Nutrition FAQ

What are some inexpensive grab ‘n go meal/snack options for students?

Which is better- A sports drink or water?

Are protein smoothies better for you than solid foods?

What things should I cut out of my diet to start eating healthy?

How do I make healthy choices in the Caf and still get enough protein and vitamins?

How can I create balanced meals with a busy schedule?

How can I eat healthy when eating out?

What are the pros and cons of a vegetarian vs. meat diet?

Is it bad to eat after a certain time of day?

Are there behaviors that lead to chronic issues or disease?

Is it a good idea to have a “cheat” day?

How much variety should we include with our daily diet?

What is the best way to gain muscle mass, while still maintaining a healthy weight?

Are there benefits to fasting?

Is coffee bad for you? Does it have any health benefits?

If I had only one choice…should I work out or eat healthy?

What kind of diet should I consider if I am an athlete?

How much meat should I eat?

What is a gluten free diet?

How often should I eat?

What are the benefits/risks of supplements?

What is a Registered Dietitian? Are they the same as a Nutritionist?

What are some inexpensive grab n go meal/snack options for students?

  • Lunch or any meal of the day doesn’t need to be “sit down” style to be healthy or nutritious. Consider these options for grab and go meals and snacks.
    • String cheese, yogurt, smoothie, fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hummus, granola bars (<10 g sugar, >5 g fiber), dry cereal, nuts.

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Which is better- A sports drink or water?

  • Water is the best beverage for hydration purposes. Sports drinks contain electrolytes (sodium and potassium) which are important to replenish during intense exercise with perspiration. Sports drinks also contain calories which can lead to unintentional weight gain.
  • As a general rule, for exercise lasting less than 60 minutes, plain water is the preferred beverage. With over 60 minutes or exercises causing intense perspiration, sports drinks may be required to replace the electrolyte loss through sweat.
  • Don’t like plain water? Check out this site for ideas to spice up your water: infusedwaters.com

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Are protein smoothies better for you than solid foods?

  • Protein smoothies can be a good addition to any diet but shouldn’t be the only food you consume. The key to a healthy diet is variety. A protein smoothie may provide you with some good nutrition but most of the nutrients found in these mixes are man-made or synthetic vitamins and minerals. Our bodies can more easily absorb vitamins and minerals from a natural source vs synthetic which is why food is always the preferred source of nutrition.
      • Additionally, the standard American diet contains more protein than needed, thus supplementing with additional protein typically isn’t needed for most individuals.

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What things should I cut out of my diet to start eating healthy?

  • Processed foods such as chips, desserts, and frozen/boxed/canned dinners or meals (e.g. most items that are packaged with a food label) can have a negative impact on our health. The best way to start changing your diet is to include more whole foods. Whole foods are fruits/vegetables, rice and other whole grains, meats/poultry/fish, beans, unsalted raw nuts, and some dairy. The goal is to try and get foods as close to their original state as possible. Breaded chicken for examples is more processed than a plain chicken breast as there are additional steps in processing to coat the chicken. Tip: shop the perimeter of the grocery store which is where you will find most of your whole foods.

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How do I make healthy choices in the Caf and still get enough protein and vitamins?

  • The key here is variety and color. Consider every opportunity to eat the rainbow – fill your plate (or at least half) with as much color as possible and aim for most of that color to come from fruits and vegetables. If you do this, you can ensure you will be getting plenty of vitamins and minerals.
  • Protein can readily be found in the form of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy or non-dairy alternatives (milk, yogurt), nut butters, and beans. Whole grains also contain smaller amounts of protein than meat but can certainly help in ensuring you are getting the correct amount.

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How can I create balanced meals with a busy schedule?

  • Eating healthy can be done on a busy schedule – the key is preparation and planning. Consider creating a grocery list based on some easily prepared meals consisting of a protein source, whole grain serving ,and fruit/vegetables. Depending on your calorie needs, portion sizes will vary. Do your shopping and then some meal preparation on the weekends to allow for healthy eating all week.
  • For example: Try cutting up vegetables and placing them in plastic bags or containers for easy grab and go snacking during the week. Make a few breakfast burritos with eggs, cheese, and veggies, and freeze for a healthy breakfast all week. Salads can be prepped ahead of time, just leave the dressing on the side until you are ready to eat it.

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How can I eat healthy when eating out?

  • The key here is to look at “product description”. Go easy on foods that have descriptions like: supersized, fried, breaded, cream based, gravy, and buttered. Instead opt for choices that contain fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Tips: look for “heart healthy menu options, choose an appetizer for your entrée, pass on the all-you-can-eat buffet lines, eat a lower calorie food like salad first, request fresh fruit as a side, make substitutions, and plan ahead of time by looking online to see if the restaurant has nutrition information available on their dishes.

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What are the pros and cons of a vegetarian vs. meat diet?

  • Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat, processed and fried foods, and high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Vegetarian diets are also known to support the environment better as the processing of meat uses large amounts of energy.
  • Diets high in meat consumption tend to be high in saturated fat (only found in animal products) which can lead to heart disease. Meat can be a part of an overall healthy diet but in the right proportions. Consider choosing lean meat options most such as chicken, turkey and fish. Limit portions to 6-8oz per day (deck of cards = 3-4 oz).
  • Consider a whole-foods plant-based diet which limits the amount of processed foods you consume and focuses on eating more plants than animal products for overall health.

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Is it bad to eat after a certain time of day?

  • No, not really. Generally the recommendation is to limit food intake after 7 pm as we tend to make less nutritious choices later at night and it can make falling asleep a challenge. Although, if you are planning to be up late studying, participating in exercise, or have a club meeting you may need a snack after 7 pm to give you the energy you need to carry you through. Ultimately, it is all about balancing your calorie intake throughout the day, it doesn’t necessarily matter when you get those calories.

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Are there behaviors that lead to chronic issues or disease?

  • Many chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer are influenced by lifestyle choices. Research proves that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, along with participation in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week can drastically reduce risk for these diseases. We also know that maintaining a healthy diet and a physical activity routine can also improve symptoms and outcomes of those who already have these conditions, overall improving their quality of life.

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Is it a good idea to have a “cheat” day?

  • Allowing yourself to indulge in your favorite “less nutritious” foods on the occasion is a good thing. The occasional indulgence prevents you from feeling deprived and helps you stick to your healthy eating goals. This can look like a cheat day or meal, or having one cookie or piece of candy daily, whatever it is enjoy it in the moment and stick to your overall health habits in between.

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How much variety should we include with our daily diet?

  • As much as possible! Consider all the different colors that fruits and vegetables can be. Each of those colors contain different amounts and types of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and so on. The same goes with the different types of grains and proteins. Thus having variety in your daily diet ensures that you are getting all the nutrients your body needs to support health and function.

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What is the best way to gain muscle mass, while still maintaining a healthy weight?

  • Diet and strength building exercises are key. Aim for 500 additional calorie per day on top of what is needed for activities of daily living and strength building exercises. Shoot for 1.2-1.5 g of protein per kg of body weight per day. Consuming high quality protein such as lean beef, chicken, eggs, dairy or fish immediately after exercise may help increase overall muscle mass and repair muscle damage. Of note: protein supplements offer no advantages when compared with protein rich foods.

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Are there benefits to fasting?

  • Depends on your reason. For religious purposes fasting can be a beautiful way to reflect and rely on God while bringing you close to Him in His presence.
  • When it comes to “health” reasons, there really is not a clear purpose for them. Cleanses are far too popular among the celebrity, world but did you know that we have a built in cleansing systems designed by the creator? Yep, they are called our kidneys! Stick to a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, or even make a switch to these foods for a “cleanse” vs a drastic calorie reduction and strange lemon drink mixture. Your body will be just as happy.

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Is coffee bad for you? Does it have any health benefits?

  • Coffee consumption in the amount of 1-5 cups per day has demonstrated positive health benefits. Why? Coffee is bursting with antioxidants which helps prevent inflammation. Note: These studies simply measure the benefit of coffee and not caffeine; Excessive caffeine intake has the potential to have negative impacts on your health. Here are a few of the researched benefits:
    • 1-5 cups per day may help reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease
    • Links to support frequent coffee consumption with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes have been found with a consumption of 4+ cups
    • Some studies show that 1-3 cups per day may reduce the risk of stroke
    • Liver cancer risk reduction has been shown with consumption of 2+ cups per day.

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If I had only one choice…should I work out or eat healthy?

  • Unfortunately, this isn’t an either/or statement. A healthy lifestyle needs to consist of both healthy eating and physical activity. Neither one is “better” for your health nor needs to be hard to incorporate into your daily routine. Try adding a serving of fruit or vegetables and some whole grains each day and aim for 10-30 minutes of physical activity on most days.

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What kind of diet should I consider if I am an athlete?

  • Carbohydrates are extremely important for the athlete. They are the main source of fuel or energy used during training and performance. Athletes should consume at least 50% or more of their calories from carbohydrate sources. Requirements increase for those participating in endurance based sports.
  • Protein requirements for most athletes tend to fall between 1.2-1.5 g per kg of body weight per day (g/kg/day) with some strength athletes needing up to 1.7 g/kg/day or 15-25% of total calorie intake. For example, if you are a 150 lb. runner your weight in kg is 150/2.2 = 68.2 kg. To calculate protein needs take 68.2 kg x 1.2 g = 81.8 g of protein per day. Aim for high quality protein sources such as lean beef, chicken, eggs, fish, or dairy.
  • Fat is also an essential component for athletes and should make up 20-35% total calories. Fat is the most important fuel for steady, light to moderate-intensity exercise. Healthy fats, especially omega 3 fatty acids, may provide a protective role for the athletes overall health and performance by acting as an anti-inflammatory.

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How much meat should I eat?

  • A serving of meat is defined as 3 ounces of cooked meat or approximately the size of a deck of cards. The USDA recommends that the average person needs 5-6 ounces of meat/day. Of note: A healthy diet does not need to contain meat to get protein and you can get enough by eating foods such as nuts, beans, whole grains, soy, dairy and eggs.

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What is a gluten free diet?

  • Gluten free diets are designed for those with either celiac’s disease or gluten intolerance. They are no more “healthy” than a balanced diet which includes wheat. If cutting out wheat from your diet makes you feel better then go for it, if not, don’t worry about it.

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How often should you eat?

  • It is recommended that we eat something every 3-4 hours to maintain good blood sugar levels and metabolism regulation both of which help with weight maintenance. Whether you prefer 3 meals with a snack or two or 5-6 smaller meals during the day both can be healthy eating patterns.

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What are the benefits/risks of supplements?

  • At this time supplements in any form are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) thus there is no guarantee that what you think you are getting is in fact reality or that the amounts you think you are taking are the actual amounts. Please use extreme caution, research and talk with a health care provider before starting any supplements. Look for a USP symbol or other third party testing lab to ensure quality of product. **This is especially important for athletes to avoid any potential performance enhancing additives. Check out InformedChoice.com for trusted brands.
  • On the other hand, supplements can be extremely helpful if you are unable to meet all your nutrient requirements through healthy diet. Women in particular are at risk for iron and calcium deficiency and may find supplementation of these minerals helpful.

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What is a Registered Dietitian? Are they the same as a Nutritionist?

  • Many people mistakenly use the terms “dietitian” and “nutritionist” interchangeably. Although these two professions are undoubtedly related, they maintain distinctive qualities. The biggest difference between dietitians and nutritionists lies in the legal restrictions that each title carries. A registered dietitian has completed a minimum of a 4 year degree in nutrition studies, 1200 supervised practice hours, taken and passed a national registration exam and has registered themselves with the Commission on Dietetic Registration. All Dietitians are Nutritionists and they are the experts on nutrition.
  • A nutritionist is not necessarily a dietitian. This is a non-accredited title that may apply to somebody who has done a short course in nutrition or who has given themselves this title. These individuals are not held to any legal standards or requirements.
  • Always seek a registered dietitian for sound, accredited nutrition advice.

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