All of your nutrition and diet questions answered by an RD
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like there is new diet and nutrition information out there every single day to consume, and many times, it’s not in agreement with what you heard last week. What’s a gal to do? Whom should we believe? Is there ANYTHING safe to eat these days?
Well, the idea of whom to believe and what to do is a much bigger topic that I plan to address in the future, because I know how easy it can be to be overwhelmed with all the wellness advice coming from every corner of the Internet, TV and social media.
It’s a lot. But here are some rules that I like to live by (and this is just my opinion, of course):
- You need to do what’s best for YOUR body, so don’t try to force a low-carb diet like your favorite Instagram star does, if while doing it, you are feeling sluggish and unwell and are craving more carbs. Your body will always tell you when something isn’t right.
- You don’t have to love every single health food out there. If you hate kale, skip kale. Or maybe you need to find a new way to prepare it.
- You need to do what works for your lifestyle. If you are a nurse in a high-demanding shift job, I’m guessing intermittent fasting and going a long time without eating is NOT going to keep you mentally alert and full of energy throughout the night when you’re seeing patients, so you may want to pass on IF.
- If your favorite food in the entire world is oatmeal, then maybe the Paleo diet is not for you. Why suffer without oats when you love oats? Life is too short.
You see where I’m going with all of this?
I want you guys to be informed, I want you to try your best to eat mostly healthy food that works for you, but I don’t want you to get too obsessed with it. Remember, there’s a life out there to live that doesn’t need to be entirely gluten-free, organic and meal prepped.
All of that being said, there are experts who spend their days researching diet, nutrition and lifestyle choices and how it all links to disease, and they go to school for it too.
While I can tell you why you can’t perfect your squat form or get stronger in the gym with workouts, I’m not a registered dietitian, and I thought it would be AWESOME to bring on one of my personal friends, Whitney English, who is one.
Interview with Whitney English, RD
Whitney is a beautiful first-time momma-to-be, who lives in Southern California and whom I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with at IDEA World Fitness Convention. Whitney used to be an entertainment reporter, before becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer — so she knows how to give unbiased information to the everyday person. (Quick note on her credentials: Whitney earned a master’s degree in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity and completed her dietetic internship at the University of Southern California’s Norris Cancer Center and Keck Medical Center, as well as Breathe Healing Life Center — so clearly, she’s legit!)
And she’s pretty …
What I like about Whitney’s work is that she doesn’t just go with the fads and agree with everything out there. She does her OWN research and shares her findings.
Now, Whitney’s approach is a MUCH more balanced approach than many, and that speaks to me — she’s into something she likes to call “predominantly plant-based” to help people feel good and prevent disease — but that does NOT mean she preaches veganism, and you’ll see more about that in the interview below.
Because just as I will remind you OVER and OVER again to take a rest day off of exercise each week no matter what, I will also remind you that you should not have a perfect diet, but you should make sure you’re getting in mostly the right nutrients on most days. (Here’s why and how to take a rest day, by the way.)
All of your nutrition and diet questions answered by Whitney English, RD
Let’s turn it over to the interview …
(Q) MISTAKES: From your experience, what do you see as the most common problems that young (20-35) exercising women have with their nutrition and diet? And what do you often recommend for those women?
(A) The biggest problem I see is that women aren’t eating enough!
Too often, I see young women trying to skip meals or limit their portion sizes in an effort to lose weight, and it always backfires. When you restrict your intake, your body fights back. Either by decreasing your metabolism, holding on to fat, or increasing your hunger hormones, your body will find a way to make up for the food you’re keeping from it. Skipping meals and not eating enough at meals also usually leads to binge eating later, which is not just detrimental to your diet, but also to your mental health.
(Q) NUTRIENT TIMING: What is this and what should the average exercising woman know about it in regards to health and fitness goals?
(A) Nutrient timing refers to the optimal time to consume certain nutrients in order to maximize benefits. The average exerciser should know that 30 minutes to 2 hours after a workout is the ideal window for replenishing muscles. During this time period, you want to make sure to consume a good source of both protein (15 to 25 grams of protein) and carbohydrates to maximize “muscle protein synthesis.” (You can find more details on pre- and post-workout nutrition info on Whitney’s site here.)
(Q) PROBIOTICS: If someone eats at least a serving of food a day with probiotics in it, is that sufficient, or do you recommend everyone supplement with a probiotic? Why and what’s your favorite probiotic?
(A) I don’t recommend that everyone takes a probiotic supplement, nor do I take one myself. There isn’t enough evidence to support blanket supplementation for healthy adults. Certain strains have been shown to be beneficial however for specific health conditions like IBS, in which case I would recommend a specific supplement called Visbiome or VSL #3. The average person, however, will benefit most from consuming good sources of PREbiotics, which is the stuff that feeds our gut bacteria. Prebiotics are essentially fiber, so increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes is your best bet to foster a healthy microbiome.
(Q) LECTINS: We’re hearing more about these. Are they bad? What are they?
(A) Ah lectins, don’t get me started! Lectins are compounds in plants that protect them from attack by microorganisms. Some lectins are dangerous to humans, like those found in raw, uncooked kidney beans, and some are perfectly harmless, like those found in other beans and grains. The “lectin lunacy” as I call it started by Dr. Steven Gundry, has no basis in science.
An overwhelming amount of research supports the fact that consuming lectin-containing foods, like legumes, actually decreases your risk of chronic disease and helps to maintain a healthy body weight.
(Q) SOAKING FOOD: Do we need to be scared to eat beans, seeds and oats straight from the package without rinsing or soaking them? What exactly needs to be soaked and rinsed or not and why?
(A) No, not at all. The only way you could get sick from consuming lectins, even those found in red kidney beans, is if you ate the bean raw, which seems mechanically impossible. You’d chip a tooth before you’d be rushed to the emergency room for lectin poisoning.
One reason you may want to soak beans and grains before cooking them, however, is to increase the bioavailability of certain minerals like iron and zinc, which can be bound to other compounds called phytates. However, this isn’t absolutely necessary, and cooked canned beans have already been through processing that reduces this content. Just grab a can that says “BPA-free” to avoid exposure to this endocrine-disrupting chemical. (If you have IBS or digestive issues, it may be helpful to rinse your beans though.)
(Q) NIGHTSHADES: We know that Tom and Giselle don’t eat nightshades. Why? Is this something the average person needs to avoid?
(A) The argument against nightshades is the same as that for beans — it’s because they contain lectins. Instead of avoiding foods like tomatoes and bell peppers, which have solid evidence of a nutritional benefit, the average person should avoid taking advice from celebrities and celebrity “nutritionists.”
(Q) GLUTEN, DAIRY AND SOY: What’s your stance on cutting out these groups out? Do we need to avoid these things? Why or why not?
(A) Unless you have Celiac disease, I do not recommend cutting out gluten. There is no definitive research that a gluten-free diet is beneficial for any other condition and certainly not for the general public. The reason some people without Celiac disease feel better on a gluten-free diet may instead be due to a decrease in foods containing FODMAPs, which are carbohydrates that are often found in gluten-containing foods.
The majority of the human population is lactose intolerant, so for many people, cutting out dairy can be beneficial. Evidence also shows that vegans (who don’t eat dairy) have a lower risk of some diseases compared to vegetarians, suggesting that animal products like dairy may contribute to this association. Personally, I eat dairy on occasion, and I think people should decide on an individual basis whether or not it fits in their diet.
Soy is not only not harmful, research shows it may help prevent and fight chronic diseases like breast and prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and infertility. (Check out Whitney’s three-part series on YouTube to learn more.)
(Q) PLANT-BASED EATING: If someone wanted to start eating more plants, (following your predominately plant-based philosophy), how should they get started, what exactly does this mean and what are the benefits?
(A) The benefit of all forms of plant-based diets (vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian and flexitarian) is a reduced risk of chronic disease, better weight management and potentially a longer life.
You can get started by simply incorporating more meatless meals into your diet. Try a “Meatless Monday” or a full day of plant-based eating. Try swapping plant-based protein options in some of your favorite recipes, you’d be amazed at how well tofu, tempeh, beans and mushrooms sub for meat. Overall, just remember that it isn’t all or nothing.
(You can also check out Whitney’s free 7-Day PPB Meal Plan to get started.)
(Q) SNACKS: What is your favorite pre-workout snack and post-workout snack?
(A) Pre-workout: A banana and peanut butter (She’s speaking my language here!)
Post-workout: Super seed Oatmeal (A recipe she created featuring oats, flax seeds, chia seeds, non-dairy milk, cinnamon, vanilla extract, sea salt and a banana.)
(Q) MORNING BEVERAGES: Bulletproof coffee? Hot lemon water? Apple Cider Vinegar? What do you recommend in the morning to prepare the system and start the day?
(A) Fresh air and sunlight! Sunlight tells your body to stop producing melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and start producing cortisol to get your energy levels up. (Ohhhh how I agree with this!)
(Q) NEEDS: What’s a food that you think people, particularly women, don’t eat enough of and really should?
(A) Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale, cauliflower and collard greens. They contain a phytochemical known as sulforaphane, which possesses potent antioxidant and anti-tumor properties. These veggies are also a great source of plant-based calcium, important for women as we are more susceptible to bone density loss as we age. (My preference is roasting these beneficial veggies coated in coconut oil and sea salt, but try to find a way that you enjoy cooking and eating them.)
(Q) MORE HELP: When would someone know if they need to seek the help of an RD?
(A) Anyone who wants to optimize their diet and is unsure where to start should seek the help of an RD — especially anyone with risk factors for chronic disease.
(Q) DINNER: What’s your go-to healthy and simple weeknight dinner?
(A) Vegan tostadas. I always have a can of beans, a can of diced tomatoes and a jar of walnuts in my pantry, so I can easily whip up this meal at the last minute. You can also toss this “meat” on a salad or in a tortilla if you prefer. (Yum!)
To stay in touch with Whitney, you can follow her on her website, Instagram and Twitter. And you can also work with her and check out her free 7-day meal plan too.
Takeaways from the interview with Whitney
Wow! I have to thank Whitney for providing such awesome information for us. As you can see, she’s NOT telling us to avoid everything under the sun, nor cut out food groups either. In fact, she’s telling us to eat more plants, never skip a meal and find out what works best for our bodies. She’s also telling us that research backs up her claims, and it’s not just what’s popular or being done by the celebs.
I’m glad to hear that she doesn’t think the average person needs a probiotic, as I tend to prefer to take as little supplements as possible and get most of my nutrition from food (although I’ll never stop my daily collagen). I’m also glad to hear that she doesn’t think gluten is the total enemy either, because we all know that I’m a bit a gluten monster.
Now before we go, I just want to make it clear that there is SO much noise out there in the wellness world, and it can be so hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. I wanted to share Whitney’s philosophy with you (as I’m not a credentialed expert in nutrition like she is), because I think she has a great approach to eating. You can choose to follow parts of it and make it work for you, always remembering that it’s your health and wellness journey and your life.
What’s most important is to try to eat mostly healthy foods that make you feel good, don’t be too restrictive or unnecessarily obsessive with you “can’t eat,” and of course, drink lots of water, move your body … and … wait for it … never skip a rest day! 🙂
Thanks for reading, my friends!
P.S. Just a couple of days left in our hydration challenge. Hope you’re sticking to it! I sure am!Check out this great diet and nutrition FAQ from @WhitneyERD on A Lady Goes West today ... Click To Tweet
Questions of the day
What’s your favorite weeknight easy meal?
What’s your favorite plant to eat?
Do you have any follow-up questions for Whitney?
Great information! Do you think it’s necessary to keep track of micros for losing weight? Thank you!
I meant macros! Also, what are your thoughts on IF?
Hi again! Yes — I figured you meant macros. IF — to me? I’ve been reading that IF is not great for female hormones, so I would be hesitant to do it. The testing has mostly been done on the male system, and as we know, women are WAY different. But you could always try it out just to reduce your eating window a bit to see if it makes you feel good. If not, skip it. Let’s see if Whitney has some thoughts …
While I think it’s important to have an overall understanding of what macros are and how making sure to eat a balanced amount of fat, protein, and carbs at every meal is beneficial to your health, I don’t think you need to actually track them. I use the “plate model” instead to help clients understand their basic macro needs. Basically, you balance out 1/2 your plate with vegetables, 1/4 with whole grains/starches, and a 1/4 with protein/legumes/nuts/seeds. Then somewhere in the mix you include fat – usually to cook/dress the other items. With this method, there’s no need for counting. Your body will get what it needs!
As for IF, first, I think everyone is different. For some people, it may work, for others, it could worsen existing disordered eating habits and possibly lead to binge eating/restriction cycles. So whether or not to try something like this is completely depends on the individual. Second, instead of traditional IF, which often involves 12+ hours of fasting, or everyday fasting (there’s no set definition), I am more in favor of what’s called “time-restricted eating.” This is where you aim to consume your food within a certain window of time, in sync with the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Studies have shown this to be beneficial to health and chronic disease prevention. I wouldn’t recommend limiting that window to less than 12 hours. So for example, if you had dinner at 7 pm, you would eat breakfast at 7 am the next morning. Again though, this may not make sense for everyone. I’m certainly not doing it at the moment because I’m pregnant!
Hope this helped!
Great info again, Whitney! 🙂
This information helped tremendously. It definitely makes sense and would be a lot easier than trying to keep track of macros!
I also like the “time restricted window of eating” but I am up at 4:00am so if I eat breakfast at 4:30am and eat supper at 6pm, this wouldn’t work, but it might help with the nighttime snacking.
Thank you so much!??
Hi Kimberly, I can answer this one from my own knowledge — to lose weight, it’s more than just burning more calories than you are eating. Your hormones need to be properly functioning to lose weight (or your body will hold onto weight), and you need to sleep right as well. Then, you’ll want to do some regular exercise (both strength and cardio), and eat mostly unprocessed foods in smart portions. If you do all those things — hopefully you will lose weight. However, if you need a more strict way to do it, then tracking your protein, fat and carbs is okay to do, that way you are SURE you are getting the right amount of each and staying within a general calorie range. So it’s not necessary, but can help.
Thanks so much for the info! I have been really struggling wuth trying to find a balance. I workout consistently 5 days a week, but my nutrition is horrible! I don’t think keeping track of macros is something I’d be able to do consistently. That is why I thought about trying IF. I have another queation, if you don’t mind: I am up at 4am for work. Do you think it is crucial to eat breakfast shortly upon waking up? I know that once I get to work, I don’t have time to eat breakfast unless it is something I can quickly grab. I would really appreciate your thoughts!Thanks so much Ashley!
Hi Kimberly, well, the breakfast thing is really dependent on how you feel. Hormone wise — from what I know — eating something shortly after waking is supposed to be better for women — especially to eat before having caffeine. But your doctor or and RD would need to test your levels and give you the definitive answer. The short of it is this — if you feel fine without breakfast and are then eating a normal-size and healthy lunch without feeling ravenous, then that’s good. If you are gorging at lunch on everything in site, then you probably need to have some form of a breakfast. Banana, almond butter, oats, hardboiled egg, something that travels well perhaps you could have in the car? Perhaps Whitney can chime in here too …
Loved this interview! I’ve followed Whitney for awhile but definitely learned a few things.
My parents are both dealing with some health issues right now and I’ve tried asking them to talk with a dietician as I believe food is so powerful. But they seem so skeptical. So I guess I would ask Whitney how to find a great RD in your area and how to convince someone to go and talk to one.
Hi Patricia! Of course — and a lot of RDs work online, but I know the older generation tends to want in-person appointments, but I bet Whitney can suggest a reputable site to find a good one. And our parents weren’t largely taught that food leads to illness, like we have been, so it’s totally normal for them to be a bit skeptical. I hope it works out, lady! Good luck to you and to them! 🙂
Thanks for the info! I thought about how a diet suits you (me) a lot doing Whole 30. I missed oatmeal so much and it seemed so silly to be denying myself oatmeal.
Hi Emily! hhehe exactly! Which I think is why ultimately, I’ve never done a Whole30 or other challenge, because I do NOT like to deprive myself. But anyways, good for you for realizing that! 🙂 Thanks for reading!
The second I saw the title of this post pop up in my inbox I thought “oooooh I hope it’s Whitney!”
Thanks to both of you for all this information! Super helpful and really makes me feel better about my choices. IF and macro tracking are constantly haunting me on social media and the internet, but I just don’t feel good about forcing myself into either of those. And I need to learn to just accept that not all diets and fads are for me and it’s OK if I don’t try them out.
PS. Just to be clear, I am gluten free because I truly am intolerant. I might not yet be diagnosed as Celiac, but I have a major sensitivity to it and I promise I’m not doing it for the fad or to cut calories or carbs. I still eat lots of potatoes and rice!
Hi Courtney! You are doing the right thing by listening to your body! If you don’t feel good from gluten, then it’s safe to skip it, of course! You do you, friend — no shame in that! 🙂
Hi Courtney! Not every diet is suited for everyone, and not every diet is suited for women in general. There’s a LOT of talk out there now about IF not being good for a woman’s hormones — as most of the tests on it have been done on men. Nonetheless, I’m glad you are realizing that you don’t have to do all the fads, you do what works best for you and makes you feel best!
Thank you for this reassurance! You know how you see something over and over and over again and feel like you’re doing something wrong because you aren’t doing that too and don’t look like the “result” of the people doing it? That’s where I’m at with IF and macro tracking. I know for sure I could lose the thigh jiggle and be able to wear a bathing suit again if I followed a stricter eating regimen. But I also know the mindset that creates in me. So I very much appreciate you understanding and for the information showing that it’s ok to put less importance on abs and more importance on happiness.
I’m here for you, friend! I’m always here to remind you not to be too hard on yourself! You are beautiful and you are doing your best, my friend! 🙂
What great info! Great job Whitney!
Thanks, Julie! 🙂 She’s good, right?
Such great info! It’s so funny to me when I hear people are so reliant on food being “gluten free” but they don’t even know why or what that means! So many “trends” out there. Balance is always key and listening to your body! 🙂
I know, I know! It’s a great way to be able to eliminate foods that you don’t want to have to eat, but it’s not always necessary. Balanceeeeee, of course! Thanks for reading, Marielle! 🙂
What’s your favorite weeknight easy meal?
Anything from the Instant Pot.
I definitely need to consider getting an Instant Pot! I hear so many good things!