Frequently Asked Questions

We get lots of questions about weight loss and healthy eating, both from our clients as well as the general public. Here are some of the most common inquiries we receive, along with the answers. 
If you find that your question is not answered here, please send your question to us.

I am not sure how much water I should be drinking. Is it the same for everyone?
  • You can calculate the minimum number of ounces of water you need each day by dividing your weight in pounds by 2. Exercise, heat and humidity, pregnancy, airplane travel and stress can increase these needs. For example, with every 15 minutes of exercise you need an additional 8 ounces to make up for fluid lost as perspiration.

    Drink lots of water if you're trying to lose weight. Not only will this keep you hydrated and help your body to properly use the food you eat -- it may help you from overeating. Many people unconsciously confuse the feelings of hunger and thirst. By drinking water frequently, you'll be less likely to mistake these feelings and end up eating when all you need is a cool drink of water.

I thought that eating one bowl of high fiber cereal provided enough fiber for the day. Do I need more than that?
  1. Unless you are eating from a mixing bowl, this is probably not enough fiber. Most health experts recommend eating 25-30 grams of fiber each day. A single serving of high fiber cereal, such as Kashi, has approximately 8 grams, or about 1/3 of your daily fiber needs. To fill your fiber quota, increase your fiber intake from foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

    Fiber is great when you're trying to lose weight - because you body breaks down fiber slowly, it helps to stabilize your blood sugar and keep you feeling full. Choosing a nutrition plan high in fiber is excellent for weight control and also overall good health.

    Fiber-boosting tricks include adding berries to your breakfast cereal; munching on carrots, peppers or broccoli as snacks; cooking with whole wheat pastas; sprinkling whole wheat or bran flakes in homemade breads, yogurts and fruit desserts. Don't forget to drink your water as you increase fiber. Too much fiber without proper hydration can lead to an upset stomach.

How do I know if I need to take a calcium supplement?
  • Most need 1200-1500 mg of calcium each day. Whether or not you need to supplement your intake depends on your needs and how much calcium you get from your diet. First, assess your current calcium intake. One serving of dairy has about 250 mg of calcium (1/2-cup of ice cream has 90 mg, an 8-ounce glass of milk has 300 mg, 1 cup of yogurt has 450 mg). Besides dairy foods, calcium is found in almonds, dark green vegetables, and in salmon or sardines with bones. There are also many foods available now that are fortified with calcium; but you need to read the labels to figure the exact amounts. If you fall short of the recommended goal, consider taking a supplement.

    On the whole, calcium citrate is the most readily absorbable form of calcium supplement and is generally well tolerated. It's a good idea to choose a supplement that contains vitamin D, especially if you are following a low-calorie diet and not eating many dairy products. Vitamin D is not only essential for transporting calcium into cells and for maintaining bone density.

    Most supplements provide between 200 and 300 mg per capsule. Read the label closely and calculate your dosage based on your usual calcium intake and your recommended needs. If you are unsure, contact your nutritionist or physician for advice.

My friend told me to eat fatty fish to reduce my cholesterol, but how can I fit that into my diet without gaining weight?

Fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, contain a substance called omega 3 fats. In studies, these fats have been shown to improve cholesterol levels and help protect against heart disease.

Fatty fish have excellent nutritional value and can be part of many healthy diet plans, even if you're trying to lose weight. A 3-ounce serving two or three times a week can give you the benefits of the omega 3's without causing weight gain. To avoid extra calories, bake, broil or grill your fish and use lemon or spices to season.

My downfall is nighttime eating. I am "good" at breakfast and lunch, but I eat too much at night. What's wrong with me?

This is a common complaint for many people who are trying to lose weight. Choosing healthy, balanced portions evenly through the day can often help decrease ravenous appetites and overeating at night. Balanced meals should contain moderate amounts of whole-grain carbohydrate, protein and fat. Because protein and fat are digested more slowly than carbohydrate, this results in subtle and consistent blood sugar changes that enhance your feeling of fullness.

If the problem isn't what you eat during the day, consider your nighttime schedule. Is this when you have the most free time? Are you bored easily? Do you feel as if nighttime is the first opportunity to unwind after a stressful day? If any of these ring true, it is possible that the reason for overeating has nothing to do with hunger. Try going for a walk, practicing yoga, writing in a journal or taking a bath. It may be a matter of breaking old habits and keeping yourself out of the kitchen and away from food.

Does walking to and from the bus stop for 10 minutes each way count as exercise?

Although walking for 20 minutes each day is a good start, the two-way commute does not quite qualify as enough exercise. According to the American College of Sports Medicine and the Goals for Healthy People 2010, everyone - regardless of age or sex - should aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week.

For weight loss, the goal is to expend more energy than you take in. Since eating too few calories can lead to nutrient deficiencies and a sluggish metabolism, the best way to accomplish this goal is to increase your physical activity level. By adding another 10-minute segment during a lunch break or getting on and off the bus a few stops early, you can easily meet this goal.

I am thinking about trying supplement bars or shakes for weight loss. Do you think these will help?

It probably isn't fair to classify all supplements as worthless, but from a weight-loss standpoint, the only thing quickly thinning out will be your wallet. Regularly consuming bars or shakes does not promote a healthy lifestyle change - a crucial element for long-term weight loss. It's not feasible to use bars or liquids for meal replacements long-term, and using them between meals is likely to provide little more than excess calories.

All bars and shakes have varying combinations of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Most claim to offer "the best combination for quick and easy weight loss" or "increased energy". The truth is hard to find if you examine the labels more closely. What you will find is that many bars are high in calories and laden with refined sugars and saturated fat -- neither of which are good for weight loss! Eating regular balanced meals is a better alternative to any supplement.

I have heard that nuts are really good for you. But aren't they full of fat?

Nuts are primarily made of fat, but it is mainly from the monounsaturated sources that offer premium health benefits. Monounsaturated fats lower the bad (LDL) cholesterol, responsible for clogging arteries and causing heart disease, and increase the good (HDL) cholesterol. Nuts also contain a fair amount of protein and fiber, making them a good addition to many carbohydrate snacks.

These tiny treats do pack a lot of calories. Two tablespoons, or a small handful, contain approximately 150 calories and 15 grams of fat. To add nuts into your diet without increasing your caloric intake, be sure to substitute them for something else or add them to foods in small portions (for example, adding nuts to cereal, yogurt, salad or pasta).

Choose nuts that are either sold in their natural skin or dry roasted. Beware of honey- roasted or caramelized varieties that contribute unnecessary calories from sugar, and avoid those that have been cooked in oil.

I'm concerned my son is not getting enough protein. He has multiple food allergies and is not keen on most sources of protein. Can you offer any suggestions for alternative sources of protein?

The adequacy of your son's protein intake is a valid concern. Childhood eating habits can have long-term health effects. A child's physical, cognitive, social and emotional development is compellingly linked to the adequacy of certain nutrients in the diet.
And yet, we all know that children simply won't eat what they don't like! It is important to realize, however, that children's food preferences are cultivated by repeated exposure to foods. Research demonstrates that children will often develop a clear increase in preference for foods that they have been exposed to a minimum of 8 to 10 times. Therefore, parents and caregivers play a vital role by exposing children to a variety of nutritious foods!

How much protein does a 10-year-old need? Protein needs are based on the child's weight, approximately one gram per kilogram of body weight. To figure, take your child's weight and divide by 2 to get daily protein requirements in grams per day. OR Children age 9-13 require approximately 35 grams of protein per day. When protein options are limited by preference or allergies, to ensure adequate protein across the day try to include a protein source at each meal or snack.

The following provide approximately 8 grams of protein per serving:

1 oz of any form of animal protein (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, duck, quail, pheasant)
1 oz cheese or 1/4 cup cottage/ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 cup milk, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, or soup made with milk
1/2 cup hummus or cooked beans
1 oz nuts or 2 tablespoons peanut butter, almond butter; sunflower seeds
2 oz firm tofu, 1.5 oz tempeh, or 1 cup soy milk; 1 soy-based veggie burger
A double whammy: putting a slice of cheese in the middle of oven roasted deli turkey and roll it up for a "turkey-cheese roll". Kids like this kind of finger food and it's all protein!

The protein content per serving of most foods is listed on the nutrition label.

Since you mentioned that your son may not accept or is allergic to many of the above foods, you may want to try the following strategies.
Mixing 1 cup of dry milk powder into 1 quart of milk doubles the protein content of milk. Try this "enriched milk" in making milkshakes, pudding, cocoa, soups, and add to cereal. Various protein-containing drinks are commercially available to boost protein intake in finicky eaters. Try Carnation Instant Breakfast in 1 cup of milk, or Boost Breeze - a protein fortified juice drink available in most pharmacies. These drinks provide the protein equivalent of one egg. Or make a homemade smoothie and add 1/2 to 1 scoop of a concentrated protein powder called whey (available in health food stores).

I have low blood sugar. What is best for me?

Low blood sugar is also called hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemic events are commonly caused by the pancreas releasing too much insulin into the blood stream in response to a high blood sugar caused by a high carbohydrate (sugar or starch) intake. The large dose of insulin then takes too much sugar out of the blood and gives it to the cells, leaving the person feeling hungry, light-headed, fatigued and with low ability to concentrate. This is often called the blood sugar roller coaster, because the way people often treat these symptoms is by eating more carbs throughout the day, which causes the process to repeat itself over and over again. NOTE: Starches are just a long chain of sugars that get digested into sugar in the intestine, therefore, starches like rice and potatoes can raise blood sugars as high as sweets can.

So try to avoid eating carbohydrates all by themselves, because this can lead to sharp spikes of blood sugars. The best way to prevent hypoglycemic events is to include protein with all meals and snacks. Protein will mix together with the carbs in your gastrointestinal tract and release the carbs slowly over a longer period of time. This will prevent sharp spikes of blood sugar and the resulting large insulin dump. When protein is present in the meal, the meal is more filling and satisfying. This helps to prevent the need for snacking throughout the day, but if you do need a snack be sure it has protein in it such as natural peanut butter, nuts or a low fat cheese.

Like proteins, fats can also slow the rate that sugars are absorbed in the blood. So adding some avocado to a carb snack like corn chips can help with hypoglycemia. Eating processed carbohydrates all by themselves will cause blood sugar to rise the fastest and highest, many of these foods are called high glycemic index foods. They include white bread, white potatoes, white rice, juices, sodas and sugary desserts. Instead, try to include a whole grain as the high-fiber carbohydrate in the meal to help prevent sugar spikes. Whole grains include: whole grain breads, cereals and crackers; brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Eating smaller amounts of starches, no matter if they are highly processed or whole grains, at meals can help keep the blood sugar lower and help control calorie intake.

Lastly, if hypoglycemic events often happen during exercise, it would be recommended to have a small balanced snack before working out. A light yogurt or an apple with an ounce of low fat cheese should provide a slow steady absorption of fuel during the workout. Try different snacks and smaller amounts to find out which snacks and the amounts that work best for you. Remember everyone is different.

How can I pep up my metabolism? Is there something I can eat or drink?
  • The most effective way to boost metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories) is by staying active. Incorporating aerobic or endurance and strength training exerercises are key. Together these activity types increase calorie burning and help maintain muscle mass, which burns more calories.

    Eating small frequent meals or snacks consisting of carbohydrate and protein throughout the day helps too. Skipping meals and overly restricting calories can actually stall your metabolism. Staying well hydrated may be useful as well. Drinking tea (minus the added sugar and cream), for instance, may contribute to greater calorie burning. The bottom line is there is no one food or supplement alone that increases your metabolism.

I have heard about something called glycemic index. Can I tell what the glycemic index is by reading a food label?
  1. You will not be able to gather the glycemic index value from reading the nutrition information label on a food package because it is not listed. The reason being that the glycemic index can vary based on how much processing has occurred to the carbohydrate in the food product. Cooking methods can influence the number as well. For instance, overcooked pasta has a higher glycemic index than firm or al dente. Fruits too can fluctuate based on how under ripe or over ripe they are. If you replace processed and refined carbohydrates, like sweets, fruit juices, white bread and white rice with whole grains, whole produce, nonstarchy vegetables and dried beans, then you are eating more in line with lower glycemic index, which is healthier.
I am lactose intolerant. I eat a lot of soy foods and drink soy milk. I also eat at least 2 servings of meat everyday. Am I getting too much protein?
  • Probably not but it does depend on what you mean by "a lot" and what your serving sizes of meat are. Daily protein consumption can range between 70 - 100 grams per day for most adults. The minimum daily requirement for women is 50g (for men 63g). In general, soy foods supply between 7 to 20 grams of protein per serving. A serving of meat typically provides 21 grams of protein. So if you are having two servings of meat at six ounce per day and eating soy foods (averaging 14 grams per serving), you would be eating enough protein and probably not too much. Healthy adults (those individuals with no chronic medical conditions) generally can eat more than 100 grams of protein without concern but it is not necessary. 


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