How a Dietician Makes Sense of Diet Trends

Posted by Cooper FitzGerald on

Keto, paleo, Whole 30, intermittent fasting, and the alkaline diet. According to one of these diet trends, strawberries are a-okay but with another, they might as well be poison.

It's hard to keep up with what diet you're supposed to aspire to this month. Committing to a diet without running afoul of another diet dogma can seem impossible with the ever-changing and often contradictory claims of diet advocates.

To help us make sense of all this, I spoke with Maria Sylvester Terry. Maria, is a former english teacher, registered dietician, yoga instructor, crossfitter, synthesizer of dietary trend noise, and all around bad ass. 

How A Dietician Makes Sense Of Diet Trends

Cooper FitzGerald (CF): 

How can people approach nutrition that are new to it or not new to it but just want to find out what works best for them? 
Maria Terry (MT):

I think (this question) requires a level of self-awareness that people don’t have right now or don’t realize that they need. Typically, people know that they need to do something different. They feel tired all the time, or hungry all the time or just not happy, you name it. More people need to go below the surface of “I need to make a change” and ask themselves

  • “Why do I need to make a change?”
  • “Why is it that I’m so tired after lunch?"
  • "Why is it that I eat this food and feel so bloated?"

To start, I always suggest that people create a sort of ‘food diary’. On the left side of the diary, you write down what foods you’re eating at what time and on the right side you write how you feel after eating them.


Mindful Eating Journal - Etsy

Do this for a couple of weeks and you’ll begin to pick up on trends. Doing the initial research for yourself is hard though so people tend to gravitate toward absolute solutions like paleo or keto or vegan instead of really getting to
know themselves better.


We’d all love to have easy answers to complicated questions. That said, it seems like scientists should be able to help us cut through all of the noise. Why do you think it’s so difficult for scientists to come to a consensus around nutrition? 

In scientific terms, it’s very difficult to do clinical research trials about diet with humans because humans aren’t very good subjects. Basically, to get good data you’d have to quarantine your subjects for a long period of time. In other words, you’d need a human subject group that all experienced the same external environmental pressures and that ate the exact same food for a long period of time. This is an incredibly difficult scenario to create so you don’t always get clear research.

Most of the research that exists now is from observing what large
populations eat and trying to deduce possible correlations between food and health from those populations.

But ultimately, what works for me might not work for my sister who is genetically very similar to me. In the end, it totally depends on the person. This is why I strongly advocate people begin their ‘nutrition journey’ by becoming more aware of their own body and what foods make them feel certain ways.

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