About Dietitian on a Diet

Becki Parsons is a dietitian with a Master's degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. She wanted to pursue accurate and up-to-date nutrition recommendations, as well as a way to understand the struggles of patients, clients, and well, everyone who eats for health. Thus, dietitianonadiet.net.

Today is the first day I ever dieted, and (fortunately) I lived to blog about it. Following the meal plan wasn’t as bad as I expected. It was kind of nice to not have to think about what to make. We’ll see if I feel the same when I fly to Lake Tahoe to visit a friend this weekend – I suspect it won’t be quite so convenient. The weird thing is that the meal plan only lists ingredients, not recipes. I had to get creative and figure it out myself.

As far as the MyPlate meal plan goes, today was super carb-y and left me hankering for a little more protein. I had oatmeal w/brown sugar and raisins for breakfast, taco salad for lunch, and vegetarian spinach lasagna roll-ups (which the fiance RAVED about – I’ll post a recipe soon!) with a whole-wheat roll for dinner. Based on their recommendations I met my 5 1/2-ounce protein goal for the day, but I’m definitely over my 6 ounces of grains. One of my dietitian friends has always been critical of the high carbohydrate recommendations put out by the USDA. I will see if I can get him to do a guest spot about it in the next couple of weeks.

Sidenote: My meal plan calls for whole wheat dinner rolls throughout the week, so I made what a Pinterest post claimed were the softest whole wheat dinner rolls ever. And they are incredibly soft. The flavor isn’t quite as good as a regular white roll but with a spread on it I couldn’t even tell. Check out the recipes page if you want to try making them!


On Monday my three-week stent of following USDA MyPlate Guidelines begins. I’ve taken my starting weight and measurements, and my super-duper-firefightin’ fiance was kind enough to take my blood pressure. I’ve found a game plan, and I survived my first grocery shopping trip. It feels like I’m getting ready to run a marathon…does starting a new diet always feel like this?

The MyPlate website recommends that someone of my gender/age/activity level follow a 2,000 calorie per day diet to maintain weight, so that I shall do. That is slightly over the 1700-1900 calories per day I calculated using a couple of more in-depth standardized calculations. You can use these calculations to figure out your estimated needs here or here. In theory, I could gain up to three pounds following this 2,000 calorie plan for three weeks if I don’t change my activity level. Time will tell!

MyPlate sets out the following guidelines for those on a 2,000-calorie diet:

My Food RecommendationsThey have also been kind enough to provide a 1-week 2,000 calorie meal plan (check it out on the Meal Plans page). I’m not particularly trying to reinvent the wheel here, so I am going to use it. First thing I noticed as I made my shopping list was that this meal plan was not exactly designed for a single person. Seriously…one whole wheat English muffin, one serving of quinoa, and three ounces of chicken all week? Not exactly using up a whole package of anything here. So I quickly decided on the single girl’s saving grace. It’s not chocolate, it’s not wine, it’s – are you listening? – BULK-BIN FOODS. I bought exactly as much flour, yeast, rigatoni, cereal, beans, and pancake mix as I needed and not an ounce more.

Groceries smallAll that? $38. Not bad, eh?

 

 

 


Okay, so in order to evaluate the guidelines, I wanted to talk about where they came from. So far I have mentioned that the USDA is in charge of making the guidelines, but that’s about it. They are not, in fact, dropped from the sky in a little bundle by the nutrition stork.

  1. Every 5 years the USDA accepts public nominations for members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory committee (DGAC). They must be published, well-known researchers in the fields of nutrition or public health.
  2. The USDA and Department of Health and Human Services choose the members (who are, notably, unpaid for their participation). For the 2010 DGAC there were 13.
  3. Committees, subcommittees, etc. collaborate over the span of twenty months of reviewing research to answer specific scientific questions, all of which are available here, if you’re willing to dig through it.
  4. Conclusion statements, summaries, monstrous final report, and (TA-DA!) the Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines are used to advise all kinds of food-based programs including school lunches, inmate meals, WIC programs, and long-term care menus.

Critics of the guidelines like the Harvard School of Public Health and the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) feel that since the process is overseen by the USDA (who is responsible for promoting American agriculture), the recommendations are biased in favor of promoting foods produced by agricultural titans (think dairy, grain, and beef). Because of this bias, the PCRM actually sued the federal government for only vaguely addressing foods to decrease in your diet by using a blanket term like “solid fats and added sugars” as opposed to listing the foods that contain them (meat, dairy, and junk food). The lawsuit also prompted the switch from MyPyramid to MyPlate that I mentioned a couple of days ago. This is the second time that PCRM has successfully sued the government over sketchy matters regarding the Dietary Guidelines and agribusiness conflicts-of-interest.

Harvard School of Health was so disappointed by the guidelines that they made their own version of the pyramid and plate, specifically mentioning foods high in saturated fats and added sugar as foods to limit:

I am now (slowly) working my way through the barrage of research cited by the 2010 DGAC as the basis for their recommendations – I’ll keep you posted. If I don’t write in the next three days, send someone in to check on me. Bring snacks.

P.S. The second meeting for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee wrapped up yesterday. They accept public comments/questions/concerns/rants about the process here.


Before I move on to diets designed for weight loss or managing chronic disease, I’m going to start with the basics: USDA recommendations for healthy Americans. These recommendations were formerly represented by the MyPyramid graphic.

 

 

The pyramid changed design a few times over the course of its lifetime. As of 2011, however, the USDA exchanged the pyramid for a more user-friendly graphic, MyPlate:

This plate model is designed to help keep portion sizes under control and encourage consumption of all five of the token USDA food groups. Personally, I think that the MyPlate graphic is easier than MyPyramid to translate into actual daily habits because it is simple to visually check when you fill your plate. The plate is accompanied by the following taglines from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines:

  • Make half your grains whole
  • Vary your protein choices
  • Switch to skim or 1% milk
  • Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less

So there you have it – the USDA Dietary Guidelines 2010. In the upcoming month, I will be reviewing the arguments for and against these recommendations, and (surprise, surprise) there are plenty. I mean, they’re written by the government…so obviously not everybody agrees. Even Harvard University’s School of Public Health shared their disapproval in this article. There’s plenty of fodder for the blogging…stay tuned!


Thanks for visiting Dietitian on a Diet! The adventure is about to begin. Here’s why:

  1. My primary reason – my patients and clients. I get the same questions a lot: Have you ever been heavy? Have you ever tried to follow a diet? Do you know how hard this really is? The honest answer to all of these questions is “no”, and I don’t think that is fair. It isn’t fair for me to bring someone a little handout about their new diet, give them a few tips and tricks, and send them on their merry way when I have absolutely no clue what their struggles are going to be like from there on out. Now it’s going to be my turn to follow some recommendations.
  2. As a new dietitian, I have so much to learn about the current nutrition research and topics that people are asking me about all the time. Here’s my way of catching up, thinking critically, and feeling completely confident that I am providing up-to-date information to the people I am trying to help.

Here’s how it works: I will choose a certain diet (or you will, rather, by voting in the poll on the left) and spend a week researching it and choosing a two-week meal plan (which I will post for you). I will then follow said plan and blog about my experiences, including grocery costs, cravings, frustrations, go-to foods, recipes and more. After the two weeks I will follow the diet for one more week “on the fly.” My three weeks on a given diet won’t hold a candle to following it for years or a lifetime, but I’m banking on getting a little perspective, at least.

Hopefully you will find something on this website helpful to you. If you ever have a diet, topic, or question you would like me to address, feel free to send me a message through the “Contact” section. Have a beautiful day!