My vices are carbonated drinks, usually soda. I’m working on getting rid of weird stuff in my diet like aspartame (what even is that??) but I love me some Diet Coke. Have you got any suggestions for pre-made carbonated drinks I could try? I have a Soda Stream at home, but when I’m at work and have forgotten it, I usually resort to a weird energy drink or my forbidden lover, Diet Coke.
How do you feel about something like soda water with lime? Bring flavored sparkling water to work and don’t even call it a vice, because it’s just CO2 injected into water. If you like that bubbly taste, you could also try kombucha, which has a natural effervescence and some healthy probiotics; if you like the caffeine, tea and coffee are both good for you, and likely easy to access at work.
Also, to me, drinking Diet Coke is lower on the spectrum of vices, all things considered. (Ok, I also clearly have a forbidden lover.) Yes, it's made of chemicals, but so are many things in the American diet at this point—like, Cheetos are basically just chemicals attached to some corn—and the real reason why most people are wary of diet drinks (the mysterious fake sugar) is debatable. There have been no human studies that have effectively linked non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame to an increased risk of disease. Aspartame (at the level of 8-2083 diet soda cans/day) may increase risk of leukemia/lymphoma in rats and saccharine (the one in Sweet 'N Low) has been shown in animals to increase the risk of bladder tumors. But, these are animal studies; we are very different from a rat, so human studies trying to prove these correlations haven’t held up.
Of course, there are anecdotal issues with diet drinks—if Diet Coke gives you headaches, don’t drink it. And some studies link consuming diet drinks or other fake-sugar foods with increased intake: like our bodies start feeling tricked when they don’t actually get calories, and they overcompensate, or else we do. But, on the other hand, some studies show that diet drinks can be effective tools for weight loss.
It's just good to know that there are no proven studies of harmful side effects in humans, whether or not that’s due to the fact that the government doesn’t want to commission a big study that would cut into Diet Coke revenues. Who knows! Just remember, everything in moderation. In my opinion, it would actually be worse to have a Coke every day than a Diet Coke, even if it’s natural sugar, Mexican Coke in a glass bottle, etc. It seriously ups your sugar intake: a 12 oz. can of soda contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is more sugar than you'd ever add to a drink on your own (and dietary guidelines of America recommend less than 8 teaspoons of added sugar per day, so even one Coke pushes your daily sugar over the edge).
If I ate pure rye/pure spelt bread plus reindeer meat plus fruit soup for breakfast every day as a weight loss diet and it worked, is that bad? Would it bad for me to do that again?
I want to know your medical history first! Also, what is fruit soup?
But, okay, barring any weird health issues you might have, if you’re eating that combination for one meal daily, and eating a variety of balanced food for your other meals, that’s totally fine. Reindeer meat is actually a great lean protein source, and the fruit and bread gives you some carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Actually, you could probably survive eating that for every meal for a while, but it wouldn’t keep you healthy in the long-term. In general, even if you find something satisfying that’s really healthy, if you repeat it for meal after meal after meal you’ll eventually start missing out on the assortment of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and amino acids that you only get by eating a variety different foods. Variety is key, and it's more fun to mix it up, right?
But anyway, if you have a particular meal that works for you weight-loss-wise, and you like eating it for breakfast every day because you feel full and know that you’ve gotten something balanced, that’s great! But I want to issue a warning that no one should put all their faith in eating any single meal to lose weight, e.g. the mindset of "If I don’t eat this food on the regular, all the weight will come back on." It's easy to develop those sort of compulsive habits, but you’ll end up feeling weird in your brain and also missing out on a lot of good, healthy food.
Is there a distinguishable difference between plant and animal proteins? I’ve been drinking smoothies and juices more regularly, and I always add a shot of protein to them, because if I don’t, I feel silly hungry later. Usually these powders are of the plant variety, hemp being one. Does my body process these differently than, say, protein from a steak?
Yes it does! First I have to say, eating a diet rich in vegetable protein is a great choice; animal protein sources, specifically the higher-fat versions, like red meat, can increase your risk of developing heart problems. Also, vegetable proteins are great sources of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
One important difference between plant and animal proteins is that plant proteins are less absorbable. Plant foods have natural inhibitors, and so vegetarians actually need 1.4x more protein than omnivores. So, if you’re eating a plant protein source with ostensibly the same amount of protein as a piece of chicken, remember that it won’t be absorbed in the same way, and you'll have to eat a bit more of it if you want chicken-level protein. Also, a lot of plant proteins don’t have the full set of amino acids that make up a "complete" protein like meat. That’s why we pair vegetarian proteins like beans and rice, because together they make a complete source. That being said, hemp protein is actually one of the few vegetarian proteins that has all the amino acids you need, so that sounds like a good choice for you.
Also! A statement for everyone: don’t go crazy with juice. It is much healthier to eat a whole piece of fruit than grind it into juice because you lose fiber during this process. Fiber helps keep you regular, can lower your cholesterol, and promote feelings of fullness (which is possibly why juices on their own leave you feeling you un-satiated). To add some more fiber, I'd recommend doing your smoothie with some low-fat yogurt for added protein instead of drinking the juice with powdered vegetable protein.
How much wine with dinner is too much wine with dinner?
Unfortunately, for women, the recommendation is one drink per day. Womp womp.
Here’s the real talk: a glass of wine should be five ounces, first of all, and when you think about the glasses of wine that you’re working with, they’re probably bigger. At a restaurant, you’d probably feel cheated if you didn’t get your wine poured to the brim, which is already more than that technical amount for one glass. So, just by having a full glass of wine with dinner, it’s already probably more than you “should” have.
The thing about these drink recommendations, the fact that men get two glasses and women get one, is that the gender binary (unlike many other ones) is actually super important and real. Guys have a higher amount of muscle compared to fat, and muscles contain a higher percentage of water than fat—like, your muscles live in a squish of water—and women, having less muscle, end up with less water to dilute the alcohol in their bodies. This is especially true if you are a very small in stature/weight woman, because you have less body water than a taller/heavier woman would have.
Women also have less of the enzyme that helps break down the toxic parts of alcohol, an enzyme that already varies by ethnicity and other factors. So you’re already working with fewer enzymes and less water to help you deal with alcohol, and studies show that women tend to get addicted faster and also experience alcohol-related health problems sooner than men who drink a lot. Tolerance, unfortunately, is bad; what you’re ultimately doing is diverting your body’s ability to deal with keeping your body healthy in order for it to process the toxic components of alcohol.
So—it’s important to try not to drink a ton. But I don’t always follow that one drink recommendation myself, and, you know, I get it. I’d say—realistically, and not my official recommendation— I try to max out at two glasses of wine, and follow the standard advice to have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks. (And, back to the Diet Coke thing, drinking is the one occasion where I will always recommend a full-sugar Coke over a diet drink, because you need some sugar in your system to buffer the alcohol and help you hold it better.)
Photo credit Nancy Dorsner/flickr
Barbara Linhardt is a Registered Dietitian working at a hospital in South Central Michigan.