My Response: What Nutritionists Order…

Several days ago, some friends on Twitter asked about my thoughts regarding this article in The Huffington Post: What Nutritionists Order When Eating Out. My knee jerk response: I hate it. Below is a more thoughtful, nuanced response. If you glance through the article, you might feel that the nutrition suggestions are reasonable. So why wouldn’t I like it? Let me explain.

1. The title. It suggests the copy-cat approach to eating. Just because a nutritionist is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right for you! My whole approach to nutrition is helping my clients learn and tune in to their own needs first. See Intuitive Eating for more details.

2. This type of article supports “rule-based eating” rather than “skill-based eating.” If someone told me that I couldn’t have French fries with my burger, I might be a little angry! But for someone else, veggies with their burger might feel like a nice balance. If you are checked in to your mood, appetite, hunger, and fullness level you won’t go wrong. It’s when we shut down to your internal regulators that you get off kilter.

3. There’s nothing wrong with balancing out your dining out dishes with fresh whole foods and veggies. But I fear this article misses the point on balance. Because balance goes for eating out too! Sometimes we feel like a salad. Sometimes we feel like Chinese food. Balance eating out with eating in. Balance fruits, veggies, grains, protein, and fats along with “fun foods.” It really is ok to have the occasional meal, snack, or drink that you enjoy just because it tastes good!

4. I think it’s odd that the RDs in this article are giving advice on portions ie “eat one slice of pizza.” We come in all shapes, sizes, hunger levels, nutrition needs. And if I ate one slice of pizza (unless it was a big one!) for dinner I’d be hungry an hour later. In fact, I don’t know many adults that would feel well-nourished after a slice of veggie pizza.

5. I really really dislike advice that says “stay away from…” Instead, I like to think about it more thoughtfully: If I eat this, how long will it keep me full for? How will it taste? How will it make me feel physically? Is this truly what I’m in the mood for?

In summary, black and white rules make us want to rebel! They are seen as bad and forbidden and become all the more alluring. Learning how to be a skill-based eater is so much more rewarding! You don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules. Simply ask yourself those simple questions listed in #5 and see where it gets you. I bet you’ll be surprised to find you are a pretty good nutritionist all by yourself.

What do you think?


  1. Agree! That article again reinforces the moralistic mantra around food and behaviour. “This is good and this is bad and we all want to be good and if you’re good you won’t be fat and unhealthy blah blah blah.” I really like the phrase rule based eating

    versus skills based eating. As a society we do seem to have lost the skill of eating and enjoying food. We now also spend so little time preparing and eating food, it’s squeezed in between other things. So sad

  2. The article/slideshow bugged me as well. I’m in school to become a Dietician, about halfway done with the ADA req’s. I’ve also lost weight by changing how and what I eat and have been keeping it off for over 6 years. I too have a problem with the cookie

    cutter approach, but also with the, we’re the experts, so you should eat like this. I can recall attending a session at a state level ADA conference and chafing at the idea that we should tweet what we eat bc we are the experts. Sigh… I’ve learned what works

    for me. However in my last year of of school what I have found is that most people who need help with their food choices are never going to be able to make the leap to what and how a “Nutritionist” eats. It’s too extreme…. This particular career attracts

    those who are already on the healthy eating bandwagon (often way high up in the air). I just want to live with food (and do) and agree that this article misses the balance. Dressing on the side is one thing, but ordering sauce on the side from the Chinese

    restaurant? Way to suck the fun out of that dining experience. And lastly I agree about asking different questions. It’s not as black and white as good food bad food (as you say stay away from) it’s about all those other questions. Do I really want this, what

    am I having later, will this keep me full, what else have I eaten today, who am I with, can I share this, what’s it made out of… It comes down to thinking about your choices not just blindly following the experts.

  3. I agree with your commentary on that article. As a person working in recovery from anorexia, that article is triggering. Food rules are what I am trying to get away from and that article could be guilt inducing for anyone. Thank you for your refreshing


  4. marci, I love your message in this post. It took me a long time to arrive at a place where I could intuitively eat and it has changed my life. Every day I see women, and men, suffer from disordered and overly restrictive eating. I see women who do not

    have “eating disorders” diet to the point of unhappiness and hunger, overexercise to the point of exhaustion, and banish their favorite foods. It is very sad, and unnecessary to stay healthy. Thank you for being a voice of health and happiness. Your message

    is inspiring. Girl Eat

  5. Great article. I especially like your use of intuitive eating and the use of balance in our diet. Thanks for writing this!

  6. I agree with your thoughts, Marci! Thanks for posting. One of the dietitians said that she doesn’t go out for brunch b/c restaurants use too many carbs, and another said that when she goes to an ice cream store all she eats is a few sample spoonfuls…

    Don’t want to pass judgment on them, but does that sound a bit eating disordered to anyone else? Or at the very least, not a very enjoyable relationship with food?

  7. Thank you for this response. I completely agree that learning how to eat is much more important than rule based eating or being told we cannot eat something. Being a nutritionist or a dietitian does not mean we eat perfectly every day, we just know how

    to balance things when they are seemingly unbalanced. Thank you again. Yasmine, AdvAPD

  8. Hey everyone, thanks so much for your thoughts! I’m glad to know it was helpful to you. And I really appreciate the discussion. I think these are the types of articles were are bombarded with, so knowing how to navigate it can be useful. I think Jess hit

    on something important…everyone has to decide for themselves what they want their relationship to food to look like. And everyone has to decide what fits their healthy selves (including mind, body, and soul). And remember, every eating experience is different.

    If you have had a bigger meal, a couple bites of sorbet may do the trick! And that’s one example of why the rules just don’t work…

  9. Marci, That article was so triggering. I sincerely hope those nutritionists are not working with clients suffering from EDs. I wish they had interviewed you for the article, because your philosophy just makes so much more sense. It’s a sad world we live

    in if experts are advising people to count out their tortilla chips at restaurants. This is not healthy, it is rigid and rule based and what I’m trying so hard to get away from. Thanks for your reality check. I wish that the Huffington Post would publish it.

  10. Hi Marci! Thanks for the thoughtful response to this very troubling trend in food articles. I am troubled by them because it is putting RDs on a food pedestal as perfect eaters and we, as health-desiring Americans, need to eat more like them…restrained,

    rigid, and without internal trust. Why can’t one of these articles have an intuitive eating RD (like you or me!) quoted as saying: “I would eat what I am craving and what would help my body feel energized while nourished; and I would stop eating when satisfied.”

    Thanks again for the great post!

  11. Great post! I read that article too, and I have to say it made me a bit squirmish. Completely agree that there is no “black and white” approach to eating. In the long term , it works best for everyone to find his/her own approach towards balanced eating.

    Thanks for posting!

  12. So well said Julie! I like what you said about putting RDs on a food pedestal. No such thing as a perfect eater…I wonder what it would take for Huffington Post to her our perspective?

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