I hate to age myself, but I went to school for my nutrition degree more than a few years ago. Things have changed since then, and while my practice has changed, we still see some of these gems being recommended to this day.

Here’s where we got it wrong all those years ago:

Avoid Butter, Use Margarine

I recommended margarine for years before I figured out that what I was recommending is a highly-processed fat that’s one step up from plastic. Butter has two ingredients – cream and salt, and the taste is light years better than oily margarine. People get all hyper when I recommend butter in small amounts instead of margarine, but believe me when I say that the tablespoon of butter that you are putting on your toast is not why your cholesterol is high.

You Need 8 Servings of Grains a Day

Lots of dietitians still recommend copious amounts of whole grains, but I believe that 8 servings a day is way too much. In fact, you can live a healthy life without grains altogether if you choose, but I think that a moderate amount in your diet is fine. Whole grains are a source of fiber and vitamins, but I do believe that the current recommendations for grains (which haven’t changed since I was in school) are excessive.

Lowfat or Fat Free Dairy is Best

Except for skim milk, fat free dairy is disgusting and usually full of gums and fillers. I usually recommend 2% everything and full-fat cheese. How many times have I been eating lunch with other dietitians and out comes their fat free sugar free yogurt. Ladies! Why!? Eat real food! Also, fat free cheese bounces and doesn’t melt, and that’s not normal or right. Enjoy your food, don’t just tolerate it.

Kids Should Avoid Nuts for 2 Years After Birth

Actually, kids should be exposed to nuts at between 4 and 6 months of age, and parents’ eye bug out when I tell them this. It was only when the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending that nuts be withheld until 2 years that allergies to them started exploding. A bit of nut butter on the tongue of your child in the 4-6 month window may help desensitize them to the allergens in the nuts.

Sugar is Empty Calories But Not Harmful

Sugar is ‘empty calories’, and too much of it is harmful as we are finding out. Whereas I was warned in nutrition school of the perils of fat, now fat is the angel and sugar is the devil. That’s why between classes, I would grab a bag of Rold Gold pretzels or a Rice Krispies treat, and I would always put fat free mayonnaise on my sandwich (ew – it tasted awful!) – anything to avoid fat. Little did I know, I was making the wrong choice. I was eating tons of refined carbs and chemicals, and I was always hungry.

Calories In vs Calories Out, That’s The Weight Loss Equation

Your body doesn’t work like that. In fact, I recommend not counting calories at all, preferring instead that clients choose quality ingredients over calories. With the calories in vs calories out idea, a 100 calorie pack of Thinsation Oreos would win out over a 250 calorie apple spread with almond butter, but which one would you say is better for you in terms of nutrients and satiety?

Your Protein Serving Should be The Size of a Deck of Cards

Protein plays a large role in muscle repair and maintenance, as well as in satiety. A piece of meat or fish that’s the size of a deck of cards, or 3.5 oz, has around 25-30 grams of protein, which we are finding is the optimal amount for one meal. If your protein is lean, however, I would much rather you have more of that than loading up on the starches. Limiting yourself to a deck-sized piece is not necessary. Neither is a 16oz porterhouse, but 6oz of lean protein at meals, coupled with half a plate of vegetables, is not a bad thing.

You Need Dairy to Get Your Calcium

Uh, no you don’t. It’s more challenging for sure to get adequate calcium from plant sources, but it can be done and done well. Oranges, leafy greens, tofu, and almonds are sources, as well as dairy alternatives like almond or soy milk.

And Five Things From Now That I Wish Would Go Away

Stop Eating Sugar

You shouldn’t stop eating sugar, because you won’t be able to avoid it completely for very long. You should, however, eat as few highly processed foods as you possibly can, especially those with lots of sugar and chemicals. Every time a nutrient emerges as a ‘villain’, there’s always a movement to strike that particular nutrient altogether from peoples’ diets. Don’t get crazy about sugar. Eat mostly whole unprocessed foods and you won’t have to worry.

Sweeteners Make You Fat and Whack Out Your Blood Sugar

I know about the latest study about artificial sweeteners affecting  gut microbiota and blood sugars, and it’s interesting. What I want to say is that people eat too much ‘sweet’ overall. Whether you use sugar, Splenda, Equal, agave, or whatever, you’re training your body to expect sweetness. How about dialing down the sweetness by using less of whatever you’re using?

Superfoods Will Make You Healthy

Eat a varied diet, because no one food is going to be the miracle worker in your diet. Can we stop using the word ‘superfood’ now?

 Fat is Okay Now

As I mentioned before, fat is no longer the evil nutrient we thought it was. This doesn’t mean that you can suddenly eat duck fat fries every day or free-pour olive oil onto your toast. Fat is still fat, and like every other nutrient, it should be consumed mindfully. Fat plays a huge role in satiety and it is a valuable and essential nutrient, but as people are doing with shunning sugar, don’t go all the way the other direction by eating as much fat as you want. There is a middle ground for both sugar and fat. Find it, okay?

My overarching sentiment is that there is really room in anyone’s diet for any food at all (okay, maybe not juice or pop…I still think those are evil, but that’s just me). Many people don’t understand moderation, but if you can find some middle ground between eliminating a food and overeating it, plus you have a mostly whole-foods diet, you should be fine. Try to rise above the static of the ‘don’t eat this, it’s going to kill you’ in the media, and stick with the basics. Enjoy your food, eat what you love, and be active. Most of all, have a healthy attitude towards food. Easier said than done sometimes, but freeing yourself from a ‘diet’ or ‘elimination’ mentality is the healthiest thing you can do.




  1. Nice article. One quick comment about food allergies. You said, ‘A bit of nut butter on the tongue of your child in the 4-6 month window may help desensitize them to the allergens in the nuts.’ This is not quite right. It may help prevent a child from becoming allergic but it isn’t going to ‘desensitize’ them to food allergies. In children who are allergic to nuts, it could also cause anaphylaxis so I would be ready for that possibility, especially if there is any family history of *any* type of allergy. This means people with eczema, seasonal allergies, stinging insect allergies, asthma, along with food allergies all have a much higher chance of having a food allergic child and so should be very careful when first trying highly allergenic foods such as milk, eggs, nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and seeds.

    1. Thanks!
      Allergic reactions are rarely anaphylactic at first but the nut butter can be tried at the doctor’s office if the parent feels more comfortable. The research I saw states that regardless of familial allergy, nut butters should be introduced. The chances of allergies being passed down in families is quite low, and still these allergens should be introduced early.
      Introducing allergenic food orally won’t desensitize them to all food allergies, but environmental, vs oral, exposure to allergens seems to sensitize the child to the allergens. This is one theory as to why so many kids are allergic to nuts – parents withheld the actual nuts from the children’s diet, but the children were exposed environmentally.

  2. Another one I can’t stand from school is that infant rice cereal should be the first food to introduce to a baby – boy did Nestle win on marketing this one! How about MEAT as a great source of iron. I hate infant rice cereal which has fairly recently been shown to have high levels of arsenic! When I suggest meat as a first food, even to doctors, they look at me like I’ve lost it. Real food first!!

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