Have Your Health and Eat Your Cake, Too: Nutritionist Jodi Greebel Teaches You How to Splurge Responsibly

For me, eating ‘healthy’ used to mean one stick of butter instead of two.  But for the sake of my arteries (and wardrobe!), I decided to ditch fatty foods in favor of an all-natural diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and any other low calorie, high protein substance that typically had a distinct flavor, resembling cardboard.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I returned to the comforts of creamy comestibles, luxuriously languishing in lardaceous liquids, where I’ve been happily indulging ever since.  That is, until Behind the Burner nutrition expert and author of The Little Black Apron, Jodi Greebel, came along to open my eyes to a lifestyle of healthy — yet satisfying — morsels that don’t require me to go cold turkey on tempting treats.

So, when I had Jodi captive, I picked her brain about nutrition, dining out, being a vegetarian, and how to eat healthy and delicious. 

When it comes to nutrition, most people are in the dark. How would you define nutrition for the masses?

Nutrition literally means nourishment, but in a country where food is so abundant, it is better defined in terms of healthy eating. The confusion arises because of all the conflicting information out there. Most people assume that in order to eat healthily, you must do so all the time. Obtaining good nutrition is about balancing healthy foods with foods that are less healthy so that you are able to enjoy what you eat, but get all the nutrients your body needs.

Does nutrition always mean healthy food?  What should people look for when it comes to maintaining good nutrition?

Nutrition implies that the food is healthy, but having a balanced diet does not mean that you cannot enjoy “unhealthy” foods. To maintain good nutrition, your diet should consist of nutritious foods most of the time. Most people’s diets significantly lack adequate fruits and vegetables.

Why did you decide to become a nutritionist?  What do you like most about the field?  What does a nutritionist offer that people can’t do on their own?

After I graduated from Duke University, planning to attend medical school, I decided to enter the business world as an investment banker at UBS in New York City. A typical day while I was banking meant working 15 hours a day, eating takeout for every meal and walking no further than the water fountain. After a month, I felt horrible. After six months, I had gained 20 pounds. I abandoned the banking world knowing the additional time would allow me to lead a healthier lifestyle, a pursuit that shortly thereafter led me to pursue my true passion, nutrition.

I enjoy everything about the field of nutrition, but mostly that it is constantly evolving.  There is always something new to learn about nutrition, and I love working with people. 

A good nutritionist offers more than information. Anyone can read about following a healthy diet.  A nutritionist helps individuals incorporate changes into their diet/lifestyle.

Tell us a little bit more about your company, Citrition, and the types of services you offer.  What kinds of things do people tend to come to you for most?  Is the new year typically a busy time with the many who choose to get into better shape/health as part of their resolutions?

Citrition is a private nutrition counseling practice offering individual counseling on a wide range of health topics. We offer nutrition counseling for weight loss, pre- and post-natal nutrition, healthy eating for kids, managing food allergies, feeding your infant/ toddler and more. 

We also offer fun, informative talks on a wide range of nutrition topics. These are often given at corporations, hospitals and universities.  For young children, we offer hands-on healthy eating talks and classes.  Clients come to me most often for weight loss whether for 5 pounds or more.
The New Year is always a busy time since healthy eating/weight loss are always at the top of most people’s New Year’s resolutions. I work with my clients to continue these goals past the third week in January when most people have already abandoned those resolutions.  
What’s your nutrition philosophy?

Lose excess weight; keep the foods you love! Healthy eating is about enjoying what you eat. Food is one of the most pleasurable aspects of life and it should remain that way, no matter what your health goal.

What are the latest trends you’ve been noticing in nutrition?

People are beginning to return to more sensible eating focused on watching calories rather than eliminating entire food groups or following fad diets.  Choosing locally grown foods will also continue to be a trend this year.  Many more people are also cooking now, not just for the health benefits but to save money.
Colon cleanses have also, unfortunately, become extremely popular. Not only are they ineffective, but they can be harmful. 

Are your nutrition plans organic?  Do you see more people embracing a green lifestyle as part of their nutritional goals?

I work with my clients based on their goals and desires. While I think there are benefits to eating organic foods, it is not something I require. For many people, buying organic is just too expensive. I work with my clients on options such as choosing locally grown foods which can often be a less expensive way to get healthy foods.  Many more people are concerned with the effect of their diet on their environment and vice versa. I think this is a wonderful thing to occur and hope it’s not a trend!

What types of foods have optimal nutritional value?  What single food item offers the greatest benefits?

There are many foods that provide a lot of nutritional bang such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and seafood. There is no single food that offers the greatest benefit. One of the most important things for a healthy diet is variety, so eating the same food every day isn’t healthy.

What foods have the worst nutritional value?  What’s the single worst item that a person can consume?

Foods that are high in saturated fat and trans fat usually offer less nutritional value than some of the foods mentioned above. I do not believe in lists of good and bad foods, but rather “frequent foods” and “less frequent foods.”  While I do not think any food must always be avoided, hot dogs are probably one of my least favorite foods — particularly for children.

You wrote a book called The Little Black Apron, which offers tips for a single girl to cooking healthy, stylish food. What was your inspiration for the book?  Can you share some of your secrets for delicious nutrition with your readers?

My co-authors and I were continuously amazed by how many smart, very educated women we knew who didn’t know the first thing about healthy eating or finding their way around the kitchen. While they were comfortable pitching deals, arguing legal cases and performing surgery, they were completely intimidated and overwhelmed by everything about cooking.

One of the most important things for preparing healthy meals is becoming comfortable in the kitchen. You do not have to be born as Martha Stewart to be a good chef – you simply need some patience (maybe a glass of wine as well) and some simple recipes with straightforward directions like you will find in The Little Black Apron. Rather than wondering what it means to dice, mince or sauté, The Little Black Apron offers concise (and comical) explanations of everyday cooking terms. With that and some quality ingredients, herbs and spices, you are on your way to delicious, nutritious meals.  
The popular misconception is that if you dine out, you are eating badly.  How would you recommend that people maintain good nutrition at restaurants?  Are you seeing more restaurants embracing nutrition with healthy dishes?  Do you consult for any dining establishments in meal preparation?

It is generally easier to eat healthily when at home since you know exactly what is going into your food and how much you are eating, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat out and be healthy. The majority of my clients eat out most of the time. Watching portion sizes when at restaurants is one of the best ways to maintain healthy eating when out. Generally an entree is too big for one person – split it with someone or take half home. Also, always make sure to order vegetables with your dinner – a salad or vegetable soup for a starter is a great way to go.

I have consulted for food companies and dining establishments. I wish I could say that more restaurants are embracing nutrition, but at the end of the day, the restaurants’ goal is that you come back. And, the way that they make food taste good is generally by adding extra butter, oil, cream, salt, etc. While there have been some small steps, we still have a long way to go with most restaurants.

How do you feel about vitamins as a supplement — or replacement — for those found in food sources?

With the exception of certain populations (such as pregnant women), I do not recommend vitamins since they cannot replace what is found in foods. It is always best to get your vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from food rather than a supplement.

If you could have your clients change only one bad eating habit what would it be?

To stop eating in front of the television.

Do you think it’s possible for vegetarians and vegans to get all the nutrition they need?  What types of foods do you recommend for vegetarians other than the obvious choices?

It’s definitely possible for vegetarians and vegans to get all the nutrients they need, though it’s generally more difficult for a vegan than a vegetarian.

For someone following a vegetarian diet, I strongly encourage focusing on protein throughout the day. The protein can come from different sources depending on what type of vegetarian diet someone follows, but can include things such as Greek yogurt (higher in protein than regular yogurt), nut butters, tempeh and legumes. Quinoa is also a great addition since it is a whole grain that is significantly higher in protein than other whole grains.

What do your typical meals consist of?  How do you maintain a healthy diet?

My meals always consist of fruit or vegetables, protein and a carbohydrate/starch. One of the ways to maintain a healthy diet is to eat balanced meals because you always feel full and satisfied (often what many people lack). I also never go more than 3 – 4 hours without eating (except when I’m sleeping, of course). I tell clients that I would never recommend they do something that I didn’t do myself. By allowing myself an indulgence every day (usually chocolate), it’s easy to eat a healthy diet. It also means I can be satisfied with a small amount of that food because I never feel deprived – I can always eat more tomorrow.

You have a successful company, a best-selling book, and are frequently featured on TV and in magazines.  What’s next for you? 

The opportunities in this field are limitless. The next step for me is working on another book. However, I’m always open to other opportunities that come my way and always look forward to seeing what crosses my path.  

With my healthy eating plan, and daily ‘cheat treat’ in tow, I’m ready to embrace better nutrition in 2009, and Jodi promises it will keep me satisfied — and sane.

Next week, our Behind the Burner series brings us the olive oil master from down under, Jeremy Meltzer of Yellingbo Gold Australia that the New York Times dubbed, ‘liquid gold’ and Martha Stewart says is ‘absolutely delicious.’  Learn about Yellingbo’s commitment to the environment, their 100% recycled Cask and process for creating the most refined, organic extra virgin olive oil available.  And don’t forget to visit Behind the Burner for exclusive access to today’s top chefs and food experts, including recipes and special deals that will give you the tools, tips and confidence to create culinary masterpieces at home.

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1 thought on “Have Your Health and Eat Your Cake, Too: Nutritionist Jodi Greebel Teaches You How to Splurge Responsibly”

  1. As a fellow Registered Dietitian, it would have been great to people to read that Jodi has a Master of Science and is a Registered Dietitian, and not just someone who gives out nutrition information. She is making all RDs look good with her good work. Thank you for profiling her.

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