Nutrition Q & A
From 2013 to 2016 I wrote the Nutrition Q&A for The Washington Post. In each column I provided research-based answers blended with practical pointers. Below you'll find the topics I covered and links to the complete articles on The Post's website. Enjoy the reliable reads!
Q: Can you help me sort through the range of butters and spreads in the supermarket today? It’s so confusing, especially related to the latest guidance around saturated fat and cholesterol.
A: It’s confusing, for sure! “The hype about healthiness strewn across the packaging makes sorting out which butter, margarine or spreads to buy particularly confusing,” said registered dietitian nutritionist Janet Brill, a cardiovascular disease prevention expert and author of “Blood Pressure Down.”
So let’s get some perspective.
Q: If you have to eat fast food, what are the healthiest options?
A: One key premise I promote is that you can choose to eat healthfully in most restaurants, from fast food to upscale. Especially today, most restaurants, including fast-food chains, offer a cadre of healthier options. Let’s dig in.
Q: I’ve avoided taking fish-oil pills because they made me feel weird and I didn’t like the taste in my mouth hours later. Now I’ve been reading that research is showing that fish-oil pills don’t actually live up to their promise of preventing heart disease. Can I skip them?
A: Thanks for this timely question. The answer, as for many nutrition topics, has evolved as research has revealed fresh findings. “Nothing in nutrition is set in stone.
Q: Can you help resolve an ongoing discussion among my friends and family about non-organic apples? Is it healthier to eat the peel for its health benefits or discard the peel to get rid of any toxins? At home I buy organic apples, but when I travel I can’t always find them.
A: Your question focuses squarely on the debate about buying conventional or organic fruits and vegetables. Before digging in, let’s cover a couple basic points:
• Conflict remains about whether organically grown produce is nutritionally superior to conventional.
Q: I’ve been hearing about Soylent, a complete nutrition product that promises to take all the bother out of food preparation. It’s strangely appealing. I like the idea of food efficiency and having an easy-to-carry food for traveling. Do you recommend it?
A: Soylent had not been on my radar screen until you asked. Here’s the lowdown on the product with its upsides and downsides.
Origins and premise
The name, says Rob Rhinehart, Soylent’s chief executive, is derived from Harry Harrison’s 1966 science fiction novel “Make Room! Make Room!”
Q: I have Type 2 diabetes. I like to have low-sugar nutrition bars handy for snacks or missed meals, so I’ve begun buying bars that contain sugar alcohols. What do you think about these bars and sugar alcohol in general?
A: I’m glad you asked. You’re not alone. “Lots of my clients are confused by foods labeled ‘sugar-free’ and containing one or more of these foreign-sounding ingredients with an ‘ol’ ending,” says Lise Gloede, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and owner of Nutrition Coaching, a private practice in Arlington.
Q: My husband, an octogenarian, is overweight and a sugar lover. He’s having significant back pain. His physician recently encouraged him to lose weight by following the South Beach Diet and to quit drinking sugar-sweetened sodas. It’s hard for my husband to change his food choices and eating behaviors. What are some guidelines for him?
A: Your husband is hardly alone finding it a challenge to change his food habits. After all, he’s been fine-tuning these now for 80-plus years!
In my experience, when physicians give advice...
Q: I try to eat breakfast, usually yogurt and granola, right before I leave for work, but it seems like I’m hungrier by midmorning if I eat breakfast than if I skip it. Then if I eat my lunch by midmorning, I’m hungry again by midafternoon. What’s your advice to control between-meal hunger?
A: Your dilemma with breakfast is common. If I were counseling you individually, I’d gather additional details about how much and what you eat. I’d determine your nutrition, weight and health status concerns and goals. Without these details in hand, I can offer general guidance.
Q: Is a Paleo Vegetarian Diet Possible?
A: The short answer is that it’s possible. But in entertaining this eating plan, you’ve got to examine your health goals, the plan’s nutritional soundness and whether you can follow it long-term. Let’s unpack each part of the plan and look at the research and the nutritional pluses and minuses.
It’s March, National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spotlights the important role of healthful eating and physical activity to control weight and prevent chronic disease. But these aren’t snap-your-fingers, easy-to-achieve goals to execute in fast-paced, convenience-driven Washington.
In honor of National Nutrition Month, I exchanged e-mails with eight area registered dietitian nutritionists, asking them to divulge their secret weapons.