The non-negotiable food rules leading dietitians follow every day

If you want to know how to eat for ideal health, look no further than the plates of the pros. Dietitian Susie Burrell deep dives into the diets of her colleagues to reveal their top tips for a healthy diet – and as it turns out, vegetables are the common thread.

When it comes to healthy eating, it makes sense to get ideas from those who have made their passion for health also their career. So it will come as no surprise to hear that in general, dietitians, who have undertaken up to five years of tertiary study to become qualified in nutrition, are pretty focused on their own health and wellbeing.

Indeed, a quick scan of attendees at any dietitian event will reveal a room full of extremely healthy looking individuals, and a lunch smorgasbord in which there is never any salad left. So what is it that dietitians do differently to the rest of us that makes them such a healthy bunch?

We asked a few of the most well-known and respected experts in the field of dietetics to reveal the key things they know about health and nutrition to help us in our own quest for healthy eating and the health benefits it offers.

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Tess Keightley, Authentic Spoon Nutrition

Tess Keightley from Authentic Spoon Nutrition sees hundreds of clients each year out of her virtual clinic and has a strong interest in weight management and disordered eating. She says that one of the first things we can learn from dietitians is to get your dietary advice from the right people.

“I see so many clients who have been told that carbs make you gain weight, or that they need to eliminate gluten and dairy, which is not always the case, rather you need to get your dietary advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian. Good nutrition is not difficult but if you take a look at a dietitians plate versus other people, ours are always packed full of vegetables – and not just a few pieces of broccoli, I am talking two to three cups per meal,” she tells Body+Soul.

And if Tess could give us one golden nugget of advice to get us on the right path with our nutrition?

“Sometimes novelty is the key to help keep things interesting and ensuring your healthy foods taste even better than processed foods, for example frozen grapes are one of my favourite low calorie sweet treats, or I freeze dates with almond butter to create these caramel treats that have no added sugar. Yummy foods can still be really healthy.”

Leanne Ward, aka The Fitness Dietitian

Leanne Ward, aka The Fitness Dietitian, shares her nutrition advice with over 550,000 people worldwide. She says that when it comes to her own habits compared to the average Aussie, it is easy to see the difference.

“What 95 percent of Aussies don’t do is what I focus on – eating half a plate of veggies at every meal. Plus I really focus on dietary fibre, my fibre intake is consistently over 30g a day and my eating is balanced with 80-90 percent whole foods and 10-20 percent soul foods like potato chips and ice-cream – which goes to show that you do not need to be a purist with your diet,” she confesses.

Leanne’s best advice for people in their quest for long term health is that “it is a common myth that you ‘find’ motivation. Rather, the best thing you can do is to take action, because it is action that leads to motivation. Each Monday I encourage my clients to aim to be 10 percent better than last week, whether that is by adding extra veggies in, or adding in an extra walk. Long term success is about consistency, not perfection.”

Aidan Muir, Ideal Nutrition

Aidan Muir from Ideal Nutrition holds the male flag high in a profession in which females outnumber the men by ten to one, and has a special interest in optimising body composition. He says that his approach tends to be opposite to that of the clients he sees.

“Personally, the biggest difference I see between myself and my clients is that I periodise my nutrition. Inevitably my clients are trying to diet, eat less and cut calories. On the other hand, for me when I am trying to reduce my calories, I actually eat slightly more food, but I focus on lower calorie foods and eat larger quantities to fill me up,” he says.

Another simple trick of his is one we can all adopt: “When I am trying to drop my calories, I also drink 250-500ml of water before I eat and always serve my food on smaller plates so the volume looks larger. They’re simple tricks but ones that are proven to help reduce overall calorie intake”.

Rachel Scoular, Healthy Happy Habits

Dietitian Rachel Scoular from Healthy Happy Habits says that one of the things she notices about dietitians when they eat is that they are really focused on enjoying the foods they eat.

“Sometimes when I go out for meals with other dietitians, you can often spot a few of us practicing mindful eating techniques at the table – eating very slowly, chewing a lot and by nature dietitians make more informed choices about food. That’s not to say we don’t make indulgent food choices from time to time, but normally these food decisions are more calculated,” she shares.

And like her colleagues, she says veggies play a big role in her diet.

“I aim to eat vegetables at almost every main meal. As a result, I probably consume slightly less starchy carbohydrates than others. I don’t particularly enjoy the taste of pasta or white rice, so if there isn’t a high-fibre wholegrain alternative, I would just substitute with extra veg. So, I’d say I probably have about 7 serves of vegetables a day!” she says.

“And another a little trick I use is to always eat my dessert with a teaspoon to make it last longer – because who doesn’t love dessert, even if they are a dietitian?”

Susie Burrell is a dietitian and nutritionist. Continue the conversation on Twitter @SusieBDiet.