Getting back to basics

Carol Berg Sloan RD
Columnist

Sweetener consumption has been in the news lately with the soda ban in New York City and like initiatives popping up in cities throughout California in recent elections. In speaking with many of my clients, they show solidarity for such bans, but when we start talking about the details of these headlines, many don’t understand the basics of what they eat and how it affects their weight and overall health. Here are common questions with answers that provide general information so you can make informed nutrition decisions about what you eat and better understand your health.

How many calories should we consume per day?
The average American adult who does weekly exercise and is at a healthy weight should consume about 2,000 calories daily. Obviously, this number can vary because metabolisms are different, but you need to know how many calories work for you to either maintain or change your weight.

How many calories do you have to eat to gain or lose an actual pound of fat?
If you have been maintaining your weight and want to lose or gain a pound in a week without changing your exercise regime, you either need to eat 500 calories less or more per day. A pound of fat (adipose tissue) arrives when 3,500 calories in excess have been consumed and are now being stored. The same goes for losing a pound of fat; 500 calories a day should be cut from the daily intake. I find a disconnect with most understanding the “calories in equal calories out” concept. Remember that water consumption can make the scale numbers change without affecting your actual weight.

What is a healthy weight?
There are several ways to find out where you land on the weight chart. One is to measure your body mass index (BMI) by visiting nhlbisupport.com/bmi, or you can measure your waist circumference www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/risk.htm . These websites can help you calculate your weight and you will know on paper if you are overweight, obese or morbidly obese. Needless to say, your risk for chronic disease such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer increase with weight.

Reading labels should be considered mandatory.
There is a wealth of information on both the “nutrient facts” panel and the ingredient list. Recently some clients share they are only purchasing foods that do not contain high fructose corn syrup. However, cane sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup and fruit juice are all metabolically and nutritionally (4 calories per gram) equivalent. As many dietitians recommend, all sweetened products should be enjoyed in moderation. To learn more about sweeteners a great site to visit is sweetsurprise.com/ understanding-natural-sweeteners .

My hope is that this simple Q&A will encourage you to become more informed and make healthier changes and choices in the lives of your family.

Carol Berg Sloan RD is a registered dietitian in Long Beach. She can be reached at cbsrd@verizon.net .

nutrition

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