Nutrition: Food Facts and Fiction (cont.)

MODERATOR:
Keep reading those labels!

MEMBER QUESTION:
Are there any dangers of too little fat in your diet?

CARBONE:
Yes. Fat is needed in the diet as a source of energy. It's also needed to support fat-soluble vitamins. These include vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Each of these vitamins have specific and crucial roles in the body, regulating organ function, cell growth, acting as an antioxidant, and promoting blood clotting, for example. So, yes, the body does need fat in order to survive and maintain a healthy balance.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Earlier you mentioned keeping a food journal. Any tips on how to do that?

CARBONE:
Food journals don't have to be anything fancy. The most important thing is that they work for you. For example, it might be helpful to keep a small pad of paper with you in your purse, in your backpack, even next to your bed, to write down when you're eating it, the foods that you're eating, the amount that you're eating, as I mentioned before, the mood you're in, how you're feeling when you're eating it.

It might also be helpful to write down the time of day, because it can be very revealing and provide you with insight about your own dietary habits. Many of us don't think about all that we put into our mouths during the day, and this is one way to help us become more aware.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Once I have kept track of what I am eating and how much I am eating, how do I translate that into a healthier eating plan?

"Different things work for different people, but one thing many people find helpful is to find a friend or a support system to work with."

CARBONE:
Oftentimes I would suggest that people talk to a dietician to help them with the next steps. If that's not possible or feasible, what you can do is really look at the information you've collected. And by the way, don't just collect it for one or two days; I would suggest you collect the information for at least three days, including both weekdays and weekends, because many of us eat differently during the week than we do during the weekends.

Really look at the information and see what stands out for you. Are there a lot more chips than you thought? Is there a lot of soda? Perhaps there are snack foods or fried foods that individually may not seem like very much, but when you look at it as a whole and see a pattern that might be very revealing and identify a place where perhaps you can start making some modifications.

I don't want you to focus on the negatives; focus on how you are doing with fruits, vegetables, with lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and you can also include physical activity, as well. Use this information to identify both your strengths and areas that you can target for improvement.

It can be very helpful to talk to a dietician to get you started, to work out a plan of action, and once you've worked out a plan, it has to be a plan that works for you. Different things work for different people, but one thing many people find helpful is to find a friend or a support system to work with. That can be a coworker; it can be a member of your family; it can be anyone who can work with you to help you support healthful behavior changes.

MEMBER QUESTION:
How can we apply a plan that works for the entire family? I am responsible for meals for my family and don't want to be the food police for everyone, but I don't want to make separate meals for everyone.

CARBONE:
This is always a challenge. One suggestion is to get children involved in the food planning, shopping, and preparation so they're more invested, if you will.

Another thing to think about is modular foods, meaning, for example, having healthy dinner that consists of making tacos or burritos, or making a pizza, meals that the children can add to whatever they want. You may have some members of your family that don't eat a lot of meat. They can make an individual pizza with lots of fresh vegetables, and if another member of your family prefers to have meat he or she can add low-fat meat, whether it's lean beef or even turkey bacon or some of the other leaner cuts, or chicken. This is just one example of having a meal that can be tailored to the individual food preferences of your family members.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Can taking pictures of all things that you eat help in identifying where to make modifications?

CARBONE:
If it works for you. This method of taking pictures can certainly make a person more aware of what he or she is choosing and eating. It may not always be easy to do this, but again, if it works for you that can be very helpful. A challenge might be in identifying portion sizes when you take pictures, so you still may need to keep track of some of the more specific information that may not be captured in an individual image.

MODERATOR:
How important is it to examine portion size?

CARBONE:
It's very important. Here are some suggestions to estimate portion size, using something we all bring with us -- our hand:

  • A teaspoon can be the first knuckle of your finger.
  • A tablespoon is up to about the first knuckle of your thumb.
  • The whole thumb is about equivalent to an ounce.
  • The palm of your hand is equivalent to about two to three ounces.

A fist is about equivalent to a cup.

"Focus on lifestyle and behavior changes that you can make that are right for you and that you can incorporate as part of your life for the long- term."