It’s no secret that nutrition is important. However, at this time in our life, it can sometimes take a backseat to everything else we have going on. From college classes and activities to new jobs and happy hour, our figurative plates are full. This leaves us less time to think about what we put on our literal plates. What’s worse is that sometimes the opposite will happen. We can be so fixated on what we eat that we stop enjoying life. It’s best practice to find the middle ground between these scenarios.
I sat down, via zoom, with nutrition coach and nutrition educator Kate Lyman to talk about all things nutrition. We discussed best practices, what to avoid, and what we should be doing in our twenties to start, or continue, good nutrition habits. Here is our interview.
What You Need To Know About Nutrition In Your 20s
What made you decide to go into a career in nutrition?
I was a CrossFit trainer, starting at age 17, and just had this love for fitness. I went to school and studied exercise science and then went on to get a Master’s Degree in public health, focusing on nutrition education. I’ve always had this love for fitness and nutrition, especially any type of preventive care. I never thought I’d be a nutrition coach exactly. I kind of just started coaching individuals, or sharing the information I knew about nutrition through workshops, seminars, and things like that. I found that I loved it.
I always felt like I wanted to make an impact on people’s health. For a long time I thought that meant being a doctor, or a physician’s assistant. When we address our nutrition and find a sustainable way to live, our overall wellness is so much greater.
What are some of the basic things to know about nutrition?
It should be a lot simpler than we think. There is this absolute overwhelm of information thrown at us about how we can address nutrition. Whether it’s a specific diet, or you need to eat this many times a day, or you can’t eat past 8pm or 7pm. There are all of these rules and regulations and lists of dos and don’ts. When we are able to look past all of that and just be more aware of what we eat, and understand that the right diet for us is the one that is sustainable and the one we can practice long term, we really set ourselves up for better habits and better health in general.
For myself personally, going through college, and even a little bit of high school, I tried every diet under the sun. I’ve done Keto, Paleo, I was a Vegetarian, a Vegan, all of these things. When we are bound to a diet with rules and lists of dos and don’ts, it’s hard to stick to and we honestly want to break those rules. If we can think less about rules, and think more about just fueling ourselves well, we are kind of set up for long term success.
Is there anything, in regards to nutrition in our 20s, that we should be doing right now to better sustain ourselves in the future?
Yeah, I would say take away the labels of good foods and bad foods. Those really send us in this tailspin of believing that we’ve messed up when we eat a “bad food” or that we can only eat clean. If we can remove labels and just focus on fueling ourselves with the majority of healthy whole foods, but then absolutely allowing ourselves to do things like:
- have drinks when going out with friends in moderation
- eat meals out, but making the best choices possible with those meals
- Go on vacation with your friends because you are in your twenties and you have a social life, and enjoying it rather than saying “I’m sorry, I can’t go”
I think that’s the most important thing. I think we kind of screw ourselves over when we have this black or white, all or nothing approach to our nutrition.
What tips would you give to a college student or busy working professional to make cooking a nutritious meal easier?
Don’t sleep on really easy foods. You need easy proteins. Think about things you can get, like a rotisserie chicken, frozen chicken meals, greek yogurt single serves, jerky. Packaged food doesn’t mean bad. Sometimes they’re a little more processed, and we know that there are things that we want to stay away from all the time, but there are easy foods out there. For vegetables and fruits, canned veggies are fine, frozen veggies are fine. There are some great options out there for what you can eat.
Make it easier on yourself and don’t think that you have to fresh, home-cook meal prep a whole week of meals in order to be “successful.” Go for the easy things. Eat food that tastes good, a majority being whole foods. Don’t sweat over eating a frozen vegetable because it’s the same nutrient value as a fresh vegetable.
I think especially for busy professionals, quick easy meals and knowing that going out to eat is not the end of the world, those two things I would say are the most important.
How do you feel about “diet culture” and all the different fads? Are there ways to stay away from that or are there some that are more beneficial than others?
Diet culture is very overwhelming. We can look at the past and see how trends change constantly. Fat used to be bad, and then carbs were bad, and now it’s all high protein, but then it was plant based. Diet culture just follows trends. At the same time I think it is okay to have weight loss goals, or aesthetic goals, body composition goals, etc., but when they come from a place of better understanding of our nutrition.
Regardless of any diet, it all boils down to something called energy balance. Which is this very simplified idea of calories in versus calories out. Obviously our bodies are complex and it’s more nuance than that, but we have to eat fewer calories than we’re burning on average in order to lose weight.
When we understand that we are able to understand that this doesn’t mean that I can never have carbs, or I can never eat sugar or I can never eat fat. It just means I can be more aware of my portion sizes. I can be more aware of my alcohol intake, because a lot of calories come from alcohol. I can be more aware of the specific foods I’m eating and eat more whole grains and fruits and veggies that fill me up more with fewer calories than McDonald’s or processed foods.That awareness allows us to eat in a way that contributes to better body composition without these diet rules.
Are there any resources you recommend to your clients?
One resource that can be really helpful, and I kind of recommend that everyone takes a spin at doing this, is getting an app like MyFitness pal, or a food journal. Take a week or two to journal out, or track, what you eat. It brings more awareness to our eating habits.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We shouldn’t spend our whole twenties wishing we were in a different body, or that we stuck to a diet harder, or anything like that. I think the biggest thing we can do is really try to rid ourselves of this all or nothing mentality when it comes to our health in general.
The biggest takeaway I got from this interview was that there is power in balance. You don’t have to make perfectly nutritious meals for every meal every day. That’s just not realistic. Knowing this takes the pressure off and allows us to enjoy our meals. What was your biggest takeaway? Let me know in the comments below.Don’t forget to follow Kate on Instagram @klnutrition, and check out her website for more tips and free resources on how to get started with your nutrition.