On my day off on Monday, I happened to catch a few minutes of a popular day time television host promoting healthy eating on her show, so I decided to tune in.  I was instantly appalled when she started to tell the audience that they should AVOID most fruits and vegetables like carrots, beets, and corn if they wanted to lose weight because these foods are TOO HIGH IN SUGAR! (Actually, many of my clients used to have this same belief)

This is one of the most absurd things I hear in my practice as a dietitian! Do people really think that the weight problems we have in this country are due to eating too many of these fruits and vegetables?! Ironically, the very same people that avoid these “sugary” fruits and vegetables seem to “overlook” the fact that they drink regular soda or other sweetened beverages everyday.

To prove a point to myself (and to those reading this), I opened the refrigerator and compared the nutrition labels on a bag of baby carrots and a bag of fresh broccoli.  I found that the baby carrots had exactly 5 grams of sugar per serving, while the broccoli had 2 grams of sugar per serving. That’s a difference of only 3 grams of sugar and 12 calories! This is the equivalent of 1/5 of a tablespoon of sugar.  In my opinion, this is miniscule compared to the amount of sugar found in so many other foods:

Jamba Juice- Pomegranate Paradise (original size)- 74 grams of sugar

Starbucks Grande Caffe Vanilla Blended Frappuccino- 60 grams of sugar

3/4 cup Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal- 56 grams of sugar

12 ounce can of regular soda- 39 grams of sugar

8 pieces of Starburst Candy- 23 grams of sugar

I hope it is clear to you now that instead of worrying about how much sugar is in the foods needed for good health (or for some, finding reasons not to eat them), we should be concerned with reducing our intake of sugar from all of the other non-nutritious foods that we are faced with each day!

The Superwoman Syndrome

September 15, 2009

You’ve probably seen this before…your mother, your sister, your friend, or possibly yourself-

She appears to have it all together- balancing motherhood, career, and housekeeping.  She’s a good daughter, friend, and wife.  She cares for everyone else and makes THEM her priority.  She does it ALL without blinking an eye.  From the outside, she may appear like some kind of superwoman. 

I see these kind of women weekly in my office –  Some are caring for ailing parents; some are caring for a child in need; Some are overworked and wanting to please their boss; Some are attempting to do all of these things.  But, they all have similar characteristics- they neglect their own self care while trying to uphold their “selfless” status.   Eventually it all catches up with them, and suddenly they realize that their own health is suffering and they need to get help.

One of my clients gained 50 pounds after the birth of her son- She gave up her exercise regime and ignored her own hunger in order to tend to her family and work needs. By the end of the day, when all of her duties were done, she would overeat and fall asleep . She also stopped doing things that gave her pleasure like going to the movies and spending time with her husband.

Healthy eating, exercising, and finding time for relaxation are all ways of caring for oneself.  In order to help my clients break the “selfless” cycle and to gain control over their health, I teach them to practice self-nurturing activities. This may include taking a walk, listening to music, taking a bath, or preparing a healthy meal.

It’s different for everyone, but, everyone needs to practice self nurturing regularly in order to live each day vibrantly and healthfully.

Eventually these women realize that if they don’t take care of themselves, they won’t be around to take care of those that they love and who love them most.

“Bread is bad!” “Fat is bad!”  “Fruit has too much sugar!” These messages make figuring out what to eat each day and each meal a daunting task. Even as a nutrition professional, I have my moments of bewilderment! But, then, I remember what has been known for decades: A healthy diet consists of a variety of foods (emphasis on plant foods), low in saturated fats, added sugar, and salt.

But, even despite this very general principle, it is important to remember that we are all different and have different dietary needs.  Some people, for example, must follow a restrictive diet for a specific health condition.  Yesterday, CM, my 24-year old client needed help with a special diet for his high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Initially, he felt extremely overwhelmed- as a young, twenty-something, the thought of  knowing how to shop and prepare his own meals alone left him dazed.  But, now, he has to think about how much salt, cholesterol, and saturated fats he takes in! Many people like CM, feel defeated and often ask “What’s the point in eating?”   

Obviously, not eating is not the answer.  Instead, it may be helpful to take a gentler approach, which includes: understanding which foods may be harmful for your specific condition; reducing intake of these foods and/or replacing or adding foods that will enhance your health; paying attention to how this eating pattern makes you feel and/or understanding the benefit it has on your health; and most importantly, realizing that one specific food or one meal will not predict or guarantee health, but, it’s your overall choices that have the greatest impact.

For help with a special diet, it is best to consult with a Registered Dietitian.