Ask a nutrition student: Food frustrations and farewells

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Photo Credit: Madi Beavers | Daily Texan Staff

Four years of case studies, dietary recalls and medical nutrition therapy textbooks have taught me the skills and knowledge needed as a dietitian. But along with all the stats and facts, I have also accumulated some nutrition pet peeves. While I covered many of these diet myths and misconceptions during my time at The Daily Texan, I thought that there was no better way to end 2016 than recapping my top five things that get under my nutrition-student skin. 

1. Diets that eliminate entire macronutrient groups

Many people will try to “cut out carbs completely” to lose weight, or embark on “low-fat” diets.  However, healthy individuals actually require these types of nutrients to function properly. Carbohydrates, which should make up 45 to 65 percent of daily calorie intake, are the body’s main and preferred source of fuel. By cutting out bread for a week, you may see a large drop in weight — all water — but you’ll also feel moody, fatigued and mentally groggy. As for fats, they should make up 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories for vitamin absorption, nervous system function and hormone-building. The key is to consume the right type. (Hint: unsaturated)

2. Overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages

Sodas, sports drinks and fruit juices are all refreshments loaded with sugar, sneaky calories and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity — yikes. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines suggest that only ten percent of daily calories come from added sugars. So for a 2000-calorie diet — which is high for many individuals — this means no more than 20 grams of added sugar per day. This all sounds sweet, until this shocker: A 12-ounce can of soda contains almost double that amount with 39 grams. But sodas aren’t the only drinks to blame —  fruit juices may sound like a healthier option, don’t be fooled. Many have extra sugar added in. By consuming fruit in its original form, you’ll feel fuller from the fiber and eliminate added calories from added sugars.   

3. Detox dieting

Speaking of drinking calories, juice cleanses and detox diets are another pet peeve of mine. There is no need to drop lots of cash for fancy juices — your body has its own built-in detoxification system. The kidneys, skin, liver and gastrointestinal tract are all made to rid your body of unwelcome substances. These diets are often extremely restrictive in calories and could cause more harm than good from electrolyte imbalances and vitamin deficiencies. Adequate hydration and a well-rounded diet are all you need to hit your body’s reset button.

4. The misconception that “healthy-labeled foods are healthier”

Buyers beware: Food companies have clever marketing techniques that make products appear healthier than they really are. Check out the nutrition fact panel of some of your favorite “health foods.” You may find that the protein bar you snack on has as many calories as your dinner, and your “healthy” breakfast granola could have stats comparable to a candy bar. Or you could be unknowingly eating two to three times the recommended portion of a favorite treat. 

5. Confusion between registered dietitians and nutritionists

Many people believe the titles “nutritionist” and “dietitian” can be used interchangeably. However, this isn’t the case. Anyone can claim the title, “nutritionist” — there is no formal training or certification required. However, a registered dietitian must have a bachelor’s degree, take the appropriate coursework approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, complete 1200 hours of supervised practice and pass a national exam. Because of the nature of nutrition — the ever-changing fads, the magazine columns and the diet books — it’s important to be mindful of  your diet advice sources.

And with those five pet peeves, my rant is over and so is my time at The Daily Texan. I hope my nutrition column has helped you discern food fact from fad. This nutrition student is signing off — hopefully the next time you see me published I’ll have “RD” after my name.