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Nutrition and Diet

Nutrition and diet go hand-in-hand in a healthy lifestyle. So says Brooke Tasler, Registered Dietician (RD) and Director of Dietary Services at CCMH.

Whenever she is discussing nutrition and food with people, Tasler says there are any number of myths she dispels about eating different kinds of foods. For example, regardless of what you might hear or read, Tasler says there’s not much difference between organically-grown food as opposed to conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.

“There’s a little bit of data that shows some possible health benefits to using organic foods, at least when compared to using foods that are grown in the usual or more conventional way. But the benefits are still pretty limited based on the studies. Organically-grown foods tend to be more expensive. I don’t want people to not eat their fruits and vegetables because organic is too expensive. I think everybody has to understand that there’s trade-offs between those things. You might derive some small health benefit from organic foods, but you’re going to pay for the privilege.”

Another myth is that all fats in your diet are bad for you. Tasler says the concept of healthy fats has been lost when discussing balanced diets.

“The healthy fats are your unsaturated fats. So it’s mono-unsaturated fats and poly-unsaturated fats. Mono-unsaturated fats are going to be things like olive oil, canola oil, peanuts, avocados, a lot of your nuts. Whereas the poly-unsaturated fats, we get from corn oil, soybean oil, walnuts. Some foods have a little of both in them. Omega-3s are another type of unsaturated fat. Mainly we get those from fish, but it’s also derived from things like walnuts and flaxseed and things of that nature.”

How many fruits should be eaten daily versus vegetables? Tasler says a little bit more veggies than fruits.

“Both are good, have lots of good stuff in them, but usually both men and women should be aiming for around two and a half to three cups of veggies during the day, and maybe about one and a half to two cups of fruit during the day.  And with both fruits and vegetables, you need different colors. It can’t be all green, can’t be all orange, can’t be all red. You’ve got to have a little bit of everything. “

Prebiotics and probiotics are also important to your diet for good gut health.

“The live bacteria are the probiotics we find in yogurt or other fermented foods. The prebiotics are food for the probiotics. It’s a type of fiber humans can’t digest, but the good gut bacteria that we have can digest it. That’s what it uses for food. So it’s fiber that we find in things like oats and bananas and berries. Good gut health helps with digestive function and regularity. It also helps with immune health.”

How much protein should we be getting?

“It varies from person to person, but as a general rule of thumb, usually as a minimum, people need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or about 7 grams of protein per 20 pounds of body weight. If you work out a lot, you’re an athlete, or get a significant amount of physical activity in your job, you’re definitely going to need more. One large egg is about 7 grams of protein. For every 3 ounces of meat, you’ll get approximately 21 grams of protein.”

Drinking more water has been linked to a number of health benefits including weight loss. Tasler says each person needs to find what works best for them.

“Some people drink a glass of water right away when they get up in the morning. And then get at least one glass of water with every meal. If you want to drink something else, fine, but try to get the water along with it. Sometimes you need a little flavor, so a squeeze of lemon helps. Sometime people use cucumber which can be a cool, refreshing thing. Some people do better with just making sure they have a water bottle near them at all times.”

When we talk about caffeine, what’s a reasonable amount?

“Although the dietary guidelines say 400 milligrams is the maximum daily amount, 200 milligrams or less is a good amount to aim for during the day. An eight ounce cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine, a 12 ounce can of pop on average might contain about 50 milligrams. Some of the soda cans tell you how much caffeine is in the product. Whether its coffee or soda you use to get caffeine, that helps put it into perspective a little bit better.”

As her final thought, Tasler says a healthy diet is not all or nothing.

“We don’t want to get in a mindset where ‘this food is entirely good’, and ‘this food is entirely bad’. If we can make peace with the foods we eat, it can help with trying to control our portions of those less healthy foods that are so tempting. There’s going to be birthday parties and other celebrations you want to enjoy. Food is tied into that. We need to be able to enjoy ourselves and live our lives without worrying about what we’re eating in that moment. Giving ourselves permission to eat cake and ice cream on special occasions is still healthier than completely abandoning a healthy diet to eat whatever we want, whenever we want.”



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