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The Experts: Heather Lorden

Updated: May 23, 2020

Heather is an incredible person. She is the only person I know (and will ever know) that could wake up at 5 AM by choice, write a flawless research piece regarding dietetics, maneuver an impressive double salchow figure skating, sew a jacket from scratch, shoot an elk, and then prepare that elk for dinner.... all before 6 PM. She is genuinely selfless, patient, and graceful. I am so lucky to call her my best friend! Do you know how much fun it was living with her for 3 years? I'd make us dinners like risotto and pasta and then get to hear her talk about how dishes like that raise our LDL so much. I'm kidding!! Sort of. We had way too much fun in the kitchen together. Now, listen to her below... she knows what she's talking about.

Q: Tell me about your background in nutrition and what you are doing now

A: I became interested in nutrition from a very young age, growing up on a farm producing food for cattle. Learning about the agricultural food system first-hand launched my interest in human nutrition. My interest continued to grow as I majored in food science and human nutrition from CSU and then completed my dietetic internship at UW health hospital in Madison, WI. After graduation, I was hired as a full-time dietitian in the ambulatory solid organ transplant center while I finished my master's degree. I see patients who are trying to qualify for a transplant by optimizing their nutrition and functional status and evaluating if they are a good candidate. I love this job because it’s helping people find hope in a very challenging time.

Q: What are the most common questions you get?

A: I always am asked about the current fad diets- what do you think about the whole 30? The Keto? Intermittent fasting? Should I count macros? To that I say, no, they don’t work. The best diet is one that gives you the freedom to eat what you want without guilt, and be able to enjoy all foods within the correct frequency and portion size. “Diets” lead to a short-lived unhealthy obsession with good and bad foods and work for 6 months and then once resuming a “regular” eating pattern, all weight is regained if not more. Foods themselves are not inherently bad or dirty unless they’re moldy or actually have dirt on them.

A healthy diet is what your diet looks like as a whole, you make choices daily that lead to these trends - do you have a lot of sweets? Vegetables? Meals at home? Meals out? Large portion sizes? It’s the average over a lifetime that matters...strive for a diet that’s full of all the food groups (fruits, vegetables, lean meats, dairy, and healthy fats) with sweets and high-fat foods as a treat (but not restricted). Eat the rainbow! Instead of thinking about the macros on your plate, think of all the essential vitamins and minerals that are just as important for you. Varied color, cooking methods, and food groups on your plate is the best way to get a lot of good vitamins and minerals. I think these diets can be useful to learn about food, pay more attention to how diet quality could be improved, and notice how the body feels with different eating patterns. However, diets should not be the default method for weight loss.

Q: What are some common myths regarding nutrition?

A: Unless you’re lactose intolerant, there’s really no reason to avoid cow's milk. It’s an extremely healthy food with a perfect balance of protein, fat, and an essential source of calcium and vitamin D. Other kinds of milk do not provide the same protein, and calcium is not absorbed as abundantly. Also, coconut oil is not healthier-it’s still a saturated fat that drives up bad cholesterol. The MCT oil content is minuscule contrary to what popular diet articles say. Finally, consuming more protein doesn’t build muscle. Unless you’re trying to gain a significant amount of muscle with vigorous weight lifting, extra protein in powders and shakes are just excreted. You’re just paying for expensive pee and a few too many calories. Just eat a source of protein each time you have a meal/snack.

Q: What are your best pieces of advice for those looking to eat healthier?

A: Planning is the key to eating better. If you have healthy, well-balanced meals available in the refrigerator, you’ll stick to your diet goals. If you wait until you’re starving, until it’s too late to make a healthy dinner, you’ll likely end up bingeing less nutritious foods. The best way to eat is following the simple plate method in which 1/2 the plate is vegetables, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 plate whole grains or fruit. This is drastically different than the typical American eating pattern.

Q: What is your favorite healthy recipe?

A: My favorite recipes are full of veggies, color, and are quick to make.

Some of them include:

  1. -chicken curry loaded with spinach, carrots, Edamame, chickpeas, etc over brown rice.

  2. -Buddha bowls with brown rice, fresh veggies, lean protein, with a yummy sauce.

  3. -zucchini chocolate chip oat breakfast bites (see video below)


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