Friends, meet Roisin Gowan. Registered senior dietician, lecturer, avid food aficianado and passionate about getting the right message about our relationship with food across to the masses- I couldn't think of a better person to help clarify the all-too-familiar information propelled to the forefront of our social media pages on 'cheats to beat the bloat' , the '9 hottest diet trends you need to know about' and the clean eating phenomenon. Here's where we hear the other side of that conversation.
And if our brunch date is anything to go by (it turned into an incredible 8 hour long conversation about everything and nothing), I hope you'll adore her as much as I do.
As she so eloquently said, ''Calories don't count when you drink with a dietitian''. ;)
What do you think is the biggest misconception about healthy living right now?
I think healthy living means balancing mental health, exercise and diet. Minding our mental health is so important right now (I love listening to the podcast "Happy Place" with Fearne Cotton) just as much as healthy eating and being active is.
I think as a profession, we recognise that. There's a shift in how dietitians educate people these days. We now adapt a holistic approach, favouring intuitive eating, mindfulness and satisfaction when sitting down to meal, instead of restricting what we eat.
So I guess for me, the biggest misconception is fad diets. I think they're completely misleading, and the ones that come to mind are those health companies that promote powders, shakes and supplements. In my opinion, they're costly, questionable in their motives and definitely not sustainable!
So, how do we learn more about what clean eating really is? Is there really such a thing and why do you think there is such a faux pas regarding having the ice cream?!
It is never a faux pas to have ice-cream! Lets get that message out there!
Clean eating is defined as the practice of eating only foods that are regarded as healthy, especially fresh foods that are not processed. It is often discussed as a way to "clean' the body and make you feel great.
[''Although clean eating began with good intentions—focusing on whole foods, cooking at home, reading food labels—it has evolved and morphed into a fixation with perfection. Part of the problem is that the definition of “clean eating” varies widely. If the goal is back to basics and whole foods, that’s worthwhile. But some clean eating followers take it further and avoid any packaged or processed foods, or ingredients they’re unable to pronounce.- Jennifer Powers, PhD, RD'']
Some prominent food bloggers and celebrities have promoted clean eating as a way of healthy eating on social media. In a BBC horizon documentary, "Clean eating-the dirty truth", Dr Giles Yeo discusses the rise and prominence of clean eating and the influence of popular food bloggers. Clean eating also relates to an emerging condition called orthorexia, a disorder where people will severely restrict food in a bid to be healthy.
I would advise that clean eating can be dangerous because it can be restrictive, and have longterm, serious negative effects on our health- example osteoporosis.
It's also zero fun!
What about the new plant-based phenomenon and vegan diets? What should people know before pursuing this sort of diet? Is there a resource guide for this?
Veganism has definitely become a huge global movement, hasn't it? I think that's because of our generation's interest in plant-based diets and sharing photos on Instagram.
I read that plant-based is the now the new organic, which makes me think that it's less of a trend and here to stay. Apparently in the UK, there has a been a 350% increase of people who identify themselves as Vegans.
Vegan diets are pretty healthy. Plant-based diets increase our consumption of fibre, vitamins and minerals, and this has huge health benefits. Fruit and vegetables also tend to be low in calories so helps to control our energy (calorie) intake. They're also attractive to eat because of their variety of colour and can be eaten in a different ways, raw, cooked, etc.
You can get most of your nutrients from a vegan diet, and even toddlers can follow a vegan diet (I have written an article on this, on my blog).
But there are some nutrients that you need to be mindful to supplement with veganism. The four key nutrients to consider: Iron, Vitamin B12, Calcium and Omega 3 fats.
The Vegan Society gives sensible advice on how to meet these requirements. The Irish Nutrition and Dietetic's Institute (INDI) also gives examples on how to get these foods in our daily diet.
Do you have any life tips for people who are always on the run or on-call to avoid the late night take-aways? (asking for a friend*) Any secret snacks that aren't proclaimed?
Is handing in your notice an option? No? Ok. How about this....
Bascially, working late or shift work disturbs our normal circadian rhythm and causes sleepiness during everyday life and work. Poor sleep patterns can cause hormone shifts, increasing ghrelin, the "hunger hormone" which stimulates our appetite, increasing food intake and promoting the storage of fat.
It can also increase our stress hormones and resistance of insulin, which can contribute towards weight gain. A nightmare if you're trying to prevent those unwanted pounds!
When the vending machine is your only option, you're setting yourself up for a loss- they're programmed to sell you unhealthy options. Quick options to keep your energy levels up (like crisps) on the way home for work will satisfy hunger for a few minutes but in the longterm these choices can lead to poor dietary choices and unintentional weight gain.
So the best tips for working in shift work, at night etc is to prepare healthy meals (can be heated up in a microwave) or have some snacks on hand (small bag of popcorn, veggie sticks with hummus, fruit pots or low sugar yoghurt). This will keep you a satisfied and maintain a healthy weight.
I obviously could sit here asking you a million more questions. How do we explain what you do as a dietician?
We're health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems for individuals and the wider public. You'll spot us in places such as hospitals, on the side-line of football pitches, TV, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and working with the government.
Fact: we love food based puns. And wine. We definitely love wine.
If you are looking for further information about dietitians, the following organisations are our professional bodies in Ireland the UK:
*While I purposefully asked Roisin to leave this conversation light, her blog is an unbelievable academic resource and gold nugget of knowledge for healthy eating. Click here if you're interested to know more!
A big squeeze and love to you Roisin, thank you for letting me share your words here!