Q&A w/ The Dietitian




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posted Oct 27, 2014, 8:24 AM by Rachel Griffin   [ updated Apr 17, 2015, 12:43 PM ]


I always seem to overindulge when I eat out. What are some tips to help me stay on track with healthy eating?

posted Oct 25, 2011, 6:10 AM by Daniel Choi

Question:

I always seem to overindulge when I eat out.  What are some tips to help me stay on track with healthy eating?

Answer:

  • Review the menu online so you can plan ahead of time what you will eat.
  • Have a healthful snack before going out, so you don't arrive "so hungry you could eat a horse."
  • Start with a mixed green salad with a light vinaigrette dressing or a broth-based soup ASAP to act as "filler" and help curb your appetite.
  • Request that the breadbasket not be brought to the table, or place it at the opposite end of the table.
  • Order an un-fried appetizer, such as shrimp cocktail, lettuce wraps, steamed spring rolls, or grilled chicken breast on skewers, as your entrée. Consider this for children as well… children's menus typically contain high fat foods (e.g., hot dogs or fried chicken fingers and French fries) in huge portions.
  • Another way to cut down on portion sizes is to share an appetizer and entrée with a friend.
  • Always ask how menu items are prepared. Choose baked, broiled, poached, steamed, or grilled. Avoid fried, deep-fried, creamed and blackened.
  • Pay attention to adjectives used to describe foods. A colossal baked potato that is smothered in butter and sour cream and dripping with cheese will most likely be high in fat and calories, for example.
  • Be specific about how you want your meal prepared. Don't focus on what you shouldn't have. Instead say, "I would like this dish prepared this way."
  • Request that all condiments, dressings, and sauces be served on the side; and use them sparingly.
  • Where applicable, request "light on the cheese, please." You may also request that less oil or butter be used.
  • Create quantity with vegetables - start with a salad or broth-based vegetable soup, have a "virgin" Bloody Mary (tomato juice), and ask for extra vegetables instead of rice or potato.
  • If you drink alcohol, alternate every drink with 2 large glasses of water (or seltzer water with a lime/lemon twist). Limit alcohol - it contains a significant amount of calories and may reduce your resolve to eat healthfully.
  • If you must have dessert, plan your strategy accordingly. Eat a smaller portion of dinner, order fresh fruit or berries for dessert, and/or share a richer dessert with others.
  • Eat slowly and SAVOR every last morsel.
  • Bring mindfulness and awareness to the eating experience. Don't sacrifice the goal for the moment.
  • If you happen to overeat, re-focus IMMEDIATELY on your goals of healthful eating and regular exercise, instead of waiting to start over again the next day.

 

Alcohol & Health Questions

posted Jul 22, 2011, 12:00 PM by Daniel Choi   [ updated Jul 22, 2011, 12:15 PM ]

Here's another question (s):

Numerous studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake results in healthier people (fewer strokes and heart attacks, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, less risk of Alzheimer’s).  What is your take on this?  What do you consider to be a moderate amount, and should that be based on bodyweight?  Are particular kinds of alcoholic beverages healthier for you than others (wine vs. beer vs. liquor)?  Are liquors of higher proof healthier for you?  How should athletes, or those aspiring to be more physically fit, incorporate alcohol into their diets?  Finally (and kind of implicit in how you answer the other questions), does alcohol itself have certain health benefits that make it worth the calories, etc.?

What is moderate drinking?

Moderate drinking is defined by the federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. This limit is based on differences between the sexes in both weight and metabolism. A drink is considered to be 12 oz. of beer, 4-5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of 80 proof hard liquor. Drinking patterns also can be as important as the amount. One to two drinks per day does not mean you can save up and drink a “week’s worth” of alcohol over a period of a few hours or a few days, especially on the weekend.   There are no health benefits to this type of drinking.

What is heavy or high-risk drinking?

Heavy or high-risk drinking is the consumption of more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 per week for women and more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 per week for men.

What is binge drinking?

Binge drinking is the consumption within 2 hours of 4 or more drinks for women and 5 or more drinks for men.

How many calories are you drinking?

Alcohol is full of calories with very few nutrients.  Although calorie information for drinks and brands varies, this information is based on averages for one drink.

 

Beverage

Ounces

Calories

80 proof hard liquor

1.5

96

Wine

5

100

Light Beer

12

100

Regular Beer

12

150

Margarita

6

250

Long Island Iced Tea

6

350

Whiskey Sour

4

160

Wine cooler

12

200

 

 

If you drink 6 regular beers in one night, that’s 900 calories! If you need a 2000 calorie diet, that’s nearly half of your calorie needs!

Not only that, but drinking also triggers eating cues, regardless of whether you’re hungry. And since your judgment is impaired, your food choices while “under the influence” are usually not the most nutritious. In fact, the calories from snacking plus the calories from alcohol are considered two of the biggest contributors to weight gain.

Alcohol and Health

Alcohol in moderation may have some health benefits, such as helping your heart and clearing out your arteries.  But, individuals should not choose to begin drinking alcohol for health reasons.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010: “Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.  Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.” 

Current research shows:

·        Light to moderate beverage alcohol consumption for some age groups may reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

·        The reported potential benefits are associated with the ethanol (alcohol) found in all beverage alcohol products—distilled spirits, beer or wine. There are also a number of other dietary and lifestyle factors associated with reducing disease.

·        Even one drink per day can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, according to a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

·        Excessive (i.e., heavy, high-risk, or binge) drinking has no benefits, and the hazards of heavy alcohol intake are well known. Excessive drinking increases the risk of cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract and colon.

·        For the growing percentage of the population with elevated blood pressure, reducing alcohol intake can effectively lower blood pressure, although this is most effective when paired with changes in diet and physical activity patterns.

Alcohol and Exercise

Drinking alcohol immediately before or during an athletic event is counterproductive to athletic performance. Since alcohol depresses the nervous system, your brain will not function as efficiently nor will your muscles work as skillfully. Drinking beer immediately after an athletic event is also unwise. Alcohol inhibits the release of ADH (antidiuretic hormone), which works to retain water in the body. Thus, in addition to losing fluids through sweat, you also lose fluids through more frequent urination. Instead, it is recommended that you drink three cups of water for every pound of sweat you lose after strenuous exercise.

Alcohol and Weight Loss

Alcohol can make weight loss more difficult. In addition to supplying empty calories, it interferes with fat burning. Normally the liver metabolizes fats, but when a person drinks, alcohol takes preference. The liver breaks down alcohol for energy first, causing a buildup of fatty acids. The body uses the calories supplied from alcohol before it is able to burn the calories from fat. Sometimes alcohol is referred to as "fat sparing" because its presence spares the fat from being burned for energy. In addition, as mentioned previously, alcohol stimulates appetite in many people.

Summary

In sum, while studies show that moderate alcohol intake may help to reduce the risk for heart disease, these beneficial effects may also be gained from a healthy lifestyle focused on a nutrient–rich diet and regular physical activity. For example, the antioxidants and phytochemicals that red wine contains may also be found in red grapes and red grape juice.   For health and wellness, focus on food first and include the “fun” food and drinks in moderation.

Food Smackdown: Donuts vs. Bagels

posted Jan 7, 2011, 12:20 PM by Daniel Choi   [ updated Jul 22, 2011, 12:46 PM ]

Food Smackdown:Donut vs. Bagel

Is a donut healthier than a bagel? Someone told me that the donut was healthier due to the simple sugars, and I want to verify it.

Many people automatically assume a bagel is a healthier option than a donut.  For the purpose of this question, we’re going to assume we’re in a Dunkin’ Donuts trying to decide between these two. 

In one corner we have the glazed donut, a sugar-laden fried pastry that people have been known to go crazy for versus the bagel, a condensed bread product that people also claim an addiction to.    Let’s take a look at their stats to see who the contenders are. 

 

Glazed Donut

Plain Bagel

Winner Category Smackdown

Calories

260

320

Donut: Save 80 calories

Fat (g)

14

2.5

Bagel: Save 11.5 g fat

Carbs (g)

31

63

Donut: ½ the carbs

Sugar (g)

12

5

Bagel: Less than ½ the sugar

Fiber (g)

1

5

Bagel: 4 more grams fiber

Protein (g)

3

11

Bagel: 8 more grams protein

Source: Dunkin’ Donuts Website

While the donut comes out swinging strong by having fewer calories and ½ the carbs, the bagel ultimately triumphs by being lower in fat and higher in fiber and protein.  Of course you have to take into account what you’re slathering on your bagel.  Just adding 2 tablespoons of regular cream cheese to your bagel will add another 70 calories and 7 grams of fat, making this contest a little bit closer to call.  Bottom line, if I had to choose between a donut and a plain bagel I would probably choose the bagel because at least I would get some more fiber and protein and less sugar.  If you have an option, I would not recommend having a bagel every day as it’s the equivalent of eating 4 slices of bread.  While I doubt the donut will ever be considered a health food, what’s important to take away from this discussion is the importance of not automatically assuming something is healthy or unhealthy based on its name alone.  For example, we might think a muffin might be healthier but the Dunkin’ Donuts blueberry muffin has 450 calories with 10 grams of fat and 86 grams of carbohydrates.  Suddenly that donut isn’t looking so bad after all. 

 

 

 

 

My friend travels frequently and is looking for "the perfect airplane snack"

posted Jan 7, 2011, 12:19 PM by Daniel Choi   [ updated Feb 11, 2011, 11:33 AM ]

Question: "My friend travels frequently and is looking for "the perfect airplane snack."  He needs something that is 1) easy on the stomach yet substantial enough to tide him over, 2) normally available to buy at airports once he's made it thru security, and 3) not messy/hard to carry on. I know you'd be able to come up with the perfect solution, so I look forward to hearing your suggestion(s)! "

Answer: Here's a list of portable snacks for air travel that can either be packed ahead of time or often found at the airport.
 
  • Apples. Though tasty, peaches, pears, and oranges can be messy to eat, and bananas get mushy. Apples can withstand a lot more abuse.
  • Protein-rich raw, unsalted nuts, such as almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, walnuts or even soy nuts. Tote these for their sheer indestructibility and relative indifference to air exposure. Look for ones that are unsalted.
  • Dried fruit. If packing it ahead of time, empty a few handfuls into resealable bags to keep the sugars in fruits like raisins from crystallizing. (Toss the less airtight boxes.) For items like mangoes and apples, seek out those with no added sugar, to keep calories down and crunchiness at bay.
  • Trail mix. Combine dried fruit and nuts in a snack size baggie for a sweet and crunchy treat.  Look for trail mixes at the airport without candy in them. 
  • Vacuum-sealed tuna packets or tuna-salad kits (complete with light mayo and crackers). Like Lunchables, but for grown-ups.
  • Low-sodium turkey or ostrich jerky.  Jerky is a great portable protein just look for ones with 20% or less of your daily sodium intake.  I recommend Ostrim brand jerky.  Here's a link to their website:  http://www.protos-inc.com/
  • Celery sticks, baby carrots, olives, cherry tomatoes. These veggies can withstand a fair amount of jostling and time away from the refrigerator.
  • Packets of plain instant oatmeal. Empty one into a travel mug before a flight, ask an attendant for boiling water, and you have a quick breakfast with no cup necessary. Many fast food places located at the airport are now offering oatmeal, such as Starbucks and McDonald's.  Just ask for it without extra sweetener.
  • Whole grain cereal. Instead of chips, pack some high fiber cereal in a snack size baggie for easy munching.  Look for cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • Natural nut butter sandwich.  Make your own sandwich with either peanut, almond, or cashew butter on whole wheat bread or crackers.  Pack it in a small Tupperware container to prevent it from getting squished.
  • Energy bars. Energy bars are an easy grab-n-go snack.  Look for more brands such as Lara, Luna, Pure, Kashi, Kind, or the Zone.
  • Fast Food airport options: Fruit and yogurt parfait; turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with veggies and mustard; plain, small hamburger and side salad; items from light menu (such as Taco Bell's Fresco menu).
I hope these suggestions help.  Please let me know if you have additional questions.
Healthy regards,
Mary

Will my muscle turn to fat if I stop working out?

posted Jan 7, 2011, 12:17 PM by Daniel Choi   [ updated Jan 7, 2011, 12:24 PM ]

Question:
Will my muscle turn to fat if I stop working out?

Answer:
Muscle and fat are two entirely separate substances in our bodies. We can gain or lose muscle, just like we can gain or lose fat, but we can’t convert one into the other.

If you stop exercising, you’ll start losing muscle. This results in a slower metabolism, meaning that you burn fewer calories. The result: It’s easier to gain body fat.

Is it true that if I cut out carbs, I can eat all the protein I want without gaining weight?

posted Jan 7, 2011, 12:08 PM by Daniel Choi   [ updated Mar 21, 2011, 1:16 PM ]

Question:
Is it true that if I cut out carbs, I can eat all the protein I want without gaining weight?

Answer:
Too many calories from any type of food can be stored as body fat. But certain types of calories are more diet-friendly than others. Carbohydrates — particularly white, refined carbohydrates — break down rapidly. Protein takes longer to digest, so it can help to keep you feeling fuller, longer. Plus, our bodies have to use more energy to process protein, as compared to carbs, so we burn slightly more calories when we digest high-protein foods.

It’s still calories in versus calories out. So while it’s true that most of us can benefit from limiting our intake of refined, processed carbs, most of us can also benefit from a dose of moderation with our portions of all foods, including protein.

Will eating after 8 p.m. cause me to gain weight?

posted Jan 3, 2011, 6:43 AM by Daniel Choi   [ updated Jan 7, 2011, 12:25 PM ]

Question:
Will eating after 8 p.m. cause me to gain weight?

Answer:
Your body doesn’t know what time it is. It’s not like a meal at 6 p.m. will be stored in your muscles or burned for immediate energy, yet suddenly that same meal at 8 p.m. will go straight to your butt. Instead, your body recognizes an accumulation of calories over time, or a deficit of calories over time.


So why is it that so many diets ban eating after 6 or 7 p.m.? For many, the evening hours are when willpower falters. So it’s not simply that you’re eating late at night; it’s what you’re eating late at night. Cookies, ice cream, chips, crackers — all those mindless nighttime nibbles can add up to hundreds, even thousands of calories.

Dinner at 8 p.m.? No sweat. Just make sure it’s a sensible dinner (most people can get by with a lean protein entree, veggies on the side, and salad) and curb the late-night munchies. For good digestion, try to allow at least two hours between dinner and bedtime.

Are detox diets good for you?

posted Jan 3, 2011, 6:40 AM by Daniel Choi   [ updated Jan 7, 2011, 12:27 PM ]

Question:
Are detox diets good for you?

Answer:
Detox diets are based on the idea that many of the foods we eat contain toxins or harmful substances that accumulate in the body, such as sugar, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and alcohol. Advocates of detox diets claim that without periodic cleansing, these “poisons” can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, weight gain, muscle pain and chronic diseases. Like other fad diets, detox diets often revolve around either a completely liquid diet or water and raw fruits and vegetables for about 7-10 days. But the science behind the detox theory is questionable. There is no evidence that detox diets actually remove toxins from the body. The body already has several systems in place, including the liver and kidneys, that effectively and efficiently remove toxins and excrete them in the urine and stool. While detox diets often produce quick weight loss, it is essentially a short-term fasting diet that is unsustainable. A better long-term approach is to focus on transitioning to a balanced diet with less fast food and more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.


Would you gain weight from eating just vegetables?

posted Oct 26, 2010, 11:18 AM by ric lee   [ updated Jan 7, 2011, 12:24 PM by Daniel Choi ]

Question:
Would you gain weight from eating vegetables?

Answer:
It's virtually impossible to gain weight eating vegetables only, unless you are cooking them in a lot of fat, or adding other ingredients to them.
The amount you would need to eat to create a calorie surplus would result in feeling impossibly stuffed.

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