Tag Archives: balance

McDonald’s

Big Mac and Shamrock Shake - my order at McDonald's.

Big Mac and Shamrock Shake – my order at McDonald’s.

When I tell people I’m a dietitian, they automatically assume I eat super healthy and never eat fast food. I would say my efforts to eat a balanced, healthful diet are above average but certainly not extreme. And I certainly eat out, even fast food. I’ve said many times on this site that I think all foods can be included in a healthy diet, and I truly believe it.

My husband sent me this article from CNN: “10 Nutritionists Reveal What They’d Order at McDonald’s“. It is ten registered dietitians talking about what they eat at the fast food giant. Most are some variation of a salad. My favorite is number six: fries and a milkshake. Hooray for someone we can all relate to and be friends with!

My real approach to what to order at fast food or any restaurant really depends on frequency. I go out to eat a couple times a month, maybe averaging once a week on an extravagant month. I don’t feel the need to always get a salad or avoid a more “indulgent” choice when I do. As pictured above, my last McDonald’s run was colorful only due to large amounts of food coloring in my shamrock shake. Compare that to my husband, who goes out to eat at least three times a week. His restaurant food choices matter more in the grand scheme of his overall diet.

What do you order at McDonald’s? I’d love to hear your thoughts on fast food dining in the comments.

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Beyond vitamins

Salads are a great way to incorporate a rainbow of colors.

Salads are a great way to incorporate a rainbow of colors.

People often wonder if they can just take a multi-vitamin and skip eating their fruits and vegetables. I always say no! A pill does not contain all the phytochemicals your foods do, among the many other benefits of foods over supplements.

Phytochemicals are substances that naturally occur in plant foods. They can contribute to the color, flavor, or odor of the plant. The difference between a phytochemical and a vitamin is that phytochemicals are not known to be essential. A phytochemical can have health benefits, though. You might be more familiar with the names of some of the common phytochemicals than the term phytochemical itself: flavonoid, carotenoid, isoflavones, phytonutrient.

There are many health claims out there for phytochemicals. Some are thought to help fight cancer, such as lutein and isoflavones. Resveratrol, a phytochemical in grapes and red wine, may help slow the effects of aging. Beta-carotene may boost the immune system and help with vision. Research is ongoing on how these substances effect the body and in what amounts.

How do you get enough phytochemicals? By eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables. The color of the plant can correspond with different phytochemicals. For example, beta-carotene is found in dark orange or dark green leafy vegetables. Lycopene is found in red foods, particularly tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit. Anthocyanidins are found in red and purple berries. By consuming a balanced diet with many different colors of fruits and vegetables, you will get a variety of phytochemicals and all of their health benefits.

So make sure you are getting not only your recommended number of fruits and veggies each day, but also make sure there are a rainbow of colors in there, too.  Happy eating!

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Q&A: Nutrition on Nights

Q: How do I eat healthy while working the night shift? Do I have to be more conscientious of what I eat because of my different work schedule?

A:  No matter what your schedule looks like, a healthy diet has the same components.  If you work a night shift, though, you may need to make some adjustments to the way you think about eating.

One of the issues with working nights is that the body’s circadian rhythm – which tells us to sleep at night and be awake in the day – never really adjusts to being on the night shift.  This means you will likely generally feel tired at night and find it difficult to get enough sleep in the day.  It might help your sleeping patterns if youceat your heaviest meal as your “breakfast”, or first meal after sleeping.  A lighter meal as “dinner”, or your last meal before sleeping, will make it easier to fall asleep.

Also, when we are tired, we tend to eat high fat, high calorie foods.  We also tend to snack more when we are tired to stay awake.  This might be one of the reasons why people who work the night shift seem to have a greater risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  A balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are therefore all the more important for moderating these risks.  Keep your portion sizes reasonable.  Try to focus on lean proteins, whole grains, and eating more vegetables.  Snacks are ok, but try to focus on lower calorie options, like fruit or vegetables.

Thanks for the question!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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