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Eating Healthy Stresses Me Out

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Eating Healthy Stresses Me Out

May 14, 2014

Watching carbs and proteins, counting calories, meal planning and preparation–eating healthy can be stressful. Dietitian Staci McIntosh talks about why you shouldn’t overthink a healthy diet, and why it’s more important to look at how you eat than what you eat. She also talks about fats and processed foods and why they’re not always bad to eat.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: If you've ever had the thought that eating healthy stresses you out there could be hope. We're going to talk about that next on The Scope.

Man: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.

Interviewer: Trying to eat healthy stresses me out. If this resonates with you, you're going to want to find out what Staci McIntosh, Registered Dietitian and Assistant Professor at the Department of Nutrition at the University of Utah, has to say.
I've experienced this personally where I've tried to eat what I consider healthier - fruits, vegetables, closer to the source type foods, combining protein and carbs in the right ratio, the correct quantity of food to eat. It takes forever to prepare food this way, it takes forever to eat food, and it stresses me out. Do you ever run into this?

Staci McIntosh: I do, I do. I think we all do.

Interviewer: Help!

Staci McIntosh: One of the things that I tell my patients is let's look at it this way. Whatever you normally ate, whatever you ate before you came into see me today, I'm not taking that off the plate, but I want half the plate to be a salad or other green vegetables.

Interviewer: Okay.

Staci McIntosh: Then, the other half you can eat what you normally eat. We'll work on that later. Right now all we want to do is try to get half of your plate to be leafy green vegetables.

Interviewer: Okay. You get half the plate to be leafy green vegetables, but eventually we're going to get to this place that I feel that I'm at where it takes forever to eat. Because in order to get the calories I need I'm eating a cup of broccoli, and a big salad, and a couple of pieces of fruit, and you've got to do that four or five times a day.

Staci McIntosh: Yeah, you do.

Interviewer: That's just the way.

Staci McIntosh: There are no shortcuts, and there have never been any shortcuts. There never will be any shortcuts. If you want to eat healthy and be healthy then you've got to do the work. No one expects to have big biceps if I don't do curls or whatever. If I don't do arm exercises, I don't expect to have big biceps. Why would I expect to be healthy if I don't eat healthy?

Interviewer: Yeah. Is it okay to get some of my calories from a few chips along with my freshly made salsa along with my chicken breast?

Staci McIntosh: Absolutely.

Interviewer: That's fine, even though it's a processed food. That stresses me out, too. I'm trying to eat the fewest processed foods I can.

Staci McIntosh: Eating is a basic enjoyment of life. The minute it becomes an obsession and it's stressing you out it can no longer be a basic enjoyment of life.
Eating healthy and taking pride in that, and knowing that you had your salad, you got that in first, you're going to take 30 minutes to eat this meal, you're not going to swallow it whole in five minutes flat, then you know that you got in the good stuff. You're giving your body time to digest that and the hormones to get to your brain to tell you whether or not you're full.
Then, yeah, I'm still going to eat my lasagna that's full of cheese or whatever else that is on your plate for that night, but there's no reason to feel guilty about that. You still need the nutrients.

Interviewer: What about fat? I feel guilty about eating fat as well, like nuts and seeds, but yet some people say that's what I should be incorporating.

Staci McIntosh: There are essential fatty acids that you have to get from your meal, and you don't get them from anywhere else unless you're relying on supplements for your life. You do need fat, and fat is a good stimulator of satiety. It triggers a couple of different hormones during the digestive process that tells your brain you're full. If you're eating a diet that's fat free, you're not getting in those hormones, you're not getting that early satiety, and you're getting hungry much quicker in between meals.

Interviewer: At the end of the day how do I know if I'm eating healthy enough? Is it a weight monitoring thing? If I start gaining weight then I go well maybe I should cut back a little bit? How do you make that judgment without getting out the food journal and writing all that down?

Staci McIntosh: How do you feel about it? Nutrition is not rocket science. You know if you ate well today. You know if you ate good, and if you were hungry all day, or if you're obsessing over your food all day, or if you feel really bad because you ate half of a birthday cake for lunch. You know that. You know if you ate well or not.

Interviewer: What's my takeaway here? How do I start to a less stressful eating lifestyle?

Staci McIntosh: Focus on whether or not you're getting in your fruits and vegetables. Don't worry so much about the other stuff that you're getting in, if you're getting in your meat, or chicken, or meat substitute, or carbohydrates. If I get in all of my fruits and vegetables for the day I'm feeling pretty good and I need other calories to support my lifestyle.
At the end of the day if I realized, you know, I think I only had one serving of vegetables today, well I'm not going to have ice cream before I go to bed. I'm going to have an apple or an orange. I'm going to have some other source of antioxidants and good vitamins and minerals.

Man: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.