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7 Strategic Ways To Personalize Your Diet, According To A Registered Dietitian

Registered Dietitian By Ella Davar, R.D., CDN
Registered Dietitian
Ella Davar, R.D., CDN, received her education in Nutrition Science from New York University, and an Integrative Nutrition Certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
How To Personalize Your Diet Like A Dietitian: 7 Strategic Steps
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When I was younger I felt so unsure about what it meant to lead a healthy lifestyle. I tried to be vegan, pescatarian, then Paleo, and so on. I felt so confused and not able to hear what my own body needed.

Finally, I saw a functional nutrition dietitian who changed my life. She ran a food sensitivity test and guided me through an elimination diet, which was a complete game-changer. Since then, I became a licensed dietitian myself, fortunate enough to change the lives of others with my knowledge. 

Today in my nutrition counseling practice, I focus on longevity and disease prevention. I work with driven and proactive individuals who follow all the general recommendations—such as eating organic when possible, fasting, exercising, meditating, and taking supplements—but still feel something off with their energy levels, drive, or digestion. 

My job is to find out what your individual body loves and thrives on, and what it's better off without. There are so many nuanced ways to find the best eating style for each person, but there are some go-to guiding principles I use to uncover the best personalized diet for my clients.

How to personalize your diet.

I believe personalized nutrition approaches are the future of the wellness world. When it comes to uncovering the best approach for each individual, there are some important factors I always keep in mind:

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1. Genetics

Just because you read that something or some food is better does not mean that it is optimal for you. Eating more in alignment with our genetics has evolved and become much more widespread over the last few years.

While we have much to learn, we know there are many genes that regulate your metabolism and how you process food. Plus, we know that certain food and nutrients optimize your gene expression.

This is known as epigenetics, or the biochemical regulators of our gene expression. Epigenetics refers to how our behaviors, food choices, and environment can affect the way genes are expressed. 

2. Personal history and family history

Beyond genetics, if you have a family history of health concerns or have struggled with certain metabolic challenges throughout your life, this is important to keep in mind when it comes to dietary choices.

For example, some people are more likely to be carbohydrate intolerant or have a risk of gluten sensitivity.

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3. Microbiome & metabolism

Microbiome plays a significant role in your health and metabolism. When the microbes in your gut are out of balance, your body can't absorb nutrients the way it should. I often advise clients to test their microbiome to get a baseline understanding (my favorite options: a comprehensive test by Genova Labs or Viome Health Intelligence). These findings help to create a personalized approach to nutrition recommendations.

What's more, I love using and interpreting the results of Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM), which allows you to get insights into your body's ability to metabolize different types of carbohydrates, starches, and sugars. This is one of the easiest ways to get feedback on a diet to improve your overall health.

4. Food allergy and sensitivity testing

While there is a lot of controversy about allergy and food sensitivity testing, I believe it can be very useful and life-changing. It's a way to understand whether your current eating style is working for you.

After doing this type of testing myself, it changed the way I personally look at food. Today, I recommend it to my clients to get a set of personalized data. and potentially find the root cause of any symptoms they're experiencing.

The most common foods I see cause problems are gluten and dairy. Others include eggs, corn, soy, grains, beans, and sometimes nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant), and nuts and seeds. But again, it's all very individual.

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5. Timing

Research on fasting suggests it may offer a number of benefits for overall health, such as inflammation management, blood sugar balance, plus repair and regeneration of mitochondria. The key here is to try it for yourself and find what works for you, along with your lifestyle and schedule.

I support my clients in implementing personalized fasting schedules. I generally recommend starting with a 12-hour fast every day: Don't eat dinner after sunset, do not snack after dinner, and leave 12 hours until breakfast. Some people may benefit from a 16-hour fast twice a week or more often if it works for them. I also recommend a 24-hour fast once a month to anyone who is metabolically unhealthy, but I recommend speaking with your doctor or health professional before trying this.

6. Impacts of stress

I believe food should empower people, not foster shame or blame. And it's important to apply that principle when determining an optimal healthy eating style.

I don't believe in deprivation diets, which can be hard to sustain for a lifetime and may lead to cravings or an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, I suggest focusing on where you can add healthy foods—and only eliminating foods that don't agree with you.

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7. Seasonality

I'm a big advocate of eating organic food grown locally, in accordance with weather and seasonal changes, as it can be extremely beneficial to our health. Produce picked when ripe is higher in nutrients—plus food that hasn't been sprayed with pesticides, chemicals, and preservatives often has higher phytochemical levels because they have to protect themselves in their environment. 

The takeaway.

Knowing your unique needs can help you design a way of eating, a personalized supplement regimen, and an exercise plan to help you thrive. If possible, I recommend working with a functional medicine doctor or an integrative nutritionist to help you on this journey.

To meet with me personally, I'm currently holding "Ultimate Wellness" events at the Faena Hotel in Miami. We meet every Tuesday at 6 p.m. I also created an online group course on how to become your own nutritionist.

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