Several weeks ago, I asked for your best general health questions, and boy did you deliver! Thank you to everyone that sent in a question! I have been eager to hear the answer to every single one of them! I’ve been blown away by both the quality of reader health questions and the thorough responses from Ms Binder-McAsey.
For any new readers, my husband has had Crohn’s Disease for the last 10 years. Anna has been instrumental in helping him manage his diet so that he can live a healthy and productive life. For more on his evolving journey with a chronic illness check out this post.
First, here’s a little bit about Anna!
Anna Binder McAsey is a registered dietitian and owner of Rethink Nutrition, LLC in Manhattan, Kansas. She helps clients struggling with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and immune system dysfunctions such as fibromyalgia, eczema, inflammatory conditions, and autoimmune diseases. Anna and her team have helped thousands of people find the energy and confidence to take command of their health and get their lives back. You can find out more about her work as well as find resources for managing GI and immune system issues at her website at www.rethinknutrition.net.
See also her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LittleAppleRD/
Now straight to the health questions!
They are in no particular order! Enjoy!
1. I need to start eating better, but have two toddler boys and little motivation!! What is something simple I can do to help prepare healthier meals for my family that are quick!—-please don’t tell me spend hours on a Sunday meal prepping for the whole week!!
Props to anyone who can prep an entire week’s worth of meals in one sitting! But, that’s not me and it sounds like it isn’t you either. I actually prefer a strategy on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Choose one and only one new thing to make for the week. That could be a new meal, a new snack recipe, or even just a new side dish or veggie. Make it something simple and not super intimidating.
For example, let’s say you wanted to try roasting some veggies this week. Plan to roast the veggies along with a main dish that your family already loves and you can comfortably make. If you do this every week, then by the end of the month you’ll have 4-5 new, healthy menu items to add to your rotation. With this strategy you won’t exhaust yourself or shock your family into a revolt.
If you need help picking out some new recipes, try the Zipongo app. It’s free and has some great recipe inspiration. It can even create a grocery list, based on your selections, to help you with shopping.
2. Whole grains or limit grains? When it comes to maintaining a desirable weight as a woman in her 30s, many diets suggest limiting carbohydrates. There is also the argument that plenty of whole grains need to be an important part of a healthy diet. I know moderate carbs, mostly coming from whole grains would be a predictable answer, but is there a number of grams or servings that would be appropriate for someone my age? Can the nutritional value from whole grains come from low-carb options? I would just love her general thoughts on this.
Remember that grains are just one type of food that contains carbohydrates, or carbs for short. Foods like fruits, certain veggies, nuts, dairy, beans and legumes, are all considered carbs. And they’re all considered healthy! With that being said, just make sure to listen to your body when it comes to selecting what and how much of any food to eat.
If any particular food causes you to feel sluggish, fatigued, bloated, gassy, or you experience any other unpleasant symptoms then consider doing a short trial of reducing or eliminating them from your diet and monitoring how you feel as a result. You may find that you tolerate certain foods better than others. If you need to reduce grains because they make you feel fatigued then you’re doing so based on how you feel when you eat grains and not what the latest fad diet recommends.
It is possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet without a particular food or food group, but it is certainly more challenging and takes extra time and attention. So, if you like grains and they don’t cause you any problems then I recommend including some whole grains into your diet. Just make sure to still make room for protein, fats, and the other carbs I mentioned above.
When it comes to a number of grams of carbs to eat each day, I don’t recommend putting that kind of food stress on yourself. Tracking and logging the nutritional content of your food each day to make sure you’re hitting a specific number of grams isn’t a healthy or sustainable food practice. Just enjoy what you’re eating as you aim for some balance in your meals!
3. What are the best chewable kid vitamins and probiotics? My kids love yogurt. What should I look for when buying a healthy yogurt? Breakfast seems like the hardest meal for me to provide healthy, non-processed variety. Any suggestions for picky toddlers?
If your kids love yogurt, maybe try doing yogurt parfaits for breakfast. Depending on how old your kids are, this can be a good way for them to get involved in the process and ease some of the burden on you. In my house we have several mason jars filled with yogurt toppings such as walnuts, granola, and chia or flaxseeds.
I also keep a mason jar filled with fresh, washed fruit like berries in the fridge. That way, during the week all I have to do is grab my jars and add it to my yogurt. If your family is up for it, I suggest buying plain Greek yogurt and adding your own sweetener like honey at home.
If it’s easier for your kids to just grab a single serving size yogurt from the fridge, then look for one with only a few ingredients like a simple vanilla or strawberry yogurt. Make sure to get one that specifies “live and active cultures” on the label and you’ll be getting them their probiotics in food form as well.
When it comes to supplements, it really is important to get a quality product. Many over-the-counter products contain poor quality forms of specific vitamins or minerals and sometimes don’t contain the quantities that are reported on the label. There are a few brands that I do recommend who have over-the-counter products. Jarrow Formulas and Smarty Pants both have a nice chewable children’s multivitamin. You can typically find both of these products in a health food or supplement store.
4. Do you recommend daily multivitamins for all ages? Any tips for helping reduce sugar cravings?
While there is no harm in taking a daily multivitamin, I don’t generally recommend or see that they are necessary for everyone. People who would benefit from a daily multivitamin are those who get sick frequently, have a chronic illness, anyone with
gastrointestinal disorders that might impair their ability to digest and absorb nutrients, and people in significant stages of growth or stress on the body such as pregnancy. Additionally, if someone tends to skip meals or feels they have a hard time including fruits and vegetables into their diet, then a multivitamin would be a good addition to their routine.
I also recommend individuals of all ages regularly have their vitamin D tested and women, especially those of reproductive age have an iron panel including ferritin run regularly. These are important nutrients that we commonly see deficiencies in and can easily be corrected through food or supplements.
Sugar cravings typically go hand in hand with sugar restriction. If you have a sweet tooth, acknowledge that sugar is something you enjoy and find ways to incorporate it intentionally into your life. Joyfully and intentionally having a square of chocolate after dinner is much better for your mental and physical health than depriving yourself with the hope that you can be trained not to like chocolate anymore. You’re also much less likely to binge on sweets when you allow them intentionally into your day. They become less “forbidden food” and more normal and acceptable.
5. Do you recommend and/or see true benefit to programs such as Whole 30 or Keto? Never know if the “newest” thing is actually good or not to follow!
I don’t recommend either of those diets or any other trendy, fad diet. The thing that all of these diets have in common is restriction, whether it be restricting carbs, fat, or certain food groups. I recommend focusing instead on what you’d like to eat more of. If you feel that your meals are lacking in fruits and vegetables, then work on incorporating more of these foods instead of restricting food groups in an attempt to force yourself into eating more fruits and vegetables.
What I have found benefit in is some of the recipes that have come out of many of these diets. They can be a source for new and exciting additions to your meal routine. You can utilize the occasional recipe without following the restrictive guidelines of the diet
6. I think my family needs probiotics, but I get overwhelmed with the plethora of options out there. What should I look for in a probiotic?
Look for a probiotic with between 5 and 10 different strains of bacteria. You’ll find the strains listed on the back panel of the food label. If you’re new to probiotics or have had issues with them in the past, start with a lower dose formula like 5 billion CFU.
Locally, many people have access to the brand NOW Foods. I have no affiliation with the brand, but I like their ‘Gr-8’ product for people new to probiotics as it has 4 billion CFU, 8 different strains, and the brand overall has very minimal fillers in their formulas. They have several options for higher dose probiotics around 20-25 billion CFU once you’re comfortable with the lower dose.
7. Typically, does flatulence increase with age, or would you consider diet to still be the main contributor?
A little bit of gas is normal, but if it’s enough that you or your family is noticing it then I’d consider that level of gas to be more of a symptom and not a normal body function, despite your age. Gas can certainly be diet-related with foods like broccoli, cauliflower, beans, garlic, and onions often being triggers. But it can also be caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, in which case a probiotic may be helpful. There can also be more complex causes.
If you’re having increasing gas, especially if it’s paired with any other symptoms like fatigue after eating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation, then seek out the help of a dietitian or healthcare professional trained in GI disorders to help you work through your triggers and strengthen the gut.
A big thank you to Anna Binder-McAsey for giving us such amazing professional advice regarding our health questions!
I hope you all found this as informative as I did! I took many many notes!
Don’t forget to check her out at www.rethinknutrition.net
Here’s to a healthy start to the week!