Healthy Eating For 2019: An Interview With A Certified Dietician
January is here. Health and wellness are on the mind, and a vow to create better habits. With so much misinformation on the internet, it is difficult to find the right advice for a healthier new year. I spoke with Dana Salada, RD, LD, a Clinical Nutrition Manager at Sodexo. Sodexo dedicates its resources to providing healthy food and food management to various industries. Here is Dana’s advice for the new year:
Many people make New Year’s Resolutions this time of the year to lose weight. Sometimes this includes crash diets and unrealistic goals. In your opinion, what is this a good way to get started, or just an inevitable let down?
Dana: Crash diets are not a great way to start a weight loss if you want to be successful in keeping it off. They do not promote healthy lifestyle modifications that can be continued for long-term success. I can say the same about setting unrealistic goals. For example, if I set a goal to run a marathon next month but haven’t run in the past four years, I am not likely to meet that goal. The key for successful goal setting is to make sure it’s “SMART”: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
What common mistakes do “healthy” people make regarding their diet?
Dana: Although mixing a bunch of fruits and vegetables into a smoothie sounds like a great idea, in reality, it can turn into a calorie bomb. These smoothies can be over 300 calories if you are not careful. With smoothies, you are also missing out on fiber that comes from eating the whole fruit or vegetable with the skin.
Another common mistake that people make is not using salad dressing or other fat types (olives, avocado, nuts, seeds) on their salad. Vegetables contain vitamins A, E, and K, and require some fat to help absorb them as they are fat soluble.
Is Kale still worth all the fuss?
Dana: Kale is a versatile vegetable low in calories, contains dietary fiber, is a good source of calcium, and a source of beta -carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), vitamin K and vitamin C. Kale is also high in antioxidants, which can help prevent or slow oxidative damage from free radicals.
There are so many “Fad Diets” out there, such as Paleo and The Mediterranean Diet. Are any of these diets healthy for you?
Dana: Any diet that excludes an entire food group isn’t typically healthy as fat, protein, carbohydrates, and micronutrients are all important for our body to function. The only “fad diet” that I promoted for individuals as healthy is the Mediterranean Diet. The diet shows to decrease LDL, or our bad cholesterol, along with reducing cardiovascular mortality risk.
Are there “healthy fats”? And can they help you lose weight?
Dana: There are fats, that when included in your diet in moderation, can reduce cholesterol and your heart disease risk. These include Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats. Omega-3’s are in walnuts, fatty fish, flaxseed, canola oil, and soybean oil. Monounsaturated fats are in nuts, avocados, and olive oil.
What advice can you give to someone looking to lose 30 or more pounds?
Dana: The general advice I would give is to make sure an individual is not drinking their calories (soda, sweet tea, flavored coffee, alcoholic drinks). Also, increase physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake. Weight loss recommendations are not one size fits all. What macronutrient combination that works for one individual, may not work for another. I would encourage anyone looking to lose weight to consult with a Registered Dietitian. They create an individualized plan and make sure any weight loss is healthy and safe.
In your opinion, what healthy food should everyone include in their diet?
Dana: It may sound like a broken record, but a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, 100 percent whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats are items that should be in your everyday diet. Each food group provides different and important key nutrients that our bodies need to function.
Most diet advice for a healthy lifestyle suggests cutting out carbs completely. Is this accurate?
Dana: Carbohydrates are a large source of fuel for the body and the only source of fuel for the brain in the form of glucose. For an athlete, cutting out carbohydrates can make it difficult to perform at peak performance. Studies that looked at low-carbohydrate diets verse moderate-carbohydrate diets have found little difference in the amount of weight loss in the long run. Low to no carbohydrate diets can also increase the amount of fat a person ingests, which can lead to an increase in LDL levels and heart disease risk. Carbohydrate intake in the form of 100 percent whole grains provides essential B vitamins, fiber, folate, magnesium, and potassium. Carbohydrates intake from fruit provides fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. The bottom line is carbohydrates eaten in the appropriate portion help us perform at our peak level, with essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Recent studies have shown that sugar instead of fat, can cause you to gain weight. What is your opinion on this?
Dana: This is not surprising at all. Per the USDA, the average American consumes 270 calories per day from added sugars or 17 teaspoons. Added sugars are in foods such as cereals, ketchup, pasta sauce, crackers, sweets, energy drinks, soda, and yogurt. Added sugars have little nutrients, only unneeded and excess calories. These can go by many names, so look at the food’s ingredient label to see if there are any present. Added sugars can go by brown sugar, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maltose, sucrose, trehalose, and lactose just to name a few. The recommended added sugar for women is 100 calories (6 tsp.) of added sugar per day and for men, it is no more than 150 calories (9 tsp.).
Last, what advice can you give people who struggle with eating healthy on a regular basis?
Dana: Plan ahead! I cannot stress the importance of meal prep enough, especially on those busy weeknights. You are less likely to run through the drive-thru if you know you have a home-cooked meal waiting for you in the crock pot or are more likely to grab pre-cut vegetables and hummus over chips and dip if it’s all ready to go. The other thing I would recommend, is having a friend/family member to share ideas with and keep you accountable through your journey.
Thank you, Dana! I appreciate your excellent advice. I hope our readers take this to heart, and the knowledge helps create a healthy change for the new year.