What does a dietitian eat in a day?

15 March 2023

This blog is by Eleanor Sinclair rotational dietitian at Salford Care Organisation as part of Nutrition and Hydration Week. 

There are some common myths about dietitians. Myths such as our diets are perfect; we only support people to lose weight; we are the food police; and we never eat junk food. Well, let me tell you, these could not be more from the truth! I can’t speak on behalf of all dietitians, but of the dietitians I know, our diets are not always ‘perfect’ – whatever perfect may be. If anything, we love all types of food! And we believe all food has a place in our diet (yes, that includes cake).

As dietitians, we work to support people on becoming well-nourished whilst still enjoying the food they eat. A day in the life of a dietitian involves gathering food diaries from our patients, but today, you get an insight into what a dietitian (myself) eats in a day.

Spoiler alert: may contain a chocolate muffin!

Upon waking – 5:30am: Drink of water (and lemon)

Glass of water with lemon

Upon waking, I always drink a glass of water. Whether it’s room temp water, hot water, or even a glass of sparkling water (fancy, I know). Sometimes, I add a wedge of lemon to spice things up. Lemon not only adds a lovely citrussy flavour to water, but it’s also rich in the antioxidant Vitamin C!

As someone who is a chronic water drinker – usually drinking around 4 litres across the daytime – after a long night of rest with no water, I know the first thing my body needs is to rehydrate! Our body is made up of 70% water and around 55% for the elderly population, so it’s no wonder keeping hydrated is so important – it has so many benefits such as transporting nutrients around our bodies through our bloodstream, improving brain function, lubricating our joints, and much more. So therefore, I always begin my day as I mean to go on.

Breakfast – 7:30am: Porridge oats with cow’s milk and whatever I fancy adding into it!

Here’s one I made earlier.

Porridge oats with cow’s milk

Breakfast is always rolled oats in some form or another. Oats are my go-to, not just because they taste delicious, but because they are rich in fibre which support healthy bowels and lower cholesterol, and they also contain essential vitamins and minerals to support overall health. Not to mention, they keep my tummy well and truly filled up until lunchtime.

Today I have chosen porridge oats, as I find this is the perfect way to warm me up on these cold winter mornings. Porridge always reminds me of when I was a child and my mother used to make porridge by the gallon on the kitchen stove. I can’t say I cook it quite the same now; usually a 2-minute zap in the microwave does the trick.

Oats are always stocked up in my household because they are so versatile – they can be used to make porridge, overnight oats, granola, oat pancakes, breakfast muffins, energy balls. The list goes on! Not just that, to increase the flavour and nutritional value, you can pretty much mix anything in with them, and I mean anything – I sometimes add fruit, cinnamon, egg whites, courgette, carrots. (Not altogether, of course. That would be weird).

Mid-morning – 8am (ish) and 10am (ish): Brews and some fruit and yoghurt

Cherry Yogurt
My favourite type of bacteria to eat (yum).

Catching up with colleagues, seeing patients, and wandering to and from hospital wards – it certainly builds up an appetite! So, if I get peckish, a piece of fruit and a yoghurt usually curb some of those hunger pains.

milky coffee
Yes, I am a huge fan of ‘Friends’.

Besides this, I’ll have a couple of milky coffees. Always caffeinated so it keeps me nice and alert – exactly what I need when I am about to embark on a busy day of seeing patients. Sometimes I enjoy my coffee with a variety of different plant milks. However, this can be quite expensive, so I often stick to the humble cow’s milk. I try to have three portions of dairy each day which is what we should be aiming for, as this provides strength and nourishment to my bones through its rich source of calcium.

Lunch – 12 noon on the dot and not a minute later

You can’t beet a salad like that.

It gets a little toasty powerwalking to and from wards. So, the last thing I want is a hot lunch to greet me when I get back to my desk. Usually, I bring a salad to work with some form of meat or pulse, and some starchy carbohydrates such as pasta or potato. Today I opted for chicken salad drenched in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This lunch is a prime example of well-balanced. It’s packed with lean protein which helps to maintain muscle mass and strength and keeps me satisfied throughout the afternoon. The salad provides me with those all-important vitamins and minerals. The olive oil is rich in healthy fats which help me absorb certain nutrients and contributes to a healthy heart. Luckily, my office is well stocked with fresh olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I mean, would it be a dietetics office without some tasty condiments?

Mid-afternoon – 3.30pm: Pre-gym snacks or just snacks

We have some incredible bakers in the office, which means we often have delicious baked goods lurking around in baking tins or tupperware boxes. My colleagues are always offering out their goodies, and if anything, it would be rude not to. I usually live my life by general guidelines, such as the well-known Eatwell Guide. A diet in my eyes consists of a variety of food, which also includes cake. It is all about moderation!

If I am heading to the gym, I always ensure I fuel myself properly. If I want to hit my personal best's, I can’t do it on an empty stomach! Today I munched on a homemade energy ball made of oats, nut butter, dark chocolate, and a whole load of other good stuff. I chose these because nut butter is a great source of protein and fat which helps to build muscle and improve my exercise performance.

homemade energy ball made of oats
I'm not drooling, you are.

However, if I run out of energy balls, I may tuck into one of my homemade choccy oat muffins instead.

homemade chocolate oat muffins
Another one from my oat-repertoire.

Post-workout – 5:30pm: Protein packed smoothie

Protein packed smoothie

My go-to smoothie is vanilla protein powder, milk, mixed frozen berries, and ground cinnamon. It’s a quick and simple recipe – exactly what I need after a strenuous workout! The protein powder provides flavouring and (yes, you guessed it) protein, the milk contains carbs, water, and nutrients which help re-hydrate and replenish lost sugar that’s usually stored in the liver and muscles, and the berries and cinnamon bring antioxidants and flavour to the party.

Evening meal – 7pm: Caramelised onion and goats cheese salad

Caramelised onion and goats cheese salad

Before I embark on my weekly food shop, I always meal plan. This helps me to reduce food waste, although, I often find one sad bag of soggy lettuce stuffed at the back of fridge each week which I remind myself I won’t do next time. Anyway, by planning my weekly` meals, this ensures I hit those 30 plant points (this just means eating 30 different types of vegetables each week.

Why is this important you might ask?

Well, eating 30 different plants each week improves the diversity of all the little microbes living in your gut which help immune function and so much more!).

Today I had another salad. Not any old salad, a caramelised onion and goats cheese salad. I chose this not only because it is one of my favourite combos, but because it was so simple to make. If I am limited on time, I will always choose something like this that’s quick, delicious, and nourishing. Verdict: The salad did not disappoint.

Mid evening – 8.30pm: Mid-evening beverage – usually a hot one!

Decaf tea with a dash of milk. It’s builder’s tea all the way in my opinion – any more milk and it may as well be milk with a dash of tea!

I’ll usually wait an hour or so after I’ve finished my evening meal before I have a cuppa. I do this because tea can interfere with the absorption of important nutrients such as iron. So, to get the most nutritional benefit out of my meals, I will always wait…and I can’t say I am ever in the mood for a cup of tea straight after a spag bol!

Secondly, it’s strictly decaf food and drinks for me from 12 noon onwards to ensure good sleep hygiene (unless someone has brought in choccy brownies at work, of course – these are sacrifices I can make). Since starting my role as a dietitian, I started to place a lot of value on sleep. When I’m at work all day interacting with patients and making lots of clinical decisions, sleep plays a huge role in helping me perform at my best. As I am quite sensitive to caffeine, I try not to drink more than the recommended amounts (which is roughly three cups of instant or cafetiere coffee) and I avoid drinking it after lunchtime. I am that sensitive, all I need to do is get a whiff of one past midday and that’s me not sleeping till gone midnight! Good job I have plenty of decaf alternatives to keep my tea-and-coffee-addictions at bay

Bedtime reading – 9pm: Small mug of herbal tea.

At night-time, there is nothing more I love than to be snuggled up in bed winding down with a hot drink and a book. I’ll finish my last drink at least an hour before sleep to reduce the chances of a midnight trip to the bathroom! I aim to drink little and often through the day as this helps keep me hydrated in a more manageable way.

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