National Nutrition Month: How Small Lifestyle Changes Can Make a Big Difference with Susan Borra, R.D.

Last Editorial Review: 10/23/2003

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Please join Susan Borra for a discussion regarding how even the smallest lifestyle changes can benefit your health in the long run.

The opinions expressed herein are the guest's alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Good evening all! Our guest this evening is Susan Borra, RD and we will be discussing healthy lifestyle changes. We will begin in about 15 minutes. Please feel free to ask a question at any time by typing /ask and then your query.

Please welcome Susan Borra, RD! Borra is senior vice president and director of nutrition at the International Food Information Council (IFIC). She is the immediate past chairman of the American Dietetic Association Foundation and currently serves on the foundation's board of directors.

Moderator: Thank you for being with us this afternoon, Ms. Borra!

Borra: Thank you for inviting me!

Moderator: I would like to ask the first question. What is the most common lifestyle choice that you feel needs to be changed?

Borra: I think it's not to stress so much about making a healthful diet. People believe eating healthy is difficult and boring or they just can't achieve it. What I want to talk about tonight is how people can make small changes that can add up over time.

mold28_WebMD: Are vegetarians better off than us carnivores?

Moderator: No not really. You can have a healthy diet either way.

RetroUltraModern_WebMD: Is it a good idea for me to reduce the amount of carbohydrates I eat?

Borra: Carbs are an important part of a healthy diet and most nutrition experts recommend that 1/2 your calories come from carbs everyday. The best diets to achieve long term weight loss are those that don't offer quick fixes or promises.

Moderator: Would you like to weigh in on the great diet debate?

Borra: Don't forget the other side--physical activity!

mold28_WebMD: I've heard eating fish is good for you. How much and why?

Borra: Fish is a great food. The recommendation is once if not twice a week. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids and it tastes great!

Morris71_Lycos: What are the guidelines for weight loss? Lbs. per week, exercise, calorie intake, etc.

Borra: Each person is different and should work with a dietician or physician. A good guideline is 1 lb a week is good to shoot for. The physical activity recommendations are get some good physical activity at least 30 minutes a day. Eat less calories than you burn. For each pound of body fat you need to burn 3500 calories.

Morris71_Lycos: It's hard to change habits when my girlfriend insists on keeping junk food in the house. Any suggestions to keep from gorging myself on those?

Borra: The recommendation I like is don't deprive yourself on foods like that but don't over do it. For example, if they are chips, rather than sitting in the living room with a full bag just take a serving and don't go back for more.

RumMiser_MSN: I was also wondering if their is any truth in the rather popular belief that we should all but eliminate our carbohydrate intake? I have known many people who have great results on such diets, but I'm concerned about what such a diet would do to your cholesterol levels & heart!

Borra: The carbohydrate craze has been around for a while and I think they will go away. There are no studies I'm aware of that reflect long term results therefore we don't know the benefits or the possible harm.

wabe_grb_WebMD: When I'm in the grocery store I make sure to read the labels but I'm not quite sure that I am looking for the right things. What are the most important things to look for on a food label?

Borra:  It depends. If worried about weight, look at that. If worried about fat intake, look at that. If worried about cholesterol, look at that. Labels are best when you look at the same foods to make a decision as to what to buy.

Moderator: What are some keys to health?

Borra: When you are thinking about the foods you eat, here are 5 things to keep in mind. Be realistic. Be adventurous. Be flexible. Be sensible. Be active. Does anyone have questions about these five guidelines?

Moderator: How long does it normally take to notice the difference once a small change has been made?

Borra: That's the biggest challenge. It's the cumulative effect over a period of time that you will notice rather than noticing an immediate difference.

RetroUltraModern_WebMD: Can a smoothie ever be a good meal replacement?

Borra:  Smoothie is a fine complement. Most are fruit and milk so that is a good representation of 2 food groups,  but probably not a good meal replacement.

RetroUltraModern_WebMD: I have heard that people should try to eat five fruits and vegetables every day. Do they mean five servings combined or five of each?

Borra: At least five servings of both combined. Servings are an extremely important part a diet. For example, a serving of a fruit or vegetable is about the size of a small fist. A serving of muffin would be the size of one large egg, a baked potato -- the size of a computer mouse. A serving of peanut butter is the size of a golf ball. The serving for a pancake or waffle is a 4 inch CD. Now the serving guidelines... Grains 6-11 servings... Fruits and vegetables 5 servings combined... Meat two 2-3 ounce servings of cooked meat... nuts and beans also count... Milk 2-3 servings... The fats, oils, and sweets are moderate in your diet... there is no guideline... eat them in moderation.

Ellafit_WebMD: How many calories a day should the normal, fit person be eating?

Borra: If you get scientific, a reference person, so to speak, it is about 2000 for women and about 2500 for men.

Moderator: Are vitamins a good counter to poor eating habits?

Moderator: That's why they're called vitamin supplements. Vitamins they should supplement a diet, not replace it. Vitamins should supplement one's diet, not replace it or be an excuse for a poor diet.

Morris71_Lycos: I would like to lose some weight. Is changing eating habits enough?

Borra: No. Do the full equation. Reduce calorie intake and increase physical activity.

Moderator: What is the International Food Information Council doing to promote healthy lifestyle change?

Borra: We're a non-profit that communicates the topics of nutrition and food safety. Please visit our website at

Moderator: Thank you for being with us this evening, Ms. Borra!

Borra: Thank you for having me!

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