As a third year dietetics student, I’ve become the go-to person for my friends and family when they have a question about nutrition. I’d say about two or three times a week I get an in-person question or a text asking me something about food. Over the past two years I’ve started to notice a trend in the questions and comments I get, so I sat down with dietitian Alex Raymond (because as a student I definitely don’t know all there is to know on these topics) and got these 5 common nutrition questions answered by a registered dietitian.
I have a 5k race (Frisbee game, swim meet, ect. ) tomorrow, what should I eat tonight?
Me: As someone who plays a club sport, I tend to be surrounded by athletes and those who really like working out, so I get this question A LOT. A big part of this is people ask how effective carb-loading the night before their athletic event is. Common variations of the question are things like “ What will give me the best energy?” or “What will prevent cramps tomorrow?”. Basically, I pretty regularly get asked if there’s a magic meal for peak athletic performance.
Alex: Yes, I get this question a lot too! It’s not so much about what you eat the night before, but it’s more about what you are eating day to day. Athletes generally need to have increased carbohydrate intake, balanced out with protein and fat. For most of my athletes and gym goers, I tend to recommend having 3 meals and 3-4 snacks a day, depending on the level of physical activity, so that’s something to keep in mind. I think it’s important to not have anything “new” the day before a big event so you do not have any surprises digestively! Simple carbs tend to work out well for dinner and breakfast before an event.
Examples of dinners include: pasta with veggies and some chicken with pesto sauce and a side roll, sandwich with turkey, bacon, avocado, mayo and a side of fruit and yogurt, or a shrimp stir fry with a glass of milk. My go to breakfast before a race is actually a bagel with peanut butter and banana. So I tend to recommend that to a ton of clients!
I have a weird class ( or work) schedule, will not eating at “normal” mealtimes mess up my metabolism?
Me: This is a question I asked a lot at the start of a new semester as people figure out their schedules and when they have time to eat throughout the day, I especially get asked about breakfast. I’ll get asked if skipping breakfast is okay because a student has an 8 am and they want to sleep in as long as possible or if eating dinner at 5 pm or 8 pm is better because they have a 5:30-7:15 lab and have to pick either an “early” or a “late” dinner.
Alex: It’s important to fuel yourself every 2-4 hours, starting an hour or so after breakfast. I like to give a range of time because that gives people some flexibility. It is highly important to have breakfast every day: I can’t stress this enough! I find that when my clients have breakfast, they tend to feel overall better, more focused during the day and also have a better regulated appetite (not too hungry or too full). Especially if you are in college, having a well-rounded breakfast is essential. I would say if a class is super early, it might be a good idea to plan ahead. Can you buy a box of protein bars and have that with yogurt and fruit in the morning on your way to class?
The example you gave about having a class from 5:30-7:15pm is a common question I get from many clients. I would say depending on your personal preference you can do this 2 different ways.
- Eating a substantial snack before (like a sandwich or fruit and yogurt parfait), so you are not hungry during class. And then having dinner after
- Eating dinner before and then having a substantial snack right after class
This can really depend on your personal preference and what you feel may keep you more fueled throughout the evening. But, I think it is totally ok to eat when you’re not hungry if that will keep you fueled!
Is the Keto diet good for you? How about going Vegan or Paleo?
Me: I get asked about the “trendy” diets all the time. I get this from all age ranges, I’ll have a friend who read an article about the keto diet and wants to try it out or I’ll get a call from my dad asking about clean eating and if it “works”. My grandma once called and asked me what veganism was because her friend’s daughter was “doing it for health reasons”. Styles of eating like clean eating, veganism, and the keto diet are getting a lot of attention in the media, but a lot of times the “hype” around them leaves people with a lot of unanswered questions about if they are actually sustainable styles of eating .
Alex: Short answer: I do not recommend these diets.
Long answer: Different eating patterns work for different people and as a dietitian I have tailored my advice to support people with all different kind of eating patterns! However, I find that these types of diets are not sustainable and they are also can be used inappropriately. For example, the ketogenic diet has been studied to treat seizures, so if you are struggling with this, then this diet may be appropriate for you. However, there are no studies that have enough evidence for me to confidentially state that the keto diet will make you healthier. I find that certain types of diets are way too restrictive and can also lead people down a path where they have an unhealthy relationship with foods. One of my mantras is “all foods fit,” so I practice that with my clients.
Does drinking alcohol lead to weight gain?
Me: As a college student, I’m surrounded by people ages 19-22, so the time frame where people become legal to drink. As people turn 21 and are able to go downtown I hear a lot of comments along the lines of “ oh now that I’m 21 I’m going to definitely gain weight this football season” or I’ll get asked something like “ I know it’s not good for you, but is it REALLY bad for you?”
Alex: I get this question a lot too! I work with many young adults who enjoy happy hour and grabbing drinks with friends. I will have to answer this question for all those 21+ young adults! My best advice is to be mindful of the amount you are drinking and also what you are eating when you are drinking.
Many people find that when alcohol is involved, they tend to snack or overeat, then feeling guilty later on. If you are going to happy hour or out at night, it would be wise to make sure to fuel yourself properly. That may mean having a meal or snack beforehand. If you go to happy hour hungry, and there are snacks out, and you have been drinking, chances are appetite will kick into high gear and you’ll be more likely to overeat. Not to mention that drinking on an empty stomach can be dangerous, so be smart!
I hear a lot of comments along the lines of “ I was so bad this weekend, I went to get ice cream AND had pizza, but I’ll make it up by eating super healthy the next few days”
Me: This is something I hear SO MUCH on a college campus, especially from women, and to be honest it frustrates me a bit that people are sorting foods into black and white, all good and all bad types of categories. I hear rules like “ I eat healthy during the week so I can eat out during the weekend”, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when restriction and rules are added to a person’s eating habits, it has the potential to hurt their relationship with food and it introduces the potential for guilt for “slip-ups, which is not a sustainable or enjoyable way of living.
Alex: Well, our bodies don’t really work that way. And I firmly believe there is no such thing as being “bad” with food. Our bodies are very smart, so don’t underestimate your digestive system. If you eat out more on the weekend, your body is going to figure out how to metabolize the food and use it as energy.
One of my favorite foods is donuts. So I give myself permission to have them because I know that eating a donut once a week (maybe sometimes three times a week), won’t change my body composition. That’s not to say that a well balanced diet isn’t important. Overall, try to make sure your diet incorporates fruits, veggies, whole grains, protein and healthy fats, and that eating out isn’t taking the place of these. Bottom line: Having a variety of foods, including fun foods, is totally okay and your body will thank you for giving it the fuel it needs.
If you would like to make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians to get your nutrition questions answered, call 301-474-2499 or click here.