Here at Vibrant Health, we believe health is an inside job, unique to you. After all, you’re one-of-a-kind and your needs are complex – that’s why your supplements should be too.
To celebrate all of the beautiful complexities of our lives, each month we’ve been highlighting individuals in our community – taking a peek into the behind-the-scenes of their work life, wellness rituals and all the wonderful things that make them who they are.
In this month’s Vibrant Health series, we got to catch up with Lily Nichols, a registered dietitian/nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. As the author of Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes, Lily is passionate about educating mamas on how to nourish their bodies (and babies) with real food.
And since she specializes in diabetes, we thought what better time than National Diabetes Awareness Month to feature her. In this inspiring interview, we got to chat with Lily about her real food approach to nutrition, how your lifestyle plays a huge factor in diabetes prevention and an inside scoop inside her two books for pregnant mamas and mamas to be. We hope you enjoy our series…and remember, keep being you!
Lily Nichols, Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator
What does a day in the life as a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator look like for you?
Each day is different. Since I run my own business, I wear many “hats.” Some days are spent on client work, while others are spent on calls with colleagues discussing upcoming projects or collaborations. Some days have extra time devoted to social media posts/events, interviews for podcasts, supporting clients in my online gestational diabetes course, research/editing for writing projects, or speaking/webinar engagements (such as webinars I teach via the Women’s Health Nutrition Academy). Most of my workdays are a hodgepodge of several of the above!
As we approach Diabetes Awareness Month, what’s something you wish more people knew about diabetes and diabetes prevention?
The majority of diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes, which has a lifestyle component. That means there is often a window of time early in the diagnosis (or the prediabetic phase) where you can work to reduce your risk or even reverse the diagnosis with diet and lifestyle choices. The Virta trials have shown the power of such interventions.
For women, one of the major early warning signs for the later development of type 2 diabetes is gestational diabetes. This diagnosis, which can seem like such a disappointing revelation at the time, can be a blessing in disguise because it means you can apply what you learned about food and your blood sugar during pregnancy for the rest of your life and drastically reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes later on.
We love your real food approach to nutrition. What three foods do you recommend including in your diet, and what three foods should we avoid – especially if trying to maintain healthy blood sugar levels?
Foods to include would be those naturally low in carbohydrates and rich in micronutrients. A few examples would be eggs with the yolks (an excellent breakfast choice shown many times in the literature to result in better blood sugar control and reduced cravings for the rest of the day in diabetics), avocado (full of healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, potassium, B6, and folate), and almonds (a great snack with protein, fat, and fiber—all of which are blood sugar stabilizing).
Foods to avoid would include sugar-sweetened beverages (think soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks), pretzels (they seem healthy, but are really just refined white flour and thus cause a steep blood sugar spike), and fruit juice. (I know, it’s natural, but it’s very high in sugar; eat a whole piece of fruit paired with some nuts or cheese instead and observe the difference in your blood sugar response!)
Tell us more about your books, Real Food for Pregnancy or Real Food for Gestational Diabetes. What can pregnant women expect to find?
Real Food for Pregnancy examines the science behind conventional prenatal nutrition advice and explores the wide gap between current prenatal nutrition recommendations and what is optimal to support mother’s health in pregnancy and for baby’s development. A lot of the advice about what to eat (or what not to eat) during pregnancy is well-meaning, but frankly, outdated or not evidenced-based.
This book provides clear answers on what to eat and why, with research to back up every recommendation. This would be the best choice for anyone trying to conceive or currently pregnant (plus, it has detailed information on postpartum recovery and breastfeeding). Real Food for Pregnancy has become required reading (and even a textbook) in numerous nutrition courses in university and midwifery programs across the country.
Real Food for Gestational Diabetes, on the other hand, is specifically written for those who have gestational diabetes (or any form of diabetes in pregnancy). It offers an alternative to the conventional nutrition approach that embraces nutrient-dense and delicious foods that nourish mama and baby without causing high blood sugar.
Real Food for Gestational Diabetes outlines the evidence behind a lower carb, low glycemic diet focused on real food (a far cry from current standards that push a minimum of 175g of carbohydrates per day). This book inspired the 2016 updated prenatal dietary guidelines in the Czech Republic.
Wellness plays a huge role in our company values, and we’re extremely passionate about the wellbeing of others. Tell us, what does wellness look like for you?
Wellness for me means prioritizing my health above all else. If I’m not feeling well, I can’t show up in my family and work responsibilities the way I’d like to. In real world terms, this means aiming for eating mostly whole foods (there are always exceptions, though!), getting to sleep early, and fitting in some quiet time away from the kids a few days a week (easier said than done with littles in the house)!
Thank you for being a part of our community! Want to be featured on our Vibrant Health blog? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org