say if I ever turn it down, someone should check my pulse.

“But you’re a nutrition major, doesn’t that mean you eat healthy all the time?” This is a question I receive often as a dietetics major, and usually I answer by explaining I am a pretty healthy eater, but I am also human. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about eating healthy food, but I am also all about the enjoyment. It seems the general public perceives dietitians as the “food police.” I might be the odd one here, but there’s definitely more to nutrition than simply “eat this, not that.”

Now that I seem like the world’s biggest hypocrite, let me explain a few things that might bring the situation into a little bit more light. Here’s a little secret –– dietitians love food! We don’t spend hours studying biochemistry and the digestive process for nothing. We don’t learn how to “rehab” recipes because we want to take away everyone’s favorite foods.

The challenge of being a dietitian is showing food can be your friend, not your enemy. Finding healthier alternatives doesn’t have to mean the food becomes any less tasty.

Nutrition is an incredibly complex field and one where everyone seems to hold his or her own opinion. The field is also incredibly engaging; I mean, we all have to eat, right? With endless stacks of information on how to lose 10 pounds in a week, why bread is bad for you and good and bad fats, how do you really know what is reliable and not simply someone’s opinion? There are three universal principles for a truly healthy lifestyle that are easy to remember and don’t require mathematical formulas for extensive calorie counting.

First is variety. “Eat the rainbow” may sound childish and unscientific, but the principle behind this idiom is an essential part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Eating a variety of foods is so important to dietary health. Sure, everyone has their favorite foods and their go-to dinners to fix on a busy night, but the more different foods you can eat, the better! Going into the holiday season, you will probably have many opportunities to load your plate with family favorites. This doesn’t have to be a nutrition nightmare, but instead an opportunity to enjoy several different foods –– and don’t forget to eat the greens!

Second is balance. This goes back to not viewing foods as “bad” or “good.” Instead, think of foods as “nutritional” or “fun.” You don’t have to give up your favorite foods that might not be nutritionally ideal; you just need to balance them into your diet.

Finally is moderation. Learn to enjoy your food in the proper portions and occasions. On Thanksgiving, eat your pumpkin pie and stuffing too. Special occasions call for special foods, so don’t deny yourself completely. Having favorite foods on special occasions is no crime, and incorporating fun foods into your diet will motivate you to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle.

Food is more than sustenance to keep your body going, it is an important part of your lifestyle. You have to eat, so enjoy your food! Even dietitians eat dessert, so go ahead and slice that pie.