What does a Nutritionist actually eat?

Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

September 8, 2020

Have you ever wondered what your nutritionist actually eats?

Do you think nutritionists or people who eat healthily are constantly depriving themselves or are living on salad leaves and gluten-free cucumbers? Do you think a nutritionist is constantly watching what other people eat and is acting as “Food Police”?

In this blog, I’m going to share some funny stories about looking at what other people eat.

Recently, I was sitting on the Promenade in Bray eating my favourite homemade Italian ice cream, looking out over the sea enjoying a relaxing evening together with my two dogs. On this particular evening, while I was in my own thoughts, this lady walked by and said: “Hello, you are Ilona, aren’t you?” It took me a moment to realise it was one of my clients who was taking part in the online 6-week group programme that I was running at the time. I had not met her in real life before and it took me by surprise as I was kind of in a different “role”.

I know she did not judge me eating ice-cream, but my first reaction was “Don’t tell anyone else in the group that I’m eating ice-cream!”

I am very conscious as to what I eat and I always want to lead by example especially for my clients. But, I’m only human too and I eat things that I probably “shouldn’t” or that I might even suggest my clients not to eat. So it does happen quite regularly that I actually get to hear comments such as: “I didn’t think you’d eat that!” or “I can’t believe YOU are actually eating a dessert!” or “I didn’t think you’d eat meat?” This happens when I am eating something that either isn’t healthy or is not perceived as being healthy. Yes, I do eat meat, not a lot, and if I do, I look out for good quality, but of course, I can’t always guarantee this. And yes, I do love my ice-cream, but I would really treat myself to one at the Italian Artisan ice cream parlour in Bray, where I get a homemade sorbet instead of dairy ice cream. And I do love brownies and tiramisu and can’t resist ordering a dessert when either of those are on the menu. I am a sugar addict! I am a chocoholic! And did you notice? I am trying to “justify” what I am eating. On the other hand, when I do eat something that is healthy for me, I would also get comments such as “a go on, you can afford to eat it!” or “What’s the point in that?” or “Is that not a fad?”. I know it can seem as if I am a fussy eater when I order my homemade burger without the bun or ask for the salad dressing on the side, but then again, why should I put something into me that I either don’t like or that doesn’t agree with me? Despite saying this, I would actually sometimes end up eating foods that I don’t particularly like or that don’t agree with me – and generally this happens when I feel under “peer pressure” or when I am not prepared. For example, when I’m invited for dinner and don’t want to offend the host. Or, when I’m in a group and don’t want to create a “fuss” (and I still haven’t figured out why on some days I am struggling to ask for something special and on other days I don’t care). And on some days, I simply want to have that specific food right NOW and don’t care whether it is giving me trouble later or not. Being prepared is the absolute key, I keep telling my clients. And actually, as we speak, I know I have an empty fridge, I’m hungry and haven’t got the time to go shopping and lots of meetings scheduled, and I will probably will end up just eating anything that I can find SOON. I guess there’s a little bit of the “child” Ilona coming out that was told by her parents not to be a fussy eater. I completely understand that asking for something different can be extremely difficult. So, often it depends on your reason to ask for something special. If you had a severe allergy, it would be a “no-brainer” – you would not risk it. Why should you “risk” it with an intolerance? Why should you risk it with something that clearly isn’t good for you? This is where personal choice comes in and where I find the most important thing is not to be judged or judge whatever anyone eats. Also, to respect someone else’s choice or request. How would you feel if you plan to invite friends for dinner and one of your guests says in advance “sorry, but I’m vegetarian” or “sorry, just to let you know I can’t have dairy” – I guess you wouldn’t mind and would accommodate your friend as best as you can. Or would you give out? The other thing that happens a lot to me is that my clients or former clients tell me “I hear you every time I put something in my mouth – Have some protein with it!” I love this!! This means that I am doing something right. It means something I suggested has sunk in – and more importantly, it is making a difference to their lives! This is why I am doing what I am doing. There’s nothing more satisfying than to hear from my clients that they now feel better, have more energy and most importantly have a better understanding and clarity of what is actually healthy for them. And most of the times, I hear that it’s actually easy and they regret not having started earlier. The other thing that I find very funny is that people around me – who know what I work at – apologise for what they are eating. “Sorry, Ilona, I didn’t have time to have my breakfast so I just grabbed a Sniggers Bar”. “Sorry, Ilona, don’t look at what I am eating, I know I shouldn’t be eating the chips.”

And you know what, I am not here to judge you in any way and I would never do so. If you are telling me that you know you shouldn’t be eating this, you already know one part of it: You “shouldn’t”, but do you know the other part, what “could” you eat instead?

Please read this sentence again. I would suggest that most people have a fair idea of what is good for them, but for whatever reason don’t follow this. Either, because they don’t like it, they don’t worry about it or they are not motivated enough. So, I believe, knowledge is one of the most important things: If you know and fully understand what is going on in your body when you eat a certain food, you are more likely to follow a particular guideline. Having studied Nutritional Therapy and continuously studying it gives me a huge wealth of knowledge and sharing this in an easy understandable way is what is getting my clients the results they like to see. OK, you’ve read this far and you still don’t know what I’m actually eating…

My main mantra is: Keep my blood sugars balanced at all time.

And I do this by: Adding some protein or good fat to every meal or snack. Avoiding high sugary foods and eating slow releasing carbohydrates. Avoid grazing, but rather have max. 3 substantial meals that fill me up and keep me full for a couple of hours.

So, a typical day looks like this:
  • Breakfast:  Fresh fruit, lots of berries and a nut granola, sometimes with organic full fat yoghurt, sometimes with a glutenfree granola, sometimes I add a bit of quinoa or buckwheat.
  • Lunch:  A big salad of various green leaves, grated courgette, grated carrot, grated beetroot, tomatoes, 1/2 avocado, cucumber, homemade pesto (made of greens and herbs), and then some protein such as hummus, boiled egg, mackerel or mackerel pate, chicken, grilled fish.
  • Dinner:  I prefer something warm such as homemade soup, or hummus with carrots, some meat with steamed or roasted vegetables. Sometimes, I might just have some cheese.

Of course, this is just a standard day, and if i have anything else on, this will be completely different, but the principle of keeping my blood sugar balanced as best as possible.

But I do love my food a lot, I love flavoursome, healthy, nutritious and tasty foods. And eating this type of foods means that I don’t need to worry about calories or putting on weight.

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