Frequently Asked Questions about Nutrition

Answers from the Registered Dietitians of Nutrition Associates and
the Weigh To Better Health Program



  1. Q: Why Should I keep a food journal?
    A: There are numerous benefits in keeping a food journal. First, writing down what you eat can help you control how much you eat. This helps you remember every bite, and perhaps you can begin to notice unhealthy habits or cravings at certain times of the day. Once this is observed, the process of change can take place. Also, writing down how you feel or your mood when you eat can help you determine whether you eat out of hunger or emotion. Emotional eating can lead to overeating or caving to cravings. Writing down the TIME and location of food consumption can help you spread out your meals, as well as ensure proper eating environments. Food should always be consumed sitting down without other distractions. This way, you can savor every bite!
  2. Q: I really love chocolate and desserts. Can I still eat them if I am trying to lose weight?
    A: The old saying, "Anything in moderation" rings true in this case. Even though chocolate can be high in calories and fat, it can still be eaten depending on the other foods consumed that day. If you have a light salad for lunch, that leaves an opportunity to have dessert. There's always room for dessert when you eat healthy! Chocolates do have nutritional benefits in their phyto-nutrients!
  3. Q:What are good snacks to eat at night?
    A: A good snack to eat in the evening before bed is one that is less than 200 calories. Cereals are usually healthy snacks, but it is recommended to read the nutrition labels before deciding to eat the whole box! Make sure to stay within a proper portion size, and choose a cereal that is low in calories and sugar. A high fiber cereal, yogurt, veggies with low-fat dip, a piece of fruit, oatmeal, and a portion controlled size of reduced fat cookies and skim milk are good choices.
  4. Q: I never have time to eat breakfast at home. What should I take with me to eat in the car?
    A: There are many convenient and fast breakfast choices for people on-the-go. Carnation Instant Breakfast shakes are great because they provide an ideal carbohydrate and protein balance to keep you energized and satisfied until you next meal. When picking cereal/protein bars, make sure to choose ones that are low in sugar, carbs, fat, and sodium. Another great idea is to make you own trail mix, by combining ¾ cup bran cereal, 15 almonds, and 2T raisins. Other options for a quick breakfast include a piece of fruit or yogurt. However, you should try to make time for breakfast. This is your safest time to eat carbs, because they will be burned throughout the day and provide you with the energy you need to stay alert. Also, if you eat a nutritious breakfast high in fiber and protein, you will feel fuller throughout the day and avoid overeating later on.
  5. Q: How much protein should I be consuming per day?
    A: The proper amount of protein that should be consumed per day is 1.2-1.8 g/kg/body weight to promote muscular health. The range of 1.2-1.8 kg/body weight is dependent on the amount of physical activity one partakes in. First, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to see how much you weigh in kilograms. Then, multiply this number by your physical activity factor. If you are an athlete, you should be consuming about 1.6 - 1.8g. If you are less active, you should consume 1.2 - 1.4g. It is very important to not consume more than 1.8g/kg/body weight because if we have too much protein in our system, our kidneys will be overworked.
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  6. Q: What are the benefits of organic products?
    A: There are numerous benefits to organic products. Organic foods are produced according to certain standards, meaning they are grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge, and that they were processed without radiation or food additives. Livestock are raised without the use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones. In most countries, organic produce must not be genetically modified. All of this allows more nutrients to be readily processed in the body, and less unknown chemical storage.
  7. Q: How does proper nutrition affect ADHD?
    A: Currently, there are studies being performed that link nutrition as a preventative treatment of ADHD. Some children and adults with ADHD have responded positively to a relatively high-protein, low (or complex) - carbohydrate, sugar-free diet. Low blood sugar may be a factor in aggressive and irritable behavior seen in ADHD patients. A diet low in sugar and other foods with "empty calories" remains a tried and true treatment for many children with ADHD.
  8. Q: What is Celiac disease and why are gluten free products used?
    A: Celiac disease is a genetic disorder. In people with CD, eating certain types of protein, called gluten, sets off an autoimmune response that causes damage to the small intestine. This, in turn, causes the small intestine to lose its ability to absorb the nutrients found in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other complications. The offending protein, gluten, is found in wheat, barley, rye, and to a lesser extent, oats. The "gluten" in wheat, rye, barley, and in a much lower amount, oats, contains particular amino acid sequences that are harmful to persons with celiac disease. Celiac disease is life-long and currently incurable. The only known treatment at this time is strict adherence to a gluten-free lifestyle.
  9. Q: What is the difference between alternate sugar substitutes?
    A: In the United States, five sugar substitutes have been approved for use. They are saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, and acesulfame potassium. There is also an herbal supplement, stevia, used as a sweetener. The majority of sugar substitutes approved for food use are artificially-synthesized compounds. However, some natural sugar substitutes are known, including sorbitol and xylitol, which are found in berries, fruit, vegetables, and mushrooms. Some non-sugar sweeteners are known as "sugar alcohols." These are, in general, less sweet than sucrose, but have similar properties and can be used in a wide range of food products.
  10. Q: How long should I wait to eat between meals?
    A: One should never go longer than five hours without eating at least a small 100-200 calorie snack. Primarily, the notion that metabolism slows down for people who only eat 2-3 large meals a day is true. When our body is restricted from eating, it enters a starvation state. Once it is replenished, these calories are turned into fat because it does not know when it will be fed again. It is very important to make sure the body is nourished with at least five small meals a day to encourage a healthy metabolism.
  11. Q: Why does alcohol contribute to weight gain?
    A: Alcohol comes from carbohydrate, e.g., wine from grapes, beer and hard liquor from grains. However, after fermentation it gets metabolized as FAT, not carbohydrates! (9 calories per fat gram vs 4 calories per carbohydrate gram) For example, a 4 oz glass of wine or 1oz of Brandy, Vodka or Cognac has 10 grams of fat while 12 oz of beer not only has 10 grams of fat but 15 grams of carbohydrates as well! A smarter choice if you are monitoring fat grams would be a "light beer." Light beers contain no fat grams, but still have 15 grams of carbohydrate.
  12. Q: How often should I weigh myself, and is there a certain weight range that I should be within based upon my height?
    A: The safest way to monitor your weight is to step on an accurate scale once a week, every other week, or once a month depending upon if you are trying to lose weight or gain weight. The connection made between your height and weight makes it possible to determine your Body Mass Index or your BMI, which is an appropriate way to monitor your health. BMI equals weight in kilograms divided by your height in meters squared. A Healthy BMI is from 19 to about 25. Anything over 25 is considered overweight and anything below 19 is considered underweight for adults.
  13. Q: Why do I crave salty snacks?
    A:People who tend to crave salt and find themselves constantly adding more salt to foods may have low calcium levels. The best way to counteract this sodium addiction is to include more low fat dairy products into your diet, like skim milk, low fat yogurt, and low fat cheeses. However, when it comes to those crunchy salty snacks that sneak their way into our houses, the best bet is to stick to pretzels. They are a healthier alternative to potato chips and other chips. It is recommended to brush the salt off or purchase unsalted pretzels to avoid heart disease. However, if you are in the mood for something crunchy, why not try vegetables?
  14. Q: Are frozen 'diet' entrées really that good for you?
    A: These foods are generally nutritious, but the amount of salt added as a preservative and for flavor may be way too much! The only thing that makes a diet frozen lasagna low in calories and fat is the use of low fat and low calorie ingredients (fat free ricotta, low cal sauce). You can prepare these items just as easily at home with these ingredients and virtually no salt. Prepare a large amount and freeze it for a quick entrée in the future. Safe amounts of salt are 1500-2400 mg/day which equals 500-800mg/meal not including snacks. .
  15. Q: Do certain vegetables, like carrots have more fat and carbohydrates in them than most other vegetables, such as greens (broccoli)?
    A: Vegetables do not contain any fats. The carbohydrate content of one serving of carrots (1/2 cup cooked) and that of one serving of broccoli (1/2 cup cooked) is equivalent to one another. Both contain 5 grams of carbohydrates. This can be considered when comparing celery, carrots, asparagus, and other vegetables. One serving of each will all have the same carbohydrate content. However, vegetables like corn, beans, and potatoes are high in starch, 15 grams of carbohydrates, so these must be counted as full carbohydrate servings.
  16. Q: Will skipping a meal and eating a larger dinner or other meal help me lose weight?
    A: Skipping a meal may not be the most effective way to approach weight loss. In fact, it is counterproductive to weight loss because more fat will be stored when a meal is finally consumed. Since our bodies enter starvation mode after not eating for more than 5 hours, our body naturally wants to grab anything it can from the next meal and store it as fat. Also, if you skip meals throughout the day, you may have a greater tendency to snack on other foods that are less in nutritional value, and you also may be more likely to over-eat. It is generally more effective to eat 5-6 smaller, balanced meals throughout the length of the day.
  17. Q: What is wrong with carbohydrates and why should I stay away from white bread or "white carbs"?
    A: The problem with carbohydrates is not in their content, but in the ones we choose to eat. Since carbs are energy, they need to be used up or they will be stored as fat. Once carbs are consumed, they should equal the amount that you are expending throughout your daily activities. Some carbohydrates that can be found in naturally white foods are bananas, milk, cauliflower, yogurt and white potatoes. These carbohydrates are very nutritious and not refined! As for white bread, there is no reason to "stay away". White bread has the same amount of calories and carbohydrates as whole wheat bread. However, whole wheat bread is healthier because of the higher fiber content, which aids in the effectiveness of your digestive system. The more fiber in your diet, the fuller you will feel. It is important to check that the whole wheat bread is, in fact, whole wheat, and not just dyed dark with artificial caramel coloring additives! You can check this by looking at the Nutrition Facts on the bread, where there will contain higher fiber content (3-4g) as well as more vitamins. .
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  1. Q: Is low carbohydrate ice cream a good snack choice? What about sugar-free products?
    A: Low carbohydrate ice cream is not always a better snack choice. Sometimes when a company removes the carbohydrates they will add more fat into the product. It is always important to read the rest of the label and then determine which is a better choice. Look for this in all low carb or low fat products. Consequently, sugar free foods are not a better choice. You should always read the label for the total carbohydrates and not just the sugar total. The total amount of carbohydrates is more important.
  2. Q: What foods should I eat more of to help lower my cholesterol?
    A: The key to lowering cholesterol is to replace harmful fats that have high levels of LDL ("bad" cholesterol) with healthier fats which may have high levels of HDL ("good" cholesterol). This includes replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oil, almonds, peanuts and avocado. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E and beta-carotene have proved to help lower cholesterol levels. Examples of foods include onions, garlic, carrots, and oranges. Foods with high soluble fiber levels can also help manage cholesterol. Brown rice, bran, and oat bran are very good sources.

    Soluble Fiber: Carrots, Peas, fresh, Apples, Oats, Dried Beans, Barley

    Flavonoids : Broccoli, Grapefruit, Tomatoes, Limes, Chocolate, Soybeans, Oranges, Lemons, Apples, Onions, Blueberries, Carrots, Pomegranates

    Omega-3 fatty acids : Salmon, Tuna, Trout

    Vitamin C : Red Cabbage, Strawberries, Kiwi fruit, Potatoes, Red Bell Peppers, Tangerines & other mandarins, Oranges

    Vitamin E : Broccoli, Avocados, Peanuts, Sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, Almonds, Mangoes

  3. Q: Do fruits and vegetables have sugar in them? And is it good to eat them if I am watching my sugar intake?
    A: Fruits and vegetables naturally contain their own natural sugars. Canned fruits and vegetables may be packaged with added sugars that are unnecessary; however raw products contain the natural sugars that are not added. Fruits generally contain more sugar than vegetables which gives them a sweeter taste. Though fruits and vegetables contain some sugars, they are also good sources of other nutrients so they should still be consumed. If you are watching your sugar intake it may be better to consume more vegetables, but fruits do not need to be eliminated from the meal plan completely.
  4. Q: Do fruits, such as apples and bananas, contain a lot of calories?
    A: Fruits do not contain a large amount of calories. An apple generally contains about 60 to 80 calories depending on its size. Bananas, however, are somewhat high in carbohydrates. One banana contains about 30 grams of carbohydrates, which is about 2 servings of carbohydrates. As long as this is taken into account, bananas are very healthy because they are high in vitamins. Potassium is key in certain body processes, especially when exercising. Fruits tend to be low in calories and they are also a good snack because they contain natural sugars that add a sweet taste without consuming sugar in excess.
  5. Q: How much fat is there in most lunchmeats? Is turkey a better lunchmeat option than some of the other lunchmeats?
    A: Processed meats, such as salami and bologna, should be avoided because they are prepared with lard. Better choices are roasted turkey or chicken. 3 slices, cut ½ inches thick, have only 0.3grams of fat. Salami has 4.8 grams of fat for only 1 slice!
  6. Q: Why is it important that I include folate (folic acid) in my diet during my pregnancy?
    A: Folate, a B vitamin, reduces the risk of delivering a baby with neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Folate is essential to the production of new body cells by helping produce DNA and RNA. To be sure you reach the daily requirement of 400 micrograms, include at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet every day. Good sources of folate include dark green leafy vegetables, certain fruits such as oranges, dried beans, and most grain products (which are fortified with folate).
  7. Q: What does it mean when people refer to eating "5-a-day"?
    A: The 5-a-day slogan was recently developed to remind every person to include 5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables in their daily diet. Not only will this contribute to filling you up more nutritiously, but it will help you to feel better as well. Don't be fooled thinking of vegetables as solely a side dish as they can easily be creatively included in casseroles, pasta dishes, soups, and many more! The American Cancer Association is now recommending 9 fruits and vegetables per day.
  8. Q: What is the difference between the Food Guide Pyramid and the new MyPyramid?
    A:The older version of the Food Guide Pyramid is considered inaccurate because of the general serving amounts. The new MyPyramid (2005) is a more personalized form of the prior food guide pyramid. It is a tool that many healthcare professionals use daily, including nutritionists. Not only does it implement exercise into the daily food groups, but the website: allows you to fill in your age, gender, and level of exercise so that serving sizes and suggested daily calories are tailored to your personal needs. Just click on the MyPyramid Tracker link, and create a user name. Also, there is a MyPyramid available for children aged 6-11, which is available at
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  1. Q: When buying and preparing lean meat, what should I be aware of?
    A: When purchasing low fat meat be sure the label says "loin", "round", or "extra lean" beef as they will contain the least amount of fat content. Ground chicken or turkey should say no skin or else it has as much fat as ground beef. The healthiest cooking methods for preparing low fat meat include baking, braising, broiling, grilling, and roasting as they will limit the amount of fat retained during the cooking process. Also, straining cooked ground beef and rinsing well with hot water will decrease the fat content. Be sure to use cooking spray as an alternative to oil or butter. And lastly, as with all foods, control your portion size!
  2. Q: What is the difference between Vegan and Vegetarian?
    A: The definition of a Vegetarian lifestyle is someone who does not eat meat, poultry, fish, and their by-products. Dairy products and eggs are optional. Specifically, Vegetarianism is further broken down into Ovo-Lacto Vegetarians and Lacto Vegetarians. Ovo-Lacto Vegetarians eat egg and milk products, which is the most common form of Vegetarianism. Lacto Vegetarians eats milk products, but not egg products. Vegans, on the other hand, exclude animal flesh and animal products. This means that Vegans do not eat meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, honey, gelatin, and yeast.

    Nutritionally, it is very important to retrieve the vitamins and minerals provided from the products that are avoided in the Vegan and Vegetarian lifestyle. This often includes supplementing or increasing the consumption of green leafy vegetables and legumes in the diet. A dietitian can provide a Vegetarian/Vegan with proper supplements to the Iron, Vitamin B12, and Protein that may be lost in this lifestyle.

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