Curious About a Nutrition Topic?

It’s National Nutrition Month 2014! That means, it’s time for me to celebrate being a dietitian and reach out to you all to help you achieve optimal health and longevity through nutrition with this short ‘post’.

As a RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist), I spend most of the time of most of my days reading about nutrition, teaching others about nutrition, and thinking about food! I want to reach out to you, my readers, and find out what nutrition topics you are curious about! 

I’m a wealth of nutrition information so let me focus some of that towards something you’ve always wanted to ask a dietitian by commenting below with your topic or question. I won’t necessarily be able or willing to answer your questions directly or write a post about each topic but I will try to use some of them for future blog posts. 



Heart Health: Added Sugar linked to higher risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

Sweet sugar: we love it so much that some may say we are addicted to it. I, too, enjoy sweet treats, sauces, etc. However, the one thing I know for sure is that moderation is key. I think, however, the concept of moderation is ‘relative’ as many people ask questions like “What does moderation mean? How much fat, protein, carbohydrates, and sugar can I have if it’s in moderation?”.

I recently watched a talk by a woman whose very job it is to find historical clues and interpret what our ancestor’s diets were actually like. In her talk, she mentioned how many canes of sugar we consume nowadays and how impractical that would have been for our ancestors to actually sit there and chew on multiple sugar canes a day to consume how much sugar we eat so conveniently.

Today, sugar is everywhere. We do consume far more than our ancestors and like many other nutrients we probably consume too much of (or too little of), we are seeing increases in a variety of health issues. Of course, these aren’t all because of our diets- there are many factors such as physical activity, stress levels, inflammation, etc. that can affect our health.

But, back to sugar and heart disease. A recent analysis evaluating data from 25 years of information from the NHANES study found a 30% increase in CVD (cardiovascular disease) and added sugars.

*Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, for example. We are talking about the sugars added to foods to make them taste more appealing (which doesn’t just pertain to sweets but also items like salad dressings or savory dishes that need ‘balanced’ flavor and so on).

So, what is considered a moderate amount of added sugar? Well, that depends on who you ask. The Institute of Medicine recommends less than 25% of your total calories should come from added sugar (which would be approximately 500 kcals from sugar on a 2000 kcals diet). The World Health Organization recommends less than 10% of total kcals coming from added sugar (approximately 200 kcals on a 2,000 kcals diet). The American Heart Association recommends less than 5% (or 100 kcals) of total kcals for women’s diets and less than 7.5% (or 150 kcals) for men’s diets. And then there are many who say to avoid it completely, if possible.

If you are reading nutrition labels, you may want to use grams instead of calories when measuring sugar. One gram of sugar is approximately 4 kcals (to make math simple). Therefore, the AHA recommendations allows for up to 25 grams of added sugar for women and up to 38 grams of added sugar for men per day while the WHO recommendations allows for up to 50 grams of added sugar per day and the Institute of Medicine allows for up to 125 grams of added sugar per day (if based on the 2,000 kcals diet above).

Most people I know do not wish to count calories and measure grams of nutrients. This is completely understandable. I have often found that making simple changes such as cutting out soda/sweetened beverages, consuming sugars/carbohydrates from whole foods such as fruits and vegetables,  only lightly sweetening drinks such as tea/infused water, cutting back on dining out/fast food, making your own meals as much as possible, and using smaller portions for sweets or having a cheat day for a sweet treat are pretty effective in cutting back on added sugars and also help in weight loss for many people.

Of course, we are not all the same and recommendations are for the general public. If you have special concerns or medical conditions, you will want to speak to your personal health professionals regarding your dietary intake.

I’d love to hear your feedback!

Nutritionally yours,

Julie Wallace

Week 11: Countdown to Unprocessed Foods

healthy but no diet

Week 12 Recap: Avoiding Fried and Fast Foods

Fried food, for me, was the difficult one this week; when I moved to the South I did not take up eating all the fried vegetables I encountered so that was never an issue for me, personally. I did try them and I did learn I liked them but, for example, I now bake my okra with oil, herbs, seasonings for flavor, until they are crispy but still tender to eat, instead. So what fried food(s) got me? Donuts. Donuts are my culprit- and here I am, like many of you probably, trying to curb the sugar in my life. Donuts aren’t something I eat every month but if every 3-4 months my husband or I perk up and say “Let’s get donuts- it’s been awhile”, I have trouble saying no. I wanted to try to get a ‘healthier’ version of a donut- don’t ask me what that would include exactly ha!- but I thought I’d try Whole Foods instead of the other grocery stores because I have seen their nutritional labels. Whole Foods does not carry donuts because, I am told, they are considered unhealthy. So, we ended up with having 1-2 donuts from somewhere else and I regretted it feeling later that I could have made a better choice. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has felt this way. What does that mean? It’s just motivation to make better choices next time- as I tell my patients “It’s a choice that you just make one meal at a time”.

Oven-Baked Okra

  • In a bowl, drizzle okra with olive oil or an oil that you are comfortable heating to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Season with salt and pepper, as desired
  • Add in other herbs or spices, as desired
  • Place on baking sheet in a thin layer
  • Heat in oven at  400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-45 minutes; occasionally turning over.
  • Check your oven temperature and time of cooking to find what works best for your taste preference, of course; it took a few tries and a separate oven thermometer placed inside our oven to find the ideal cooking time and temperature for mine to be the tastiest.

Week 11: Try Two New Whole Foods

I’m not sure if this will be easy or difficult. You see, I’m up for trying new foods when I encounter them. I’m not sure what I will come across in the coming week that I haven’t already tried but I’ll keep my eyes peeled and report back. Buddha’s hands have been on my list but they are really just like lemon zest from my understanding and that doesn’t sound adventurous enough. When I was a child, I wouldn’t touch Brussels sprouts but in the last year I have suddenly developed a craving for them and they are now part of my diet, if that counts. Figs are new to me also as the only time I encountered them growing up was in the form of “Fig Newton’s” which I did not like- and now I want to plant a fig tree in my yard! I’m pretty sure I saw white and purple asparagus in the grocery store recently and that is something I haven’t tried. I look forward to any suggestions.

After my Week 11 Recap, I will be taking some time off to focus on other topics. During that time, I am going to reset my eating pattern and make sure I am doing the first few weeks right; keep an eye out for other topics in January followed by the resume of my “14 Weeks to Unprocessed Foods”.