Melissa Joy Dobbins is an award-winning registered dietitian and the CEO of Sound Bites Inc. where she helps people separate fact from fiction, empowering them to take meaningful steps toward better nutrition and health.
In this interview, Melissa shares insight on the nutritional mistakes many of us make, and key advice to supporting a healthy immune system.
I attended a performing arts high school for ballet and learned some poor nutrition habits that did not serve me well. I loved my chemistry classes and decided to major in chemistry in college, but changed my major to nutrition when I saw the campus dietitian do a presentation on healthy eating and body acceptance. Turns out there is a lot of chemistry and science in nutrition coursework, so it was a great fit!
On my Sound Bites® Podcast I interview a variety of experts on topics ranging from fad diets to farming. We explore the science, psychology, and strategies behind good food and nutrition. My goal is to provide credible, evidence-based information to help my listeners make their own, well-informed nutrition decisions based on facts, not fear.
There is a lot of “nutrition nonsense” in the media and social media – and especially in the podcast arena – so I felt compelled to be a voice of reason and counteract some of the misinformation out there. The show has been running for almost six years and has had more than 500,000 downloads, ranking in the top 20 nutrition podcasts on Apple Podcasts.
Thinking that healthy eating has to be expensive and that they have to seek organic and “free-from” labels to be healthy. In addition, there’s a lot of “all or nothing” thinking – that a food is either healthy or not – instead of looking at what nutrients a food provides (such as protein, fiber, vitamins/minerals) compared to the calories, fat, sugar, and sodium it contains.
I enjoy all kinds of food and encourage others to enjoy their food with health in mind. I call myself the Guilt-Free RD® because food shouldn’t make you feel bad. We can, and should, savor our food without feelings of guilt or shame.
I encourage people to avoid any “diet” or lifestyle that is too restrictive or leaves them feeling deprived or depleted. If someone tries a specific diet and it works for them, and they feel good about it, that’s great. However, they may need to consult with a registered dietitian to make sure their diet isn’t lacking any important nutrients such as specific vitamins or minerals, fiber, protein, etc.
When you exclude or restrict an entire food group such as fruit or grains, you are very likely missing out on important nutrients needed for good health.
I believe anything that helps people do more cooking at home is always a good thing. Even if someone is preparing something indulgent, chances are that it’s still healthier for them than the restaurant version. Building your cooking skills is an excellent way to have more variety in your diet and increase your intake of nutrient-rich foods.
People need to beware that immune “boosting” foods and supplements are really being hyped right now. However, we don’t want to “boost” the immune system, we want to “support” a healthy immune system.
We can do this by aiming for a diet that provides a variety of nutrients for good health – which simply means a balanced diet that includes a range of foods from all the food groups. Some people may need additional supplements such as vitamin D or probiotics, but they should consult with a doctor or dietitian for guidance on this.
For more information, you can check out my blog post Coronavirus & Quarantine: Food Tips & Resources and Covid-related podcast episode: What You Need to Know About Coronavirus & Food.
Snack foods and comfort foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy. Snacks can help fill nutrient gaps by providing fiber, calcium, iron, and other important nutrients. For example, snacks that contain fruits or vegetables and a source of protein like nut butters or dairy can help us meet the recommended intakes for those food groups.
Likewise, comfort foods may actually have some nutritional benefits. For example, macaroni and cheese contains enriched pasta that provides B vitamins and folate.
These are just some of the misconceptions my podcast addresses. You might be surprised by how much you get to enjoy when eating healthier, in addition to improved physical health. I invite readers to have a listen and discover the truths about eating well, for themselves.