Happy November, everyone! How did you do yesterday in the face of all that candy? We never have trick-or-treaters so we didn’t even buy any candy. Luckily that means no temptation at home, but we have a ton of candy at work. And so begins the food-fest that is the holiday season. Luckily the Registered Dietitian for Wild Harvest Organic® and Jewel-Osco®, Kim Kirchherr, was able to answer all of your food and nutrition questions and even provided some extra tips and hints to get you through the holiday season!
Please note: While Kim is a Registered Dietitian with 14 years of experience, each person’s individual health and nutrition needs are different. These answers serve only as suggestions. If you are looking for specific diet and nutrition advice consult with your doctor.
1. How do I know what kind of protein shake to choose? There are so many of them I don’t know if some of them are bad for me because of the sugar or if some are designed for weight loss or bulking up. I don’t want to choose one that is going to make me gain weight or get bulky, I just want an extra protein source for my workouts.
- Protein shakes can be an option for people on the go but they are not a necessity. If one reads the ingredient list, you will likely see protein sources from milk, eggs, or soy. These foods are economical and easy to use to make your own shakes or meals to avoid added sugars and also eat balanced/well on a budget. Think in terms of balance – 2-3 food groups per eating occasion – and then whip up your own meals! Choose fat-free or low-fat plain Greek yogurt, nonfat dry milk powder, or tofu for protein, then swirl with fresh seasonal fruit and 100 percent juice if you wish to sweeten but still count towards a fruit serving. This is a great way to add veggies, too. For a fall treat, try yogurt, a splash of honey or maple syrup, some canned plain pumpkin and a dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
- If eating on the go is a necessity and a shake is your fuel of choice, be sure to read both the Nutrition Facts panel and the ingredient list. Keep saturated fat as close to zero as possible, and monitor calories per serving. Choose lean proteins which you can get for as little as 35 calories per ounce. Fruit is about 60 calories a serving, and non-starchy veggies are about 25 calories a serving.
2. I am allergic to soy so feel like I could never be vegetarian. What are some non-soy options for me if I want to cut back on meat?
- There are many sources of protein besides soy for a vegetarian eating plan. Legumes, or beans, are one of my personal favorites because they are easy to work with, can be eaten in cold or hot dishes, and are quite affordable. Keeping in mind allergies, if milk and eggs are an option, yogurt, cheese, milk, and eggs/egg substitutes are a great option for protein, too. Many plant-based foods have some protein so within a balanced menu, eating a variety of foods including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will provide a nice mix of nutrients. Be sure to see a dietitian one on one for even more tips!
3. Is it true that you can lose weight if you stop eating all foods that are white in color?
- Losing weight is not really about the color of the food but the quality of food and quantity of calories paired with activity levels. Just because a food is white doesn’t mean it’s healthy or not. For example, did you know cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable, has more vitamin C than spinach per serving, or that potatoes have potassium? As with all colors of fruits and vegetables, non-starchy veggies are about 25 calories a serving, 60 per serving for fruit. A cooked serving of rice or pasta, in comparison, lands at about 80 – and that is for a pretty small amount, based on the exchange lists for meal planning. If weight management is your goal, then eat smart, balanced meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables, paired with mindful choices from the protein, grains, dairy and “extras.”
4. Is the soup diet from the Mayo Clinic a healthy way to lose weight?
- In general, “diets” don’t work. They typically restrict food groups which is a potential concern for lacking important nutrients to keep the body healthy and functioning, and it is usually a departure from your typical favorite foods and they don’t teach you how to eat in a way that can be sustained over time, which is one of the reasons why people regain weight after losing it. For true weight management success, think in terms of a total lifestyle approach. Look at activity level, both cardiovascular and weight training, plus what foods are eaten most days of the week. I always think of “eating party food at a party” – if you enjoy treats occasionally, or special dishes at a holiday party, that can certainly fit into an overall healthful eating plan. If, however, party foods have become everyday choices, it’s time to rethink menus to ensure everyday foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low fat dairy are staples in your pantry and freezer/fridge.
5. Is it okay to skip a meal, and if so which one should I skip?
- Skipping meals is not a recommended approach to eating. Whether or not you have diabetes, eating regular meals throughout your day is a great way to help keep your appetite in check, your blood sugars stable, and your body engine running to the best of its ability. We would never get in a car without gas to drive across the country, yet people skip “fueling’ their body machine and wonder why they aren’t performing optimally mentally and physically. Studies have shown that skipping meals can lead to overeating later. Remember – how a meal is defined is up to you – get creative – you don’t have to cook up a storm in the kitchen to eat well. Some of my favorite mini meals are oatmeal with fruit and/or nuts stirred in, or fat-free Greek yogurt with honey and a honeycrisp apple, or a red pear, cheese, and whole grain crackers. Easy, balanced, delicious. No reason not to eat well,or deliciously, even on the busiest of days. Try for at least two food groups at every eating occasion.
6. Should I be watching my intake of calories, fat grams or carbohydrates?
- Ideally, a little of all of those in addition to the nutrients provided. Calories are important for weight management, type of fat is important for heart health and because all fats, even the “good ones”, have twice as many calories as proteins or carbohydrates, portions count. Carbohydrates are your body and brain fuel. So you can see that all of these are important. You also want to make sure the foods you eat have a variety of nutrients. Read labels to identify positive nutrients, like vitamins A & C, iron, and calcium – Americans typically don’t get enough of these, which is why they are required on food labels. Read the dietary guidelines to see the science behind the “nutrients to encourage.”. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much thought goes into developing these every five years and about what’s behind the food labels.
7. Should I exercise before or after eating?
Kim suggests that for sports-specific fueling, check out
http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442463964 and http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7080.
8. Is it okay in terms of cholesterol and overall health to eat one egg every day?
- Eggs are a complete protein, meaning they have all the amino acids that make up protein. They are typically an economical protein source, easy to make, and last well when stored properly. While the yolk does contain cholesterol, it also has important nutrients including choline. People monitoring their cholesterol levels choose to use two egg whites in place of one whole egg.
- The American Heart Association does recommend monitoring intake of total and type of fat as well as cholesterol. Many people don’t realize that saturated fat and trans fat reduction is an important step in managing cholesterol – but – dietary cholesterol is just one piece of the puzzle – the body uses saturated fat and trans fat to “build” blood cholesterol. In general, monitoring all sources of cholesterol throughout the day to balance choices is the best way to go.
9. What is the best source of calcium during and after menopause?
- Calcium is found in a variety of sources, with dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) being one of the more recognizable food groups for this important nutrient. Many people don’t know that calcium is also found in fruits and vegetables, and some fish, like canned salmon with bones (a great, economical option to make soup or salmon burgers!).
- Throughout the lifecycle, calcium is important. When we are younger (up until mid-30’s), we are “banking”/building our stores. As we age, we need calcium for healthy bones and teeth – and it also plays a role in blood pressure management.
- Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate are two forms found in supplements and/or added to foods. Talk to your dietitian, pharmacist, and doctor if you have any medical history or are taking any medications as these will impact what choices are right for you.
10. Are there certain foods that lessen menopause symptoms?
- There isn’t currently enough research to answer this question specifically yet – but – eating an overall balanced meal plan with multiple food groups and a variety of foods is an important part of lifestyle management for overall quality of life.
11. I’ve been hearing a lot of praise for agave nectar, but have started hearing some negative things too. Is this a good alternative to sugar?
- There are many sweetener alternatives available these days. Many still provide calories, some do not. Many people use sweeteners as a tool to help manage “empty” calories in food choices. Moderation with all foods is important so no one food group or choice overtakes others – balance and variety is an easy way to ensure one is getting the nutrients needed to sustain good health. Sweeteners do not necessarily offer any essential health benefits, so choosing to use them in moderation or to avoid them altogether are options to consider when managing personal health.
12. I want to cut fat in my cooking, but I love the flavor butter gives my recipes. Is there a good, healthier alternative?
- Butter has saturated fat, stick margarine typically has trans fat – neither of which are ideal for heart health. When I cook, if there is a dish that calls for butter and that flavor makes it unique, I reduce the amount used and/or do a combination of butter and olive oil. The fat profile of olive oil is a bit smarter for heart health, so this combination can help improve the overall fat profile of the dish while still allowing that flavor of butter to come through in your end result. Keep in mind that all fats do contain the same amount of calories, so portions overall are also important in addition to the quality of fat being used.
13. Are there benefits of being gluten free even if you do not have a gluten sensitivity?
- Gluten-free foods are needed for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. While some people are choosing to follow a gluten-free diet for other reasons, unless medically indicated by a diagnosis, eating gluten free has not currently been shown to offer any benefits to those without celiac or gluten sensitivity, and there are certain nutrients to watch as they can be more challenging to obtain on a gluten free diet. Many nutrient-rich foods like fruits and vegetables are naturally free of gluten.
14. I don’t really like vegetables, but I know I need to eat more of them. What are some creative ways to get the benefits?
- Vegetables are a nutritional powerhouse for fewer calories than many other food groups. They can be pureed and added to soups, casseroles, and omelets if eating a big serving on their own is challenging, and they add great texture and nutrition to these dishes.
- If taste is an issue, try roasting them or cooking them. The small amount of natural sugars will caramelize and help reduce that bitter or tart taste. Once roasted, they can be enjoyed hot or cold and add a great addition to salads and sandwiches, too.
15. Recently someone told me to use ground flax seed in my food to help with digestion. It doesn’t seem to bother other people, but it hurts my stomach. Why?
- Flax is an ingredient some use to add omega 3 and fiber – why it specifically is bothering your stomach could be for a variety of reasons so it’s best to ask this question of your doctor. Sometimes, overall, when one adds additional fiber to an otherwise minimal fiber eating plan, this can cause some distress until the body gets used to fiber – so when adding fiber to the diet, whatever the source, do it slowly over time with moderate portions.
16. I’ve seen a lot of new oils in my grocery store in addition to olive and canola oil. How do I know what kind of oil to use in my cooking? Is one always better than the rest?
- Oils are fun to shop for now because there are so many options. In general, fats (oils) that are liquid at room temperature typically are a wise choice as they have less of the undesirable saturated fats and more of the heart-friendly unsaturated fats. I like to keep a variety on hand. Here are some of my favorites:
- Extra-virgin olive oil for salad dressings and savory dishes
- Extra-light olive oil for baking, when a milder taste is desired
- Canola/vegetable oil for general baking purposes
- Sesame/peanut oil for stir frys – a splash goes a long way without having to add too much fat
- Infused oils are fun to experiment with for mixed dishes and salads
17. Is there a way for me to keep better track of portions if I don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh my food?
- One of the easiest ways to keep track of portions is to measure with measuring cups – not just food, but the dishes we use too. Take a measuring cup and fill it with water – pour that into all your bowls, cups, glasses, and anything else you can that you eat out of. Once you measure your dishes, you can more accurately estimate your portions – I have done this at home, including the wine glasses. This way, you have an idea but aren’t constantly measuring at every eating occasion.
Other Great Tips from Kim:
- The food pyramid was replaced just over a year ago with MyPlate, and the website is full of great information, tools, recipes and trackers for both your food and activity levels. MyPlate is also an excellent resource for other information, including dietary guidelines, label reading, and more. Check out www.choosemyplate.gov for a great way to get an overview of what foods to choose from each food group, and why. Remember, never judge a food by its appearance. Use labels and ingredient lists to make educated choices for your meals.
- Visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for complete fruit and veggie nutrition information and recipes too! I write columns for the Insider’s Viewpoint – be sure to check out my October and November articles with some favorite recipe picks included!
- If you’re looking to lose weight, keep a food log for at least three days, including weekends and weekdays. Then, assign highlighter colors to each food group (like pink for fruit, green for veggies, and so on). Once you have completed your log, go back and highlight your food groups. It’s an easy way to take a snapshot of the balance you have on typical days. If you have colors missing, it’s the first step toward getting yourself back on track. You can use this information to determine what to shop for and what to add to meals/snacks.
- I love salads and soups because you can make these balanced one-bowl wonders a fab meal with multiple food groups. For a smart calorie level with the right ingredients, just be sure to mix up the types of soups and salads you choose for the best mix of nutrients and to beat taste bud boredom, and watch the amount of dressing on your salads.
More about Kim (Source):
Kim completed both her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees at Eastern Illinois University where she was a graduate assistant for the Dining Services Department. Kim interned at St. Mary’s Hospital and has compiled a children’s activity booklet about nutrition. Additionally, she has worked in hospital-based health and fitness centers and in a hospital-based outpatient education program.
Kim has 14 years experience as a Registered Dietitian and has been a Certified Diabetes Educator for 10 years. She has created countless nutrition education materials, delivered hundreds of presentations and participates monthly in TV, radio, and newspaper interviews for cable shows and stations including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, WGN, 101.9FM, 93.9FM, Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, the Daily Herald, Supermarket News, Good Housekeeping and Seafood Business in addition to writing articles appearing online and in print publications. As a member of the American Dietetic Association and a past president of the North Suburban Dietetic Association, she is dedicated to providing accurate nutrition information. Kim was honored as the Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year by the American Dietetic Association/Illinois Dietetic Association in 2006. Kim was also among the national leaders of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) who were selected to attend ADA’s sixth Leadership Institute in June 2009. The Institute is limited to fewer than 300 of ADA’s more than 70,000 national members.
Thank you again to everyone who submitted questions and thank you to both Kim and Wild Harvest for this great opportunity and helpful information.