{Interview: Part 1} Theresa Shank, RD, LDN, Philly Dietitian


Recently I connected with Theresa Shank aka nutrition consultant and founder of Philly Dietitian.

I was really excited to ask her about what she does and she taught me so much about nutrition. No lie..I’ve been excited for weeks to share what I’ve learned.

Theresa even writes in Philly.com’s Goal Getter, a blog about healthy food and improving nutrition. Her articles are so informative, interesting, and fun to read.

Part 1 of this interview covers her insights on food staples, recipes, and foods that aren’t really healthy!

Here’s the skinny…

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Hi Theresa! Introduce yourself.

My name is Theresa Shank. I am a registered dietitian (“RD”) serving the Philadelphia Area. I currently work as Einstein Healthcare Network’s outpatient registered dietitian, as well as a consultant for Rittenhouse Women’s Wellness Center. Most recently, I have embarked on the journey of starting my own private nutrition consulting business, Philly Dietitian.

As a dietitian, can you suggest some healthy staples to keep in the kitchen?

I love when I am asked this question. Of course I have a long list of items I feel are vital to a healthy kitchen, but I won’t bore you. I’ll keep it simple by telling you my “must haves”:

– Fresh Fruit: Don’t over fruit. Even though fruit is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, its sugar content can be troubling for weight loss. I recommend limiting fruit intake to two servings per day. My favorite picks are apples, grapefruit, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe and pears.

– In-season vegetables or frozen out of season vegetables (the more vegetables you eat the leaner you will be, so aim for at least 5 servings a day.

– Chia or Hemp Seeds are good sources of Omega 3’s and fiber. Try adding to salads, oatmeal or smoothies.

– Greek Yogurt – Fage and Siggi’s are my favorite brands. I always recommend greek yogurt because it is higher in protein, making it more satiating than other yogurts. Siggi’s is the only flavored yogurt that I recommend because of its low sugar content in comparison to other flavored yogurts. For example, Siggi’s vanilla flavored yogurt contains just 9 grams of sugar, that’s only 2 more grams of sugar than Fage’s plain greek yogurt. Can’t beat that!

– Grains such as quinoa, black or wild rice and oats (make sure they are hand rolled, never instant)

– Sprouted Bread (I personally recommend Ezekiel Bread by Food for Life)

– Lean Proteins: Organic poultry, eggs, and wild caught fish are a must in my kitchen. If you are a vegetarian, I caution you to leave the overly processed “meat substitutes” alone! Instead, try tofu, seitan or tempeh, which lend themselves well to various vegetarian dishes such as homemade burgers, stir-fry’s or veggie chili. The possibilities are endless! Visit my Instagram account/website for links to recipes!

– Olive oil and nut butters: Don’t let the myth that nut butters and oils make you fat stop you from incorporating these essentials into your diet. Instead, limit you intake of added fat to 1 tbsp. per meal to insure your body the healthy fat it needs, but prevent the excess that causes weight gain. If you are feeling adventurous feel free to substitute coconut oil, cashew oil or grape seed oil the next time your dish calls for olive oil.

Do you have a favorite easy and healthy recipe to share?

My recipe searches always seem to turn into fresh, healthy and delicious meals from Oh She Glows or EatingWell. Oh She Glows is a recipe blog for vegan dishes, the majority of which are free of gluten, soy and processed foods. I personally am not vegan, but I always feel clean after making recipes from this site, which definitely keeps going back for more! On the other hand, I’ll use EatingWell when I am looking for healthier versions of traditional dishes, such as eggplant Parmesan, my favorite!

One of my morning staples, especially now that temperatures have dropped, is a warm bowl of rolled oats with fixings that keep me satisfied and energized until lunch time! Check out Oh She Glows’ 5 Minute Oatmeal Power Bowl.

I absolutely LOVED your article about foods people think are healthy, but actually aren’t. Can you share a few pointers?

Many foods are marketed as being healthy but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they meet the standards of a registered dietitian. My list of absolute non-negotiables include:

– Microwavable Meals. Okay, so the properly portioned size of these meals may help you lose weight (at first) but filling yourself with highly processed meals full of artificial ingredients and sodium is a real mistreatment to your body.

I suggest that you try to cook meals in bulk and freeze them. Single servings of 4 ounces of protein (chicken, fish filets, and lean beef) stay well in the freezer along with frozen vegetables.

If you’re packing a meal for work, try batch cooking single servings of meals in microwavable dishes so you can easily transport them and pop them in the microwave; you know, the same way you pop those meals that have 50 ingredients that are hard to pronounce; it can be that easy, if you plan.

If you do not have time to batch cook during the week and microwavable meals are your only option then try organic or natural microwavable brands such as Amy’s or Khashi.

I also recommend that you add a side of veggies or a tiny side salad to make these meals more wholesome since most do not contain a whole serving of vegetables.

– Store bought bread. Yes, even whole wheat or whole grain breads are becoming a no-no in my book.

I recommend sprouted grain breads because they are less processed. Unlike white or whole wheat breads, sprouted grain breads are made from the whole wheat kernel, thus providing higher protein, fiber and more vitamin and minerals.

– Bottled Salad Dressing. Whether regular or light, these off the shelf dressings are disguised liquid forms of sodium and sugar with a hint of flavor.

To save on sodium, sugar, and chemicals you probably can’t even pronounce, I recommend making your own salad dressing. At first this sounds intimidating, but I assure you that with simple ingredient combinations such as olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, ground pepper, herbs of your choice, and Dijon mustard, you are sure to come up with a winning recipe.

– Artificial Sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners are attractive alternatives to sugar because they add virtually no calories to your diet BUT their long-term effects aren’t as pretty.

Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda) are carcinogens (cancer causing) and have been noted in some cases to cause migraines. Sorbitol, a sugar alcohol found in most sugar-free gums, is guaranteed to cause bloat and gassiness.

Although the limited use of artificial sweeteners in the United States is generally guarded as safe, I still do not encourage their use. If you must add sweet to your coffee, oatmeal, plain yogurt etc., try NuStevia or a hint of agave nectar.

– Veggie Chips, Sticks, whatever they are: If the first word of a product starts with VEGETABLE you may think that it’s healthy but then look at the next word, CHIPS. You’re kidding yourself if you think eating veggie chips is healthy eating. Don’t believe me? Just look at the ingredient list!

The first ingredient (most highly concentrated ingredient in the package) certainly is not mixed vegetables; nope, the first ingredient usually is corn flour or potato flour with small amounts of “veggie powder” mixed in. Yes, veggie chips may be slightly lower in calories than the average potato chip but they still are highly processed and lack nutrients.

Try making homemade kale chips or sticking to the basics of eating REAL vegetables! When it comes to store-bought brands of chips, try to find options that contain < 240 mg of sodium, < 3 grams of fat per 100 calories and at least 3 grams of fiber. My top picks are Whole Foods 365 Whole Wheat with Flax and Onion Pita Chips or Stacy’s Whole Wheat Pita Chips

For a more in-depth response to this question, check out a recent article of mine on Philly.com.

Loved learning about nutrition from Theresa Shank? I sure did! Stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview to learn about how to avoid overindulgence, good fats vs. bad fats, and healthy dining options in Philadelphia.

In the meantime, learn more about her nutrition consulting services at PhillyDietitian.com and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook

xx Melissa


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