AS A NATIVE SOUTHERNER, OUR GO-TO REGISTERED DIETICIAN, NATALIE ROBERTS, IS ALL TOO FAMILIAR WITH THE SOUTH’S DIETARY DOWNFALLS: DEEP-FRIED, SMOTHERED IN BUTTER, AND WASHED DOWN WITH A GLASS OF SWEET TEA.
BUT EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS RAISED WITH ALL THAT DELICIOUSNESS AT HER FINGERTIPS, NATALIE RECOGNIZED THE IMPORTANCE OF A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE FROM AN EARLY AGE. WE RECENTLY SAT DOWN WITH THE NEW ORLEANIAN FOR ANSWERS TO HOT TOPIC Q’S, AND TO GET THE SCOOP ON HER NEW CONSULTING BUSINESS.
HOW’D YOU CHOOSE DIETETICS AS A CAREER?
My dad’s a doctor and mom’s a nurse, and they were always feeding my sister and I vegetables and focusing on healthy habits. I saw extremely unhealthy lifestyles growing up in the South (Gulfport, MS), and I wanted to help people get healthier, decrease disease, feel better, and focus on prevention.
It’s funny–I always wanted the health magazines instead of Seventeen when I was young, and I’d make diet plans for my mom because she was always trying something new. I didn’t even think of it as a career path–I just loved it! In school at Mississippi State I dabbled in different things but realized I really wanted to inspire people to live healthier lives.
Tell us about your new business!
It’s mainly consulting, so I do everything from grocery store tours, one-on-one consulting, group classes, and even working with restaurants.
I’m really interested in helping people clean up their diets and get back to the basics of clean eating. So many people have ailments–a headache every day, for example–and take an Advil, rather than getting to the root cause of it. Usually, it’s their diet. Eliminating foods that cause these ailments will help get the body back in balance.
Clients will also be able to purchase pharmaceutical grade supplements through my website. These products are science based and go through extensive amounts of testing and credentialing...you have to be a licensed practitioner to even sell them. After consultation, I’ll tell clients you need this, this, and this.
how important is diet in relation to exercise? can we “work off” unhealthy things we eat?
It’s all about balance, especially with food as amazing as New Orleans’, but your diet has to be pretty clean. If you eat pizza and you’re exercising, you might be burning off some of it, but another big component of nutrition I focus on is inflammation. Inflammation can be caused by a horrible diet, and exercise helps tp get rid of it, but if your diet is terrible, some of that inflammation will stay. Clean eating and exercise will both help in the long run with different disease states and prevention.
"SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE AILMENTS–A HEADACHE EVERY DAY, FOR EXAMPLE–AND TAKE AN ADVIL, RATHER THAN GETTING TO THE ROOT CAUSE OF IT. USUALLY, IT’S THEIR DIET."
Do different age Groups need to focus on different dietary factors?
In your 20’s you may be able to eat whatever you want, exercise and still look good, but we don’t know what’s going on inside. Things like inflammation, diabetes, heart disease, etc., can start to develop very early on. I’ve done a lot of testing in past jobs, and have seen these problems improve in test results through nutrition and exercise. It’s not just about looking good, it’s about what’s going on inside, too.
One of the best things you can do for the future is to develop healthy eating habits early on. I’m not saying a 35 or 45 year-old who has been eating terrible can’t reverse it–there are definitely ways to reverse damage–but the sooner a person develops these healthy habits, the better.
eat before or after exercise?
It depends on what your body says to you. Some people can do a spin class in the morning on an empty stomach and eat right after...you need some sort of recovery. Other people will get light headed and need something before. You just have to listen to your body. A good pre-exercise energy shot is turmeric with black pepper, or straight beet juice, and both will help with inflammation.
"It’s not just about looking good, it’s about what’s going on inside, too."
What do you think about juice cleanses?
If it’s done properly, it’s very beneficial, but you want to think more on the functional side. I’ve attended a lot of conferences and have found the best cleanses aren’t just juice.
People who do three day juice cleanses and have been in a toxic environment and think, “oh I’ll just do a juice cleanse to detox,” they're not getting any fiber in those juices, and fiber helps to eliminate the toxins. Without the fiber, those toxins will stay inside your body and can absorb into the intestinal wall. If you’re going to do no food, at least add in a smoothie for fiber.
That said, I think adding in a vegetable juice a day to your regular diet for nutrients is great!
gluten-free, yay or nay?
Personally, I don’t eat gluten, because I’ve realized my body doesn’t do well with it and it can cause inflammation. You have to be your own health advocate and an elimination diet of certain foods can help you see how your body reacts. Eliminate it for a couple of weeks, add it back, and see what your body does. Some people can tolerate it gluten, but I’m not a fan.
Sugar’s been getting a bad rep lately–do we need to worry?
Sugar is so toxic and causes disease. We’re supposed to have 6-9 tsp. a day, most people have 40 tsp. Whenever you overindulge in sugar or carbs, it increases smaller dense LDL particles, which is the most atherogenic particle. The root cause of a lot of heart disease is due to these particles getting inside your cells. Overindulging in sugar can also cause your insulin production to slow down, and can eventually lead to diabetes.
This is why you have to be careful with when juice cleansing too, because too much sugar from those juices will raise your insulin levels.
But what about the source of Sugar? Fruit’s okay, right?
Well, it’s hidden in everything. Definitely sugar from fruit is better than in a candy bar, but too much fructose messes with your liver, and eating too much fruit can cause issues. It’s really the processed sugar, and processed foods in general that you want to stay away from, because they cause inflammation. If you’re going to do something sweet, fruit is the way to go, just don’t go overboard.
Do we have to be concerned about organics?
Depends on what it is. There are a lot of local things from farmer’s markets that don’t have to be organic because they’re not spraying tons of pesticides on it. There are certain foods that are more resilient to pesticides, especially wild fruit like mangoes, etc.
Any last words for us?
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, it can be very easy and tasty with the right guidance!
Thank you, Natalie!