analysis of what a nutritionist eats and hospital food
An article in Business Insider, “A Nutritionist Shares Pictures of Everything She Eats in a Day”, caught my eye recently. I thought it would be interesting to run the numbers to see how the food diary logged by this nutritionist compared to the four hundred or so meals that I’ve analysed.
Check out the original article if you want to see the daily food log chronicled in photos by the popular and published “Registered Dietician”, who claims to specialise in diabetes and is “passionate about being a good role model.”
The quantities and foods that I analysed in the recipe builder at SELFNutritionData are shown below. Besides the fact that the only green things she ate during the day were M&M’s, the food log is not particularly divergent from mainstream dietary advice (i.e. no full-strength Coke or McDonald’s). The nutritional analysis would be much worse if it was a diet full of junk food, which is pretty common for a lot of people these days in this fast-paced convenience-loving world.
This dietician is a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has published books and written for several magazines. Like most nutritionists, she argues for less fat and more whole grains.
So, let’s see how her daily diet stacks up. The analysis below shows that, when we compare this daily diet against mainstream dietary advice that nutritionists prescribe, it ticks the following boxes:
- avoids trans fats,
- is low in fat, and
- is low in cholesterol.
However, even though the diet is fairly low in fat, it has 29g of saturated fat which is greater than the Heart Association’s recommendation for a maximum of 16g of saturated fat per day. Unfortunately, the recommended limit of saturated fat is actually quite hard to achieve without relying on low fat highly processed foods.
Ironically, due to the focus on avoiding fat and trying to incorporate more “heart healthy whole grains”, the food recommended by nutritionists ironically tends to be lacking in nutrients. It makes no sense!
The registered nutritionist’s daily food log also contains more than 400 grams of carbohydrates which will be a massive challenge to someone who is insulin resistant, would likely generate insulin resistance and eventually diabetes in someone who isn’t there yet.
For comparison, check out the analysis shown below of one of my regular meals (stir-fry veggies with some butter and sardines) which has a much higher vitamin and mineral score (94 compared to 55) and better protein score (139 compared to 66).
When it comes to nutrient density and being diabetic friendly, this nutritionist’s daily food log ends up at the bottom of the pile of the four hundred meals that I’ve analysed!
It’s sad that this myopic one-size-fits-all dietary advice is forced on anyone who asks what they should be eating, or anyone whose food is influenced by government nutritional guidelines (e.g. hospitals, schools, jails, nursing homes etc).
Then we are told that dieticians are the only ones that are qualified to give dietary advice, even though the dietary advice that they give revolves around avoidance of saturated fat and more “heart healthy whole grains” and does not actually lead to high levels of micronutrition.
Where it gets even sadder is that this sort of short sighted advice is also given to the people who are the most vulnerable. The photo below is of Lucy Smith in hospital after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. The diet given to her, as a newly diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic, is Weet-Bix, low fat milk, bananas, low fat toast, orange juice, and peaches.
The analysis for Lucy’s hospital-provided breakfast is shown below.
This single meal contains more than 200 grams of carbohydrates (82% of calories). This breakfast would require a ton of insulin to be injected into her little body, and she would be on a blood glucose / insulin rollercoaster for days to come.
When it comes to nutrient density, this meal has an even lower score than the day in the life of the nutritionist’s own diet discussed above! Ironically, this hospital prescribed meal ranks at the very bottom of the list of four hundred meals when ranked to identify the best recipes for people with diabetes!
Unfortunately, things don’t seem to have changed much from thirty years ago when my wife Monica was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. In hospital, after diagnosis, she was given so many carbs that she hid the food in pot plants in her hospital ward room because she just couldn’t eat anymore! Twenty-five years later, she learned about the low carb dietary approach and she was finally able to reduce the high levels of insulin required to cover her food.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the massive improvements in quality of life (body composition, inflammation, energy levels, dental health etc) when someone comes off the blood glucose/insulin roller coaster!
Monica has been able to halve her daily insulin dose since no longer ascribing to the dietary advice she has been given by the dieticians and diabetes educators. Her blood glucose levels are now better than ever and when she goes to the dentist, podiatrist and optometrist they tell her she’s doing great and they wouldn’t even know she’s diabetic. And I get to have my wife around for an extra decade or two!
By the way, Lucy is doing well now too. Her parents are some of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to optimal foods for diabetics and monitoring blood glucose (as shown in this video from her father Paul).
My friend, Troy Stapleton, is another example of someone living with Type 1 Diabetes who has benefited immensely from a low carbohydrate dietary approach that aligns with his metabolic health. His story and approach have been an inspiration to me. You can also check out the Standing on the Shoulders of Giants article for a few more encouraging stories of people with Type 1 who got their life back after going against nutritionists orders.
As detailed in the article How to optimise your diet for your insulin resistance, if you have the luxury of being more metabolically healthy (i.e. not diabetic) you can focus on more nutrient dense foods or lower energy density if you’re looking to lose some weight.
It amazes me that dieticians can be so militant and belligerent when they are largely passing on the recommendations of the US Department of AGRICULTURE (i.e. the USDA, also known as “Big Ag”), whose mission it is to promote the economic opportunity and production of AGRICULTURE (i.e. grains and seed oils). Talk about putting the fox in charge of the hen house!
Speaking of conflicts of interest, it’s worth noting that major nutritionist organisations funding ‘partners’ are big food manufacturers. Does this influence the recommendations they give? They claim not.
It’s hard to believe their published research or dietary recommendations could be impartial when so heavily sponsored by the food industry.
Despite these conflicts of interest and a poor track record of success over the past four decades, I don’t think we should be gagging the Accredited Dietitians from publishing poor nutritional advice. Everyone should be entitled to their freedom of speech and freedom to choose what they eat.
What I do find ironic is that dieticians can bring spurious cases of malpractice against doctors to their governing bodies when they are acting in line with the latest research and their personal, professional and clinical observations (e.g. Tim Noakes in South Africa and Gary Fettke in Australia). At the same time, the Registered Dieticians have no governing body to report to, only their board of directors and their ‘partners’.
While they purport to be protecting the public interest, one could be excused for thinking that the dieticians’ associations are another marketing arm for big food companies and are protecting commercial interest rather than acting on behalf of public health.
Is it just a coincidence that Nestle’s Milo, which is half sugar, is prescribed by hospital dieticians for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers with diabetes?
Unfortunately, the situation isn’t that much different with the diabetes associations. Why would these institutions ever make recommendations to their members that reduced the amount of medications they needed or reduce the amount of processed food when their financial partners are pharmaceutical companies who manufacture insulin and drugs for diabetes?
What would happen to this financial structure if a significant amount of people started eating whole unprocessed food without a bar code? The share price of these massive medical and pharmaceutical companies would tank!
After battling cancer himself and studying the role of nutrition in metabolic and mitochondrial disease in depth, Gary Fettke now spends his days as an orthopaedic surgeon amputating limbs mainly due to the complications of diabetes.
No, it’s not pretty, but unfortunately it’s very very real.
Each year Gary volunteers as an orthopaedic surgeon in Vanuatu.  The contrast between the native people living in their natural environment, eating their native foods, and their relatives in town, eating processed foods, is stark.
I took this photo in a traditional village during our holiday in Vanuatu a couple of years ago. These people eat lots of coconuts (which contains plenty of saturated fat, one of the remaining nutrients that Registered Dieticians still say we should avoid) and fish. These Vanuatu natives are some of the most beautiful, healthiest and happiest people I have ever seen!
Unfortunately, in the capital Port Vila, it’s not so pretty. The diabetes rates are the third highest in the world. One in fifty Vanuatu natives have had an amputation!
It is such a big problem. Their diet has changed quite rapidly over the years, so instead of eating their island’s food, they now eat very large quantities of white rice and of course all the liquid sugar, like Coca-Cola and Fanta, and it’s literally killing them.
After seeing the impact of diet, Gary has been outspoken in Australia, bringing attention to the quality of food that people are eating, especially in hospitals.
Then, in return for his efforts, Gary has been reported by the certified dieticians to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency; and he has been told he can no longer tell his patients to limit sugar even if they have just had their leg amputated due to the complications of diabetes.
Similarly, Tim Noakes has developed a massive following after realising that he needed to go against his own previous publications and advice when he found he was developing diabetes. The recipe book that he helped write, The Real Meal Revolution, is filled with nutrient dense low carb meals that help people with diabetes achieve normal blood glucose levels, has been massively popular.
Despite his impressive track record of real results, which goes against the general trend of the explosion of diabetes and obesity in western society, Professor Noakes has been reported to the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and charged with unprofessional conduct, after suggesting that a mother wean her baby on to whole foods rather than processed “baby food”.
This has led to a long and expensive court case which really appears to be more about maintaining the status quo on the supermarket shelves rather than public health.
I think most nutritionists believe that they are doing the right thing by advising their clients to prioritise the avoidance of fat, cholesterol and saturated fat, and eat “heart healthy whole grains”. However, the foundation of this advice seems to be crumbling from underneath them with the most recent updates to the US Dietary Guidelines that now remove the upper limit on fat and removing cholesterol a nutrient of concern. 
However, if we have to rely on Big Food to provide processed food products to achieve the reduced saturated fat aspirations of the dietary guidelines (and in so doing produce very otherwise nutrient poor foods), then perhaps we need to declare them broken and look for new ones?
Makes you wonder how we survived (let alone thrived) with the food that was available to us before the highly-processed foods and the low fat dietary guidelines that came to dominate our food choices in the 1970s.
Unfortunately though, fear of saturated fat still dominates the majority of mainstream dietary recommendations out there and leads to nonsensical food rankings that only suit the grain based food industry. 
For example, the simplistic Australian Health Star Rating is based on the energy, saturated fat, sodium, sugar content along with the amount of fruits and vegetables in a product. This avoidance-based process gives little consideration for the amount of essential nutrients in a product, regardless of where they came from, and hence often returns nonsensical results.
It’s hard to tell whether the attacks on people like Fettke and Noakes are motivated by:
- Well-meaning nutritionists who earnestly believe that higher levels of fat and a lack of “heart healthy whole grains” is going to harm people,
- Nutritional institutions sensing that they are becoming irrelevant and making a last-ditch attack at their adversaries in an effort to hold onto their jobs,
- Processed food manufacturers (i.e. big food) using their “partner organisations” to attack these outspoken thought leaders so they can maintain their strangle hold on nutritional advice that suits them and sells more of their product (i.e. it’s not a conspiracy, it’s just business), or
- Some combination of each of these options.
To cut through the confusion and conflicts of interest, wouldn’t it be great if there was an unbiased quantitative way to judge whether a particular food or meal was optimal based its nutrient density? Perhaps we could even tailor food choices based on blood glucose and metabolic health (i.e. using insulin load), or by manipulating energy density of someone who is insulin sensitive but just needs to lose weight.
If you’ve been following this blog, you may have seen the optimal food lists tailored to specific goals. To this end, I have devised a system to identify foods for different goals and situations. The table below will help you choose your ideal dietary approach and optimal foods based on your blood glucose levels and waist to height ratio.
|approach||average glucose||waist : height|
|therapeutic ketosis||> 140||> 7.8|
|diabetes and nutritional ketosis||108 to 140||6.0 to 7.8|
|weight loss (insulin resistant)||100 to 108||5.4 to 6.0||> 0.5|
|weight loss (insulin sensitive)||< 97||< 5.4||> 0.5|
|nutrient dense maintenance||< 97||< 5.4||< 0.5|
The first step in improving your nutrition is to minimise processed food that is laced with sugar. These food lists can help you further optimise your food choices to suit your goals whether they be blood glucose management, weight loss or just maintaining optimal health.
Once you normalise your blood glucose levels, you can then start to focus more on nutrient density. If you still have weight to lose, then you can focus on foods with a lower energy density to force more energy to come from your body while still maximising nutrition. You can also find the highest ranking of the four hundred meals that I have analysed listed here.
Several people recently have suggested that I turn the nutrient density ranking system into a mobile app for easy implementation of the ideas and theories outlined on the blog in the real world.
So, my current project is to develop a Nutrient Optimiser that would rank the foods you have eaten based on your current goals (e.g. therapeutic ketosis, diabetes management, weight loss or maximising nutrient density) and recommend new foods to try. The Nutrient Optimiser would progressively retrain your eating patterns towards ideal by helping you to maximise the more optimal foods, and progressively eliminate the foods that don’t align with your goals. Whether you are trying to eat less Maccas, or you are practising Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition (CRON) and trying to live to 120, the Nutrient Optimiser would push you forward to truly optimise your nutrition.
The idea is not to simply create another calorie counting app. There are plenty of those out there already. Rather, the Nutrient Optimiser will help you to maximise nutrient density as much as you can while catering to your other goals.
Rather than being centred on outdated “science” and avoiding boogeymen such as cholesterol, fat and saturated fat, or serving the interest of “financial partners” (e.g. BigFood and BigPharma), the Nutrient Optimiser uses a quantitative algorithm that will help you maximise the nutritional value of the food you eat.
The Nutrient Optimiser, based on the foods logged in the past few weeks, helps you to identify foods that would provide the nutrients that you haven’t been getting as much of. Rather than just tracking calories, the app will continually adapt to what you eat, ensure that you are getting a broad range of foods that contain the nutrients you need, and ensure you don’t get stuck in a nutritional rut.
For people just starting out, it will help them gently move forward, without the judgement of someone looking over their shoulder. It will suggest foods they should buy more of, new foods to try, and maybe which foods they should bin and never buy again.
For people who are truly wanting optimal nutrition, it will hopefully be the ultimate tool to continue to refine their food choices to maximise nutrient density while optimising blood glucose, insulin and body fat levels.
As you continue to log your weight, blood glucose levels and whatever other metrics you want to track, the app will progressively prompt you to “level up” to a more optimal nutritional approach. Then, with your nutritional deficiencies filled, the cravings will dissipate and you will naturally be satisfied with less food. 
If something like this is of interest to you and you want to be an early adopter or just check it out the nutritional analysis of other people food logs that have been done so far then then take a look at the Nutrient Optimiser Facebook page and to stay posted as things develop.
post last updated July 2017