Dietitians are food and nutrition experts! So what would a dietitian eat for breakfast? What foods would she keep out of her kitchen? Edwards-Elmhurst Hospital asked Alanna Elliott, RD, LDN, an outpatient dietitian at Edward Hospital in Naperville, what she keeps in her fridge.
Q: What are your go-to condiments?
A: Depending on the meal, my go-to condiments include yogurt salad dressings (like Bolthouse), or coconut aminos. Coconut aminos is made from the nutrient-rich “sap” from the coconut tree, it has many amino acids, vitamins and minerals. I also make a lot of stir-fry meals, so using coconut aminos is how I get that soy sauce taste without all of the sodium!
I use several different types of yogurt salad dressings on anything from salads to wraps and even as a marinade. They are much lower in sodium than other salad dressings and still taste great. If I’m having a sandwich, I will choose either mustard (Dijon, spicy or regular) or Miracle Whip made with olive oil—it’s much healthier than mayonnaise but still very tasty!
Q: Is there meat in the fridge?
A: Yes! The main staples in my fridge are chicken breasts, ground chicken breast and extra lean ground turkey. I also try to make salmon when I can. These items are very lean and provide high quality protein without a lot of fat.
My family loves chicken enchiladas, chicken and veggie stir fry, and ground turkey/chicken “spaghetti” with zoodles (zucchini noodles). If we are having the occasional red meat, I will choose extra lean ground beef (sirloin 96/4), or a lean steak such as top round or sirloin tip.
Q: What do you have to drink?
A: I drink mainly water throughout the day. I try to fill my 32 oz. water bottle at least three times a day. I know that sounds like a lot, but I am very active during the day and work out six days a week, so it is very important to maintain hydration. I also drink green tea in the morning for a little boost of caffeine and antioxidants.
If I’m having cereal, I will use skim milk (I use Fairlife milk) to make sure I’m getting enough protein and unsweetened vanilla almond milk if I’m baking or making oatmeal.
Q: What takes up the most space in your fridge?
A: Eggs! We (mostly me) go through so many eggs per week, our entire top shelf is filled with egg cartons. I eat egg whites to get lean protein (1 egg white has 17 calories, 0 grams fat, and 4 grams protein), but I occasionally will make an omelet with 4-5 egg whites and 1 whole egg.
The yolk isn’t bad, it’s actually full of healthy nutrients like fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids, but it also adds an additional 55 calories each. I don’t like to use the pre-separated egg white cartons either, buying whole eggs and separating them myself is cheaper.
Q: What items are banned from your kitchen?
A: Soda, juice, and pretty much anything pre-packaged and processed. I only like to buy whole, real foods and cook everything from scratch (not as hard as it sounds!). I don’t buy pre-packaged granola bars or muffins, I make all of my own. It’s cheaper, healthier and tastier! Basically the only things we have in our kitchen that are not in our fridge/freezer are oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, cereal, almonds and popcorn.
I make my and my family’s health a priority and schedule time to cook healthy meals. It’s all about priorities. If I know I’m going to have a busy week, I will take time on the weekend to whip up a big batch of a healthy casserole or soup and eat throughout the week. If I have time, I’ll make two different things to change it up a bit.
Q: What’s stocked in your freezer?
A: Frozen vegetables (my favorites are green beans and broccoli), frozen meat not used before the use-by date, 100 percent fruit bars, berries for smoothies and for topping cereal/oatmeal, and frozen bananas. I can never use all of the bananas we buy before they go bad, so I peel them and keep them in a freezer bag to use in baking or oatmeal.
Q: What’s your favorite post-workout meal?
A: I usually work out first thing in the morning, so I would eat breakfast right afterwards (see below). If I work out in the afternoon, I usually have a snack of non-fat plain Greek yogurt with berries, a mini omelet with toast or a homemade granola bar/muffin afterwards.
Q: What do you whip up for breakfast?
A: My go-to breakfast is five egg whites and one cup of cooked oatmeal with two tablespoons of chocolate PB2 (powdered peanut butter) and 1 teaspoon of Stevia. This provides a good balance of carbohydrates and protein, especially after my morning workout.
Sometimes I will make an omelet with one whole egg and five egg whites, low-fat mozzarella cheese and veggies with two pieces of whole wheat toast dry or with Earth balance olive oil spread.
Q: What’s your biggest meal of the day (and what do you eat)?
A: Truthfully, all three of my meals are about the same size. I usually eat six times per day, three smaller meals with healthy snacks in between to sustain my energy and hunger levels throughout the day. Eating smaller amounts more frequently has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels for consistent energy, help you avoid overeating due to hunger, and have a positive effect on metabolism.
Q: What do you eat for energy? How often?
A: I usually eat a balanced snack with healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein. My favorite snacks are a homemade granola bar/muffin, a brown rice cake with one tablespoon of natural peanut butter, low-fat chocolate milk (try Fairlife, it has more protein and less sugar than regular), 10 almonds with two clementines, or half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread.
I make sure to eat every 2-3 hours, and I never go more than three hours without eating to ensure I have consistent energy throughout the day. It’s important to avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes that can occur with large meals less frequently.