Step Ahead Wellness Center Blog

Sari Greaves

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Dr. Neiman Gets Recognized as a Top Doc by Castle Connolly Again!

Posted by Sari Greaves on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 @ 02:47 PM

Dr. Neiman's extensive history of top-quality care has earned her the distinction of being considered a Top Doc by Castle Connolly for six straight issues of their Top Docs list.Since its founding in 1992, Castle Connolly Medical Ltd has been helping consumers find the very best medical care facilities and doctors throughout America. Their lists of top doctors for the country and for different regions within it have been a trusted resource for patients looking for top-quality care for decades.

Recently, Step Ahead’s own Dr. Deborah Neiman was featured in the pages of the 17th edition of the Castle Connolly Top Doctors: New York Metro Area.

Making the Cut

To make the top doctor list, a doctor has to be among the top 10 percent of caregivers in his or her specialty. Not only do doctors have to be held in high regard by their peers to be recommended for the list, but their credentials must be impeccable, and their history of patient care must remain pristine.

Only the very best doctors are listed in the pages of this publication, and the honor must be re-earned with each new edition of the book. Doctors cannot buy their way into this publication.

Once a doctor is recommended to the list by enough of his or her peers, the doctor’s records, including but not limited to his or her:

  • Educational Background.
  • Training.
  • Hospital Appointments.
  • Professional Achievements.
  • Disciplinary/Malpractice History.

All of these criteria (and more) are evaluated by a physician-led research team and reviewed by Castle Connolly’s editors and Chief Medical and Research Officer. These industry experts use their best judgment, and all of the documentation available on each medical professional, to come up with their Top Doctor choices.

Physicians who make the list may be removed later for numerous reasons, including retirement, a shift to working a desk as a full time administrator, or simply being unavailable to patients. In short, a doctor has to actively work with patients to make the list and stay there.

Top Doc for Six Editions (and Counting)

The Top Docs list made by Castle Connolly is an excellent indication of a doctor's skill, experience, and dedication to patient care.The Castle Connolly team is constantly working to revise their list, making major updates to it at least once each year. Making the list for one edition is a major achievement. Making the cut for six editions is proof positive of excellence in the field of medicine. Currently, Dr. Neiman has been in the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th editions of the Castle Connolly Top Docs listings for the New York Metro Area!

This means that six times in a row, Dr. Neiman’s work with patients and contributions to the medical profession have been so significant that she has been recognized as being amongst the top ten percent of doctors by the Castle Connolly team.

The Step Ahead family is proud to say that we’re headed by one of the Top Docs for the New York Metro area. We are glad that Dr. Neiman’s dedication to providing the very best care to her patients has consistently earned her distinction as a professional, and look forward to helping her help people just like you meet health and fitness goals.

Learn more about how you can get a Top Doc to help you meet your weight loss goals today!

Do You Need a Personalized Weight Loss Program?

Tags: Dr. Neiman, best weight loss, Step Ahead Wellness Center

Ask the Dietitian: “Are Fiber One Bars Good for Me & My Diet?”

Posted by Sari Greaves on Tue, Jul 22, 2014 @ 03:42 PM

Fiber-enriched cereal bars such as Fiber One bars are rich in dietary fiber, but are they really that good for you?Many Americans simply don’t get enough fiber in their diet. With the prevalence of cheap, fast food and limited time for full-on meal planning, people often find it easier to just grab something form their local food chain or buy heavily processed, prepackaged meals. The problem with this is that many such processed food items are sorely lacking in key nutrients.

Adding fiber to your diet is a great way to promote the health of the digestive system. The question is, how can you add more fiber to your diet?

In response to an increased awareness of the importance of increasing dietary fiber, people have turned to a number of prepackaged and processed food products that contain concentrations of fiber. One of these ready-made sources of fiber would be the variety of fiber-enriched cereal bars such as the now-famous Fiber One Bars. However, are fiber bars really good for you?

Benefits of Eating a Fiber Bar

The primary reason why people eat fiber bars these days is to supplement their dietary fiber. Fiber One Bars contain chicory root extract; an ingredient rich in inulin, which is the primary source of dietary fiber in these bars.

The increase of dietary fiber from these bars can have a beneficial effect on your digestive tract. The inulin in the bars promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, and can help keep your digestion regular. An increase in digestive health can even help you shed a little weight!

While increasing your dietary fiber can be a very good thing, there are also drawbacks to consuming Fiber One Bars…

Potential Risks of Eating a Fiber Bar

Going from the extreme of not eating enough fiber to supercharging your diet with excess fiber can have some consequences. Physical side effects of a sudden rise in your dietary fiber include:

  • Abdominal cramps.
  • A “bloated” sensation.
  • Increased flatulence.
  • Intestinal obstruction (which is rare).

Most of these side effects from increases in fiber intake are temporary at worst, and will fade as your gastrointestinal tract adjusts to the increase in dietary fiber. However, there are other risks tied specifically to inulin.

Inulin, as it promotes the growth of bacteria in the digestive tract, is classified as a FODMAP, which is a category of carbohydrates that can be harmful to some individuals. This is because even as inulin can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, other, more harmful bacteria can develop as well.

As a cereal product, Fiber One Bars contain several allergens, including soy, milk, peanut, almond, sunflower and wheat-based ingredients. If you are allergic to any of these ingredients, it is safest to avoid Fiber One bars.

So, Are Fiber One Bars Bad?

Like many other food items, Fiber One bars are not life-threatening when taken in moderation (unless you’re allergic to them). However, while they’re not really very bad for your health, there’s not much to really recommend them over other sources of dietary fiber.

For example, a Fiber One bar might have only 140 calories (per 40 gram bar) and not much in the way of other important vitamins and minerals, but it does have 10 grams of sugar to go with your 9 grams of dietary fiber.

Bananas, and many other fruits, are an excellent source of dietary fiber.Compare that to one 126 gram serving of a banana, which has:

  • 15% of your RDA of Vitamin C.
  • 1 gram of protein.
  • 13% of your RDA of Potassium.
  • .5 mg of Vitamin B6.
  • No fat, saturated or Trans.
  • No cholesterol.
  • No Sodium.
  • 3 grams of dietary fiber.

(Nutrition facts courtesy of the Chiquita Bananas website).

Now, the fiber bar does come out ahead when it comes to the sheer amount of fiber provided per serving. However, the banana has way more nutrients beyond simple fiber, and fewer calories (even though the serving size of the banana is 3x that of the fiber bar).

Because the fiber content of a banana is less concentrated than that of a Fiber One bar, you can use bananas to help you gradually increase your fiber intake slowly over time, avoiding many of the uncomfortable side effects of a sudden spike in your dietary fiber.

Other good sources of dietary fiber include:

  • Garlic.
  • Onions.
  • Artichokes.
  • Wild yams.
  • Apples (with skin on).

Many of these natural sources of fiber boast not only a significant amount of dietary fiber, but fewer calories per serving and numerous other nutrients needed by the human body.

So, while a Fiber One bar might not be a bad thing to have once in a while when you need fiber in your diet, there are much better sources of dietary fiber that provide other nutritional benefits.

Learn more about dietary fiber and other nutrition issues from the dietitian.

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Sources Cited:

Banana Nutrition Facts About Chiquita Bananas. Web. 07/03/14. http://www.chiquitabananas.com/Worlds-Favorite-Fruit/index-banana-nutrition-facts.aspx

Tags: Sari Greaves, Diet and Nutrition, fiber

Tips to Build a Better Barbecue Diet

Posted by Sari Greaves on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

One great way to cut the bad fats from your summer diet is to grill some veggie burgers instead of beef patties.

Sometimes, the temptations of summertime barbecues make maintaining a diet difficult. However, there are a few tricks to enjoying summer foods in a healthier way.

Many condiments are swimming in fat (think mayonnaise and sour cream), sodium and sugar (think ketchup and barbecue sauce). The good news is that there are healthy alternatives for adding flavor to your barbecue favorites.

 The make it better strategy:

  1. Choose low-sodium ketchup (15 calories, 0g fat, and 3 mg sodium) instead of regular ketchup (15 calories, 0g fat 167 mg sodium).
  2. Choose fat-free mayonnaise (11 calories, 0g fat, and 120 mg sodium) instead of regular mayonnaise. (57 calories, 5g fat, 105 mg sodium) – you save calories, but you don’t save on sodium.
  3. Choose low-sodium Barbecue sauce (52 calories, 0.1g fat, and 47 mg sodium) instead of regular Barbecue sauce (52 calories, 0.1g fat, and 392 mg sodium)
  4. Mustard is hard to beat because it has minimal calories and fat, but the sodium can add up quickly by the teaspoon. People on a salt restricted diet are better off using spices for flavor. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (5 calories, 0.2g fat, 120 mg sodium) yellow mustard (3 calories, 0.2g fat, 57 mg sodium)

* Ketchup and mayonnaise dietary values are based on measurements of ONE tablespoon. Be sure to practice portion control when using condiments. Make the “OK” sign with your thumb and index finger. The circle you create with your fingers is about 1 tablespoon- keep you portion to 2 tablespoons maximum.

* Barbecue sauce dietary values based on 2 tablespoons.

* Mustard based on 1 teaspoon (about the size of a thumb tip)

Jazz up leaner animal protein foods such as fish, seafood, white meat poultry, pork loin, top or bottom rounds of beef or veggie burgers with some of the following seasoning and marinade suggestions:

  • American Style: Low-sodium barbecue sauce
  • Italian Style: Tomatoes, oregano, garlic, basil, dash of olive oil OR light Italian dressing
  • Mexican style: Cilantro, cumin, oregano, garlic, chilies, dash of olive oil or lime.
  • Greek style: Lemon, garlic, rosemary, mint, oregano or fat-free Greek yogurt
  • French style: White wine, tarragon, thyme, mustard
  • Russian style: Paprika, fat-free sour cream, onion
  • Asian Style: Ginger, sesame seeds, low sodium soy sauce, garlic OR low sodium teriyaki sauce diluted with pineapple juice.
  • Indonesian style: Peanut, lime and ginger
  • Caribbean style: Lime, rum, allspice, ginger, garlic
  • Indian style: Curry powder, garlic, chili powder, cinnamon

Always feel free to add extra vegetables like tomatoes, onions and peppers instead of loading on more sauce.

You can tenderize lean cuts meat to increase flavor and texture. Marinate meat in salsa, low-calorie salad dressings, wine, pineapple, papaya or citrus juices such as orange, lemon or lime. Cover meat with about a quarter-inch of marinate and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When it’s time to cook, place the meat on a clean, slightly oiled grill. Baste with fresh marinade or heat the marinade until it reaches a rolling boil before using it. Grill steaks until they are at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and ground meat until it is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit internally.

You can lighten up your favorite dishes with a few simple ingredient swaps:

  1. Lighten your potato salad by downsizing the amount of real mayonnaise from 1 cup to ¼ cup and mixing in 3/4 cup fat-free sour cream instead.
  2. Lighten your pasta salad by using a light dressing to cut fat in half.
  3. Lighten a vegetable side dish by broiling it instead of sautéing it in oil. For example, broiled peppers are delicious.
  4. Try replacing the classic white rice with couscous the next time you cook.Think beyond white rice. Whole grains such as quinoa and whole wheat couscous make fine additions to a barbecue meal. Prepare a grain pilaf by adding diced carrots, celery, onions and pine nuts to the dish.
  5. Edamame (green soybeans) can be served as a sweet & satisfying side which provides both protein and fiber. You can find them in the frozen section of the supermarket. For the healthiest results, boil edamame or steam them in the microwave.
  6. Spicy flavors satisfy. Prepare a noodle side dish using soba noodles (buckwheat). Cook these noodles according to the package’s directions. Toss noodles with 2 teaspoons peanut oil (heart-healthy fat), ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, chopped scallions, 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of hot sauce.

As always, be mindful of food allergies when preparing foods with ingredients such as peanut oil.

Menu Makeover:

With proactive eating and planning ahead, your next barbecue can be a healthy experience. From the menus below you can see that if you are not careful, calories and fat creep up quickly. 

Typical Barbecue Meal:

Calories Fat (in Grams)
Cheeseburger, 3 oz. 315 15
1/2 Cup Potato Salad 180 10
1/2 Cup Coleslaw 120 12
16 Potato Chips 150 10
Hot Dog (with Roll) 310 18
Two 24 oz. Beers 300 0
Apple Pie (1 Slice) 300 12
TOTAL 1675 77

Compare this to:

Revised BBQ Meal Calories Fat (in Grams)

Plain Burger, 3 oz.

(Made from 90% lean beef) 

184 10
Fresh Vegetable Salad, 3 Cups 30 0
Light Dressing, 2 Tbsp. 50 2

Chicken Kabob, 3 oz.

(White-meat)

110 3
Hummus, 2 Tbsp. 50 2
One Mini Whole Wheat Pita 65 0
Lite Beer, 12 oz. 100 0
Seltzer with Lime 0 0
Fruit Salad, 1 Cup 120 <1
TOTAL 709 17

Calories Saved: 966

Fat Grams Saved: 60

Save an additional 64 calories and 7 fat grams by swapping the hamburger for a veggie burger!

Final Tip: Summer is not only about food.

Do stay active. Exercise is an effective way to prevent weight gain and stay energized. Exercise does not have to be limited to a 30 minute walk on a treadmill. Take advantage of the hot weather and engage in fun outdoor activities such tossing a Frisbee with friends, family and pets, swimming, rollerblading, or playing tennis. Enjoy the company of family and friends away from the comfort of your indoor couch and go for a nice brisk walk together outside instead.

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Tags: diet, healthy eating, summer recipes

Top 5 Barbecue-Related Diet Pitfalls

Posted by Sari Greaves on Wed, Jul 09, 2014 @ 03:53 PM

Grilled Summer treats are tasty, but they can be horrible for your diet. Tis’ the season of hot dogs and burgers. The joys of summer are surrounded by food laced with calories and weight gain risks. But, with a healthy eating plan, you can satisfy your taste buds without expanding your waistline. Here are the five most common mistakes people make when eating at a barbecue and solutions on how to avoid popular diet pitfalls.

Diet Pitfall #1. Arriving to a barbecue starving. Are you just going to wing it?

Think again. Attending a barbecue extremely hungry without a game plan is a combination that can lead to overindulgence and diet regrets.

Solutions:

Practice damage control when it comes to your favorite summer foods. Remember that everybody can eat something of everything; it’s just a matter of how much. A small sliver of mom’s apple pie with a side of fresh fruit will do less damage to your waistline than chocolate cream pie a la mode.

Take control of your environment whenever possible. Never engage in conversation while sitting next to a bowl of potato chips. Summer events are a great time for mingling and conversation is calorie-free. Two additional tips that help prevent overeating include wearing snug-fit clothing and chewing on sugarless gum, which can prevent you from returning to the buffet line for second helpings.

If you are starving, you are more likely to eat fast and impulsively, instead of selecting foods based on nutritional value. This can lead to calorie overload—just 1 ounce of potato chips and 2 tablespoons of ranch dip adds up to 200 calories and 16 grams of fat, and that’s before the main course. Take the edge off your hunger before a party. Eat a small low-fat snack such as fruit or low-fat yogurt before you head to a summer barbecue. This will help you avoid rushing to the buffet table when you arrive. It’s also a good idea to eat slowly and savor every bite. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register fullness. Speed eating (usually as a consequence of extreme hunger) can easily lead to excessive calorie intake. Using chopsticks for salads and noodle dishes can slow down your eating pace.

Diet Pitfall #2. Putting the wrong foods on the grill.

While it is true that outdoor grilling allows excess fat in meat and poultry to drip away, it is worth keeping certain foods off the grill due to their high calories, saturated (artery-clogging) fat and sodium content. The culprits: regular ground meats, dark-meat poultry with skin, beef short ribs (just 3 ounces has 330 calories and 31g fat, pork spareribs and sausages (1 link of bratwurst has 281 calories, 25g fat).

Solutions:

Chicken breast meat is leaner than skin-covered dark meat.

Grill lean cuts of meat. Lean protein adds a “satiety factor” to your barbecue meal, keeping you full on fewer calories. Purchase ground meat and poultry advertised as “lean” or “extra lean” on the package*.

Choose white-meat chicken over dark. Chicken breast is lower in calories and fat than is the dark meat found in thighs and legs. A 3-ounce serving of grilled skinless chicken breast tenders has about 110 calories, 3g fat—that’s 100 fewer calories and 12 fewer fat grams than the same serving of chicken thigh with skin.

Add seafood to your grill. Firm, fatty fish like salmon (which contains heart-healthy omega-3 fat) is the easiest to barbecue. Shrimp also serves as a low-fat source of protein. A 3 ounce serving of cooked shrimp (about 12 large shrimp) provides 90 calories and a modest 1.5g fat. Flavoring with lemon juice and herbs instead of an oil-based marinade can save calories.

When buying beef, look for the words round or loin (eye-round, bottom round roast and steak, or sirloin/flank steak). When buying pork, look for leg or loin cuts (pork tenderloin, top loin. A 3 ounce cooked serving of pork tenderloin has only 116 calories and 4.5g fat. Don’t stop at meats. Lean protein can also be vegetarian. Prepare veggie kebabs using cubes of firm tofu on a skewer with your favorite fruits and vegetables (mushrooms, grape tomatoes, pepper, onions, pineapples, apple slices) For a meaty burger without the beef, swap a hamburger for  a Portobello mushroom burger topped with 2 slices of low-fat cheddar cheese (48 calories, 2 g fat, 7g protein per slice of cheese). For added flavor, remove stems and gills of Portobello mushroom and brush with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Non-fat cooking spray (olive oil or canola oil base) can be used in substitution for oil to save calories.

Meaty Tips:

* 4-ounces of raw meat weighs in at 3-ounces after cooking

* Lean beef has less than 10g of total fat, 4.5g or less of saturated fat (the bad-for-your heart-fat that raises blood cholesterol) and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per cooked 3 –ounce serving (about he size of a deck of cards). Extra lean meat has less than 5g of fat and less than 2g of saturated at per cooked 3-ounce serving. 

Diet Pitfall #3. Forgetting to factor in beverage calories.

Beverage calories do not register the same sense of fullness as food calories. As a result, if you drink a high-calorie beverage, you won’t compensate by eating less food.  It’s not just soda that can add extra calories to your barbecue meal- it’s also fruit drinks, alcohol and other sugar-laden beverages (sweetened teas and vitamin-enhanced water included)

Solutions:

Avoid soda and alcoholic beverages in favor of water and milk.1. Eat your fruit, rather than drink it. Whole fruits not only contain the vitamins and minerals found in fruits, but they offer the added bonus of dietary fiber. Fiber adds bulk to your diet, helping you feel full on fewer calories. If you love juice, downsize your portion to four to six ounces daily.

2. Focus on beverages for hydration. For the most part, that means water, unsweetened coffee (limit to two or three eight-ounce cups daily), tea, and diet soda. Coffee and herbal teas also can provide beneficial antioxidants for your health, and can be very refreshing when iced.

3. Try diet sodas and other diet drinks, such as Crystal Light, which have five or fewer calories per serving and are ideal for increasing your beverage options while minimizing intake of added sugar.

4. Don’t be afraid of artificial sweeteners. The majority of research on aspartame (NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), and saccharin (Sweet 'N Low) shows them to be safe for human consumption. While you only save about nine calories using an artificial sweetener instead of regular sugar, they can definitely add up over time.

5. Skip vitamin water, which contains added sugar. You are better off drinking water and taking a multivitamin.

6. Drink non-fat or one-percent milk. Milk contains nine essential nutrients vital to your health. Drinking milk as a protein source can help prevent loss of muscle mass and promote fullness for individuals trying to lose weight. Soy milk is also a healthy option.

7. Avoid or limit alcohol consumption, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Avoid mixing alcohol with any type of fruit juice or non-diet soda, which add unnecessary calories. Combined with alcohol, these can lead to fat storage. Lower-calorie drinks include light beer and red or dry white wine. Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. Instead try a sparkling water with a twist of lime. If you drink alcohol, practice moderation. (one drink for women, up to two drinks for men per day) 1 drink = 5 ounces wine (about 120 calories), 12 ounce beer (about 145 calories), 1.5 ounces 80-proof liquor (about 100 calories)

Diet pitfall #4: Grazing.

Grab a plate to avoid simply grazing from what's available... but make it a small one to help your portion control.

Grazing can easily lead to overeating.

Solutions:

1. Put together a meal on an actual plate.

2. Use small plates as a built-in way to control your portions.

3. Bring a healthy dish to a summer party. Mixed fruit salad or a spinach salad drizzled with olive oil & vinegar are simple to prepare and easy to carry. Other nutritious pot-luck contributions include shrimp cocktail or vegetables crudités with low-fat bean dip or hummus.

4. Portion your plate wisely. Fill ½ of your plate with steamed or fresh vegetables, ¼ of your plate with lean protein (fish, skinless poultry and lean meats such as sirloin or flank steak). Leave the remaining ¼ of your plate for a “small taste” of high-fat dishes (that includes vegetables prepared with fatty sauces, fried items or mayo-based salads)

5. For dessert, choose the Angel cake instead of the Devil’s chocolate cake. Ice cream and frozen yogurt can pack a nutritional punch, delivering calcium, protein, and phosphorous. Stick to simple flavors like vanilla (1/2 cup provides 140 calories, 7 g fat) or choose low-fat ice cream and frozen yogurt. (1/2 cup Edy’s Slow-Churned Light ice cream flavors provide 100 calories, 3.5 g fat).  Once you start adding cookie dough, brownie chunks or candy bits to ice cream, the calories soar. A ½ cup serving of a premium brand with peanut butter cups packs 380 calories and 26 gm fat. It’s also a good idea to factor in fresh fruit. Top your ice cram with a cup of chopped fruit to boost your fiber intake by 3 grams. Savory additions include diced bananas, mangoes or strawberries. While juice bars and other icy treats may provide some vitamins and minerals, they tend to contain more sugar than nutritional benefits. However, these treats can still satisfy a sweet tooth at a lower calorie level (1 Edy's frozen whole fruit bar provides 80 calories). For a cool chocolate fix, try fat-free frozen chocolate pops or sliced strawberries drizzled with chocolate syrup.

Diet pitfall #5 Assuming all salads are healthy.

A seemingly healthy salad can become calorie laden with ingredients such as fried chicken, fatty dressing, cheese cubes, croutons, bacon bits, or fried wontons. A Caesar Salad Kit sold at your grocery store contains 170 calories and 15g fat per serving (there are 3.5 servings per bag). One bag contains as much total fat as a fast-food cheeseburger! Salads drowned in mayonnaise (potato, tuna, macaroni salads) can add up to nearly a quarter of a day’s worth of fat. (1/2 cup potato salad contains about 180 calories, 10g fat)

Solutions:

1. Salads can easily serve as a nutritious and refreshing summertime side dish or even a main course. Fruits and vegetables are among the best sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fresh fruits and vegetables have fewer calories than anything already mixed in dressing.

2. Do think beyond iceberg lettuce. Take advantage of dark leafy greens which are loaded with nutrients such as vitamin C, beta carotene, folate, calcium, fiber, and potassium, all for only 25 calories per cup.

3. Do make salad a satisfying dish  by adding lean protein and unsaturated fats (heart-healthy fats).Grilled skinless chicken breast, salmon, cubed tofu, or flank steak hot & fresh off the barbecue serve as low-fat protein sources. One of my favorite diet tricks: When you make vegetables the centerpiece of a meal, it’s easy to keep calories low without counting. Low fat shredded cheese and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) also add a protein punch.

4. You don’t have to give up all fat and flavor. Choose one of the following nutrient-rich fats for added flavor: a few avocado slices, a sprinkle of nuts or seeds, or a tablespoon of hummus.

Don’t dress to kill. If there’s a dressing that you love, try a “light” variety, use 1 tablespoon instead of 2 and dilute it with vinegar. Even better, avoid pre-made salad dressings and go natural with olive oil and lemon juice. (Oily dressings coat vegetables pretty well, so 1 tablespoon (120 calories) will do the trick). 

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Tags: diet, Sari Greaves, Diet and Nutrition, summer weight loss

Busting 5 Diet Myths

Posted by Sari Greaves on Mon, Jul 07, 2014 @ 03:26 PM

Are you a victim of one of these diet myths?When it comes to diet and health, don’t believe everything you hear.  Widely publicized information could be incomplete, preliminary, or flawed and create massive misunderstanding. Nutrition expert, Sari Greaves, RDN will help you clear the confusion.

Diet Myth # 1: Weight gain is a common sign of gluten sensitivity.

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are different. Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten (a protein in wheat, rye, barley, and oats) that damages the intestinal lining and includes symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, anemia, fatigue, headache, skin rashes, mouth ulcers, and joint pain. Some people with celiac disease experience weight loss and absorb less calories.

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are NOT one and the same.Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a little-studied diagnosis describing individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms such as bloating and fatigue but lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease. The problem is that little is known about NCGS, from how much gluten is needed to trigger symptoms to whether gluten is even the culprit.

Bottom line advice: If you think you are sensitive to gluten, find out if you have celiac disease. That means a blood test for three antibodies and, if you have them, a biopsy. Why test first? Going off gluten can make the antibodies temporarily disappear, which makes celiac harder to detect. A gluten- free diet is the treatment for celiac disease. If everything’s negative but you feel better without gluten, chances are you may be eating healthier and less junk food. Talk to a dietitian to make sure you are getting adequate B-vitamins and fiber in your diet.

Diet Myth # 2: Protein drinks curb appetite

Does a protein shake really fill you up?“Satisfies hunger longer,” promise Special K Protein Shakes, which are largely blends of water, nonfat milk, whey protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, and sugar. “With every tasty shake, you’ll get the nutritional benefits of 10g protein and 5g fiber that can help satisfy your hunger so you can lose weight.” Really? Some studies report that higher-protein foods make people feel more full than lower-protein foods, but other studies find no difference.

Bottom line advice: If you want to feel full, have some food, not a drink. A drink- with or without protein- may be less satiating than a solid food. A little more protein may satisfy hunger but the jury is still out on whether that translates to weight loss. Still, if you’re cutting calories, it makes sense to cut carbs and fat rather than protein. A 10 oz. Special K Protein shake has 10 grams of protein at the expense of 190 calories and the fiber comes largely from maltodextrin and polydextrose, processed fibers that may have little or no effect on appetite. Want some protein and fiber? Try 5 oz of fat-free plain greek yogurt (90 calories, 15 g protein) with a light sprinkle of nuts.

Diet Myth # 3: Low-fat foods promote weight loss.

If your veggie pizza recipe has as many calories as a meat-lover's recipe, then you might not be doing yourself any favors by switching one for the other.Decreasing the fat content of the diet does not guarantee that you’re decreasing calories. Whether you’re eating full-fat or low-fat ice cream, what shows up on the bathroom scale is largely determined by portion control. The food industry has been dishing out larger buns, burritos, bagels, cakes, cookies, scones, muffins, pizza, soft pretzels, pancakes, paninis, wraps, soft drinks, pasta, lo mein, and rice, making it easier to eat more of everything, including both fat and sugar from white flour carbs.

Bottom line advice: Slash dietary fat where it matters most by targeting foods that can improve heart health and actually shave off calories. If you’re going from full-fat to skim milk, you’re almost halving the calories. If you’re going from fatty cuts of meat to very lean cuts of meat, you’re decreasing the calories significantly. But if you’re going to eat fat-free brownies, cookies, waffles, and pancakes, it’s highly unlikely you’re saving any calories at all.

Diet Myth # 4: Dairy foods keep you lean

Is it better to go skim or whole? The jury's still out on this one.Study links drinking fattier milk to lower weight. Really? The notion that high-fat dairy foods keep you lean isn’t really grounded in much solid evidence. High-fat dairy may make you feel more satiated, but the research is skimpy. 

Bottom line advice: Right now, there is no real link between full-fat dairy foods and less weight gain, so it’s best to continue sipping on skim milk.

Diet Myth # 5: A healthy Mediterranean diet is eating Greek or Italian food.

When doing a Mediterranean diet, stick to fish and veggies, not to pasta and cheeses.A Mediterranean diet has been linked to lowered risk of heart disease for young populations. But what constitutes a Mediterranean diet can be misinterpreted. If you go to an Italian or Greek restaurant, you’re getting cheese on almost everything, white bread gyros, and there is definitely meat on the menu. A healthy Mediterranean diet is rich in beans, low-fat dairy, nuts, fish, vegetables, and fruits; its moderate in lean meats and poultry.

Bottom line advice: To make a diet more Mediterranean, you can add unsaturated fat (largely from olive oil) and subtract carbs. But many people forget to subtract. If you are going to drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on your salad, (120 calories per tablespoon, you are better off misting!) make sure to subtract the croutons which are high in salt and usually made with white bread.  Cut back on the portions of pasta or rice and choose whole grains as opposed to refined grains.

Do You Need a Personalized Weight Loss Program? 

References: Nutrition Action Healthletter, June 2014, http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/news/20131212/celiac-disease-gluten-sensitive

Tags: Weight Loss, health, diet myths