Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is Milk Sugar Bad for You?

Is skim milk good for you? I understand that it has no fat and is the reason why I have it. But all the carbs it has is from sugar, is this a bad thing?  -- Harry K.

 Yes, milk sugar (lactose) occurs naturally in milk; but this is not a bad thing! The reason sugars should be consumed in moderation is because, when used as an added sweetener, they contribute calories without nutrients. Milk provides valuable vitamins and minerals, so enjoy 2-3 servings a day of milk and dairy products!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Really That Bad?

I was wondering what you think about high fructose corn syrup. I've heard conflicting thoughts and wanted to know if it's really that bad for you?  Danielle A.

Hi Danielle,
Good question!

Corn syrup itself does not contain fructose. Food scientists realized if they added fructose to corn syrup, it would be a good medium to add to sweeten foods and beverages. It has a texture different from sugar crystals that lends itself well to a lot of products. There really isn't any such thing as "low-fructose corn syrup". At the time, it was just a way of identifying corn syrup that had fructose added to it, period.

In my professional opinion, it's not that high-fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar in any way--it has the same number of calories gram for gram--but it's the fact that so many things nowadays are unnecessarily sweetened. Why do they need to add sweetener to fruit juices? canned fruits? bread?

In moderation, there isn't anything wrong with this method of sweetening certain products. It's the fact that some people consume sugars (of any kind) in excess amounts and frequency that eventually leads to obesity and many chronic diseases.
You can find more details about high-fructose corn syrup on the website, SweetSurprise.com.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Do I Prepare for a Healthy Pregnancy?

My husband and I want to start trying to have a child next October. I've been reading up on how important it is to prepare your body for such a big change but I'm not sure if i'm jumping the gun too early. If I'm not, what should I be doing food-wise to help myself? I'm going to start working out (which i do just not as much as I should be).
Stacy N.

Hi Stacy,
It's great you are preparing in advance for a healthy pregnancy--way to go!
That's such exciting news. And I don't believe it's ever too early to start eating healthy.

Here's what I would suggest:
First, look for a multivitamin supplement that meets the daily values for most vitamins, especially folic acid. This is a B vitamin that is essential for proper cell division, which occurs in the first several weeks of pregnancy when most women are not even yet aware they are carrying a fetus.

Second, look for healthy eating guidelines at http://www.mypyramid.org/ and start developing healthy diet habits:  Drink plenty of fluids, include fresh fruits and vegetables, and limit excess fats and sweets. This way you won't have to worry about changing all these old habits when you become pregnant and have other things on your mind!

There are also a lot of new food items suggested to avoid in pregnancy. It's probably not too soon to get yourself of copy of "What to Expect when You're Expecting", the virtual bible for pregnant women. It has information on preparing for your pregnancy and lets you follow along each week to find out what is going on inside your body with the baby's development as well.

For exercise, find an activity or a class you like at the gym--it could be anything from spinning to a step class to brisk walking or taking a nice bike ride. Just get in the habit of being physically active 30 minutes on most days and you'll be in another good habit by the time you're ready to carry a baby.

Good luck, and send pictures :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Plateau on the Atkins Diet

I've been in the induction phase of atkins now for 5 months and have lost 65lbs. My daily calorie intake is 1500 average and doing 1:45 excercise 5 days a wk.60 yrs old male.I still need to lose 35lbs. 2 questions please. Why has my loss rate gone down to 1 kilo per week ?When I exercise on atkins am I primarily burning fat,indifferent to whether I work in the aerobic" Fat burning zone" or "cardio zone"?  Larry G.

Dear Larry,
First of all, my congratulations to you for such a significant weight loss. Hats off to you, also, for sticking with a diet and exercise program for 5 months! That is super :)  The longer you stay with it, the more likely you are to make these daily habits part of your life. This means weight loss for long term!

The fact that your weight loss has gone "down" to 1 kilo (2 pounds) per week means you have been losing weight super-fast all this time. Two pounds per week is the high end of a recommended weight loss and is by no means considered a plateau. Plateauing is when you have zero weight loss for many weeks in a row and that's when you have to shake up your routine a bit. You are still losing at a rapid pace and should continue to be encouraged.

Second, while you exercise you burn various substrates (fat, carbohydrate or protein) depending on the activity and on the length of time you are exercising. It is not dependent on what you eat. Once you have been exercising for more than 20 or 30 minutes your body does convert to burning mostly fat.

Keep up the good work!!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How Much Fiber is Enough versus Too Much?

Hi, My doctor suggested I increase my fiber intake to help a terrible constipation problem I've been having. How much should I take in? And is there such a thing as too much fiber?  Thanks, Janice

Dear Janice,

Generally you can't go wrong with fiber, but there are a few exceptions. People with certain intestinal disorders or stomach ulcers must watch the types of fiber they eat, and avoid tough skins (like apples or cucumbers) and sometimes nuts and popcorn.  Other types of fiber, such as fiber one cereals, with 14 grams per serving, sometimes have "warning" labels encouraging plenty of water or milk to be consumed with the product. There have been cases of people consuming lots of fiber without enough water and getting "stopped up".

Those issues aside, the recommended fiber intake is 25-35 grams per day and it's pretty difficult to get there! Use whole-grain products like bread, cereals and pasta; include the skins when you eat apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables, and look for products with fiber added (usually breakfast cereals).

To further boost your intake you can take fiber supplements like Metamucil, Benefiber or Citrucel. Follow the instructions on the label and start out with just one serving per day to let your body acclimate. Otherwise discomfort from gas is more likely.

It would be interesting to note what your current fiber intake is, and then to see what adding 10 or 15 grams does for you! In addition to helping with constipation there is evidence it can also prevent some types of cancer, including cancer of the colon.

Be sure to drink 6-8 glasses of water per day. Fiber works to ease constipation because it bulks the stools, but it needs water to work (otherwise stools may still be on the dry side). And getting whatever kind of exercise you can (like walking a few miles each day) helps regular bowel movements too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

How Do I Gain Muscle Mass?

Hello, I am also underweight and I think I look rather skinny. How do I gain muscle mass and eat healthily? I heard that to gain muscle mass, I should take a lot more protein in a day. What type of food is very high in protein, and at the same time, healthy and low in saturated fats?  Janney S.

Dear Janney,

The way to gain muscle mass is to work out your muscles so they grow. If you merely eat more protein, your body will use extra protein for calories... this means protein that is not used to build muscle or not used for energy being burned will be converted to fat to be stored for later use!

High protein, low-fat foods include eggs (the white part), lean meats (including fish and chicken as well as beef and pork), low-fat dairy products, and healthy combinations of beans with starchy food (like a bean burrito), or vegetables with starchy food (like pasta with tomato sauce or peanut butter on crackers).

Many people who want to gain weight simply don't eat enough during the day because food is not a priority or a "love" for them as it is for people who never seem to be able to lose weight!

Be sure you eat three balanced meals each day and include between-meal snacks as well. The food guide pyramid (http://www.mypyramid.gov/) has simple guidelines to follow so you know you're eating a balanced diet.  If you just aren't hungry enough to eat, sometimes it's easier to drink your calories. I think Carnation instant breakfast drink is an easy and tasty way to get in enough calories (if you drink one every day) to gradually put on weight.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

How Much Peanut Butter Should I Eat to Gain Weight?

About how much peanut butter should I eat daily to gain weight?  Larry Z.

Dear Larry,

For weight gain you want to aim for an extra 200 to 500 calories per day in your diet. This will add about 1/2 to 1 pound per week to your weight.
Peanut butter has about 100 calories per tablespoon. But the increase in calories doesn't all have to be from peanut butter!

You might consider something easier like a serving of carnation instant breakfast drink which provides 250 calories (when made with whole milk) and protein and vitamins and minerals. Two of these a day should help you gain nearly a pound each week.

Good Luck!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is There a Supplement That Increases Metabolism?

Hi!  I am 41 years old, but still feel young and look young, like I did when I was about 30. I have been eating less but I feel like my metabolism is slowing down. I do go to the gym 2 or 3 times a week and I eat very healthy at breakfast and lunch, but I like ice cream and salty snacks in the evening. I try to eat fruit instead, and control my cravings, but is there any supplement you can recommend that will increase my metabolism? I've already had my thyroid checked and it is fine.  Thanks!  Susie K.

Dear Susie,

It's great that you are aware of healthier food choices to make, and that you do go to the gym two or three times a week. I'm not sure why you feel your metabolism is decreased, but there isn't much chance of that. From age 30 to 40 the average woman's metabolic rate is reduced by about 40 calories a day--not something you're likely to notice.

What does keep your metabolism going is exercise! You might consider adding a mile walk (about 18 minutes at a fairly brisk pace) to your regimen. Each day this will burn an extra 100 calories--more than enough to compensate for the 40 calories your body isn't burning due to the process of aging. Each month this is enough to promote a pound of weight loss--which is more than 10 pounds by this time next year, just from walking a mile a day!

As for the night-time cravings, you can fit a low-calorie treat into your diet when you're eating smart the rest of the day and doing some form of exercise. I like the Skinny Cow Ice Cream Treats, like ice cream sandwiches and fudge bars, which have just about 140 calories and taste great.

Also consider keeping a food diary so you can have an objective view of how you really eat on a daily basis. It's helpful for cueing you to think before you eat, and may encourage you to think about whether you really want to add those calories to your daily intake, or have a glass of water and/or take a quick walk instead!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why Do I Feel Full After Eating a Small Amount?

I have a problem with getting too full very quickly even from eating a small amount of food. I don't have any digestive problems other than occasional constipation. But sometimes I skip a meal because I'm just not hungry, and when I feel hungry later I get full right away. I have been under a good deal of stress and wonder if this can be related?  Sonia C.

Dear Sonia,
Stress can certainly affect our appetites a great deal! Some people eat when they are stressed and others find they can barely eat all day. Still others lose their appetite when they are especially happy or excited.
If you notice you can eat fine when you're relaxed, but have a greatly diminished appetite when you're stressed, then it's likely due to stress. In this case, many people find it much easier to drink than to eat. Beverages like SlimFast and Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink are designed to be a meal replacement, providing a good deal of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

If you go several days without an appetite, or find you are losing weight because of it, do visit a physician just to rule out the possibility of a physical issue. There are many things that can cause these feelings called "early satiety" and they will often have a quick fix such as a simple antacid or a laxative. But only a qualified physician can diagnose your situation after a careful history and physical. It will probably put your mind at ease to visit your doctor just to be on the safe side.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Is Coca-cola Really Fattening?

I am 15 years old and would like to lose a few pounds, but I drink  lot of coke. I figured out I can lose weight on 1200 calories, and I know going lower than that is not healthy. But if 300-400 of the calories are from coke, will that keep me from losing weight?
Jenny R.

Dear Jenny,

Three hundred to 400 calories of Coke is not more fattening than 300-400 calories of anything else. If you can lose weight on 1200 calories it doesn't really matter what composes those calories--it could be all fruits or it could be all ice cream and you would still lose the same amount of weight!

What does matter is the nutrition you're getting. The diet you have proposed has you getting 25-30 percent of your daily calories from COKE! The reason 1200 calories is a recommended minimum healthy diet is because it takes that many calories on a balanced diet to meet your needs for protein, essential fats, vitamins, and minerals. You won't be meeting your needs when only 800-900 calories is coming from food even if all those foods are highly nutritious.

I would suggest you try different ways to cut down your coke consumption, at least by half. Try using the smaller cans, substituting one can a day with another beverage, or mix half a coke with diet coke to cut the calorie and sugar intake. Not only will you be able to lose weight, but you'll probably reduce the number of cavities you get as well!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

How Can I Gain Weight Without Drinking Supplements?


I'm a 16 year old guy who is currently underweight. I am 5'2" tall and weigh 86 pounds. I am not an active person and do not excercise much. I've tried taking supplements before to gain weight but I dislike drinking them. As I would choose to eat healthily to gain muscle mass instead of drinking supplements, how much calorie must I take a day and what should I eat to gain weight healthily?
I usually have oatmeal and bread for breakfast, and  noodles or rice with meat and vegetables for lunch and dinner.
I look forward to your reply, thanks a lot!

Dear Sammi,
The number of calories you need depend on all sorts of things: I suspect you are still growing at your age and your body is using an increased number of calories to fuel that growth.

You have just a few options in order to ingest more calories: One is to add snacks to your diet, another is to eat larger portions of the foods you are currently eating, and a third is to add fat to your meals. A fourth healthy option is trying some high-calorie shakes or bars which can help you get in hundreds of calories quickly and eaisly. I wonder what kind of supplements you've had in the past, and whether you don't like the taste of them, or don't like the full feeling you may get after drinking them.

I would suggest starting with snacks. Many students do not have the opportunity to take a mid-morning snack, so let's start with afternoon and evening. Aim for 300 calories at each snack time to gain one pound per week. You can try an energy bar (like Clif bars), or some peanut butter on crackers or toast. Nuts are high in calories (almost 200 calories in just 1/4 cup) as well as dried fruit. Some of the tastier high-calorie drinks would be a milkshake or a Carnation Instant Breakfast (powder you add to your own milk that raises the calorie count to at least 250 if you use whole milk).

Next, try adding some fat to your meals: a spread on your toast (peanut butter, nutella, cream cheese) can add a hundred calories; butter on your noodles or rice adds about 100 calories per tablespoon; and you can have your vegetables stir-fried instead of steamed to add some more fat calories. If you're eating very little fat now, your total intake of fat should still be in line with the guidelines as long as you just add a little to each meal.

Another option is trying to eat a larger portion of the foods with calories, like oatmeal, toast, noodles, rice, and meats. Finally, fruit juice has a lot of calories, which people don't realize. Just 8 ounces usually provides a good amount of vitamins, but also 80 calories. If you can drink some more juice this might be an easy way for you to add another 100 or so calories each day.

For every 500 additional calories you can eat each day, you'll gain about a pound at the end of that week.
Good luck!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How Can I Break the Habit of Having Dessert after Dinner?

I have a question about the urge to continue eating after dinner. I enjoy a delicious, filling dinner but instead of feeling satisfied, I immediately feel the urge to eat more or devour a dessert. Is there a scientific reason for this? Or is it just the habit of eating dessert after dinner? Is there anything I can do to stop it? I'm thinking that chewing gum after my meal would help. Thank you for any information!  --Gina R.

Dear Gina,

Yes, this craving is likely a result of your body knowing you are in the habit of having dessert.
The craving is driven by hormones in your body signaling you "It's time to eat something sweet!" This urge can come from whatever is familiar that preceeds the dessert--even a feeling of fullness!

Take heart, it just takes a few weeks for your body to realize this is not a habit anymore and it should not expect dessert at this time. Meanwhile, distract yourself or find a miniature substitute. I usually grab a handful of cereal which satisfies the carb craving, leaves a sweet taste with me, and has less than 25 calories! If chewing gum helps you that is a great solution.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Does Vitamin B12 have to be injected, or are the pills good enough?

I am a nurse who was trained that vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin) had to be given parenterally or sublingually. However, I have seen bottles in stores of the tablet form of B-12. I wonder if they are even absorbed by the GI tract. Has there been new science showing it can now be absorbed in the GI tract? Thanks in advance, Dorothy.

Dear Dorothy,

Great question, and I'm happy to answer because vitamin B12 is hands down my favorite vitamin! It has such unique characteristics, including the way it is absorbed in the body.

First B12 must bind to intrinsic factor in the stomach, where the environment is acidic. If someone is missing intrinsic factor (if they had their stomach removed due to multiple polyps, severe bleeding ulcers, or cancer) they would not be able to absorb the vitamin orally. Likewise if the acidic environment were changed (and this happens when people age, as well as in people who take antacids regularly) the B vitamin would not be absorbed if taken orally.

Next this compound of intrinsic factor bound to B12 (which used to be called the "extrinsic factor") travels to the terminal ileum (the last part of the small intestine) which is where absorption takes place. If you have a patient who has ileal disease (like Crohn's disease) or had this part of their intestine removed, they would need shots of B12 because an oral source of B12 would not be absorbed into their system.

Vitamin B12 pills are helpful to those who have no problems in their digestive system affecting normal absorption of the vitamin. Since B12 is only found in animal products, it is recommended that vegans take a supplement. They can swallow a pill and absorb it just as most people can absorb the vitamin from foods.

If, however, someone is suffering from a B12 deficiency due to an alteration in the physiology of their stomach or small intestine, they do need to take the injectable form since an oral supplement will not be effectively absorbed.
I hope this clears it up for you!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Have Trouble Digesting High Glycemic Index Foods

Dear Laurie,
I think I have carbohydrate intolerance. I have always eaten lots of breads and cereals, but always had bad gas and bloating, along with other symptoms.

Last week I cut out all carbs and I feel SO much better and even lost a pound!

Now I have discovered low glycemic carbs like yams and converted rice.
Can I eat these types of carbs, or in my case are ALL carbs bad-even the low glycemic ones?

Dear Bea,

Glycemic Index is a measure of how much blood sugar levels raise after eating a specific amount of carbohydrate food. There is no relationship between glycemic index and digestion.

What you may have is an intolerance to gluten, the protein found in wheat and some other grains. People who are allergic to gluten have symptoms as you have described: gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea. The reason rice and potatoes do not cause distress is because they do not contain gluten.

I would suggest you see a gastroenterologist, or at least your family physician, for a thorough check-up. They can rule out any other conditions and provide you with a gluten free diet to try and see how you feel on it.
Find more information from this gastroenterology website on gluten free diets.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How Much Sugar Should You Have in a Day?

Are the sugars in ice cream, candy and soda the same as the white sugar that you put in your coffee or tea? (for consideration of overall daily sugar intake?) Also refined sugar, brown sugar? Should we count sugar in rice, bread, potatoes? I just don't want to go above the daily sugar intake recommendations.  Rochelle J.

Dear Rochelle,

Recent studies point to added sugars contributing to chronic diseases, now including heart disease. Eating too much sugar can cause weight gain, a rise in bad cholesterol level, a decrease in good cholesterol levels, and elevation of triglyceride level.

Sugars found in fruit or milk are not counted as "added" sugars. Nor are the carbohydrates from rice or wheat (although eating these without a limit can raise calorie intake and contribute to weight gain!). The added sugars provide calories with no nutrition. When you get sugar calories from fruit or milk you are getting nutrients along with them.

Sugar like white sugar in coffee, processed sugar in your cereal, brown sugar in baked goods, high fructose corn syrup in soda, candy, etc should be limited to 25 gm (100 calories) per day for women and twice that for men. (Men at a healthy weight generally can afford a higher calorie intake due to their larger size).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How Can I Get Motivated to Lose Weight?

Hi Laurie,
I am 45 years old and I have over 100 pounds to lose.  I want to know where to begin. I would like to know what is good carbs and what is bad I'm desperate to lose weight. About 4 years ago I dropped 63 pounds on my own but I cant seem to get that motivation again. I can't seem to even get off the couch and I had cut out most carbs.and was eating much lighter but now I have no self control. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated I know it's not going to come off over night but a little bit of progress quick would sure help to motivate. Thanks, Rochelle M.

Dear Rochelle,
It's important that you realize the first step is to somehow spark motivation before you can be successful. You know if you just start a "diet" this week you'll be back to square one by next week. Here's what I suggest: Over the next few days, take the time to make a serious list of 5 reasons you would like to lose weight.
Each time you come up with a reason, list underneath it "why is this important to me"? After you are able to identify why it is important, ask the question once again of the answer you came up with.
So it might look like this:
"I want to lose weight to look better in my clothes."
Why? "I will feel more confident and be able to go out more".
Why is this important? "Because I miss going out and feeling good and I would look forward to getting back to that lifestyle again".

Now, you have something to motivate you to get off the couch... you want a life you enjoy!
Four more times, and you'll have a list of reasons that will stimulate you to go for a walk or join an exercise class, pass on the chips or avoid the buffet line. You will realize that taking care of yourself for your future is so much more of a payoff than the 5 minutes you spend to enjoy a chocolate bar.

I would suggest not focusing on a "diet" or cutting out carbs or eating lighter.
Look at the DASH eating plan or the food guide pyramid or other very healthy eating plans (recommended by public health agencies and dietitians) and focus on feeding your body nutritious foods that will make you feel good and strong and vibrant--not what you must avoid (because that often leads to feelings of deprivation).

If you are enjoying whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and nuts while drinking plenty of water, you will be too full to worry about not having cupcakes and ice cream or counting carb grams or measuring portion sizes.

It's great that you are not looking for  a quick fix, but just some progress in the right direction. Take the time now to come up with the best plan that will work for you, and you'll continue to see progress in the weeks to come. Please write back and let me know how you're doing with the plan you choose!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Does Too Much Sodium Promote Weight Gain?

I ate a high salt diet for about 3 days will that cause me to get fat? Also how do I get rid of the water weight and water retention to bring my body back to normal water levels? Thank You, Randy A.

Dear Randy,

No, sodium does not contain any calories, so high sodium foods (including those that are salty) will not cause any weight gain in the form of fat. Temporary weight gain can be caused by fluid retention and the best way to drop that is by drinking lots of water. Healthy kidneys use the water to flush the extra sodium out of the body.

If you notice a weight gain of more than a pound or so and it stays with you for several days, you might want to check in with your physician. Symptoms such as swollen ankles or difficulty breathing (because fluid can be collecting around your heart or lungs) may indicate a problem with your heart or kidneys that is preventing the release of salt and water that is necessary to return your body to normal. Serious health consequences may occur if this is the case, but diet and medications can help .... so see your physician as soon as possible if this is the case.

By the way, there are many foods that are extremely high in sodium that people are often not aware of: many fast foods, canned foods, snack foods, and lunch meats can cause our recommended sodium intake to double in no time. Check food labels when you can and try to keep sodium intake below 700 milligrams at each meal in order to keep the total daily intake at the recommended 2300 milligram level.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How Many Fruits and Vegetables a Day are Recommended?

My question is, when people say to get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, does this mean 5 of each, or 5 total?  Thanks! Donna S.

Dear Donna,

Depending on the trusted source, the number of servings can be phrased differently.  The minimum should be a total of 5 servings, but some health agencies are pushing for 9-12 servings total.
The food guide pyramid recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of veggies for adults. "More Matters", a website promoting the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, agrees.
From Healthy People 2010, a summary of government sponsored health goals, "The CDC hopes that at least 75% of people aged 2 years or older will consume at least two daily servings of fruit and at least three daily servings of vegetables, and at least one-third of these servings will be dark green or orange vegetables".

That said, a recommendation of 9 to 12 servings could be referring to 1/2-cup servings, which would be the same as 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables!

The benefits? Fruits and vegetables are usually a low-calorie concentrated source of vitamins (especially A and C), minerals (especially potassium) and fiber. Filling up on these nutritious foods means less chance other low-nutrient dense--and often high-calorie--foods will be consumed in significant amounts.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How Can I Add Fiber to my Salads?

I wanted to know how to make my salad higher in fiber since lettuce doesn't have more than one or two grams.  --Debbie N.

Hi Debbie,
Great question! Yes, most lettuce is not high in fiber, but actually it's difficult to find one food that alone is very high in fiber. Adding a variety of other vegetables and beans to your salad is a great way to increase the total fiber content.
For example, tomatoes, green pepper, celery, cucumber, fresh spinach, raw broccoli or cauliflower, etc mixed in will all add another gram or two of fiber per 1/2 cup. Any type of bean you add (chick peas, white beans... whatever canned beans your have work just fine) will add more soluble fiber which is also important in addition to the insoluble fiber found in most vegetables.
Meanwhile you will also have a more colorful and tasty salad with texture and a greater variety of nutrients!

Happy eating :)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Do I Need to Maintain the Same Calorie Intake Every Day?

I am a 6'1" 225 pound male, trying to lose some weight. I am keeping a food record and I notice that on certain days I take in more calories than others. My schedule is affected by work hours, which are sometimes 10 hours a day, and school because I am in classes 3 days a week. Does it matter if I eat more some days than others, as long as I always have a low number of calories?  Dave S.

Dear Dave,

It is not essential to eat the same number of calories each day. However, it is wise to eat a reasonable number of calories each day! For instance, if you notice that you've only eaten 1100 one day and that another day you took in 3000, I would suggest you try to plan your meals and snacks in advance to make sure you are getting in the optimal nutrition each day.

Research shows that skipping meals does not help with weight loss. On the days you are busy try to find time to fit in a healthy snack, even if it's something like a granola bar or a slimfast-type meal replacement drink or bar. This will keep a steady flow of nutrients for your body to use consistently, and increase your chances for continued steady weight loss.

Likewise, take a look at days when your caloric intake is high to figure out where a large number of calories are coming from. Often people tend to make up for missed meals with higher calorie foods later in the day.

If you are talking about a fluctuation of 200 or 300 calories, it's not important. I would estimate a range between 1800 and 2200 calories will be a good daily goal for your weight loss plan.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How Can My Husband Safely Gain Weight?

Hi Ms. Beebe,
My husband has always had high cholesterol and recently high blood pressure. So to combat this, he's been watching what he eats, but now he is losing weight. It's a double-edged sword. He does need to gain weight. I've tried to help by giving him extra pasta, potatoes and rice.
He weighs 153 (his lowest point recently being 148#, and he should be 170.
We would like to know with the two situations in mind, are there any foods that you might recommend that could help him gain the weight he needs and not wreak havoc on his cholesterol?
Thank You!  Kimberly H.

Dear Kimberly,

You have the right idea going! Pastas, potatoes and rice are both low in fat and sodium, so they won't be interfering with his cholesterol or blood pressure!
Other foods to add that are low in both sodium and cholesterol:
1.  Fruits (dried fruits and juices can add quite a few calories)
2. Cereals (both hot or cold) with skim milk
3. "Good" fats like nuts and sunflower seeds
4. Dry peas and beans
5. Lean meats like chicken breasts and fish

Sometimes people do tend to go a bit overboard when they have decided to eat better for their health, and they avoid foods they don't need to be avoiding or take amounts that aren't enough to support their energy needs. Perhaps your husband can eat larger portions of some foods, or start incorporating snacks.

If he is not able to gain weight because his appetite isn't big enough to eat more of these healthy foods, he can try a supplement (like Carnation Instant Breakfast or Ensure). These do not have cholesterol and are quite low in sodium. If he drinks 2 a day (about 250 calories in each serving) he can expect to put on about one pound each week.

If weight loss continues, be sure to visit the doctor with this information and check out any other possibilities that could be causing weight loss.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Is Food Combining Real Science?


Have you heard of "food combining"? The basic concept is not to mix carbohydrates with proteins or fats as they interfere with each other during digestion.
I have always had digestive issues in spite of the fact I am a light eater and stay clear of big fatty meals.  Even as a kid, a burger or plate of meat and potatoes left my belly bloated for hours.
I have tried all kinds of digestive supplements to see if I was intolerant, but nothing helped.
Then it dawned on me that maybe it wasnt the food it was the mixture of foods I was eating. I for example I can eat a bagel no problem but ad bacon and egg and I bloat. Chicken ceasar salads are no problem but add croutons-you get it.  I google this and its called food combining.  I mentioned this to my doctor and he thinks its quackery. It also doesnt seem to be as mainstream as the other food fads. Your thoughts appreciated! -- Tony G.

Dear Tony,
Yes, I agree with your doctor. This bogus myth has been around for a hundred years, yet people have been eating sandwiches for decades! There is nothing in our physiology that prevents combining any foods together. The hormones and enzymes in our stomach and small intestine respond to each type of food (carbohydrates, fats, or protein) regardless of other types entering the digestive system at the same time.
There is a chance you have some type of digestive intolerance and it may be to gluten or it may be to fats... or it may just be that adding another food results in too much volume for you to comfortably digest at one time.
Try eating whatever you like in smaller portions (like 1/2 bagel with bacon and egg) and see if this helps!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Does it Matter What Time You Eat?

I am writing to find out if eating late may be affecting my weight. I have heard it's just "calories in calories out" and not specifically what you eat or when. What's your take on this? --Gina F.

Hi Gina,
Yes, I believe it does not matter what time you eat. Case in point: people in Europe eat dinner very very late (10 pm, at which time I am ready for bed!) yet Americans have a higher rate of obesity. I think we eat the wrong foods in the wrong amounts, such as a bag of chips in front of the TV and then some milk and cookies before bed.... time is not necessarily the factor.  It is a matter of consuming too many calories after probably having eaten enough in our breakfast, lunch, dinner, and other snacks! I can tell you plenty of people have a healthy evening snack like a piece of fruit, a bowl of cereal, or even a small serving of milk and cookies, and are of perfectly normal weight.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is Skim Milk Good for You?

Ms. Beebe,
I have heard that fat free foods may just not be good for you because they replace the fat with something else. My question is about skim milk, which is also called fat free milk. Is there something they add to this to replace the fat being skimmed out, should I stay away from this skim/fat free milk? Is it missing any nutrients that you should be getting from milk? I am interested in all you have to say about skim/fat free milk. Thanks, Bob.

Dear Bob,

That's a great question because lots of products do replace the fat with some other substance. Usually it's either artificial or it's something with sugars in it. I know I used to buy low fat peanut butter until I looked at the label and saw I wasn't saving too many calories (170 versus 180 in the regular) and it just had added sugars!
Milk is a different story. As a matter of fact, many dairy products (including yogurt, ice cream, sour cream) can be purchased "low fat" and you'll be getting the same product minus the fat. Period.

It's always a good idea to read the ingredient label to see what you're getting. It's especially helpful to compare the low-fat product to the standard product (like I eventually did with the peanut butter).

Furthermore, with the fat removed, a glass of skim milk actually has a slightly higher content of vitamins and minerals because there is about an extra ounce of milk replacing the fat that's in a glass of whole milk.
Drink up and enjoy!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

How Do I Use My Pedometer?

As part of a spring exercise incentive program at my job they just gave us all a pedometer and encouraged us to start walking 5000 steps. I'm not clear on this: How far is it, how long it will take, and are we supposed to do 5000 steps every single day?  Do I wear the pedometer all the time or just while taking this one walk?  Millie W.

Dear Millie,

Most public health and wellness agencies agree that 10,000 steps per day is the number to aim for. This is about 5 miles per day. It does not necessarily mean a five mile walk (although that is perfectly acceptable) but means you should be moving around all day long as much as possible.

Put the pedometer on as soon as you dress in the morning, and wear it until you go to bed at night. Keep a record of your daily steps for a few weeks, and remember to reset the instrument each morning before you put it back on.

You may find initially that you walk 1000 steps a day if you do not exercise and/or if your workday is sedentary. Others may find they easily get in thousands of steps per day with a daily 2 mile walk, moving around on the job, running after their small children, and walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store. There are dozens of ways to get in steps and the good news is, they all count!

Get an idea what your average number is after a few days of recording, and then decide how much you can ramp it up. Try getting in 50 percent more steps than you have been (such as increasing from 4000 per day to 6000 per day) and see how that goes for a few weeks. If you can do it, shoot for another 2000 per day and keep it up for a few more weeks.

It's fun to see how many more steps you can get in each day just by parking a bit farther away or taking a flight of stairs instead of the elevator. For more fun, consider having contests with others, either at work or online.  And the biggest benefit for most people? Track the weight you lose as you increase your activity just by getting in more steps! As a guideline, you can lose a pound each month from every 2000 steps you add per day. A 2000 step walk is about a mile and should take most people just about 20 minutes or less. This simple strategy can leave you 10 pounds lighter by this time next year, so give it a try!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is a Juicer or a Blender Better for Increasing my Fruit and Vegetable Intake?

I am trying to consume more fruits and vegetables in order to lose weight and get more soluble fiber to lower my LDL cholesterol. I'm trying to figure out if it's better to use a juicer (because I've heard this leaves out some of the fiber) or a blender (which I understand makes the food more difficult to digest).  Thanks, Joe. S.

Dear Joe,
It seems to me, chewing your fruits and vegetables naturally blenderizes them. When the chewed food gets to your stomach and the acid starts to break it down you are naturally juicing them! You can get enough soluble fiber from eating most fruits and vegetables with the skin on, such as apples, plums, cucumbers, etc.

Aim for 9-12 fruits and vegetables (combined) per day to get all the vitamins and fiber you need from this food group. You might want to start out slowly (increase by 2-3 servings a day) if you aren't used to all that fiber to give your gastrointestinal tract time to adjust. Bloating and stomach aches can be signs of taking in too much fiber too fast.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How Do I Stop Craving Chocolate?

Hi,  I am a 35-year old female in pretty good health. I work out once or twice a week and eat pretty well. I would just like to lose 10 or 12 pounds but my problem is craving chocolate. I don't eat huge portions but I need some every day. Do you have any advice on how I can kick this habit? I know if I could give up the chocolate, the weight would come off in time.  Thanks, LeeAnne

Dear LeeAnne,

There is no physical way, to my knowledge, to stop craving chocolate. I do know the more you eat it, the more you'll want it. And, believe it or not, once you give it up the cravings will lessen over time.

Mentally, the way to kick the craving is to find something else that is more important to you. What works is finding a reason that you really want to lose 10 pounds.  If you'd just "sorta like to" then that won't be anywhere near strong enough to overpower the little chocolate voice calling "come have some of me--I taste sooo good"!

I would suggest sitting down for a while and giving some serious thought to your priorities. Try coming up with a list of 10 ways your life will be better if you lose 10 pounds. And they have to be specific reasons--sharp enough to envision when the chocolate starts calling you over. For instance "I'll look better" probably won't cut it at least half the time--but having a vision of yourself wearing a certain dress at a certain gathering may go a lot farther in being able to say "no" to that little chocolate devil on your shoulder.

Some other options include limiting the number of days a week you indulge, or calculating the number of calories of chocolate you're eating and resolve to burn those off in exercise sometime that day!

If you could use the help of a diet coach to get you through the next 3 months while you get the weight off, take a visit over to my website, MyCoachLaurie.com, and give me a call!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Do I Find My Personal Nutrient Needs?

I am 21 years old and would like to find out what my own personal nutrient needs are--not just what the general  population needs. I am 5'4" and 130 pounds female and fairly active. Thanks, Jolene

Dear Jolene,
Here is a link to the USDA website with dietary reference intakes and an explanation of how to use them. Every single vitamin and mineral (along with carbohydrate and protein needs as well) is categorized according to gender and age. Your height and weight are not included as factors in considering nutritional needs for these purposes.

The numbers were determined over years of studies on large groups of people. After the healthiest intake was realized in each case there was a generous cushion applied so the needs of 99% of the population is estimated to be met with each level. What this means is you do not have to add an extra amounts "just in case"... they've taken care of that for you!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Do I Burn More Calories Than I Eat?

I've been on a diet since January 1st. I cut out complex carbs and starches. My diet now consists of high proteins, fresh veggies and fresh fruits. Occasionally I'll have a small glass of orange juice.

I've been using my exercise bike and averaging about 12 mph for about 90 minutes per day. According to my bike I'm burning off 1000 calories. My concern is, my calorie intake a day is only 1200 - 1400 calories a day. The general rule I've been told is "You have to burn off more than you take in" so... how do I burn more than 1000 calories and how have I been losing weight?

I started out over 300 pounds and I'm down to 265 so I've lost 35 pounds in just 2 months. I feel great but I just don't understand the math!
Thanks, Loryn

Dear Loryn,

Relax! Your body is burning over 2000 calories a day just doing what it does! It takes all this energy for you to breathe, pump blood around, digest food, walk, even to stand. The 1000 calories you're burning on the bike is just extra :)

I would definitely suggest you increase your calorie intake to at least 1600-1800. You could be decreasing your metabolism by cutting your calories so drastically (1200-1400 level) and that is tough to recover from.

Consider adding in a few whole grains like toast or cereal for breakfast and rice or potatoes for dinner. A serving (a slice of bread or 1/2 cup rice) provides less than 100 calories and these foods give you the energy you need, especially for the exercise you're doing.

Congratulations on sticking with your new eating habits and regular exercise for 6 weeks... it should be getting easier now. Although your weight loss may slow, don't get discouraged. Even if you lose just 5 pounds a month you'll be close to 200 next year :) Keep up the good work!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How Do I Get Enough Potassium in My Diet?

I know that the RDA of potassium for an adult is 3,500 mg. A banana has about 420 mg of potassium.
I eat about 6 bananas/day. How do I get the remaining? I am trying to keep my blood pressure in check. I am 140/90.  Marcus

Dear Marcus,
Actually the recommendation for potassium is 4700 mg per day. But it can--and should--be reached by eating a variety of foods in the diet! There is no need to have more than one banana per day, and having many servings of one food are preventing you from getting nutrients that other foods provide.
Other great sources of potassium (that are common in most people's usual diet) are potatoes, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, milk, meat and fish. It is rare to see a potassium deficiency from a poor diet since it is abundant in so many food groups.
Here is more information about potassium in foods: http://www.csrees.usda.gov/nea/food/pdfs/hhs_facts_sodium.pdf
And since you are watching your blood pressure, there is a great diet for keeping it lower (although this is a 64-page book!) http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is There a Diet to Lower My Triglycerides?

My doctor just advised me my triglyceride levels are elevated, although not bad enough yet to warrant  medince. I have been taking fish oil for a while now.  Are there any particular foods that I should be eating or avoiding to lower them?  Joy

Dear Joy,

Triglycerides are the intermediate product of carbohydrate and sugar absorption. When you eat pasta, bread, sweets, and other carbohydrate foods these yield calories. As your body decides what to do with these calories--use them for energy, or store them as fat for later use--they travel through the bloodstream in the form of triglycerides. This means that if you get your blood tested without fasting the levels will be higher because they are still circulating after a meal. So when your doctor says "don't eat breakfast before your blood test" it is because the test results will be significantly affected.

People who are overweight tend to have higher circulating levels of triglycerides, so weight loss will help.
I would never suggest avoiding carbohydrate foods, but certainly limiting them to a reasonable two or three servings per meal. Piles of pasta, donuts and other pastries, sugary beverages and even large amounts of fruit juice can keep triglyceride levels high (above 140 mg/dL).  Limit sweets and alcohol, and focus on whole grains which can slow sugar absorption.

Fish oils are also proven to help. Eating fish is the best way! Taking more than 1000 mg (usually found in one fish oil pill) should not be done without a physician's consultation. High levels of fish oil can affect blood clotting and lead to stroke.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Quickly Can I Lose 80 Pounds?

I basically just started to eat just fruits and vegetables and whole wheat bread lately. My goal is to lose 80 lbs. And for my work out I dance all the time to get in a good workout.  I read that Michael Jackson lost like 7 lbs. a night from all the dancing he did because he was a strict vegetarian. What do you think about my diet and exercise routine? Will I reach my goal of losing 80 lbs.? And how long will it take for me to lose this weight?  Kenneth

Dear Kenneth,
Losing 80 pounds is an admirable goal. It's great you've found an exercise you love to do, and that you are motivated to eat healthier.

Don't be mislead by reading fantastic stories of weight loss: No one can lose seven pounds in one day unless it is water loss from perspiration (which should be replaced as quickly as possible). And there are many vegetarians who are not only overweight, but unhealthy.

Realistically you can expect to lose one pound per week for doing an hour of heavy exercise every day. Another pound or two per week can be lost by cutting out hundreds of calories of extra food intake. A maximum safe weight loss of three pounds per week means 10-12 pounds per month. For an 80 pound loss you are looking at 8 to 10 months. Reasonably.

My concern is that you are eliminating healthy foods in your effort to concentrate on weight loss alone. You have no good source of protein in your diet, for instance. If you want to eat a healthy vegetarian diet you can include beans, nuts, whole grain pastas, rice and cereals, for instance. Here is a link for a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet.

So, keep up the exercise, balance a healthy diet with fewer high-calorie foods and more nutrient-dense foods, and enjoy the weight loss as it comes off at a safe rate of 10 pounds per month. Don't be in a hurry. If you do it right you will be exactly where you want to be in the fall and you'll never have to diet again!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Are There Certain Foods to Help Control Blood Pressure?

I've heard that some foods, like bananas, help lower elevated blood pressure? What can you tell me about this and other foods?  Anna  L.

Dear Anna,

There is actually an entire diet plan to help lower blood pressure and you can view the entire 64 page booklet printed by the National Institute of Health here: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf .  It's called the DASH diet and stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

The focus is to reduce sodium (salt) intake and to eat more foods that provide potassium (like bananas and many other fruits and vegetables) and calcium.  This mineral ratio has been proven over decades to help lower high blood pressure.

What Should I Have for Breakfast?

What would you recommend having for breakfast. I was told by a few health-conscious folks to avoid milk because it really doesn't do much good after a certain age. So cereal is out--what else would be good to have?  Marc

Dear Marc,

What a person has for breakfast is totally a matter of individual preference (given there are no health issues present). Keep in mind that breakfast should provide 25% of the daily value for nutrients. Having a pastry for breakfast isn't going to provide much in the way of nutrition, but will provide lots of calories.

What a person makes of this meal depends on how hungry they are in the morning, whether they want something to last through to lunch or can plan on a mid-morning snack, have time to sit and prepare a meal or need a fast solution, and of course what foods they like to eat!
An ideal breakfast is healthy, reasonable calorie level, and contains a source of protein (like egg or cheese) to help tide you over through mid-morning.

I do think milk is a good source of nutrition. It's difficult to get the same amount of calcium and riboflavin from any food source that isn't dairy. You could try soy milk or rice milk if you do like cereal (which can be a fantastic source of fiber).

Some quick ideas are a slice of cheese melted on an English Muffin you can grab on the way out the door and eat in the car, or a serving of Carnation Instant Breakfast.  Making an omelet is an excellent way to add in vegetables for the morning meal: mushrooms, spinach, and green pepper are some that pack a lot of fiber and nutrients into your first meal of the day

Also remember there's no rule about breakfast foods having to be typical eggs/toast/pancakes, etc. If you want a turkey sandwich or a slice of leftover pizza, that's up to you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Are Powdered Fiber Products Good For You?

How do you feel about fibre powders like Metamucil and Benefibre? I thought I would try some Benefibre. The first couple days I was quite gassy but now my system has settled down.
I have noticed I dont feel quite as bloated,and my appetite is reduced. Terry.
Dear Terry,
I think these powders are a great way to get in dietary fiber for those who don't manage to get the 25-35 grams recommended by eating lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Serving size is one to three times per day of either a teaspoon or a tablespoon, depending whether the product is flavored or just mixed  into juice.
Some people like the idea of swallowing a pill, and many of the fiber companies make them--but beware the serving size... it's usually between three and six pills per dose, and this can be a lot to swallow three times a day.
The benefits of increasing fiber in your diet include feeling more full, alleviating constipation, and reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancers, especially that of the colon.
Metamucil, being a soluble fiber, also has the beneficial side effect of lowering bad cholesterol levels.

Gas is a common side effect when first increasing fiber intake, but as you have pointed out, our body adapts to that in a short period of time!