I am Sandra Buijing and I’m a sports dietician at Codarts. Every other week I do consultations at Codarts, on Wednesday afternoon between 13:00 and 17:00, and all students are welcome for personal advice. Unfortunately, these ‘live’ consultations had to be suspended, but thanks to the Internet and video calls my ‘office hours’ could continue.
There are a number of frequently recurring questions that students ask me. I will share the answers with you, so you may all benefit from them. If an answer doesn’t work for you or if you need more help, then let me know so we can plan a personal consultation. You can reach me via email@example.com.
Am I getting all the nutrients I need?
This is probably the most frequently asked question. Sometimes it is more specific and concerns certain nutrients because, for example, a blood test has shown that you have low levels of iron or vitamin B12. It is a very good question, because eating healthy products does not automatically mean that you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. To achieve that, you need a variety of foods and especially also enough of them.
It is a difficult question to answer in general, since the answer is slightly different for each individual. It makes a difference whether you are a man or a woman, and in addition weight, age, and the amount of daily exercise play an important part. In order to get a general idea whether you are digesting enough nutrients, you could keep a diary for a few days in, for example, the Eetmeter (Dutch, app or website) or the Cronometer (English). Both programmes don’t only keep track of kilocalories, proteins, and carbohydrates, but also of vitamin C and minerals. This provides a nice overall picture.
How can I achieve more structure?
I often see students who notice that their eating pattern is off balance. Sometimes they forget to eat or eat a little and then make up for it later in the day, or not at all.
In order to bring more structure to your eating habits, making a day planning is a good idea. Include all your activities, also your times for eating, and portions. You should really write it all out, as this helps to see the whole picture. What do you notice in particular?
Quite often, moments of eating a lot are preceded by times of eating very little. Can you expand your eating pattern in that period of time? Eat a big lunch, for example? Or a snack or small meal during the afternoon? Don’t be afraid to eat a little more. It is often helpful to eat more of healthy products, so that you can abstain from less healthy food at other times.
And don’t be afraid to deviate from what is considered to be ‘normal’. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner as main meals works very well for a lot of people, but not for everyone. The other day I spoke to someone who starts having breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an evening meal. So, an extra meal, which is bound to give her more balance. Also, the times when you eat may differ from ‘standard’ times. In the Netherlands it is customary to have dinner around 18:00/19:00 but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best time for you. You could try, for example, to eat dinner at 21.00 and see how that works for you. Then again, 18:00 may work better for you, even though you are used to eating around 21:00.
Do you find it difficult to make such changes? Then ask yourself this: how can I make it easy for myself? The simpler, the easier it is to implement. Changing your behaviour usually doesn’t happen in big, rigorous steps, but in small baby steps, so you can keep it up.
I suffer from… fatigue/bowel problems/an injury. Can food help me?
It often can! Food is no miracle cure, just as there are no miracle pills for sale (don’t believe all those slick commercials). On the other hand, what you eat is literally what you are made of. So, feed yourself on a diet that is rich in proteins, fibres, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. This will definitely contribute to fitness, energy, healing, your immune system, and a properly functioning digestive system.
Are you having physical complaints? Then check whether you are taking in the following basic nutrients on a daily basis:
- at least 2 pieces of fruit;
- at least 250 grams of vegetables;
- wholemeal wheats;
- at least 25 grams of – unsalted – nuts/seeds;
- a variety of protein sources: leguminous plants (lentils/chickpeas/beans), tofu, tempeh, egg, chicken, fish, (vegetable-based) dairy and/or cheese.
Are you missing something from the list? Then add it to your daily routine.
Again, this is a very general advice. All individuals are different and therefore need different amounts of these products. The Eetmeter or Cronometer mentioned in the answer to question 1 may help you with this too. For a truly personal advice you are most welcome to a consultation!