A lesson in food with Registered Dietitian Abbey Sharp
Food writer, blogger and Registered Dietitian, we caught up with the ever-so-chic Abbey Sharp to ask her the questions you know you want to know about what we really should be eating.
What are super foods?
I think they’re foods that some marketer or self professed “nutrition expert” decided instantly makes a dish healthy.
It’s a buzz word. It’s a health halo. It’s unfortunately not real.
No one food has the ability to promote good health, or bad health. And even these so-called super foods can appear in dishes that aren’t otherwise well balanced. Wild blueberry donuts are still deep fried sugar bombs. I think we need to stop labeling foods in general, but the term super food is one you won’t generally hear me use.
What 5 foods should every household have as nutritious staples?
I don’t think there are 5 universal foods for everyone, because we all have different likes, cultural practices and dietary needs. But some of my go to staples are : canned or dried beans and legumes, balsamic (or another flavourful) vinegar, plain Greek yogurt, oats, eggs.
So many women – especially moms – struggle with losing weight. Any advice on what to do and what not to do?
My first suggestion is to look at your motivation. Why do you want to lose weight? Most people would suggest that they want to live longer, be stronger, reduce the risk of disease and live a healthier life.
Well, you can do all of that without the scale ever budging.
Healthy eating and activity can promote health at any size. You may lose weight if you start to be more active, or if you start to eat a little more fresh produce, but the key to long term success is to change the goal to health, not weight loss.
Research also tells us that dieting doesn’t work. When we restrict our intake, we tend to feel so deprived that the moment we have access to some sort of “forbidden” food, we binge, we feel guilty, then we start the restriction cycle all over again – but even more stringently. The key is to just not get started down that path in the first place. Rather than focusing on restricting, I recommend a technique called mindful eating. It involves listening to your body and nourishing it as it needs. There’s no depriving, there’s no moral weight assigned to foods – or you for eating those foods. You just eat what you want, start when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
If the thought of letting go of the control scares you and you’re convinced you’ll just go crazy and gain a bunch of weight, keep in mind that as soon as you give yourself permission to eat without guilt or fear of future denial, the desire to go overboard on any food will disappear and you will just focus on eating to feel strong, nourished and satisfied. Research tells us, mindful eating and having a healthy relationship with food is the secret to long term success.
When a mom is shopping at the grocery store, what ingredients should she be concerned about when buying food for her family?
When reading nutrition labels and comparing like products, I would aim to choose those with higher amounts of protein and fibre, and lower amounts of salt and sugar. Also, don’t be lured in by claims on the front of packages – they are technically true, but there are a lot of tricks that marketers use to make their product seem healthier than it may be. The back of the package has the facts, so always reference that.
As for ingredients, I would stay away from hydrogenated oils altogether, and try to limit an excess of added sugars, which can be identified by the suffix “ose” (sucrose, fructose, maltose etc.). Ideally, look for products with relatively short ingredient lists. For example, I would rather buy plain yogurt where the only ingredients are milk, and maybe some probiotics and added nutrients and where I had the option to add my own fruit or sugar, than a flavoured yogurt that has sugar, colours and other stabilizers. There are exceptions, and there is no question that some added ingredients can make getting dinner on the table easier and more likely, but when time permits, go simple and build from there.
What is your favourite part about being a Registered Dietician?
Well, I’m definitely a different breed of RD. I work only in media, so I do a lot of TV and writing, which I love. My favourite part of my job is definitely communicating nutrition to the masses in my YouTube channel and on TV, trying to make it fun, and hopefully debunking the myths out there perpetuated by unqualified “nutrition experts”. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be as complicated as the media tries to make it. Listen to your body, move your body, nourish your body and do what feels good.
Abbey Sharp is a Registered Dietitian (RD), avid food writer and blogger, TV and radio personality, food brand spokesperson, recipe developer, YouTuber, and the founder of Abbey’s Kitchen Inc. Abbey believes that a pleasurable relationship with food is inherently essential for good health and shares this unique philosophy through her regular contributions to The Marilyn Denis Show (CTV), Best Health Magazine, and countless other media outlets and publications. Abbey has worked as a celebrity Brand Ambassador and Spokesperson for dozens of popular food, health and lifestyle brands such as Electrolux, Frigidaire, Almond Board of California, Jamieson Vitamins, Labatt, Sunkist Citrus, and Panasonic. She is also often touted as the go-to personality for hosting popular food activations including Toronto’s Food & Wine and Taste of Toronto. Today you can catch Abbey’s cheeky approach to food and nutrition on her popular food blog, and Tastemade YouTube channel, Abbey’s Kitchen.