Wellness 101 with Annie Kim: The Dos and Don’ts of Diet Rules

The Don’ts and Dos of Diet Rules

You read the advice from a fitness magazine and it recommends you to consume a small meal the size of your palm every two hours in order to boost your metabolism, regardless if you are hungry or not. Then the next Yahoo health article that pops up on your news feed tells you to eat your meals at a set time each day. You browse through endless weight-loss websites that advices you to swear off all sweets, fast food and go on a “low carb” diet because it is the key to success. Sounds familiar?

A couple weeks later, you wind up on the weight scale and the numbers don’t seem to budge. You turn to one of your skinny stick-figured friend and ask her how she does it; she tells you she doesn’t eat. You’re being torn in all different directions. What to do now?

I sat down with two of Orange County’s nutritionist to discuss the diet rules that are meant to be broken. Jody Margolis, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian serving families and individuals in Orange County. Nutrition and Wellness Coach, Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RD who is a registered dietitian and an expert in adult, child and adolescent Weight Management. Margolis and Loy provides their two cents on the don’ts and do’s with which diet rules are meant to be broken.

Don’t swear off red meat to cut calories

Do pay a visit to the “fast food king” known as the hamburger. A typical hamburger provides 25 grams of protein. It gives you a good chunk of your daily intake of protein.  However, be cautious of where you decide to eat your burger. “Many fast food joints use meat with lots of fillers, preservatives and additives that I wouldn’t recommend. If one wanted to enjoy a burger, I’d recommend ground beef or sirloin that’s at least 90 percent lean,” says Nutrition and Wellness Coach, Michelle Loy.

Red meat gets its bad reputation from certain cuts such as “prime” which are high in artery-clogging saturated fat. “It is better to simply try and buy lean cuts of beef which are generally labeled “choice” or “select” versus “prime” which has more fat marbling. There are plenty of other healthier options when it comes to eating red meat. These cuts include tenderloin, sirloin, flank, london, broil and top round. They often require marinating or moist heat cooking to keep them tender and moist,” advises O.C. registered dietitian Jody Margolis.

One ounce of red meat, which equals to 7 grams of protein, can go a long way. The protein from lean red meat not only enhances satisfaction greater than carbohydrates or fat but also may help with weight management. “It’s also an excellent source of B vitamins, such as B12 and B6 that are involved in the process of our metabolism,” says Loy.

Don’t avoid carbohydrates

Do eat whole grains, wheat bread and brown rice. Margolis says, “Humans need carbohydrates for energy and it is the preferred fuel source for our brain and other vital organs. Without the goodness of whole wheat carbs, we wouldn’t get enough fiber or B-vitamins in our diet without supplementation.” A high quality source of carbohydrates is a key component of losing and maintaining your weight. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that help fight that tummy bulge and hunger with the filling fiber that it provides. It’s the easily digestible refined carbs such as white bread, crackers and pastries that will lead to weight gain.

There is a good reason why your body craves carbs because it is your body’s preferred source of energy. “Without adequate carbohydrate in your diet, you may experience irritability, weakness, headaches, fatigue and increased hunger,” explains Loy.  Ditching the complex carbs may only lead you into ditching your goals such as skipping out on the gym or reaching for another piece of cake.

Don’t eat after dinner or late at night

Do eat when you are hungry. However, before you reach for your snack stash, make sure you ask yourself if you are truly hungry or if you are just in for some mindless munching that will lead to stress binging. Margolis tells us, “Most people eat after dinner out of habit or cravings not actual hunger.” But if you’re hungry, by all means, go for it.

Your metabolism is not a “Cinderella” fairy tale. It doesn’t stop when the hands of the clock strike at midnight nor does it store more fat and calories after a certain hour. It continues to keep on humming. At the end of the day, it is how many calories we have burned versus how many calories we have consumed.

“Our bodies actually require a lot of energy (calories), even at rest, just to support basic physiological functions of organs, such as the heart, lungs, brain and kidneys. When it comes to night-time eating, it’s important to consider what, how much and why you’re eating,” says Loy. Therefore, there’s no need to head to bed with a grumbling tummy. The main reason why late-night munchies are linked to weight gain is because night munchies always seem to revolve around potato chips and ice cream. Ditch the junk food and refuel your body with nutritious nighttime snacks such as fresh fruit and yogurt or a bowl of whole grain cereal.

Don’t give in to your cravings

Do give in to that cookie. Indulge yourself — in moderation. “The more you restrict or deny yourself, the more power you give to the cravings. Remember all things in moderation are OK, balanced with exercise and overall healthy eating,” says nutritionist Margolis.

Studies have shown how people who try to ignore their chocolate cravings wind up eating more of it.  It’s part of human nature — we’re tempted by what we can’t have, which is why locking up the cookie jar makes us desire it more than usual. When making dietary changes, people definitely have a fear of cravings. Cravings tend to be foods high in calories, fat and carbohydrates.

Cravings provide an excellent opportunity to learn new skills that will help you manage your weight and health in the long-term. So rather than resist them, explore them, says weight-loss expert Loy. “More often than not, cravings are a psychological desire to eat rather than a physical need to eat. What many people don’t realize is that the average craving can last between 5 seconds to 15 minutes. It doesn’t seem likely because when we’re in that craving moment, it can feel like an eternity. If you take time to allow yourself to make more mindful choices, you will better manage your cravings,” says Loy. Eat more mindfully!

Don’t go on a low/no-fat diet

Do go on a good-fat diet. Fat is a key ingredient in our diets and the function of our bodies. Margolis explains, “Our bodies need fat for hormone synthesis and cellular rebuilding plus it is satisfying and helps us to avoid overconsumption of high sugar foods instead.”

Dietary fats fall into three categories: saturated fats, unsaturated fats and trans fat. According to Everyday Health, an online nutrition website, saturated fats are necessary for the body but in small amounts. It should be less than 10 percent of your daily calories. Trans fat should simply be avoided. Focus on the healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The good fats come from foods that are part of a heart-healthy diet: fish, flax seeds, nuts, avocados and certain oils such as olive and sunflower oil. “We do need fat in the diet because it plays many important roles in the body from aiding vitamin absorption such as vitamins A and E to keep the body warm. Not getting enough fat could lead to problems, such as deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids which play vital roles promoting heart health,” says Loy.