Experts to offer advice on eating healthy, incorporating a more colorful variety of foods

Published: Friday, March 9 2012 10:07 p.m. MST

Erinn Meyer is the weight management services program coordinator at LDS Hospital.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Breakfast might actually be the most important meal of the day and eating it regularly can help a person to lose weight.

"Skipping meals is one of the most common dieting misconceptions," said Erinn Meyer, a dietitian at Intermountain Healthcare's LDS Hospital. "People think they're lowering their caloric intake, but in fact, it causes you to eat more in the long run and it slows down your metabolism."

Eating consistent and complete meals is important for the body to maintain proper function and health. Experts will be available to discuss this and other important eating habits, as well as take questions regarding nutrition during Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline.

Meyer, along with Kary Woodruff, a dietitian at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital, will be available from 10 a.m. until noon. People can ask questions by calling 1-800-925-8177 or posting questions on the Deseret News Facebook page, www.facebook.com/desnews.

Switching to diet soda is another big misconception about achieving healthy and long-term weight loss. Meyer said that while the enticing drink has no calories, it increases hunger in the body by causing gastric motility. Those who indulge in sipping diet soda for most of the day eat more in the long run, compensating with other foods.

"But switching to diet soda from regular soda is a great first step," Meyer said.

Other common mistakes people make while dieting include assuming starches are bad, thinking organic foods are healthier and engaging in fad diets.

"Fad diets promise quick weight loss, but changing habits is the only way to keep the weight off," Meyer said. Yo-yo dieting, she said, causes biological changes in the body that make it harder to lose weight each time it is put back on.

Eating at night is also not always bad practice, as is assumed by the general public. It's just that when people go for a snack at night, "it's not likely that you're going to grab broccoli," Meyer said. "You're going to grab what's easy, usually chips or something sweet, which isn't good for you."

Meyer works with a lot of patients at the hospital, and she often teaches that people need their physical needs met before they can feel good socially and mentally. It's a total package.

"Eating right gives you that ability to function normally on a daily basis and to feel complete," she said, adding that dietitians typically don't counsel clients to add a variety of supplements to their diet.

"You can get all of your nutrients from food," Meyer said. Only occasionally will she advise a client to take vitamin D or calcium pills, a fish oil supplement or multivitamin.

Nine of 10 Americans eat more than the recommended daily allowance of sodium, which increases the risk of stroke and heart disease, among other health concerns, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest dietary guidelines recommend an increased focus on a plant-based diet.

As March has been declared National Nutrition Month, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages that people incorporate a colorful variety of foods every day. Making small improvements over time adds up to significant health benefits, the agency pushes.

The trick is to "be creative in the kitchen," Meyer said, and to eat three to five servings of vegetables, two to three servings of fruits, six servings of grains (half of them whole grains), two to three servings of lean protein and at least three cups of dairy daily.

In addition to moderation in all things, Meyer counsels clients to work on meal planning and grocery shopping techniques, but also encourages that people eat a variety of foods, even eating out on occasion. "It's all about making choices," she said.

Meyer recently started tracking her own food intake and found, just like most people, that she fell short on fruits and vegetables. She even drinks soda when she travels, but she makes sure to eat mostly whole grains and eats breakfast every single day.

"We all struggle, even dietitians who know what they're supposed to be eating," Meyer said. "It helps us to relate to clients to know what they're going through."

Hotline

The Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline will focus on nutrition and eating right to lose weight. From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, local dietitians Kary Woodruff and Erin Meyer will answer questions from the public. Call 1-800-925-8177, toll-free, or post questions during that time on the Deseret News Facebook page.

Email: wleonard@desnews.com Twitter: wendyleonards

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