Meet Lindsey Kane: The Anti-Diet Dietitian

We caught up with Registered Dietitian and health and wellness guru, Lindsey Kane, about what she loves to eat, why she hates diets and wants you to stop reading nutrition labels.

Have you always been interested in nutrition, or did you have a healthy eating epiphany at some point along the way?

Meals were the centerpiece of every family gathering when I was growing up, and I’ve always associated food with fun. I started packing my lunch when I was in elementary school to ensure I was never disappointed with my mom’s well-intentioned, but just-not-cutting-it, PBJ. That got me playing in the kitchen and building my culinary muscles. I loved the independence and autonomy cooking gave me. Flash forward to middle school when I started playing field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. That’s when I started to notice how what I ate could make or break my performance on the field, and sparked my interest in not just eating, but eating with nutrition in mind. I went to college to study pre-med, but after one week of Nutrition 101 I changed my major to nutritional sciences, and never looked back.

Do you follow any particular diet? 

There’s no label that accurately defines how I eat. The diet I follow is just that: my diet. If there’s one label I’ll allow, it’s qualitarian, because whatever shape my diet takes, one thing remains constant: high-quality, nutrient-rich foods that I know make me feel great and that I enjoy eating. My only rule is that food has to taste good. You only get so many meals on this earth, so there’s no time to eat things you don’t enjoy. Food can be equally delicious and nutritious.

How has your diet evolved over the years? 

I used to feel like I had to set an example with my meals—after all, I’m a dietitian. But I realized that trying to be the picture-perfect dietitian perpetuates the myth that in order to be healthy, you have to follow a strict diet. I like cookies and nachos just like everyone else, and I have a busy schedule, with only 24 hours in the day. I like to live at the intersection of health and happiness, and rather than trying to exemplify the perfect diet, I am all about keeping it real, approachable, practical, and enjoyable. Healthy habits are the basis of my daily routines, but I also eat chocolate and sometimes I drink too many glasses of wine. But as l like to say, what you do every day is more important than what you do every once in a while.

I’m sure this is the one question everyone asks, but here it goes: What does a dietitian eat? 

Breakfast is usually something quick and easy: plain Greek yogurt, with cinnamon and vanilla topped with berries and chopped walnuts or almonds, or overnight oats with berries, cinnamon, vanilla, chopped nuts, and toasted coconut. I pack breakfast the night before to keep my mornings easy. Not to sound like an infomercial, but I eat a lot of Sunbasket meals. I get two (or sometimes even three) servings out of each meal, so I have them for both lunch and dinner. I’ll choose at least one salad, and look for other meals that pack well for leftovers. I cook my meals on Monday night and pack them in individual containers so that I can just grab them on my way to work.

What’s the most important thing for someone trying to adopt a healthy diet? 

People get excited about complex diets that involve fasting and dramatic eliminations of entire food groups, thinking that they might be the magic formula for their health goals. But I find that too often these people are ignoring the fundamentals of healthy living. Before adopting complex dieting strategies, cover the basics first: Are you drinking enough water? Getting quality sleep? Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day? Managing your stress? Taking time for relationships? Focus on these simple things first, then come talk to me about these fancy strategies. More often than not, if you master the basics, everything else is irrelevant.

You were recruited to play lacrosse in college. What kind of workout do you do now?  

Once an athlete, always an athlete. I’m still very competitive. I love feeling the progress of getting faster, stronger, and better at something. I am completely reliant on the rush of feel-good endorphins and the burst of energy I get from a workout. I don’t work out to burn calories, I do it because I love the way it makes me feel, and for all the other benefits that come with regular exercise. I’m currently training for the Honolulu Olympic Triathlon in May, so I’ve been running, biking, and swimming, as well as doing HIIT workouts and boot camps, plus plenty of recovery days that involve stretching, foam rolling, and yoga.

You’ve written a lot about the importance of sleep. What’s your bedtime routine? 

I attribute my winning mornings to my well-oiled nighttime routine: I set a go-to-bed alarm to go off eight hours before my wake-up alarm so that I know I’m getting a full night’s rest. I use the app f.lux to kill the bright light on my screens which helps immensely for nights when I have to work late. Otherwise, I try to ditch all the screens around 10 p.m. and finish the day with a book or a podcast. I like to mix a drop of lemon oil with my nighttime face cream because vitamin C is a magic-maker for healthy, radiant skin. I also started diffusing lavender and frankincense at night, and I’ve never slept better.

You’re a nutrition expert who doesn’t like nutrition labels. What’s up with that? 

My beef with the numbers on nutrition labels is that the metrics reflect what we’ve been brainwashed to care about: low calories, high protein, high fiber, … la la la … while saying nothing about the quality of the food or what’s IN it. I prefer to go straight to what really matters: the ingredient list. A good general rule is: If there’s anything on the list that I can’t find at the grocery store, it’s likely not something I want to eat.