A Caution Against Diet Comparison

I’ve been seeing lots of posts that essentially follow a day in someone’s diet – typically, the subjects are RDs, nutritionists, naturopaths, ayurvedic practitioners, or other members of the integrative health field.  It can be fascinating to learn about what health professionals consume, but what do we do with this information?

Eating is an intimate practice and what we actually consume is incredibly personal – posts that give us a peek into someone else’s world through the food they consume makes us almost feel like we know them. The problem is that when it’s coming from a nutrition or health professional, it almost comes across as prescriptive; I know this isn’t the intention, but it’s easy to think “well they know what they’re talking about, so I should try to eat more like them.” Although I find these posts compelling from an anthropologic and kind of voyeuristic point of view, I want to just put up a little caution about how we use the dietary information provided.

Here are a few things to keep in mind…

  • One day typically isn’t enough to get a sense of what someone’s actual diet is like. Maybe it was a really good day where there was time for food prep, nutritious options seemed to be abundant and the green juice was a’flowing. No day is the same.
  • People are notorious for under-reporting or somehow misconstruing their diets to make them seem “healthier” when they are asked to describe them. Even if the discrepancy is not on purpose, it’s not uncommon for people to miss something.
  • Some posts may include expensive supplements or exotic foods that aren’t available to most people (lol me) – don’t let that get you down and make you think that you need these things or your diet is less nutritious if you don’t have them. Even without fancy branding or packaging, there are less expensive options that still can give you everything you need to have a nutritious diet. Buying foods that are in season and produced locally can help cut costs. Frozen berries, dried beans and rolled oats are also some of my favorite inexpensive go-to’s. Remember, one of the biggest keys to getting adequate nutrition is variety, so keep mixing it up.
  • So many different aspects go into our food choices/needs. Here are just a few of the things our food choices/needs are based on which can make mirroring someone else’s diet nearly impossible and pretty unsustainable…
      • Current state of health and energy needs – this, in particular, is unlikely to be the same for any two people
      • Religious/spiritual/ethical views
      • Money available to spend on food
      • Family/living situation
      • Lifecycle stage
      • Culture
      • Location and access to food
      • Environment – is it someone’s birthday at the office?
      • Physical activity
      • Time available for shopping/cooking/eating
  • Lastly, many of the posts I’ve seen feature some very nutritious dishes, but keep in mind that there isn’t one perfect diet. There are about a billion reasons for why one person’s diet might not be right for someone elseApples are great. Oranges are also great.


Shauna, MS RD