Home ยป Q&A


I think it’s been MONTHS since I posted 2x in one day! Whew! So much going on and so little time in which to share and catch up with you all! Forgive me for not being as “active” in the Blogosphere — work is busy and I am continuously striving for a healthy life-work-happiness-blog balance 🙂 Just like my garden should come with a warning, so should blogging — it quickly becomes very time-consuming!! 😉

If you haven’t already checked out my finished garden bed, be sure you do! I am very proud!

On to the Q&A…

Ambre: I’m a new-vegetarian…as of the end of November/beginning of December…Well, technically pescetarian. I’m doing the Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure in November (my 2nd time), which is a 60 mile walk over the course of three days. I found this information on their website, and I was wondering if there was anything else you recommend for me?

In order for vegetarian diets to support optimal athletic performance, it is important to incorporate an adequate amount of protein into your daily diet. Many people believe that following a vegetarian diet means they automatically will lose weight. This is not necessarily the case as many vegetarians inadvertently have a high fat intake based on whole-fat dairy products, butter, eggs, cheeses, nuts and seeds. Below are some tips for following a healthy vegetarian diet to help lose weight, maintain an optimal protein intake and support your training walks: 1. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products or low-fat fortified soy products. 2. Build your protein around legumes, tofu and tempeh. 3. Watch serving sizes on nuts and seeds; they are full of healthy fat but are very concentrated in calories. 4. Avoid fried foods and choose those that are baked, broiled, or steamed. 5. Add protein powder to shakes or cereal if you are not getting enough. 6. Increase your bean intake; they are high in protein and fiber. 7. Add soy products to your diet. 8. Limit snacks that are high in sugar and fat. 9. Flavor foods with salsa, lemon juice and vinegars instead of high-fat condiments like butter, mayonnaise and high-fat dressings. Certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12, calcium and zinc must be consumed in adequate amounts. These typically are found in animal based foods. Fortified soymilks are great for boosting calcium and vitamin B12. Eggs also are a great source of B12. Outstanding iron sources include fortified breakfast cereals, bread, textured vegetable protein, legumes, dried beans, nuts, dried fruit and green leafy vegetables. Eating rich sources of vitamin C with meats will help enhance iron absorption.

Prevention RD: Great question, Ambre! The suggestions the website made are really helpful. I don’t agree that soy should be added to the diet, however. I think that there are some benefits of soy in moderation, but some research suggests soy intake is related to increased risk of breast cancer. I particularly like that the information fully discloses that a vegetarian diet does not necessarily produce weight loss. When you cut out major foods groups in the diet, intake of other food groups naturally increases. When meat is taken out of the diet, protein intake tends to drop and fat and carbohydrate intake goes up. Thus it is important to get adequate protein (0.8-1 gram per kilogram of body weight) and to ensure fat sources are rich in mono and polyunsaturated fat versus saturated and trans fat and carbohydrate sources are complex and high in fiber. I hope this helps! Feel free to email me any further questions on this and I can help calculate some nutrient goals for you! And thanks for walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day! You are inspirational!

Also, please consider giving to Ambre’s fund-raising! A little bit will truly make a difference! I always feel so empowered after giving to a great cause!

John of Challenges 2010: When I get my blood checked can you give me an idea of what things to make sure they check. I mean they check for the good/bad cholesterol and blood sugar and really can’t remember what else. Reason I ask is I’m up here in Canada and it sounds like they don’t check out as many things or I just don’t know what other info I should be trying to get off them.

Prevention RD: This is a really great question and my answer may be biased from a nutrition perspective, but I’ll give it a go! I ALWAYS check: total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (the “bad”), HDL-cholesterol (the “good”), triglycerides, GFR (kidney function), plasma glucose, HbA1c (on my diabetics and pre-diabetics), TSH (metabolism), hemoglobin, hematocrit, TIBC (total iron binding capacity), AST and ALT (liver enzymes). For what it’s worth our clinic runs a CMP (complete metabolic panel), lipids (cholesterol), TSH, and CBC (complete metabolic panel) on patients annually. This is going to include everything I look at as a dietitian and then some. Good for you for being an active advocate for your health! We cannot always leave our well-being in the hands of professionals.

John of Challenges 2010: According to SparkPeople I don’t eat enough carbs. I do not try to avoid carbs. I do try and get my macronutrients in a 40:30:30 ratio for carbs, fats and proteins. Is there a minimum number you recommend and can you give me some ideas besides arborio rice 🙂 that are higher in carbs but still not bad in calories?

Prevention RD: Risotto everyday! Just kidding…that’s a joke for John since he got me hooked on Arborio rice 🙂 I think knowing your body weight would give me a better idea of how many grams you need, but with all of your exercise I would think 50% calories from carbohydrates may be a better fit for your needs. I’m a fan of 40:30:30 for those who are inactive, but that’s not you. Exercise requires a lot of glycogen (carbohydrate stores) and replenishment of the glycogen stores after long workouts. For a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be 250 grams of carbohydrates. I never recommend much below 150-160 grams, and that’s for my diabetics or petite patients. As for sources of carbohydrate: fruits, vegetables, legumes, milk, yogurt, and whole grains (bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, millet, barley, oats, etc.). Of course juice, sugar, candy, pastries, and sweets will contain plentiful amounts of simple carbohydrates, as well. But aim to have at LEAST half your grains as whole each day!

John of Challenges 2010: Green Tea…what are the health benefits and is there a difference between the stuff you brew at home or pick-up bottled?

Prevention RD: Green tea — thumbs up! Green tea with aspartame or loads of sugar — thumbs down! Like many things health-related we can observe the practices of the East where tea (green and otherwise) are staple beverages. There is no denying that green tea offers a zero-calorie, antioxidant-rich, tasty thirst quencher with a MUCH lower caffeine content than most other caffeinated beverages, but what is added TO the green tea is the deciding factor in it’s benefit. Most of the green teas on the market which are bottled and sweetened contain excessive amounts of sugar (64 grams in some!) or aspartame. Additionally, many bottled teas are made from tea powder which lacks the antioxidants of brewed tea. The bottled green teas may also contain preservatives to extend shelf-life which many times add sodium to the tea, as well as making it less “pure” (I will NOT use the word “CLEAN”!). I hope this helps some…another really great question!

Rebecca from France: I’m curious to know your opinion on artificial sweetners/sugar substitutes.  My mother uses Splenda a lot and these types of sweeters are just starting to grow in popularity in France.  But how healthy are they really?  I ask because most people would agree that “processed meat,” for example, isn’t as healthy as a cut of meat.  So why, then, would processed/artificial sweetners be a good choice to put in our bodies (as opposed to “real” sugar)?

Prevention RD: I want to quote Cara from Cara’s Cravings. Last week’s Q&A had a question about sweeteners, and she left a great comment that read:

I don’t think there’s a definitive answer on what the healthiest alternative to sugar is. There are so many ways to be healthy! For some people, it’s really important to limit those extra calories, and I happen to think that some artificial sweetener here and there is not going to kill you, and can certainly help with a weight-loss diet. For some people, keeping it all-natural is a top priority. Personally? I’m somewhere in the middle so I use a variety of sweeteners – Truvia, agave in moderation, a little splenda here and there, and real sugar.

I agree with Cara’s words 100%. Working with a large diabetic population, I know the importance of artificial sweeteners. And for those watching their weight, artificial sweeteners allow a lot more flexibility in their diet. As someone who not only “knows” nutrition, but also struggles with their weight, I too see the value in non-nutritive sweeteners (calorie-free). However, I do believe artificial sweeteners are WAY over-used in our society. I aim to use a variety of sweeteners and ALL of them in moderation — I drink 1 can of Zevia a day (Stevia-sweetened carbonated beverage) and use Splenda, brown sugar, suncant, cane sugar, granular sugar, powdered sugar, agave, honey, molasses, maple syrup, and so on in cooking and baking. As far as artificial sweeteners, I strictly use Splenda and Stevia products and steer clear of aspartame and Sweet ‘n’ Low, Equal, Twin, etc. Bottom line is that there’s no single way to reach “good health” and that one person’s goals and needs are very different from the next person’s. I hope this helps — excellent question! 🙂

Thanks everyone for submitting wonderful questions! Feel free to send any nutrition questions my way and I will be happy to answer them on the next Q&A!

And an Oklahoma joke for the day…

You know you work in Oklahoma when the doctor on staff leaves at 1 pm to go deliver a calf. But, he’ll be back just as soon as he can!

Share With Your Friends!


  1. March 3, 2010 / 4:59 pm

    I like what Cara said about sweeteners, too. I’m in between as well. A little diet soda can’t make me keel over and die!
    I love your Q & A’s, Nicole! It’s so informative, practical, and the best thing is that you don’t ever take an extremist approach. You’re just so real!

    Oh, and don’t worry about the challenge thing…I emailed your link to myself already just in case I forgot! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. March 3, 2010 / 5:31 pm

    In response to the last question, I think products should advertise more often wether or not they use artificial sweeteners(of which I do not count stevia). It is starting to appear in the oddest of places, and an easy thing to go overboard on because of that. Just today, I found out it’s in quakers rice crisps, of all places. And it’s used to sweeten cocoa almonds

  3. March 3, 2010 / 5:33 pm

    Great Q&A! And you won a mixed 6-pack of Zevia on my blog giveaway!! You can e-mail me your address and phone number at [email protected] and I’ll send the info. to Zevia!

  4. March 3, 2010 / 6:18 pm

    Lots of helpful info!! I totally agree with your stance on artificial sweeteners!! ๐Ÿ™‚ And I love, love, love my daily cup of green tea!! It does wonders for my health!!

  5. March 3, 2010 / 6:33 pm

    I agree completely about your answer in regards to artificial sweeteners. I think that it’s great we have the alternative, but our society definitely overdoes them. Moderation is key!

  6. March 3, 2010 / 6:41 pm

    Thanks for another great Q&A. I am squarely in the anti artificial sweetener camp and using the real thing I have still managed to lose 60 pounds. I use less sugar (mostly agave, maple syrup, molasses) and my palette has adjusted to less, so now I find things that are highly sweetened too sweet. Works out great, no chemicals and I get by with less sugar.

  7. March 3, 2010 / 7:50 pm

    Wow, Nicole I wasn’t expecting you to answer all three this week. Thank you though I appreciate it very much. I’ve copy and pasted the answers in my notepad and I’ll let you know when I get the bloodwork done.

    One thing though since I sent the questions in: I came across something where it’s said green tea can block testosterone and that black tea would be better for males. What do you think?

    Send your questions in folks or this will quickly become “John’s Question’s Answered” ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Nicole
      March 4, 2010 / 5:43 am

      Haha, that’s okay! I’ve already got a few for next Q&A — people must not like your questions. Kidding, kidding!!

      I’ll look into the testosterone thing — never heard this, though.

  8. March 3, 2010 / 8:33 pm

    just caught up on your posts..yay the garden looks great! blisters = battle wounds. awesome, your blood sweat and tears will go into all the fabulous meals you’ll make (that doesn’t sound as positive as i’m intending it to lol)

    great tips/answers! i’m a firm believer that soy does not cause breast cancer, but an excess of soy might! an excess of anything is no good! i think that if people stick to soy in naturally occurring forms (like tofu, edamame, etc) and stay away from added soy (even in luna bars and protein powders, etc) then they will be ok and actually can enjoy the health benefits of soy!

  9. March 3, 2010 / 8:46 pm

    I agree COMPLETELY with your answer to the artificial sweetener question, I try to do exactly the same thing!

  10. March 3, 2010 / 9:11 pm

    love the q and a and the joke is funny

  11. March 3, 2010 / 9:17 pm

    Great Q&A! I’ve always wondered exactly what was being checked in a blood screen…thanks for the info! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. March 3, 2010 / 9:21 pm

    Thanks for the shout out! And PS I am very jealous of your garden all done, we hope to get going on one soon! I even printed out your post the other day to show hubby ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. March 3, 2010 / 9:34 pm

    I love these Q&As. You give such great information I can trust. Another addition to the green tea question. Months ago I wrote an article about tea and spoke with Jeffrey Blumberg of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. He gave another reason bottled tea isn’t as good of a choice (green or black). Blumberg said that the catechins in tea–those healthy antioxidants–start to degrade once the tea’s been brewed. And bottled tea has been stored for a while, so those healthy compounds are pretty much gone. Also, iced tea is diluted with water so the flavanoid content isn’t that big.

    I’m a huge tea nut so I thought it would be helpful for other to know!

    • Nicole
      March 4, 2010 / 5:41 am

      So interesting! Thank you for sharing!!

  14. March 4, 2010 / 4:10 am

    Was nice knowing the answers to these questions…well answered..

  15. March 4, 2010 / 6:33 am

    I hope you do more Q&A’s because I love these! It’s a great way to get specific information from the RD herself. ๐Ÿ™‚ I agree, I think artificial sweeteners are WAY overused in our society, but they are a great alternative for diabetics, etc.

    Your garden bed looks great! Have you decided what color you’re going to paint it?

  16. March 7, 2010 / 7:04 pm

    haha.. love the statement about Oklahoma. My aunt and uncle own a farm outside of Tulsa but I always preferred to stay inside the city when I lived there. Too much uncharted territory for this girl ๐Ÿ˜‰

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