Ask the Registered Dietitian

Most people are concerned about proper nutrition, so they ask a lot of questions. Read below for answers to some of the questions most frequently asked to Dupont Hospital's dietitians.

Questions:

How do I figure out my ideal weight?

Rather than being concerned about an ideal weight, try to obtain a healthier weight.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

  • Can be used as a guide for nonpregnant adults to determine weight classification.
  • BMI > 24.9 may be associated with increased risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

Note: BMI may not accurately determine the weight classification of athletes.

BMI = weight (pounds) ÷ height (inches) ÷ height (inches) x 703.
Use chart below to determine weight classification.

Example: Height: 64 inches; Weight: 140 pounds
140 ÷ 64 ÷ 64 x 703 = BMI of 24.

BMI Weight Classification Obesity Class

< 18.5

Underweight

18.5–24.9

Normal weight

25–29.9

Overweight

30–34.9

Obesity

I

35–39.9

Obesity

II

> 40

Extreme Obesity

III

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What is trans fat?

Trans fats:

  • Are used to increase the shelf-life of food products.
  • Are created by converting cooking oils into solids (hydrogenation).
  • Are different from saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  • Raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, which can increase your risk of heart disease.

Major trans fat sources:

  • Commercial baked goods (cakes, cookies, crackers, pies and bread)
  • Animal products, margarine, shortening and commercially fried potatoes.
  • Snack foods such as potato chips and corn chips.

To reduce the intake of trans fats:

  • Plan more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products in your daily diet.
  • Use lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry, fish and include dried beans and nuts.
  • Read food labels, and limit items made with hydrogenated oils.

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I know I am supposed to drink at least eight cups of water a day. Can I count everything I drink in this amount?

There are many reasons why your fluid intake should be, for the most part, from drinking simply water. It’s very easy to forget that water is an important nutrient in our diet. Unfortunately, many common beverages may have a negative effect on your hydration and total fluid intake. Remember, our intake of coffee, teas and soda often contain caffeine that acts like a diuretic, causing us to lose more fluid through increased urination. These drinks can also increase your intake of sodium and add unnecessary calories. If you combine this with hot weather and physical activity, you can see where dehydration can come into the picture.

Here are some helpful hints for increasing your water intake:

    1. Take water breaks instead of coffee breaks.
    2. Have a glass of water before meals and snacks to help take the edge off your appetite.
    3. Drink before, during and after any activity.
    4. Substitute sparkling waters for alcoholic drinks at parties.
    5. Bring bottled water with you on vacations or when traveling.

(Reference: "Water: The Beverage for Life")

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I am lactose intolerant and am very concerned that I may not be getting enough calcium in my diet. What foods should I eat to help meet my calcium needs?

Since your body has a difficult time digesting the lactose in milk products, you may need to make a few changes in your diet. For most individuals, being diagnosed with lactose intolerance does not mean you have to cut out all dairy products from your diet. Try these tips to increase your calcium intake:

  • Try eating small amounts of dairy foods throughout the day instead of a large portion all at once.
  • Have dairy foods with meals instead of between meals.
  • Try cultured dairy products with live and active bacteria, such as yogurt.
  • Try lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk, cheese and ice cream.
  • Use lactase tablets or drops when you eat a high-lactose meal.
  • If you still have a hard time tolerating dairy products, make sure to eat plenty of calcium-fortified foods like breakfast cereals, bread, tofu and fruit juices. Other sources of calcium include dark-green leafy vegetables, dry or baked beans, almonds, and canned fish with bones. (Reference: "Boning Up on Calcium")

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I want to include flax seed in my diet so I can get Omega–3 essential fatty acids. Do you have any tips?

  • If you purchase whole seeds, grind the flax seed in a blender or coffee bean grinder before using. Whole flax seed will pass through your body undigested.
  • Whole flax seed that is clean and dry can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. However, flax seed stored in the refrigerator will stay fresh longer.

To keep flax seed fresh, grind it as you need it. If the flax develops an odor discard it.

  • Add a teaspoon of ground flax seed to your cereal, yogurt, smoothies or low fat muffins at breakfast. Flax can also be mixed into meatloaf, hamburgers, chilies, stews or meatballs and added to salads or cottage cheese.

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My family eats out frequently, especially on the weekend when my children have sports activities. How can we make healthy choices from the restaurant menu?

There are some “key” words to look for on the menu.

  • To find foods lower in fat look for “baked, broiled, grilled, poached, stir-fried, steamed and roasted”.
  • Foods that are higher in fat may include the words “fried, prime, with gravy, creamed, battered, breaded, crispy, Alfredo or au gratin”.
  • When eating hamburgers, beware of extra fat from cheese, bacon and mayonnaise toppings. Instead, add lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mustard and ketchup.
  • Grilled chicken sandwiches are another healthier alternative. Avoid fried fish or breaded chicken sandwiches. Try to substitute baked potatoes for French fries when available.

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Can you tell me what “reduced sodium” on food labels really means?

Fortunately, the FDA has strict guidelines on how food labels can be used. Here are a few examples:

  • Reduced sodium” means there is 25 percent less sodium than the usual product.
  • Low sodium” means there is less than 140mg of sodium per serving.
  • Light” means it has 1/3 fewer calories or ½ the fat of the usual food.
  • High fiber” means there are five or more grams of fiber per serving.

For more food label information go to: www.cfsan.fda.gov/label.html

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