Thursday, October 1, 2009

Confused About What You Should or Shouldn’t Eat? Just Ask the Dietitian

Dear Dietitian,

I don’t know what to eat. I know that I shouldn’t eat fast food or fill up on lots of sweets but then what should I eat?

What Should I Eat?

If you feel confused by all the food hype and diets that flood the market you’re not alone.

Each day I see patients that come into my office not knowing what to do. For basics, think of how you can get the best bang for your buck. You want to eat foods that fill you but for less calories. After all, who wants to be hungry and left feeling deprived? So what it comes down to is choosing the right foods.

For starters your mom always told you to eat veggies. Veggies fill you up for little calories. They have fiber and water which goes a long way, which is why fruit is also a good snack but portion-controlled.

What else fills you up? Protein does, but think lean: fish, chicken, turkey and beans. And believe it or not, fat does. Yes fat. The low-fat craze is over and now the focus is on healthy fats, such as omega-3’s (which you can find in fish), nuts and healthy oils such as olive and canola.

Whole grains are also a good bite but just don’t overdo them. Look at the sugar content. A good goal is less than five grams per 100 calories for breads or cereals. And what about sweets? Think in moderation and serving size. Certainly all that sugar does not do your body any good.

Which brings me to another subject: liquid calories. Just think, if you drink two 12-ounce sodas a day that’s roughly 300 empty calories that you could use more wisely. And lastly, don’t be afraid to add a couple servings of dairy to your diet.

So how do you put this into practice? A simple way is to use the plate method. Fill half your plate with veggies, a quarter with protein and quarter with a whole-grain starch. Think stir fries and be creative! Or maybe instead of having that large bagel topped with cream cheese, you substitute it for a half cup of oatmeal with low-fat milk, blueberries and some nuts. You’ll save yourself about 250 calories. Not a bad way to start the day.

To sum it up: eat real food. Make vegetables the main course, choose lean protein, healthy fats, beans and nuts, fruits, whole grains and everything in moderation. Get rid of the junk that disguises itself as healthy such as those bars that are sitting in your cabinet.

--Beth St.Louis, MS, RD, LDN
Program Dietitian
Martin Memorial Center for Health and Healing

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