It’s getting close to Summer so I thought it was the perfect time to do a little healthy diet question and answer with my Dietitian friend, Natalie. She’s a mom of 3 kids (all 3 are 5 and under), so an especially perfect candidate to have this little session with. This time, though, instead of a food journal like I did last summer (see it here), I thought it would be fun to just ask her some basic questions to answer some of life’s simple healthy diet and food questions.
Part of my idea for this post came from my own decision to switch my morning cereal milk from regular skim milk to unsweetened almond milk and I realized, while I’d heard it was a good to switch my milks, I really had no clue why! So, that started me down a path of thinking of my own questions I had about a healthy diet that just didn’t have a clear answer. And I reached out to ask some friends a few questions they had as well. Here’s what I came up with.
What is so great about unsweetened almond milk?
Almond milk is vegan, so that appeals to those that choose to avoid meat products. Almond milk is also lactose-free, which may make it easier for those that are lactose-intolerant, to digest. Further, because there is no lactose in almond milk, this also means there’s no sugar (or carbs) – as long as it’s unsweetened. The major advantage of cow’s milk is that it is inherently a much better source of protein and vitamin D and calcium.
Guacamole – is it possible it can be healthy? Is there an amount that’s ok before it crosses in to the unhealthy area?
Guacamole is very healthy. Avocados have a lot of fat in them, but the fat is mono-unsaturated which means that it won’t clog your arteries. Fat helps to fill you up and keep you full and it’s also beneficial for skin, hair, and nails. Easy on the portions because the calories add up quick, but otherwise you can and should enjoy.
On that level, I love Mexican food. What is one of the healthier options on a standard Mexican menu to pick?
Mexican food is delicious and can be very healthy if you are able to tweak your order. The dishes tend to be very high in carbs i.e. tortillas, rice, beans. I would pick just one of the 3 carbs and omit the others or, if you want both rice and beans, try to consume half the amount given. Light on the cheese, sour cream on the side, and you’re good to go!
When I go to a Mexican restaurant, I love to order shrimp tacos. I make sure they’re filled with cabbage, lettuce, and salsa – all low calorie vegetables that take up volume – and I get the cheese, sour cream, and guacamole on the side so that I can control those portions. Hold the rice and the beans.
A good tip is to ask for carrot and celery sticks to dip in the guacamole and salsa so that you don’t fill up on the chips, as well as a green salad, if that’s an option…..so that there’s room for a margarita or two.
What is a healthy and easy cocktail to order from the bar? Wine, vodka or something else?
Wine all the time (you can quote me on that). Vodka is always good, just be mindful of the mixers – soda instead of tonic and limes, lemons, olives instead of juice.
What ingredients should I have on hand to be able to make a fast, easy and healthy meal for my kids? Or as a family?
I always have ground lean turkey in my freezer – easy to make tacos, meatballs, or burgers. Another option is an omelet – nothing wrong with having breakfast for dinner. I also like to keep a cut whole chicken in my freezer to make chicken soup – just add water and bouillon and whatever veggies and other ingredients you like. All of these options allow for added veggies and protein, depending on your family’s preferences.
Like everyone else, I use short cuts, too. I may pop an organic frozen pizza in the oven, bake some all-natural, hormone-free chicken fingers, or organic mac and cheese. I recently found organic kale and spinach chicken sausages by the brand Gilbert – I tell my kids their hot dogs and they eat them right up.
Healthy snack suggestions that are easy for “on the go”, i.e. like granola bars? Are granola bars really best option? Any good brands you’d recommend?
I’m not a fan of granola bars. Very carby. Recently I’ve been obsessed with Applegate Farms Turkey Pepperoni – low cal, high protein, portable, and delish. String cheese and hard boiled eggs (despite being smelly) are also good on-the-go options. Siggi’s brand yogurt is higher in protein and lower in carbs than Chobani or Fage; I ate one in the car for breakfast yesterday.
Can a gluten-free diet actually help lose weight?
No. Gluten-free diets are beneficial for people who have an intolerance to the protein found in wheat – gluten. Otherwise I do not believe it to have any other benefit.
Is almond butter better for you then natural peanut butter? Why?
Almonds have more unsaturated fat (vs saturated fat) than peanuts, more fiber, and more vitamins and minerals than peanut butter. However, both are very healthy.
Could a nitrate free turkey stick considered a “healthy” snack?
Yes. Turkey is a lean protein and is a great on-the-go snack. So is turkey pepperoni and turkey jerky.
Would you consider popcorn a good snack?
Not on its own. It’s a whole grain, so that’s good but I would pair it with a protein source i.e. nuts, string cheese to keep you more satisfied and less hungry.
After the gym, I now either eat a fage 0% yogurt with fruit (the kind that comes together) or an egg muffin (recipe here) – is one better then the other or is either good?
Both are great, good job, proud of you! If I had to pick a winner, it would be the egg muffin because it has almost no carbs and lots of veggies. But both are great if you want a little variety in your life
Thanks so much to Natalie, again, for her helpful insight! If you want to schedule an appointment with her to talk about your own personal diet issues, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.