Nutrition Week Q & A

with Ashley Beam, M.S., RDN, LDN

I feel like I'm going morning to night each day and I don't have the time or energy to cook a meal so I end up eating microwave meals or grabbing something while I'm out. I would love a quick and healthy alternative, any suggestions?

  • When choosing a meal think of a balanced meal that has a protein, carb, and vegetable

    • Ex. grilled chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A w/ lettuce/tomato or a side salad

    • Chicken nuggets from Chick-fil-A w/ side salad

    • Frozen dinner with rice, chicken, vegetable

    • Chipotle with brown rice, black beans, protein (chicken), salsa, roasted vegetables, guac.

What would you say to someone who eats a lot of fast food? If I'm being honest I don't think I'm ready for change yet.

  • Make healthier switches and think of a balanced meal of protein, carb, fruit/vegetable

  • Ex. if you are used to getting a fried chicken sandwich, opt for a grilled chicken sandwich.

  • grilled chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A w/ lettuce/tomato or a side salad

  • Chicken nuggets instead of fried from Chick-fil-A w/ side salad

  • Chipotle with brown rice, black beans, protein (chicken), salsa, roasted vegetables, guac.

  • Starbucks egg white wrap for quick breakfast

  • Oatmeal with nuts and fruit for breakfast (most fast food restaurants have this)

How would you recommend talking to a loved one about how they are eating?

  • Be supportive, comforting, and empathetic. Listen to them and how they are feeling towards food and dive into the “why”. “Why” are they eating the way they are. This will help you see where they are coming from and help them feel like they are being heard.

Any recommendations for salty crunchy snacks? 

  • There are a lot of nutritious options that are salty and crunchy, but its best to make a balanced snack to help you feel satiated and content not hungry within an hour. A balanced snack has a carb with protein or a carb with fat.

  • Ex. Salted nuts w/ fruit

  • Dry roasted edamame (one of my favorite) with dried fruit

  • Roasted chickpeas (homemade or packages) with veggies

  • Popcorners (sea salt) w/ nuts

  • Popcorn w/ nuts and dried fruit

  • Homemade tortilla chips with guacamole

Do you have any tips for reducing salt or something to replace it?

  • SPICES!! I love them and they offer so much flavor in meals.

  • Fun fact! Often times if you're craving salt it is actually a craving for sugar due to an imbalance of blood sugar.

After I lose weight, I gain it right back. Is that common? How do I break this cycle?

  • Yes this is extremely common and actually 70-80% of people who go on a restrictive weight loss diet gain all the weight back and oftentimes more within 6 months of stopping the diet. The best way to stop this is to stop restrictive dieting and start practicing intuitive eating which focuses on listening to your body's hunger and satiety cues. When you listen to your body and what it is telling you, your weight will naturally fall where it is happiest, healthiest, and feeling your best mentally and physically. It is best to work with a dietitian until you establish a healthy balanced eating pattern especially if you have a history of dieting. When we go on a restricted diet that is way below our calorie needs our metabolism slows down greatly as a way to conserve energy to keep our organs functioning, so when we go back to eating a normal amount we put on weight because our bodies aren’t burning at a rate it used to prior to going on the restrictive diet. So for example, if you go on a 1500 calorie diet when your maintenance is 2500 your body adapts to the 1500 calories (also why weight loss stalls, our bodies are EXTREMELY adaptive and don’t like to go out of its normal happy place), once you go back to eating 2500 calories you body sees this as a 1,000 calorie surplus causing weight gain. If you are on a restrictive diet currently it is best to work with a registered dietitian to slowly bring your calories back up to maintenance to prevent weight gain, boost your metabolism back to a normal rate, and normalize your hormones.

When it comes to portioning out meals…is there an easy way to portion them out?

  • For breakfast, fill your plate with half fruit and the other half split between protein and carbs. For lunch and dinner, fill half your plate with vegetables and the other half split between protein and carbohydrates; however, Ultimately it is best to listen to your body and what it wants. Some days your body is going to want more carbohydrates because you burned more energy and need to replenish your energy stores, some days you may want more protein because you lifted a lot that day (through exercise, yardwork, job) and your muscles need to recover etc. Everyday and every meal ultimately will look a little different depending on your body's needs for that given day and meal. Quantity will also change, some days you may be more hungry than others, so meals may look a little larger, and visa versa. Until your reach the point of being able to dive into your body and its needs for that meal, fill your plate with the portions above and throughout the meal dive into what it's really craving. Some meals you may eat all your carbs and want more, so go get more. This is just an overall map, allow your body to guide you what it needs.

Is it healthy to substitute one of the 3 main meals with a smoothie of some sort or is it best to try an incorporate actual meals like you mentioned?

  • Yes absolutely! Smoothies are great for busy people who are on the go and don’t have time to make a full meal. Smoothies can be made “balanced” by incorporating a protein source, carb source, fat source, and fruit. Some great examples include:

    • Strawberry + banana, greek yogurt, oats, peanut butter, non-dairy milk

    • Frozen berries, greek yogurt, oats, almond butter, almond milk

    • Frozen strawberries, oats, avocado, spinach, plant based protein powder

    • Frozen tropical fruit blend, yogurt, coconut cream, oats.

  • It may be weird to add things like oats to a smoothie, but it gives it a creamy texture without altering the taste!

Is the caffeine in dark chocolate an issue?

  • Yes it does have a small amount. The higher the percentage of cacao the higher the caffeine content. So 80% dark chocolate will have more caffeine than 70%. The content of caffeine in chocolate does not activate neural (brain) mechanisms like coffee would. It contains a compound called theobromine (similar to caffeine but targets the body difficulty) which is actually weak on the nervous system and may act like a muscle relaxant while giving you a burst of energy. It is also not addictive like caffeine and doesn’t cause the spike and crash effect.

When is a good time to cut off caffeine?

  • Ultimately caffeine affects everyone differently, but a good rule of thumb is to stop caffeine consumption at LEAST 6 hours prior to bed. So, if you go to bed at 9pm, it is best to stop caffeine consumption by 3pm at the latest.

I am curious how much caffeine is in a decaf cup of coffee? I’m also curious - what is a reasonable amount of caffeine for somebody in one day?

  • Caffeine in decaf varies between 2-12 milligrams per 8 oz. A safe amount of caffeine for somebody is between 300mg-400mg; however, everyone’s body is different and will respond differently to caffeine; therefore, it is best to listen to your body and how it feels after caffeine consumption.
    Reference: 8oz of regular coffee is 95-200mg. 8oz of green/black tea is 30-50mg. 8 oz of decaf is 2-12mg. 8 oz of instant coffee is 27-173mg. It is best to avoid energy drinks, and stick to coffee/ tea if caffeine is needed.

What would you say to someone that says intuitive eating sounds "too space cadety", and "too abstract?" This person has a history of participating in diet culture with success and then gaining, and then success, etc. They also have a significant amount of stress in their life.

  • What is abstract about listening to our body and its needs. Eating when it tells us we are hungry and need energy and stopping when it says that it's full and has adequate energy. That's what intuitive eating is. It's getting back to listening to our body and working with it instead of working against it. We are born to intuitively eat, think of a baby/toddler. They enter the world with nothing learned. They listen to their intuition and just go about their day. Dieting and having to look a certain way is not something we are born with, it's something we learn through watching our parents, the media, etc. Babies and toddlers tell you when they're hungry and stop eating when they're full. Some days they eat more, some they eat less, because some days they expend more energy than others so are naturally hungrier. They ask to eat what they are craving, not what society says is “ok” and “not ok” as a snack. They see goldfish in the cabinet and ask for it because that's what they want, they don’t think twice about “how will this affect me”. That's how we are designed to eat, but society has taught us otherwise. Society has taught us to diet, to look a certain way. Intuitive eating is getting back to our roots and how we were designed to eat.

I am interested in how many calories are in decaf coffee. Since I am now drinking strictly decaf.

  • It depends on if you add creamer, sugar, or flavored pumps (Dunkin/Starbucks)! Just straight black is 5-10 calories, but the question I have for you is do you need to be strict in rigid in your intake that you have to worry about how many calories are in black coffee? The stress associated with how many calories in food is more harmful than any food itself.

What if I crave pizza every day

  • After adopting healthier eating behaviors our taste buds do change overtime, so you may find that you have less cravings. But ultimately pizza can be a balanced meal (obviously not every night) bc the carb would be the dough, the veggie would be the sauce and if you add veggies and the fat would be cheese and protein either cheese or if you have chicken on it! I usually recommend having a slice of pizza and a side salad with chicken. The salad will give u the micronutrients and fill u up and the pizza will satisfy the craving. The craving for pizza tells me either blood sugar or underlying emotions that are not being tended to bc pizza is higher fat/carb which tells me the client is craving “dopamine”.

  • It could also be due to underlying restriction of the food. So when we put food "off limits" it makes us crave it that much more. Think of a child who you tell no to if they were about to do something bad...they then have this deep urge to do it, more so after you said no than before.

I also experience anxiety when it comes to what I should eat. How can I make it less stressful when it comes to eating?

  • Prior to eating, sit down, shut your eyes and take deep breathes to calm your mind and body. Also, being a supportive and comfortable environment. Lastly, positive self talk through the meal.

What foods should be avoided to prevent migraines?

  • There is no specific foods that should be avoided, it is very individualized and specific to what triggers your migraines. What triggers one person may not trigger another. It is best to work with a professional to help navigate what your specific triggers are so that you can avoid those specific foods.

Is it a good idea to track your calories per day?

  • I do not recommend counting calories but rather listening to your bodies needs for that day. Some days you may need more calories some days you may need less. We are not robots and therefore do not need the same amount t of calories, protein, carbs, fat everyday! Listening to your bodies cravings, when it’s hungry, and stopping when it is full is the best way to go. Getting back to our roots before society taught us what dieting was. You weren’t born counting calories you were born listening to your body, that’s how we are designed to eat. Our bodies will tell us what it needs, we just have learned to ignore and go against it…thanks society. Counting calories also creates underlying stress and anxiety which is no bueno when it comes to overall health and feeling your absolute best mentally and physically!

Is it a good idea to track your calories per day?

  • I do not recommend counting calories but rather listening to your bodies needs for that day. Some days you may need more calories some days you may need less. We are not robots and therefore do not need the same amount t of calories, protein, carbs, fat everyday! Listening to your bodies cravings, when it’s hungry, and stopping when it is full is the best way to go. Getting back to our roots before society taught us what dieting was. You weren’t born counting calories you were born listening to your body, that’s how we are designed to eat. Our bodies will tell us what it needs, we just have learned to ignore and go against it…thanks society. Counting calories also creates underlying stress and anxiety which is no bueno when it comes to overall health and feeling your absolute best mentally and physically!

What if my body tells me it needs sugar and/or caffeine, but I know in reality I just need sleep or protein? How do you override or re-program 4 decades of negative associations, patterns, etc?

  • Your body likely is making you feel that you need the sugar/caffeine due to an imbalance of blood sugars. When you have this random intense desire for sugar/caffeine your body is looking for energy, and the only source of energy for the body is food. In order to prevent this it is best to eat balanced meals and snacks consistently throughout the day to optimize blood sugar control and prevent the spike and fall. Sleep also affects blood sugar levels greatly, so that correlates with what you are saying. You lack sleep, your blood sugars are out of whack, resulting in sugar/caffeine cravings. In regards to over-programming your mind, this takes time. You have 40 decades of negative programming, so it wont be fixed in a month. Its best to work with a professional to hold you accountable, be able to help you re-route the thoughts, and teach you ways to rephrase things to create a positive association. It involves a lot of reframing and "talking to yourself". For instance, instead of saying "good foods"/"bad foods" shifting the wording to nutritious and less nutritious because no food is bad and no food is good. All food provides us energy but some has more vitamins/minerals/fibers that are essential for overall health. No matter if it is a banana or bagel, our body breaks it down the same exact way to get the only form of energy our bodies can use...glucose. A banana has more vitamins and minerals, but at the end of the day our body doesn't know the difference. Its not like we look at bagel and immediately a switch flips and our body breaks it down differently. Everything is broken down to glucose to keep our bodies running.