RD Q&A (vol. 33)

Q&A day…here we go!

Addie: My dad is addicted to diet Mountain Dew. He thinks its okay because it’s diet. What is your stance on diet soda?

Prevention RD: It’s probably not too surprising that I receive this question a lot, huh? :) Yesterday, I went to my boss’s office for a 9am meeting. He confessed that he had already had FOUR Diet Cokes that morning. I, too, have a dirty little secret…I sometimes love a Diet Mountain Dew or Diet Crush. But, I limit it. I limit it, personally, because it makes me bloated and not feel my best. Plus, I struggle to get in my recommended 8 or more cups of water each day. Is it the worst thing ever? No, I don’t believe it to be. Of all sweeteners on the market, aspartame has been studied extensively over decades. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of aspartame is 97 packets or 20 (12-ounce) soft drinks, according to Today’s Dietitian, October 2012. Given the obesity crisis and the rates of diabetes in America, I strongly urge soda drinkers to switch to diet soda. That is, of course, after encouraging them to reduce or eliminate it all together. Due to the caffeine and sodium content of many diet sodas, water is simply a healthier choice. I don’t think you can ever be too cautious with processed ingredients, including aspartame. I hear all the time, “diet soda is worse for you than regular!” and I do not support that statement in the general public — the added calories and carbohydrates (sugar) are not just not needed! Bottom line: it’s not the healthiest of habits, but it surely isn’t the worst, either. Water, water, water!

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Leanne: I have a quick question for you regarding weight management. Last year, I lost close to 20 pounds. About two years ago, I found out that I am gluten intolerant (my mom has Celiac), and that really inspired me to overhaul my diet. I’ve always been active – I was a dancer for over 18 years, went to the gym most days a week, and especially liked spinning, but realized I actually hate the gym! Over the past year, I’ve stopped going in favor of running outside with my dog and practicing yoga 2-3 times per week. This past year, I’ve lost another 10 pounds in these habits alone and have really taken to cooking. I found that what I am putting in to my body is incredibly important, more so than exercise alone.My question is what do you recommend as a far as caloric intake for weight management?

Prevention RD: A huge congrats to you on your weight loss success – that’s amazing! Weight maintenance can be sooo tricky. It’s true that it’s more challenging to maintain than it is to lose, so it’s ideal to do just as you are and get a handle on what the bottom line is. I think ultimately, you want to move away from calorie counting on a daily basis because it will lead to burn out eventually (I speak from experience!). In order to see where your “maintenance” caloric intake is at, I would add 100 calories to your weight loss calorie target and increase by 100 calories each week until you see a stable weight for 2-3 weeks. I know that’s probably not the easiest thing, but it is the best way to know for sure. Consider too that you want to be assessing NET calories, so you would “eat back” the calories you burn from exercise. The thing about equations is that it doesn’t take into account lean mass to fat mass, etc. and of course it varies between genders. Say you burn about 300 calories during a workout, your actual caloric intake would be your daily caloric needs + 300 additional calories. Congrats again and good luck! :)

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Margaret: How do best to embrace drastically reduced meat consumption and eat well/healthy?

Prevention RD: GREAT question! I think so many people, especially women, are jumping into vegetarianism and veganism without much knowledge of the nutrients they may be missing out on. Namely, iron…which women of childbearing years need in much greater quantities than men, children, and post-menopausal women. Dried beans, soy beans, dark leafy greens, raisins, lentils, tempeh, and some seeds and nuts are good sources of vegetarian/vegan iron. What’s important to know about vegetarian iron sources, however, is that it requires vitamin C to be absorbed, unlike meat sources of iron. Consuming high iron foods with vitamin C is essential for absorption and because vitamin C is water soluble and excesses are readily removed from the body, it needs to be consumed at frequent intervals and ideally, at each meal where iron is consumed. Including the above foods in your diet on a regular basis will help ensure a healthy and balanced diet which also includes complete proteins (proteins that contain all of the amino acids, similar to meat proteins that are all complete). Taking a multivitamin that contains iron is also a good insurance policy for vegetarians and vegans. Having regular blood work is important to screen for anemia. Generally speaking, people who have a good variety of vegetarian protein sources in the diet are able to lead a healthy and balanced vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Thanks for the excellent question – I hope this helps!

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Katie: What are your thoughts on sugar-free protein bars with sugar alcohols?

Prevention RD: Sugar alcohols are definitely nothing new to the market, but people are learning that items labeled as “sugar free” may still contain sugar/carbohydrate. While sugar alcohols are deemed safe for consumption, is it probably their gastrointestinal effects (bloating and diarrhea) that deter people from their use, in addition to the fact that they are not calorie-free. Sugar alcohols contain 50-60% less calories, but they do have a caloric value and effect on glucose levels in the body. I believe sugar alcohols can be included in the diet healthfully, but I think it’s good to be aware of the unpleasant side effects that can accompany their consumption. Hope that helps, Katie :)

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Erin: Real butter or butter substitute like margarine?

Prevention RD: Great question! Butter is bettah. No, really, it is…if we’re comparing traditional margarine to butter. Basically, margarine is vegetable oil that has been hydrogenated (read: trans fat has been created) into a solid. Trans fat is worse the saturated fat, the primary source of fat in butter. While saturated fat does increase the bad cholesterol (LDL), trans fat does the same, in addition to lowering the good cholesterol (HDL). In other words, trans fat can do more damage. Are there “light” butters, butter spreads, and “margarine”-like spreads that are healthier than butter? Yes. Just be sure you consult the ingredient list to look for the key word “hydrogenated” which indicates the presence of trans fat. I hope that helps!

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Tonya: “Clear” soda vs. “dark” soda???

Prevention RD: Hey, girl! There are so many opinions out there on this one and it really is picking the (hardly) lesser of two big evils. One huge myth is that clear sodas do not contain high fructose corn syrup and that is 100% false. Dark sodas typically do contain caffeine and coloring however, which is why I would choose clear soda by a small margin. Good question! What do you think??

If you have a question you’d love answered, please post as a comment or send me an email: preventionrd at gmail dot com!

Workout, work, diabetes cooking class tonight…we’re making pizza and salad! I experimented with the dough yesterday and it is gooood!

Be well,

sig4

Comments

  1. says

    I get so annoyed when companies subtract ALL of the sugar alcohols on their nutrition facts to come up with the “net carbs”, because like you said, they still effect blood sugar! Ugh.
    I love your answer about the diet soda. I too enjoy a nice diet soda sometimes, but I try not to make it a habit. To be fare though, I would probably drink more if I didn’t LOVE coffee so much!

  2. says

    I just wanted to add a little to your comment about vegan/vegetarian diets and how vitamin C is absorbed. Because vitamin C is so soluble, I’ve read that it’s best to break up your intake (vitamin/supplement) and take 1/2 in the morning with breakfast, and the other 1/2 at dinner, so you’re getting the most out of it. If you take it all in the morning, you end up peeing most of it out, thus losing it’s effect. Just wanted to add that little caveat!

  3. Melissa says

    I don’t know if you’ve ever read about the side effects to aspartame? Just because it is low cal and carbs, it’s artificial and, the main reason, it causes cancer! Here are SOME of the side-effects: Brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, parkinson’s disease, alzheimer’s, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia, and diabetes. Headaches/migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain, rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, tachycardia, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus, vertigo, memory loss, and joint pain.

    It is a billion dollar industry – of course they are going to sell it as a ‘better substitute’ to sugar because its low cal and carbs. Not to mention it took close to 20 years to get on the market because they kept killing off their test mice/rats. Do some research – its not hard to find out the truth. Nothing is that good as it seems.
    Just type in ‘aspartame’ in google search… (also Skinny Bitch is fantastic!) A few articles:

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartame_controversy

    http://www.sweetpoison.com/aspartame-side-effects.html

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