Paleo? Gluten free? Raw food only? Good fats? Animal proteins? Sugar? What does it all mean and what should we actually be eating?
Today, I’m excited to share with you some nutritional information addressing all of these topics, which I learned while attending IDEA BlogFest and IDEA World Fitness Convention in LA a couple of weekends ago. In case you missed my take on the whole experience at the biggest fitness industry event of the year, check out these posts to get caught up:
Soaking up nutritional information from three experts
While in LA, I attended three different nutrition sessions and heard many of the same points. I selected these particular sessions because nutrition is incredibly important when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, and it’s something that I want to learn more about. I’ve never followed a diet with a “label,” but I do like to be armed with the knowledge of what’s out there. Nutrition is an area where most people need a little help. For instance, check out these staggering statistics …
- Nearly 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese.
- 117 million Americans have preventable diseases that are linked to diet and inactivity.
- Lifestyle and environment account for 90-95 percent of our most chronic illnesses.
I attended “Nutrition in the News: The Truth Behind the Media Headlines” by Chris Mohr, a Registered Dietitian with a PhD, who is a consultant for some major brands and has been given a lot of press for his expertise. I attended a session by the very bubbly Cappie Geis, a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and author, who presented “Practical Strategies for Eating and Staying Lean for Life.” And I also listened to a presentation during BlogFest on “Busting the Top 5 Nutrition Myths” by my fellow blogger friend and music lover Melissa Burton, who is also a Registered Dietitian.
The biggest takeaway from all of these sessions:
- There is no one-size-fits-all diet.
- The best diet out there is the one that works for you. One that you can maintain and stick with. One that leaves you feeling energized to live your life.
- Nutrition matters. Use knowledge to educate others, not fear.
- Limit your sugar consumption, people.
- Eat more fruits and veggies. Just do it.
- Eat breakfast every single day and make sure it includes at least 20-30 grams of protein.
Here’s a look at what I learned, presented in question and answer form …
What’s the best diet out there we should follow to be healthy?
There are so many diets out there that people swear by, like Paleo, Gluten-free, Vegan, Vegetarian, South Beach, Mediterranean, Atkins, Raw, Intermittent Fasting, you name it. But which one is best? None of them, says Dr. Chris Mohr. It’s up to each individual person to decide which diet works best for them. Paleo, which encourages people to eat like our ancestors, avoiding legumes, starches, dairy, grains, sugars and processed foods, is awfully expensive, first of all. And it also requires cutting out things that are good for us, like grains. Some of Mohr’s favorite grains are freekah, quinoa and buckwheat, and he encourages people to eat them. As far as intermittent fasting, a diet in which you go for hours at a time without eating, well there is no scientific evidence to support its benefits either. Nor is there evidence that you should follow a gluten-free diet unless you have a true gluten intolerance. If you choose to avoid certain things because of your beliefs, that is totally up to you. But no single diet stands out as a clear winner when it comes down to science. And this was a point hit on by all three experts.
How much protein should we be eating and when?
Most people aren’t eating enough protein during the day, but they’re having too much protein at night for dinner. We should all aim for 20-30 grams of protein at every meal, evenly spaced throughout the day for maximum protein synthesis (muscle building in our bodies). This is something that both Mohr and Burton stressed. And there is no need to have more than 30 grams of protein at a time, because the extra protein after 20-30 grams does not facilitate additional muscle building at all. Basically, protein keeps us full and helps prevent muscle loss, which is a big deal as the population ages.
What’s something that most people don’t know they’re in need of?
A good majority of people aren’t getting enough omega-3s, which are good-for-you fatty acids primarily found in fish, which have a host of healthy benefits like easing depression, combatting dementia and supporting anti-inflammation. While you can get some omega-3s from plants and seeds like walnuts, flax and chia seeds, that particular type doesn’t convert in the body as efficiently as omega-3s from animals. And yes, both wild and farm-raised fish have omega-3s, but it’s better to eat wild fish, rather than farmed, because farmed fish also have more of the not-as-good-for-you fatty acids, omega-6s, which we typically already have enough of. But of course, wild fish are more expensive, so do what you can.
What are some general guidelines for good nutrition?
- Eat real, whole foods.
- Eat breakfast every single day, with at least 20 grams of protein.
- Go for less rules with your diet, not more. Try not to put too many limits on yourself.
- Half of your plate should always be filled with fruits and veggies.
- Strive to eat two servings of fish per week for the omega-3s.
- Put fruit on the counter in plain sight instead of packaged snack foods.
- Eat protein at every meal, spaced out throughout the day.
- Drink more water.
- Snack with purpose, don’t just snack to snack.
What are the upcoming hot areas in the nutrition space?
According to Mohr, there are a couple of big things getting attention. (1) Addressing inflammation: What foods are causing it and how can we get it to go away in our bodies. (2) Probiotics. There’s still much research to be done in this area. Mohr suggests instead of taking probiotics supplements, we should try to get good bacteria in our systems through eating fermented foods and yogurts. Mohr sang the praises of cottage cheese and Greek yogurt for this, which he also referenced as healthy snacks and breakfasts. (Surely not a problem for this dairy-loving gal!)
What are some easy ways to make healthy swaps in recipes?
Geis spent a lot of time offering up healthy and easy substitutions for cooking …
- Instead of bread crumbs, use oat bran.
- Add romaine lettuce to smoothies to get some greens, if you’re not a fan of spinach or kale. It provides less of a “veggie” taste.
- Instead of using heavy whipping cream, use Greek yogurt mixed with a little milk.
- Add puree of white beans to thicken sauces, because the beans can take on any flavor. And if you think your stomach can’t handle beans, try eating them more often to get used to the feeling.
- Instead of a full cup of sugar, use 1/4 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon of liquid stevia.
- Add grated carrots to recipes with cheddar cheese, so you can use less cheese and still have texture.
- Put cinnamon in your cereal, yogurt and coffee instead of extra sweetener, because cinnamon controls insulin.
- Use baby food prunes in place of oil in recipes for extra moistness.
- Use chili powder instead of salt to enhance flavor.
What’s the deal with sugar?
There are good sugars and bad sugars. Natural sugars found in fruits are good for us. Added and refined sugars incorporated into many of the packaged foods we buy are not all that good for us. However, most people are consuming far too much of the bad sugar each day and way more than people of the past. According to Burton, we really need to watch our sugar consumption. But it’s okay to eat a lot of fruit.
Are juice detoxes beneficial?
This one received a resounding no by all the experts. Your body naturally detoxes itself, and there is no scientific evidence to ever doing a juice detox. If you feel like you need a “cleanse” just drink a lot of water and eat healthy foods. Enough said.
How can fitness professionals help their clients with their nutrition?
Personal trainers and group fitness instructors are not legally allowed to prescribe diet or food plans for their clients without an additional nutrition certification. However, because exercise is only half of the wellness picture, we are allowed to talk about general best practices and what works for us when it comes to nutrition. The best thing we can share are our ideas for healthy and whole protein-filled breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks and refer our clients to a licensed nutrition professional for one-on-one advice and assistance. Most of all, we should strive to praise clients on what they’re doing right and not focus on the negative, so they don’t get discouraged. We should also teach people how to meal prep, carry around a water bottle and eat more fruits and veggies at every meal.
Suffice to say, this is just scratching the the surface, and I feel like I want to attend another 10 of these sessions to learn even more about this important topic.
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I’ll see you back here tomorrow for pictures of my food. Have a good one!
*Please note: I was given a complimentary ticket to IDEA BlogFest and the IDEA World Fitness Convention in exchange for speaking at the event and posting about it. I covered my travel and accommodations. Fair trade? I think so!
Questions of the day
Do you follow a particular diet?
What’s something you want to learn more about?
What’s your favorite healthy food?