Dietitian Q&A

Dietitian Q&A

Now it’s easier than ever to ask questions, get answers, and BE Healthy. Our Baptist Easley Food and Nutrition team is only one click away with answers to your questions! "ASK ANDI" gets its name from ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), a rating system for the nutrition density of foods.

Use the form below to ask questions—and get answers—about food, nutrition, and healthy living.

Recently Answered Questions

I have 5 month old twins and I am really out of shape! I stay at home with my kids and all I do is eat! I always feel hungry. I want to get into shape and be healthy for my children! How do I make myself not so hungry

Congratulations on the family expansion! First and foremost is to pick a weight goal that works for you. Second,  if you lose weight at a rate of 10% every six months until you reach your goal weight, you will keep it off better. Finally, physical activity plays a vital role in both weight loss and weight maintenance.  The recommended physical activity level is 30 minutes most days of the week.

Start with a food log and track for two weeks, exactly what you eat. This helps you see what type of foods you eat and how often you snack. After that I would look at the amount you eat (servings). Using the food label of the foods you buy, monitor servings or amount of servings. Set some goals then, e.g. “I would like to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day” or “I will only eat two snacks daily vs three.” You can also use the Myplate website,  www.myplate.gov to help you with a meal pattern and serving sizes. 

Plan your meals as much as in advance as you can, which can also help with a food budget. The same goes with planning physical activities. Start with an activity that could incoporate the twins, perhaps at 30 minute walk. If you plan for it, you are more than likely to do it and not skip it! Good Luck!

I have allergies to wheat, soy, peanuts, and (possibly) corn. None of these cause anaphylaxis but may cause nausea, chest pains, acid reflux, and stomach pains. I’m wondering if there is any tests that can be given to know how a person should be eating and if other foods pose any allergic threats and the likelihood of it passing to your children. Thank you!

A food allergy is an immune system response.  Food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response.  The symptoms you provided may be caused by food allergies or food intolerances.    Most food intolerances are found through trial and error to determine which food or foods cause symptoms.  If your symptoms do not disappear when these foods are eliminated I would recommend allergy testing.  A skin prick test or blood test for IgE antibiodies is commonly used to determine if an allergy exists.  While there are no genetic tests to determine risk for food allergy, a family history increases the risk the child will have a food allergy.

Hey Alex, I am 20 years old and have been a diabetic since I was age 12. I am somewhat over weight, and would really like to see it go. However, I have a 1 year old, a full time student, and work full time. What are some suggestions for me to loose this unwanted weight and be healthier?

Planning, planning, planning!  That is the best advice I can give when it comes to a busy schedule and healthy meals.  Try to set aside some time before grocery shopping where you can plan your meals for the week.  This will help budget for food as well as cut down on time spent during the day deciding what to make.  Another suggestion would be to spend an afternoon cooking and freezing meals for the week.  Try to be active at work if possible, if you can go for a walk during lunch or take the stairs instead of the elevator.

I know that you should drink plenty of water a day, is having decaffinated black coffee and decaffinated unsweet tea a good substitute?

Unsweetened decaf tea can be a good alternative for water but I would not suggest that as your only source of daily fluid intake.  Water should be your primary choice of beverage!

I have been trying to limit the use of artificial sweeteners in my diet along with watching sugars in general. I have been using Stevia as a more natural alternative since it is derived from a plant source. Do you know anything about the possible risks vs. benefits involved with using Stevia over other types of products? Is it safe for diabetics?

Current artifical sweeteners on the market including Stevia have been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration and are considered GRAS or Generally Recognized As Safe, for use by consumers.  Artifical sweeteners and other chemicals currently used in diet sodas and other products are safe for most people and there is no credible evidence that these cause cancer.  Some side effects reported with the use of Stevia include nausea, bloating, dizziness, and muscle pain.  I would suggest using Stevia in moderation, about 1-2 packets a day to keep the risk for side effects low.  Stevia is safe for use with diabetes and has not been shown to raise blood glucose levels.

I really love the taste of butter but know I should eat less of it. What can I substitute for the tast of real butter?

You are not alone when it comes to loving the taste of butter. Butter is unfortunately high in saturated fat, which we know is the fat we need to really limit. It is recommended to use spreads because they are lower in saturated fat and made with polyunsaturated fats, that body can break down to use rather than store, like saturated fats. The ones with which we are most familiar are Promise Buttery Spread and Country Crock, that have only 1.5 g saturated fat. They are also easy to use in the kitchen when using other recipes. However, I recommend that you take time at the grocery store and look at all soft spreads and find one you like.

Hi Alex, Just wanted to thank you for the informative magazine I am now receiving. I am finding it very useful. I am also now trying to cook some things ahead so we have better supper choices after work. My question is – do you have any great ideas for lunch at work without having to drag your entire kitchen with you to work? I have tried salads but find myself searching for junk food in our office ( M&M’s ) by 3:00 and jumping into the icecream as soon as I get home. Thanks !

Congratulations on the meal planning!!! What a great step forward. Your question is a good one, because I myself have this problem as well. If you have a place to store snacks, then you can bring those in from home. Find some that you are willing to try. Some examples we use are yogurt, fresh fruit or vegetables, string cheese, peanut butter and crackers, nuts, or trail mix (which is easy to make rather buying it) . These are just few things that are easy to keep on hand.

I have recently discovered that I am expecting, and I want to be as healthy as possible. I have been trying to eat better and exercise more. I am concerned about how much exercise is enough.

If you were exercising before becoming pregnant then you can continue at the pace you were going. If you can continue to get in 30 minutes of cardio a day with 3-4 days of light strength work that would be great. As a full-time worker that can sound daunting especially if you are experiencing 1st trimester sickness. If you did not have a regular exercise routine prior to pregnancy then you need to start slow (light intensity and short time) and continue to add more time to your workout. Some good gym cardio machines would be the elliptical, the bicycle (early pregnancy), and walking on the treadmill. (You can run if you ran before, but do not start to run as part of your workout.) Pilates,  yoga, and some other classes can also be good workouts, but be sure to inform the instructor that you are pregnant so they can give you variations to the routine if necessary. Swimming is another low impact form of exercise that is great if you have access to a pool and/or pool group lessons.

Knowing that exercise is a priority for your health thus with your little one’s, I would recommend evaluating your schedule and set up realistic goals for each week. As you meet those goals increase the amount of time/days to your workouts each week. If you feel any cramping or sharp pain in your lower abdomen area (this will likely occur as you get further along, then you are pushing yourself and it’s likely your body’s way of telling you to slow down.)

I am the mother of an eleven year old daughter that has type 1 diabetes. She is on an insulin pump and does very well. She is a typical child that likes to eat junk food and fast food, but she also eats somewhat healthy. She always eats a snack before bedtime. Do you have any healthy, full of protein snack suggestions she could eat and not run her blood sugar way up?

Before bedtime I would recommend a snack that includes protein, fat, and carbohydrates. To prevent running high through the night I would keep it between 1-2 carbohydrate servings or 15-30 grams of carbohydrates. Protein and fat are important throughout the night as well to help prevent a low blood glucose reading. Some suggestions to try:

  1. An apple (size of a tennis ball) with 2T of low fat peanut butter.
  2. 3 graham cracker squares with 2T low fat peanut butter
  3. 1 low-fat cheese stick (ex. mozzarella) with 5-6 crackers
  4. 6 oz yogurt (or Greek yogurt) with 1 oz nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
  5. Carrots, peppers, celery with 2T (golf ball size) hummus
  6. Sugar-free pudding (snack pack)
  7. 2 slices of low-fat deli turkey rolled around 2 pretzel rods
  8. ½ c cottage cheese with ½ c sliced fruit
  9. 8 oz of a smoothie made from yogurt, banana, almonds, and peanut butter

My question is actually pertaining to healthy meal choices after being at work all day, going in and just staring at the fridge for something quick and easy. Coming in at 5:30 or 6:00 – too dark to walk and too tired to cook but would like something hot, nutritious and filling after a long day. We are not fond of eating out much.

Meal Planning is not a favorite among a lot of people, but it works the best. We often find ourselves in a crunch after work, or “so hungry I need something quick” moment. It happens to all of us. One thing that can help is planning out your week’s menu. It does not have to be a complicated meal each night. For instance, if you cook a meat sauce, freeze it. Then you could use it for spaghetti, beef stew, tacos, sloppy joe’s, etc through out the week. Also, using a crock pot is very popular again. Many people are cooking roasts, chicken, soup, casseroles, and so on, so food can be ready when you get home. Buying frozen vegetables, such as the steamer bags, makes it easy to have side dishes, and you don’t feel like you have to make a salad every time. Spicing up the vegetables with oil and spices is better than adding salt to it.

I have heard different recommendations about drinking water. I have heard you should only count water that is not flavored as part of the water you should have everyday. I have also heard that it is ok to drink water with the sugar-free sweeteners and that you can count them as part of the water you should have everyday. Which is correct? And how much water should you drink everyday? Also, how do you calculate how much water you should drink? I have heard many different variations on that as well.

Flavored water and water with artificial sweeteners are appropriate as long as it is very low calorie or 0 calories. These beverages will count towards your daily fluid intake. If you are trying to limit your sodium intake be cautious of the added sodium in some flavored waters. I also suggest adding cut up fresh fruit to water as an alternative. You should consume at least 8-12 cups of water (64-96 fl ounces) a day. However, you may need additional water when exercising or in hot weather. The general 1 quart (4 cups) of water is needed daily for every 50 pounds of body weight.

I am trying to put on more muscle and want to know how I can increase my protein intake without gaining fat? What other nutrition recommendations would you make for someone wanting to gain muscle without fat?

On the basic level, extra calories that you consume and do not burn off turn into storage for potential future use…aka fat. Most individuals need 0.8g/kg body weight of protein per day. Extreme endurance athletes may need up to 2g/kg protein per day. Anything above that will likely be excreted through your urine or turn into fat. Eating an adequate amount of protein will help to build muscle if you are doing strength exercises on a fairly regular basis. However, you do not need over 2g/kg body weight of protein to “help” better build muscle. The best way to decrease/prevent fat on your body is to not eat more calories than you are burning and to participate in regular cardiovascular exercise. The best types of protein to eat in general are lean meats like boneless skinless chicken breasts, 90%+ lean ground beef, fish, lower fat dairy foods, nuts, beans, etc. These are all meant to be eaten in moderation.  Keep in mind that fats are not bad, but a lot of them are not beneficial for building muscle and decreasing fat.

So, in general to gain muscle and decrease fat, I would recommend eating a well balanced diet with 0.8-1g/kg body weight of protein per day and participate in regular strength and cardiovascular exercise.

Example of protein needs.

  • 150 lbs: 55-68 g protein/day
  • 160 lbs: 58-73 g protein/day
  • 170 lbs: 62- 77 g protein/day
  • 180 lbs: 65-82 g protein/day
  • 190 lbs: 69-86 g protein/day

Typically one ounce of meat has about 7g protein.

Does wearing a rubber band around your wrist and SNAPPING it every time you even think about food, really work in helping a person stop thinking about it? Does this really help a person change their thinking habit?

People who are trying to quit smoking or may have an obessive complusive disorder, have been reported to use the “rubber band method”. There have been no recent studies that this method works to curb food cravings. It may stop you from eating at that moment, but you are really not changing the behavioral thought behind it. A great way to figure it out is to decipher if you are physically hungry, or just wanting to eat

Can you explain why gluten is such a “culprit” in our diets. Why does it cause such a problem with digestion? I’ve heard that “most” people would benefit from a gluten-free diet? What’s the latest word?

Gluten free foods are for those with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance. People with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance develop an adverse reaction when eating gluten. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea. Celiac Disease is diagnosed by gene tests, blood tests, and a small intestine biopsy. Some people who may not have Celiac Disease may have gluten tolerance. Gluten intolerance can only be diagnosed if symptoms improve with the elimination or reduction of gluten from the diet. A gluten free diet is not always healthier because many gluten free products have more fat and calories than the foods they replace. Overall, it is not necessary to follow a gluten free diet unless you have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance.

Is it true that sodium can be a cause of headaches? If so what are some foods that are not so high in sodium? Is frozen veg a lot less in sodium then can ones?

Sodium itself does not cause headaches, but high amounts can contribute to high blood pressure, which gives headaches. Frozen vegetables are a good choice, but make sure there are no sauces included. Steamer bags are a good option. If you can only get canned, then rinse the vegetables one time to get rid of the extra juice which contains good amount of sodium.