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As a dietitian, I help my clients create sustainable, nutritious eating patterns and healthy lifestyles so they can feel their absolute best, whether they have a chronic condition or not.
Even though my specific dietary recommendations differ depending on factors like blood sugar control and digestive health, I recommend that all my clients eat a nutrient-dense diet composed primarily of whole foods.
Plus, I practice what I preach.
Here’s what healthy eating looks like to me.
Through the years, I’ve found that eating a nutrient-dense diet composed primarily of whole foods makes me feel my best and controls my Hashimoto’s-related symptoms.
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. You can learn more about diet and lifestyle changes that help manage Hashimoto’s symptoms in this article.
Nutrient-dense foods — the ones I focus on in my diet — are those that are high in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They include fruits, vegetables, seeds, chicken, fish, beans, and nuts.
I have also followed a primarily gluten-free and grain-free diet since being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, although I eat small amounts of gluten-free grains like quinoa and brown rice.
This diet works for me and absolutely makes a difference in my Hashimoto’s symptoms.
Moreover, I care deeply about eating as sustainably as possible and am lucky to be able to grow my own food, keep chickens, and live in an area with an abundance of farms.
These practices not only allow me to feel good about what I’m putting into my body but also make a big difference in my environmental impact.
What’s more, a nutrient-dense diet high in local, sustainably sourced foods makes life easier for me and my husband when it comes to mealtime. Even though some people may think eating in this manner involves hours in the kitchen, it doesn’t.
Meals can be as simple as a brown rice bowl with veggies and chicken or a sweet potato stuffed with veggies, beans, and eggs.
Although my diet is composed mostly of whole, nutrient-dense foods, that doesn’t make it boring.
I know how foods can either benefit or harm health, and it’s important to me that I treat my body well and fuel it with the right foods.
However, I also understand that sustainability, variety, and consistency are the most important factors in any healthy diet — and that means truly enjoying the foods I eat, even when they’re not the most nutritious.
I have a balanced approach to nutrition with both myself and my clients. Enjoying your favorite ice cream or a tasty slice of pizza can be part of a healthy diet, so long as that diet is composed mostly of nutritious foods.
Life’s too short to obsess over food choices, but life is also too short to not take care of your health. While I love foods like Funfetti cake, pizza, and ice cream — and enjoy them on occasion — these foods aren’t part of my everyday diet.
Instead, I choose meals and snacks based on what my body needs and how they make me feel.
I work from home and have for years, so almost all my meals and snacks are homemade.
I let my hunger be my guide, so sometimes I eat three meals a day, sometimes two. Sometimes I snack, sometimes I don’t. And that’s OK! I listen to my body and eat when I’m hungry.
‘Listening to your body’ isn’t that simple for some people
While listening to your body and eating when you’re hungry may seem simple enough, these concepts may not come easily to many people, especially if you’re used to following restrictive diets.
If you struggle with restriction or have lost touch with hunger and fullness cues, working with a registered dietitian, a therapist, or both can help you move toward a more intuitive eating style and overcome habits like restricting or bingeing.
I have a few go-tos for lunch and dinner depending on the season, but here are some of my favorite breakfast and lunch options.
- two eggs from my hens with half an avocado and Cleveland Kraut Roasted Garlic sauerkraut
- an egg and veggie omelet with a bit of cheddar cheese and a side of berries or grapefruit
- Lavva yogurt with mixed berries, a scoop of natural peanut butter, cacao nibs, unsweetened coconut, and chia seeds
- a large mixed green salad with chickpeas, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, and a fried egg
- Wild Planet tuna with Primal Kitchen mayo, dill pickles, and Simple Mills almond flour crackers
- a snack plate made with whatever looks good in my fridge and pantry (This could be a combination of fresh fruit, sliced veggies, hummus, cheese, nuts, crackers, dried fruit, and more.)
I sip on coffee in the morning and then drink water and unsweetened hibiscus tea during the day.
My husband and I eat dinner together every night and take turns cooking. We both enjoy eating healthy foods and have a few go-to meals we like to prepare.
In the spring, summer, and fall, we use veggies from our backyard farm like greens, asparagus, onions, zucchini, winter squash, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes. Veggies are always the star of our dinners.
My husband is an avid fisherman, so we eat the fish that he catches, including fluke, blackfish, and sea bass. Other protein sources include eggs, chicken — which we buy from local farms whenever possible — and turkey.
We mostly rely on sweet potatoes, beans, potatoes, winter squash, brown rice, and quinoa for carb sources. We also love Tinkyada brown rice pasta.
Here are a few of our go-to dinners that are filling, delicious, and simple to prepare:
- Stuffed sweet potatoes. We roast sweet potatoes and then top them with sautéed veggies and a protein source like eggs, beans, or chicken. Here’s a tasty stuffed sweet potato recipe you can try.
- Almond-crusted fish. My husband makes breading from blended almonds to crust fish like fluke. We pan-fry it and serve it with sautéed broccoli and roasted potatoes.
- Chicken burgers. We make chicken or turkey burgers often and serve them with sweet potato fries and a large salad.
- Whole roasted chicken. This is a go-to winter dish. We get whole chickens from local farms and roast them in a pan with carrots, onions, and potatoes. I like to make stock out of the chicken carcass to use as sipping broth or for soups.
- Chunky summer veggie sauce and brown rice pasta. In the summer, when we have an abundance of veggies, we often make a chunky sauce with eggplant, onions, zucchini, and tomatoes and serve it over brown rice pasta with fresh Parmesan.
- Curry. I love making curries in the winter with coconut milk, potatoes, carrots, and lentils.
As you can see, our meals are pretty balanced and always include sources of fiber, protein, and healthy fat.
If I want something sweet after dinner, I sometimes snack on a nut-butter-stuffed date with chocolate chips or a piece of chocolate with peanut butter. Still, to be honest, I’m usually satisfied with dinner and don’t often want a nighttime snack.
Don’t get me wrong — I love sweets, and if I want something, I’ll have it. It’s just that following a balanced and filling diet that provides enough calories often leads to less snacking, especially at night.
I never feel deprived, because I honor my body by fueling it with delicious, nourishing, and nutritious foods.
Even though I consider my current diet to be balanced and nutritious, I didn’t always have the best relationship with food.
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I, like so many other women, wasn’t comfortable with my body and turned to restrictive dieting in order to look a certain way and fit into a certain size.
My relationship with food and my body has evolved over the years. Studying nutrition, becoming a dietitian, and learning what makes me feel my best have helped me gain a lot of respect for myself and led me to take care of my body and mind in a consistently healthy way.
Developing a healthy relationship with food takes time. It’s not an easy ride for many people, myself included.
If you’re struggling with food, body image, or health concerns, it’s important to get the right help so that you can start living your happiest, healthiest life.
This may mean working with a professional such as a registered dietitian or therapist.
You may wonder whether it’s healthy for everyone to follow a nutrient-dense diet that’s rich in whole foods.
Yes! (Still, not everyone needs to or should cut out gluten or restrict grains. That’s a choice I make to look after my own health based on my medical condition.)
In general, though, everyone can benefit from following a diet rich in whole foods like veggies, fish, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds.
A note on food access
If you don’t have unlimited access to fresh produce or other healthy foods, there are a few ways to introduce more whole foods into your diet.
For example, try eating more frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce is highly nutritious and can be incorporated into recipes like stir-fries, soups, and smoothies.
Bulk grains and canned or dried beans are other examples of affordable, nutritious foods that are available at most grocery stores.
If you want to start eating more whole, nutrient-dense foods, start small by aiming for at least two servings of veggies every day and cooking at home a few times per week.
Once these changes become routine, try adding other goals, such as swapping out ultra-processed snack foods for more nutritious options like fresh fruit and nut butter.
Making small changes over time is the way to go when it comes to lasting dietary modifications, so take it one step at a time.
Just one thing
Many people think that they need a lot of outdoor space to grow their own food, but that’s not always the case. You can grow an abundance of produce in a tiny yard, on a rooftop, or even on a balcony.
Greens, tomatoes, and herbs are just some of the plants that can be grown in small spaces. If you’re short on room, try growing in fabric containers like these.