Dear Dietitian, what can I count on?

Dear DietitianEggs are out. Eggs are in. Carbs are out. No fat is out. Just get rid of the sugar!

It’s hard to keep track of the latest food craze and know what’s best for your health. We asked our Wellness Department dietitians, Laurie Ledford and Mary Atkinson, for insight on what we can count on:

Studying nutrition in terms of prevention and treatment of disease is pretty new. Everyone has individualized needs and we will likely never have one single diet, food or supplement that works for everyone, but new research is continually revealing fascinating links and discoveries around how different nutrients and food compounds work in and with our bodies. It is hard for anyone to give a clear-cut and final answer about what constitutes the perfect and most healthful diet.

What do we do know?

  • Carbohydrates
    We know that carbs are not the enemy if you choose the correct kinds and amounts. Whole grains (such as farro, quinoa or black rice), low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables are all good choices of nutrient-rich carbohydrates.
  • Protein
    Newer research is indicating that higher levels of protein may be beneficial to specific populations and for weight management. However, there isn’t enough specific data yet to revise the current recommendation of 0.36 grams per pound of body weight for the general population. Protein requirements and recommendations are very individualized, so for more specific protein goals talk with your physician or a registered dietitian.
  • Fats
    Despite what you may have seen or read, there still is no fully supported research to indicate that saturated fats, such as milk fat or coconut oil, are healthy for our heart. We do need some fat in our diet, but the best forms are unsaturated, meaning that they are liquid at room temperature, such as olive or canola oil, nuts and avocado.


What if I really need something to count or track?

Notice how often you are eating out or having convenience/prepared meals. Home prepared anything is always a healthier choice. Try to reduce the times you eat out or have convenience meals each week. Save eating out for special occasions and truly enjoy the experience.Here is the BIGGIE: Track your Sleep!!! More and more research is linking sleep and a disruption to our circadian rhythm to weight management and health risks. When we don’t get adequate sleep several things can happen:

  • Pay attention to how many hours you spend in front of a screen, beyond what is required for work. We know screen time can cause mindless eating and can cause disruption to our sleep. Both of these impact our food choices and our health. Creating cutoff times for television or other devise usage can help.
  • Track your servings of vegetables and fruit you eat each day for a week. Then try to improve that by just one serving a day for the next week, and one more serving the following week … and so on. The ultimate goal being that half of your plate at each meal is made up of vegetables and some fruit.
  • Despite what you may have seen or read, there still is no fully supported research to indicate that saturated fats, such as milk fat or coconut oil, are healthy for our heart. We do need some fat in our diet, but the best forms are unsaturated, meaning that they are liquid at room temperature, such as olive or canola oil, nuts and avocado.
    • Impacts our cognitive (thinking) processes; can increase our risk for dementia
    • Impacts our emotional responses; can lead to an increase in depression, anxiety and irritability
    • Increases our risk for heart disease
    • Affects our immune response, making us more susceptible to getting sick
    • Increases production of cortisol, our stress hormone

The takeaway

Having a healthy diet is about looking at the overall quality of the foods you eat, when you eat them and the environment in which you eat. All foods can fit into a healthy diet in moderation, if the majority of your diet is a balance of all the food groups and macronutrients, offers variety, and is focused on enjoyment and success vs. restriction and regret.

Have more questions? Want to hear more? Join Mary and Laurie at The Core on October 23rd for Crunching Calories? Don’t Count On It! 

Leave a Reply


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
%d bloggers like this: