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5 top nutrition questions answered by a dietitian


5 top nutrition questions answered by a dietitian

Every day, it seems we’re bombarded with suggestions for what to eat and how to eat it to lose weight or improve our health. Should you go keto? Paleo? Mediterranean? Gluten-free?
To help find answers to some of the most common nutrition-related questions, we reached out to Tidelands Health registered dietitian Salem Hough.
Hough is part of a team of expert registered dietitians at the not-for-profit health system who help patients reach their health goals by developing customized plans strategies that align with each person’s health needs and objectives.

What is the best diet to follow?

“The diet we recommend the most does not eliminate any major nutrients and is sustainable,” Hough says. “It’s something that you can carry on long-term for life.”

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Fad diets such as keto, which is designed to force your body to break down fat to replace missing carbohydrates, are often too challenging to sustain either physically or mentally for the long term, she says.
Ditching key nutrients such as carbohydrates, which your body needs to produce energy, ultimately does more harm than good.
“Carbohydrate is our body’s main fuel source – what every single cell in our body uses,” she says.
Other diets, such as vegetarian or vegan, can be manageable over the long term so long as you’re careful to get the amount of protein your body needs by adding beans or other plant-based protein sources.
Ultimately, the goal is to find a healthy balance in your diet that allows you to eat foods you enjoy in moderation.
“We recommend picking something that meets your wants and desires,” Hough says.

Should I take vitamins and other nutritional supplements?

Supplements have their place, especially for people undergoing cancer treatment or other medical procedures that can strip the body of key nutrients. In that case, it’s important to work with your physician on a plan to maintain your proper nutritional balance.
For everyone else, the best source of nutrients is a diet built around minimally processed, whole foods – think a variety of fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins.
“If you’re eating a balanced diet with a variety of whole foods, most people should not need supplements,” Hough says.

How do I know I’m eating a balanced diet?

When it comes to getting the right combination of vegetables, grains, fats and proteins, forget that food pyramid you may have learned in school years ago. The USDA recommends following its My Plate guidelines that divide your meal into sections: about half for non-starchy fruits and/or vegetables, 30 percent grains and 20 percent proteins.

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“It’s a visual thing and it takes practice,” Hough says. “We don’t expect anyone to learn it overnight.”
If you’re grabbing a burger for lunch, sideline the French fries and add a side salad or other vegetable option instead. By doing so, you’ll get more fiber and keep yourself close to the ideal mix of nutrients, Hough says.

What’s the best way to eat consciously at a restaurant?

As a society, many of us are eating out more than we used to, and that can mean large portions with equally large amounts of salt, fat and sugar. Here again, Hough recommends sticking to the My Plate proportions to get the best mix of nutrients possible.
If your meal out includes Southern staples such as greens cooked with pork fat, consider choosing beans or cornbread as a side rather than the macaroni and cheese.

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If ordering meat or seafood, choose the grilled, broiled or baked option rather than fried.
Whatever your plan for eating out, Hough has one bit of advice that crosses all diets: “The big thing is to reduce the fried, fatty food,” she says.

What else can I do to improve my health?

After you’ve adopted a healthy, balanced diet, Hough says, there’s another key thing to add to your health plan: regular physical activity.
“Even if you’re eating a healthy diet, inactivity can slow your health progress,” she says. “Regular physical activity can help you maintain overall fitness and a healthy weight, and it can help decrease stress and blood pressure, among many other benefits.”

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