Q&A: Nicole Garnsey, nutritionist

From juice cleanses to natural foods, we ask a nutritionist

Registered Dietician Nicole Garnsey sits with healthy food props she uses to educate clients at her Washington Street office in Watertown. Photo by Justin Sorensen/NNY Living.

Nicole Garnsey is a registered dietitian, certified dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator who owns and operates Feed the Soul Nutrition, Watertown. We asked her about some of the latest health trends, nutrition and healthy eating to help on the path to wellness.

NNYL: What are some trendy foods that you’re hearing a lot about lately?

GARNSEY: I hear a lot these days about quinoa (a grain), chia seeds and kale. Also, a lot of people are talking about stevia. Quinoa is great because it can take place of processed pastas and rice. I always talk to my clients about clean eating, whole eating, eating things that aren’t processed. Instead of processed rice and pasta with its chemicals and sodium-packed flavorings, you can easily throw together a quinoa dish with herbs and spices and it can taste just as good.
Chia seeds are awesome because they swell and leave you feeling full longer. You can incorporate them a number of ways. I came up with a chia pudding with chia seeds, almond milk, cocoa powder and a little bit of vanilla. It comes out like instant pudding and nothing is processed. It tastes like a chocolate tapioca pudding.

NNYL: What is one example of something people buy at a store that they could easily make at home for a healthier alternative?

GARNSEY: Cereal bars, for sure. There is a lot of information out there about healthy granola and cereal bar alternatives. If you can find a recipe, and we post a lot of them on our Facebook page, for granola bars and granola, you can cut out a lot of the sugar and flour that comes with the boxed kinds of cereal bars at the store.

NNYL: Gluten free eating is becoming increasingly popular. If you don’t have to be gluten free, is it something you should try anyway?

GARNSEY: People do it for a number of reasons. I’m not a big fan of fad diets; they are short-term fixes for long-term challenges. A lot of people have conditions like arthritis and inflammations that can be better controlled with a gluten free diet. When I put someone on an anti-inflammatory diet, it’s not just gluten free, it’s focused on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, just things that happen to be gluten free. I don’t see anything wrong with being gluten free, for most people.

NNYL: Is it true the gluten free eating isn’t always conducive to weight loss?

GARNSEY: For me, going gluten free goes along with clean eating, limited fat, sugar, salt and preservatives. By eating things grown as close to nature as possible, you can go gluten free. However, there are tons of things out there that aren’t the best choices and are, indeed, gluten free. Just because it’s gluten free doesn’t make it healthy.

NNYL: There are increasingly more alternatives to cow’s milk, what’s your take on dairy-free living?

GARNSEY: My concern with milk from cows is the amount of antibiotics and hormones we’ve been giving to cows. Moving to organic cow’s milk is ideal, but beyond that there is soy, almond and coconut milk. Soy milk is OK, except for the estrogen aspect. Almond milk is a good alternative. If you are doing cow’s milk, it’s recommended that you drink eight ounces, three times a day. People are just drinking way too much of it. It’s an issue for diabetics, too, because of the carbohydrates and milk sugars.

NNYL: Detox regimens, cleanses and fasts seem to be popular with the Hollywood set. What is your opinion on them?

GARNSEY: Depending on who you are, and what program you are doing, I think it’s probably not a big deal. Always check with a health care provider first, because certain conditions like diabetes and heart disease can be affected by a detox or cleanse. I’m not sure what a three-day cleanse would do for you, and I’m really leery about things like liver and bowel cleanses
I am doing a 30-day gluten, wheat, soy and dairy-free cleanse that is meant to kind of reset my system. By cutting out anything that is processed or has chemicals, pesticides and artificial colors and sweeteners, I can get rid of all of that from my system. I’m excited about it.

NNYL: Why did you decide to do a detox?

GARNSEY: For me to give advice, I have to live it myself. I want to be upfront and honest with people about how easy it is or how difficult it is. There are days that I will be busy and it will fly by and I’ll think, ‘That was easy.’ And there will be other days when it’s a challenge. I want people to learn from that.

NNYL: What will be the most difficult thing to do on the detox?

GARNSEY: Coffee and caffeine. I will be trying to drink more teas. Also, getting a balanced breakfast and lunch. Dinner is easy; lunch will be OK if I can bring leftovers. In the mornings I’m going to do protein shakes and mix them up with things like flax and chia seeds and almond butter for different flavors.

Follow the detox

Visit the Feed the Soul Nutrition Inc. Facebook page to follow Ms. Garnsey’s detox plan.

NNYL: Do you have trouble convincing clients to start eating new things, like almond milk or coconut milk and chia seeds?

GARNSEY: A lot of things are an acquired tasted. People are more willing to try things if they are presented well and if they feel like they are coming up with the idea themselves instead of me telling them they absolutely have to do it. If you present the alternative and then give them the reasons why it will change the way they live, eat and feel they are more willing to think it’s a good idea.

— Interview by Kyle R. Hayes