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Written by: Chené Murphy on Nov 22nd, 2022

Love Food RD 2023:  Functional Nutrition with Liz Sasso-Karelitsky

Liz Sasso-Karelitsky is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, passionate about helping people reach their individualized nutrition goals and believes in the powerful relationship between mind and body and cultivating a healthy relationship with food. In this interview, Liz shares insights with us on achieving a healthy lifestyle.

What inspired you to choose a career in nutrition?

My career path didn't start with nutrition, I actually did my Bachelor's degree in Psychology. I’m fascinated by people and human behavior and I believe this has been helpful in working with patients as food is such a personal part of our lives. However, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my Psychology degree and I knew I wanted to go back to school. 

It took a few years to figure out what I wanted to study and during that time I started to pay attention to making positive changes to the food that I was eating and became interested in nutrition on a personal level. 

I’ve always loved food and cooking so I realized that nutrition might be a way to bridge my passion for food with my background in psychology along with my desire to work in a helping profession. I did my research and found out that becoming a Registered Dietitian was the way to become a nutrition expert so I began the (long) road to becoming a dietitian and getting my Masters in Science.

What are some of the most common nutritional mistakes that you observe people making?

One mistake that I see people make is not eating breakfast and not eating enough during the first half of the day and then eating all of their calories at night. Another mistake that I see often is people fearing carbs! Carbohydrates are our friends and we can incorporate them into our diet no matter what your health goals are.

If you could persuade people to change three things about their diet, what would they be?

1.  Tastes can change! Sometimes I work with patients who start out saying "I don't like vegetables". If someone has been eating a diet high in processed foods and fast food their palate might take some time to adjust. These foods are designed to be highly palatable but once you start making changes to your diet your taste buds will adjust. 

I’ve seen the same patients be surprised that they now want and crave fruits and vegetables. They also find that when they go back to eating fast food, it doesn't taste the same, it's not satisfying and it doesn't actually taste good.

2.  Make your meals more satisfying and filling by building balanced meals. For breakfast try to incorporate some protein (for example, eggs, greek yogurt, or beans). For lunch and dinner aim for veggies, protein, carbohydrates, and a healthy fat. Of course, not every meal is going to be perfect but when we can put the effort into our meals this is a good template to work with.

3. I like the 80/20 rule. This means that 80% of the time we choose foods that support our health and for the other 20% we eat whatever we want! There are foods that we want to eat most of the time but it’s also OK to enjoy our fun foods and when you choose to, enjoy it without guilt.

Some current diet trends are intermittent fasting, keto, and banting. What do you suggest people look out for when making dietary changes and what’s important in creating a healthy lifestyle?

I suggest going back to the basics. By that I mean, eating real food: a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, minimally processed grains, protein, and healthy fats. The problem with diets is that we can lose weight for a short period of time but then what? We still have to feed ourselves so we inevitably gain back the weight and start the diet-binge-cycle again. 

We have to feed ourselves for the rest of our lives so if we can't see ourselves eating this way for the long term then the diet might be too restrictive. Learning how to make small, sustainable changes is going to be the number one thing to look for when creating a healthy lifestyle.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer on what to look for when considering pre-cooked or pre-packaged meals for convenience?

Convenience foods can be great options and there are so many healthy pre-packaged meals now. I’m really happy that it’s a growing field so that busy people can have easy meals that meet their nutritional needs. When looking for a pre-cooked convenience meal I would look at the ingredients first. As a general rule the fewer ingredients the better, for convenience meals I would also check the sodium. Individual needs will vary, but I would generally look for under 500 grams of sodium per serving.

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