Positive Eating – Frequently Asked Questions

By Zonya Foco, RD

What's the verdict: To carb or not to carb?

With all the carbohydrate-bashing books on the market, it's no wonder people are confused. The answer is….to carb responsibly. Many Americans are "over-carbing" without realizing it thanks to gargantuan portions like pasta, breads and sugary beverages. Even a small orange juice at McDonald's is not small at all. This "small" is 16 ounces of 100 percent juice and is FOUR TIMES the amount of sugar we need. Reducing portion size, eating high-fiber, nutrient-dense carbs like whole-grain breads and pastas, brown rice, oatmeal, and fresh fruits will give your carb quota more bang for the buck.

Is the low-fat message still important?

Choosing low-fat options like skim milk, lean meats, and baked goods that don't have saturated fat and trans fat (partially hydrogenated) is still important. However, choosing processed foods that have increased amounts of sugar, salt or artificial ingredients added just to result in a lower fat content is not always a better choice. There are also many high-fat foods containing "good fat" like Omega 3 that are important to keep in your diet. Walnuts, almonds, olive oil, and fatty fish like salmon all contain good fats that our body needs to help fight diseases. The easiest rule to follow when it comes to the low-fat message is what I call the one-two punch: First keep fat intake to as low as possible, then add back the good fats like olive oil on your salad or walnuts in your cereal. Works like a charm!

How can I drop my cholesterol 50 points?

Trade out the artery clogging animal fats (whole and 2 % milk, full-fat cheese, regular ground beef, bacon, sausage and ham) and trans fats (commercially fried foods, doughnuts and pastries) for natural cholesterol-sopping "sponges" like oatmeal, oat bran, barley, dried beans like pinto beans, kidney beans, black-eyed beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, corn and peas. This win-win trade does the trick to drop your cholesterol quickly. Studies have shown that eating beans four times a week equals a 19-percent decrease in the risk of heart disease compared to eating beans only once a week. Adding soy protein has also been shown to lower the bad LDL cholesterol. Also remember the great value in eating boatloads of anti-oxidant-rich fruits and vegetables for helping slow the oxidation of LDL cholesterol on your artery walls.

How can parents get kids to eat healthy?

1) Get Sneaky. Turn pinto beans into dip by pureeing them with salsa in the blender. Use the food processor to whirl fresh or frozen vegetables into spaghetti sauce. They won't suspect a thing! Or stir-fry veggies in sweet-and-sour sauce, dip in light dressing or top them with melted reduced-fat cheese.

2) Get them involved. Include them in the shopping of this week's fruits and vegetables, and have them help prepare healthy snacks and even a complete meal. Let them name their creations and they'll take ownership and pride as well as feeling like they've had choices.

3) Keep a bowl of ready-to-eat-vegetables out on the table for snacking. When kids ask for a snack before dinner, just say, "You can eat whatever is on the table." They may refuse at first, but their chances of eating vegetables are best when kids are the HUNGRIEST and veggies are AVAILABLE.

4) Finally, remember that persistence pays. Your child may balk at asparagus, beans or whole-wheat pasta, but studies have shown that children and adults alike generally accept a new food by the eleventh try.