I’ll Take Some Guac With That…Tips On Simplifying Healthy Eating (30:05)
Shanna Hutcheson, a registered dietitian, talks about improving your health through what you put in your body. She breaks down the pros/cons of the “fad” diets and detox methods out there today, such as Atkins, Keto, cleanses and Paleo, and why she doesn’t endorse them.
Shanna also explains that “carb” is not a four-letter word, the right carbs to eat daily and why it’s important to eat them every day. The timing behind when you should eat carbs and how to fuel your body before and after a workout is also discussed. Shanna gives tips on how to fill your plate in a healthy manner and portion control. Have a gluten allergy or avoid eating gluten? She provides tips on foods to focus on in your daily diet and how some of the GF products are not necessarily the healthiest of options. This podcast covers the gamut of health and nutrition topics and tips to simplify your healthy eating. If you have questions or topics you would like us to cover, please email us.
Brian: Welcome to Your Life, Simplified. My name is Brian Leitner, and I’ll be the host of this podcast. Today we’re talking about health, so whether you’re trying to get beach body ready during the summer or you’re trying to control your weight for the holidays, nutrition can play a key role in your health and can impact the way in which you live your life. So we recently asked a group of friends and employees what some of their questions would be if they had the opportunity to ask a dietician the key questions that continue to come up because there’s a great deal of misinformation that are out there. We received a ton of feedback, so we narrowed that down to several different random questions. Today we’re joined by a registered dietician, Shanna Hutcheson. So Shanna, thanks for joining us today. We have a good handful of questions for you. They’re random. I think everyone’s just trying to get some free advice and trying to get in shape. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Shanna: I became a registered dietician after going to school at Kansas State University. I started becoming interested in nutrition in high school. I was a cheerleader, and I was very conscious of what I was putting in my body. I started becoming more interested in exercise and food, and I was really just curious about that. And I started studying nutrition and Kinesiology when I first got to school, and then I discovered dietetics my sophomore year of college. So, I decided that was a perfect career path for me, given my passion for nutrition. And that passion has really just grown over the years, and I’m very fortunate to have found the perfect job for me right off the bat.
Brian: And today you run a pretty successful blog. I’ve read it. There’s a ton of great content on it. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Shanna: Thank you, first of all, I did start my blog. It’s been almost three years, which is crazy. Like I said, I’m really passionate about nutrition. I’m passionate about sharing that with others and teaching them how they can easily improve their health through food and exercise. So I decided to create a platform where I could share that with more people. I started with a website as well as an Instagram account. And those both have grown significantly over the years. I’ve learned so much, and I’ve connected with so many people. It’s just been a really great opportunity for me.
Brian: Terrific. Thanks for being here. We appreciate you joining us today. Before we get started, I mentioned there’s a lot of misinformation that’s out there. There’s a lot of fad diets. When you think about, whether it’s an Atkins or South Beach or Paleo, some of these really popular diets, there are people having plenty of success. There are people who leave that diet, and they gain weight back. Any thoughts around some of these diets that are out? Is one better than another? What are your thoughts on these?
Shanna: You’re right, there are a ton of diets out there, and you called them fad, and they’re called that for a reason, because they typically come and go, and then there’s a new one. When it comes to diets, I do have a lot of thoughts. And as a dietician, I personally never ever endorse any of them. I truly never say, “You should do the Keto diet. I think that sounds like a great fit for you.” And there’s a reason for that. It’s because most of the diets that are out there, they have a list of rules and restrictions and, for the average healthy individual, it’s not realistic or sustainable. Like you said, they’ll go on the diet, and then they’ll go off of it, and they’ll gain the weight right back, if not more, than they had before.
Shanna: So it sets people up for failure right off the bat. And those restrictions and rules can really cause you to have an unhealthy relationship with food. Truly more than anything, what I encourage people to do is just to eat healthy foods, which I know is boring and doesn’t sound as cool and trendy as the Keto diet. But truly that’s what works–is eating a healthy, balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. Those colorful whole foods. It’s simply cooking at home more often versus eating out. And just making simple swaps — things like that are so much more effective, long-term, than going on a diet for two months and then getting off of it. And it’s just a vicious cycle. So as far as dieting, I don’t recommend it.
Brian: You’re right — that is boring. We all want the quick fix. I have someone within my circle of friends that went on, I think it was Atkins. To your point, they went on the diet, and they took what they liked about the diet, and they weren’t able to follow it to a T. I remember sitting with one of these individuals. They ordered a pie pizza. Atkins, you can’t have the bread. What does that look like? And he ended up getting the pie. He scraped all the cheese and the sauce into a bowl and he just ate the cheese and the sauce and looks at me and sort of laughs and says, “This Dr. Atkins, he knows what he’s talking about.” This is the best doctor ever with this type of diet I’m going to be so successful and really, really happy. Right? This individual probably gain 30 pounds over a two month period of time. Again, sometimes it’s what people want to hear. Right? So, I think that can be problematic. And again, I know it’s worked for certain people and people swear by it and those good things. But I appreciate your insight.
Shanna: Definitely. Like you said, some of those diets, they do have good things about them. As a whole, maybe they’re not so great, but bits and pieces. Like you said, if he’s taking little parts of that, and he’s not following it to a T and becoming obsessive about it in some ways some diets can be good for that, like Paleo for example. For the most part, it is endorsing whole foods. So I definitely encourage that. If it’s getting someone to eat more fruits and vegetables, then great. I’m all for that. But if it’s encouraging them to restrict an entire food group, then that’s not okay.
Brian: So the carbs conversation is actually a great segue. I mean we have people who have written to us or sent us emails regarding this show and wanting your thoughts on carbs. I think people, in general, are potentially eliminating that food group or saying it’s really bad for you, but what are your thoughts on carbs?
Shanna: You’re right. I see clients all the time, and that’s one of the first things that a lot of people say is that I’m trying to cut carbs. And as a dietician, it honestly makes me want to cry. The problem in America and just everywhere in general with carbs, is that people are choosing the wrong kinds of carbs and eating the wrong amounts. So they’re choosing those highly processed, refined carbohydrates. So, things like white pasta and white rice and sugar and candy and soda. Those are bad carbohydrates, and they’re eating enormous quantities of them. So, if you’re eating the right kinds of carbs, such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains and even dairy contains some carbohydrates, those are good foods that contain a ton of nutrition and can really benefit you in a lot of ways. And again, controlling portions. So if you’re watching how many carbohydrates you’re eating in a day, that can definitely be included in a healthy diet.
Brian: Is it important for our overall brain function to have a certain amount of carbs in our system?
Shanna: Yes. So carbohydrates are actually our body’s preferred fuel source, especially for the brain, as well. They’re important for so many things, and it’s our body’s preferred fuel source for intense exercise and to simply live throughout the day. You’ll hear some people when they haven’t had enough carbs, they’ll get a headache or feel really lethargic. There are no benefits to cutting out an entire food group. So cutting out carbs is not the way to go about weight loss or just health in general, because that would cause you to eliminate a lot of healthy foods including fruits and vegetables.
Brian: So there are good carbs and bad carbs. People are also talking about windows and things of that nature. Is it important to have carbs in the morning and fill up, and then can you have them at night? Does it really matter, as long as you’re eating good carbs?
Shanna: That’s a good question, and there is a lot of conversation around that right now. As far as timing, nutrient timing is important when it comes to exercise, for example. So carbohydrates are important for fueling exercise. Our body, when we ingest carbs, they turn to glucose for that or are used for energy, or they’re stored as glycogen, which we then use as energy during the workout. So, yes, carbs are important for fuel, and it’s also important to have carbohydrates after a workout, as well as protein, because you want to replenish all the glycogen stores that were lost during that workout. So in that regard, it’s important to get them in there. But to your question, can I have carbs in the evening? That’s one of the biggest things I hear is, “Oh, I’m trying not to have carbs after 2 pm.” And I’m like, why? You can definitely have carbs at dinner time, and it’s not going to kill you or make you gain a million pounds. The most important thing is just what your entire day looks like. It’s not one meal or what time necessarily that you’re consuming it. Again, it’s the quality of the carbohydrates and the amount that matters most.
Brian: That’s terrific. Thank you. And while we’re on the subject of carbs, I was in the food store recently and in the pasta aisle. Now they have pasta plus protein. Is that better for you than your traditional pasta or she should get the whole wheat pasta? Does it really make a difference?
Shanna: So I think I know what you’re referring to. I think it’s called Banza pasta made from chickpeas. Well that’s one of them. There’s a couple of different options these days as far as new, fun, healthier pastas. Like you said, that are higher in fiber, higher in protein, all those kinds of things. So for example, the one pasta that I’m thinking of is made of garbanzo beans or chickpeas. So it definitely is a lot lower in carbohydrates than typical pasta. It’s higher in protein, higher in fiber, and those are all great things. So it’s definitely a nutritious option. However, some people may not truly enjoy the taste of it, and that just comes back to my point. Don’t eat things that you don’t truly enjoy. Long term, that’s not going to be beneficial for you. So if you love the Banza pasta, great.
Shanna: Whole grain pasta is a really good option, too. Again, it comes back to portion control, because I think rice and pasta are a couple of examples of foods where it’s really easy to overdo it. People will have pasta and it’s just like a heaping pile of pasta and nothing else. So what I recommend always having a good, balanced plate. So if that means you’re having rice or pasta as your carbohydrate, obviously choose the whole grain first but also pair it with a ton of vegetables to offset that carbohydrate. So, you should have a smaller portion of pasta, a large portion of vegetables and then a good source of protein, too. So that can be shrimp, that could be grilled chicken — it could be a lot of different things. But yeah, that balance is most important.
Brian: So don’t pair a big bowl of pasta with really good Italian bread.
Shanna: Exactly. And another thing, some other new things have come around for pasta lately — things like zoodles. Making pasta out of zucchini, that’s a really fun way to kind of mix things up. Again, that is a low carb option, which I’m not saying you have to do that, but it’s sometimes it’s fun, just mix it up and do something a little different. My husband and I love to make zoodles. Another good option is spaghetti squash. If you’ve ever tried that, it’s just fun to mix up cooking methods and try new foods and experiment a little.
Brian: It’s effectively swapping your traditional pasta with vegetables that are turned into pasta, if you will, the way it’s cut. So along with pasta, there are a lot of folks who talk about gluten today. You walk down the aisle of the food store, and there are more things today that are gluten free than there ever have been. And you know, up until a few years ago, I had never even heard of gluten. And today, I mean I’ll go to different conferences, and you’re at the airport and there are so many different gluten free options. So should we be avoiding gluten? What does that look like, and what is gluten?
Shanna: Great question. Once again, that is another thing that comes up all the time, and gluten, just like carbs, is not the devil, just to clear that up. Gluten is a protein in wheat. So it just simply helps foods maintain their shape. So it’s in anything that containing wheat, barley and rye, and sometimes oats, depending on how they are processed, but for the most part, oats are gluten free. But as far as if we need to avoid it, the answer is no. For most healthy people, there is no reason why we have to avoid gluten. People who truly do have to avoid gluten are people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, which is a medical condition where if they ingest gluten, it causes damage to their intestines. So that will cause them to have malabsorption, malnutrition and all these things. So the only treatment for that is avoiding gluten. Unless you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease or have illegitimate gluten intolerance or any other sort of disorder where you would have to avoid gluten, that is not necessary for most people.
Brian: Well for those who do have to avoid gluten, what gluten free foods are there? I just said that there is a lot right that are marketed right now, but I think there are also a lot of foods that are out there that that are naturally gluten free, isn’t that right?
Shanna: Correct. So for people who do have to avoid gluten or who choose to for whatever reason, there are a lot of foods that are naturally gluten free, such as fruits and vegetables. Those don’t have any gluten. And there are actually many grains that are gluten free, such as rice, quinoa and buckwheat. Also most meats, as long as they don’t have any added sauces or marinades. Fresh meats, nuts, legumes and all kinds of healthy foods are already free of gluten. So there are still tons of options for those people who have to avoid it. In regard to all of the gluten free products you’re seeing in the grocery store, unfortunately not all of them are the healthiest option because of the processing and the fact that they have been made gluten free. They may be lacking in fiber, and they may have a ton of added sugars. So just know that, if it says gluten free on the package, it does not automatically give it a health halo and make it a healthy option.
Brian: In thinking about what you said about carbs, there are good and bad carbs. They say the same thing about fats, right? Are there good and bad fats?
Shanna: There are good and bad fats and a little bit of that is being mixed right now because of the whole Keto trend. The Keto diet is made up of almost all fat. Sounds great, right? But again, that eliminates a lot of those carbohydrate foods, such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains and all those other foods that are good for you. It includes fats that are not so good for you, such as saturated fats, which you can find in fatty meats and high-fat dairy and in trans fats, which you really, really want to avoid. Trans fats can be found in some processed foods and pastries and things like that. So if you ever see a label that says partially hydrogenated oils, that’s an indicator that there are trans fats in it — that can even be found in peanut butter.
Shanna: That’s not natural peanut butter, you know? So make sure you’re checking your labels and be aware of what you’re putting in your body. In contrast, there are good heart-healthy fats that we definitely encourage people to get in their diet. Like I mentioned, it used to be that we thought that a low-fat diet was a good thing. Now more than ever, we’re actually encouraging people to incorporate fat into their diet, usually in the form of nuts, nut butters, olive oil, avocados and fatty fish. Those are great healthy sources that are really good for the heart. Some of them are really good for reducing inflammation in the body, so are definitely good foods to include.
Brian: So the next time you go out, and you get your burrito bowl for lunch, make sure you order some of that guacamole on top. Another great question that came was about a detox program. And a half a mile from my house, another store just opened up, and it’s all about cleansing, It’s drinking these six or seven juices a day, and those sorts of things. They advertise, you’ll lose, on average, seven pounds a week. And to some degree, I think that makes sense, right? If you’re eating fast food or something of that nature, and, all of a sudden, you go on a restricted diet in which you’re having seven or eight drinks made of protein, that’s probably healthier. But I don’t really know if a detox works long term. What are your thoughts on those?
Shanna: Similar to some of the fad diets we discussed earlier, I never, ever recommend that people go on either a detox or a cleanse or anything of that nature, especially for an extended period of time. It can actually be really dangerous, because most cleanses are super low in calories. Again, they’re lacking in fiber, they’re actually lacking in protein and healthy fats. Most of them are just juiced fruits and vegetables. Those are healthy, but when they’ve been juiced, the fiber is taken out. So overall, it’s very restrictive, and it’s lacking in other nutrients that are super important. Fats and proteins are both things that you need all the time. So something more than a couple of days can definitely be dangerous. And if you’re seeing any weight loss from that, the initial weight loss is probably water weight.
Shanna: And then, for an extended period of time, it could potentially even be some muscle mass that you’re losing. And that’s not the kind of weight that we want to lose. Your kidneys and liver are designed to naturally detox your body. So there’s never any reason that you have to assist with that by going on a juice cleanse. If you feel like you kind of overindulged during the holidays or went on a vacation and ate really poorly or something, what I would recommend is just getting back on track by just starting to include more of those healthy foods. So again, fruits and vegetables, just simply drinking more water rather than alcohol or whatever you are drinking, during that indulgent time. Obviously moving more, so trying to exercise more and just eating less crap. Honestly, that’s the best way to detox.
Brian: I guess a couple of questions come to mind. So if they’re taking the fruit, and they’re making juices and smoothies out of these, for argument’s sake, I would think that there is a lot of fiber in these. But you said through that process of pureeing it, they’re losing its fiber?
Shanna: Right? So juicing is different than making a smoothie, for example. Some of the fiber is still intact when you’re making a smoothie, but when you’re juicing things, oftentimes, the skin is not included. And that’s where all the fiber lies, or most of the fiber anyway. The skin is the really healthy part of those fruits and vegetables. If you’re eating potatoes or apples or anything, always leave the skin on. Just make sure to wash it really well and remove any dirt or impurities. But definitely always eat the skin, because that’s the good, healthy part.
Brian: You mentioned water, and there are so many different thoughts around this. How much should you drink each day? And there’s that old adage, drink eight classes a day, and then you have these other people who have come out and said, It must be two liters a day if you’re trying to lose weight. Any thoughts around that and how much water we should be taking in every day?
Shanna: There are a lot of different recommendations and honestly, everyone’s fluid needs are different. So it depends on your age, sex, weight, activity level, and even the climate you live in. There are a lot of different factors that determine your fluid needs. Obviously someone who is exercising vigorously every day is losing a lot more water in sweat. So it’s important for them to rehydrate, probably more so than someone who is sedentary. There are a lot of different factors that go into it. There are certain equations that go into it. So it’s not necessarily eight glasses a day for every person. However, that may be a good goal to shoot for. If you’re only drinking one water bottle a day, you definitely need to drink more. I think everyone is probably aware of where they are, as far as fluid intake. So just make it a goal. For example, I have a Yeti that I try to fill up four times a day. And that also gives me a reason to get up during the day. If I have to go fill it up, that makes me take a little walk around the office. And then I have to get up and go to the bathroom. So that’s another reason to get up and move. So most people are not drinking enough water.
Brian: Shanna, we talked about carbs and how many we should have. We talked about gluten and several different things. One of the questions that continues to come up are the artificial sweeteners, right? I think we want sweets. It’s what most people really desire. There are these artificial sweeteners that are out there. Do you have any thoughts around those?
Shanna: Yes, and that’s honestly a really complicated topic right now. Artificial sweeteners have been around for a while, but there’s still not a ton of research on them. In the newest studies, some are saying they’re safe, and then other studies say that maybe they’re not so safe and maybe that they are causing problems in people’s guts and or making them crave certain things. So there’s definitely a lot of controversy around them. So more than anything, I recommend, once again, everything in moderation. If you’re consuming multiple diet sodas a day, you should probably back off of that. But in general, if you’re adding several packets of artificial sweetener to your coffee every single day and using the same one over and over, you probably want to reevaluate that. Just because there are a lot of unknowns around them right now and overdoing it on one might not be the best decision.
Brian: With that said, does it make sense to use traditional, natural sugar, at least on a limited basis?
Shanna: Honestly, it could, and a lot of dieticians actually are recommending that using small amounts of real sugar instead. Artificial sweeteners are significantly sweeter than real sugar, real table sugar. So sometimes it programs us to crave even sweeter things and even maybe alter our taste buds to the point where sweet things don’t even really taste that sweet anymore, because we’re used to that heightened sweetness from the artificial sweeteners. So in that sense, it could be dangerous because, all of a sudden, cake is not sweet enough for you. That’s an issue, right? So overall trying to just limit artificial sweeteners and real sugars, in general. I would definitely recommend that. Again, everything in moderation. You can definitely include those sweet foods in a healthy balanced diet but try not to overdo it. Be mindful about the amount of artificial sweeteners you’re using, because there are a lot of unknowns.
Brian: That makes sense. Maybe a question, this is for me personally or other people who do a decent amount of traveling. When on the road, maybe they’re going from meeting to meeting or are stuck at the airport. When you think about those, have to grab something quick to eat and, at the same time, try and be healthy, try and be mindful of what they’re putting in their body. What are some of your thoughts? Do you have go-to routines or places that you can go to this place and grab this? Are there particular meals that you can grab on the go?
Shanna: If you’re traveling, it can definitely be challenging to make healthier choices, but I always try to encourage people to seek out those healthier choices wherever they can. You’re making the choices of what’s going in your body every day. If you’re faced with McDonald’s versus Subway, probably choose Subway. Then don’t choose the foot-long on white bread with buffalo chicken and cheese and nothing else. You should choose a nice six-inch sandwich on wheat bread. Who knows if it’s truly whole wheat, but it’s probably better than white bread. Load it up with vegetables and a lean protein source versus bacon and salami and all those kinds of meats. I would definitely recommend loading up with as many veggies as you can and a leaner source of protein, such as turkey. Choose an option where you can get some whole grains, vegetables and a fruit as a side, versus a bag of chips or french fries. We’re always going to be faced with so many different choices. Oftentimes, healthy choices are available, but people aren’t choosing them. So if you’re traveling frequently for work, I would definitely recommend trying to make those healthier choices more often, because those unhealthy choices will definitely add up and come back to bite you.
Brian: And, today what’s really popular are the protein bars and meal replacement bars. I’m sure there are good ones and bad ones, and maybe that’s a topic for a different time, right?
Shanna: There are some that are better than others. When I’m recommending certain bars to grab and go, one of the main things I look for is the amount of ingredients. Fewer ingredients are typically better. People get concerned that, if they can’t read the ingredients, they are not eating it. Certain things are in there for texture and aren’t as dangerous as people might think. But if you’re more comfortable buying something where it’s simply nuts, dates and fruit, then that’s amazing. Choose something like that versus one of those protein bars that actually has 25 grams of sugar in it and really nothing else healthy. So again, be aware of what you’re eating. Reading labels can go a long way.
Brian: As someone who is on the go, I know a lot of people who aren’t breakfast people, but we’re told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You had mentioned earlier that you drink a smoothie for breakfast several times a week. What’s a go-to smoothie for you? Just for those who maybe are not doing this today. It just may peak their interest.
Shanna: Yeah, absolutely. I like to mix things up when I’m making my smoothies. So it definitely depends on my mood. Probably my husband and my favorite smoothie is frozen bananas with plain Greek yogurt, almond milk (unsweetened, of course), with peanut butter or almond butter (whichever one we’re in the mood for), cinnamon and a little bit of oats. And some protein powder, we usually throw in, too. So that’s our banana, peanut butter go-to. And then if I’m feeling fruity, I’ll do a mixture of frozen mangoes, blueberries, strawberries. I almost always throw some frozen banana in there too, just because it’s good, and adds some good texture. I like to get a variety of fruit in mine. I do not struggle to get vegetables in my diet. I struggle more to get fruit. So when I’m making a smoothie, I typically don’t add vegetables to it. But for people who do struggle and never get any greens, it’s actually a really good opportunity to throw a handful or two of fresh spinach in there. Because the fruit usually overpowers the flavor, and you can’t really taste it, but you’re sneaking in that nutrition, so it’s a good opportunity to just get a bunch of extra nutrients.
Brian: And in your fruit smoothie, even if there’s spinach in it, if you put enough peanut butter in there, you won’t even taste it.
Shanna: Exactly. Very true.
Brian: So Shanna, all this has been incredibly helpful. You know, a couple of key takeaways that I’m hearing is first and foremost, have a well-balanced diet, right? Carbs are not the enemy, but there is a difference between good carbs and bad carbs, just like there are differences between good fats and bad fats. When you’re on the go, there are healthy options. Maybe a little preparation prior to that trip makes a whole lot of sense in terms of what you pack. Because ultimately, regardless of whether you’re traveling or not, whether you’re a breakfast person or not, what you put in your body is going to have a real impact on your overall health, nutrition and life. Before we let you go, we ask every podcast guest what is the worst financial decision they’ve ever made. So what’s yours?
Shanna: Probably my biggest financial mistake was waiting too long to get a credit card and start building credit. I just didn’t really think about it, and all of a sudden, I got out into the real world and realized that I probably needed that. So if I could go back and do anything differently, financially, that would probably be it.
Brian: It’s amazing how your credit score impacts the rest of your financial life. It’s a good lesson to learn certainly early and to continue to build that credit and build that score. We recently wrote in our newsletter about a way in which people can continue to build credit, really a message geared toward perhaps younger people and the impact that that could have on them financially. So I’m glad you’re in great shape.
Shanna: Thank you.
Brian: This podcast in a way is an analogy, right? Having that credit score is absolutely important, as is understanding what we put in our body, because both are going to have an impact on our financial wellness. So thanks again for being here. I think you’ve given our listeners a lot of things to think about, based on the key takeaways we went over. If folks are interested in following you, they can find you on Instagram @WellnessForTheWin, as well as your blog, which is also called “Wellness for The Win.” So, it’s www.wellnessforthewin.com. Thanks again for joining us today. To make it really convenient for you, if you’re interested in learning a little bit more about Shanna’s recipes, we’re posting several different of our favorite recipes at marinerwealthadvisors.com/podcast. We know that your time is incredibly valuable, and we hope you find this podcast a worthwhile investment of your time. Thank you for listening.
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