Health 4-1-1

Sarah Says: A dietitian’s advice for college students


Sarah Feye

There is no one-size-fits-all diet or magical weight loss remedy. When considering a change in diet, students should consult their medical provider to discuss health and wellness as it relates to their weight management goals.

Dining Services at the University provides students the opportunity to meet with a registered dietitian, Sarah Feye, to determine an individualized plan and ensure long-term success. Students, faculty and staff can meet with Feye, for free. To schedule an appointment, email her at [email protected].

Kombucha Tea

Kombucha is a fermented drink that combines bacteria, tea, sugar and other ingredients and is a hot trend right now that’s become increasingly popular in the United States. Regular drinkers of this tonic claim beneficial effects of improved immunity, weight loss, prevention of cancer and chronic disease and improvement of liver function, Feye said.

“Kombucha can help grow good bacteria in your gut, aka your ‘second immune system.’ If you choose to drink kombucha, choose a pasteurized brand. Unpasteurized kombucha can increase the growth of unhealthy bacteria, which can lead to foodborne illness,” Feye said. “Despite the health claims by kombucha enthusiasts, be warned that there is limited evidence of the actual benefits of kombucha. In my opinion, eating yogurt may be a healthier choice. Yogurt still has beneficial bacteria plus other great nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium and often vitamin D.”

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is one that promotes a primarily plant-based diet, limiting red meat consumption to a few times a month, replacing butter with healthy fats and using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods, according to the Mayo Clinic website.

“Research has shown that Mediterranean-inspired diets have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. The diet places emphasis on eating fish often, using healthy fats like olive oil, using herbs in place of salt, eating plenty of plant-based foods and reducing portions of red meat. This is a diet that many people strive to be on — and for good reason,” Feye said.

HCG Diet

The HCG diet is popular diet trend that involves injecting or digesting the human chorionic gonadotropin, usually produced by developing embryos, as well as extreme caloric restriction, according to an ABC News report. But U.S. dietitians, including Feye, question the effectiveness of the hormone in promoting weight loss as well as the safety of the diet.

“Sure, diets don’t necessarily need to be traditional to be effective,” Feye said. “But using hormones that are naturally found in pregnant women in an unnatural way is dangerous. And the fact that the FDA has stepped in should also be a major warning sign.  Most HCG dieters reduce their calorie intake to only 500 kcals per day, which is extremely low. These dieters claim a great weight loss and a magical metabolism fix. In reality, the weight loss people see should be credited to the starvation state your body is in, not to the actual hormone itself. The side effects alone from self-injections and nutritional deficiencies are enough reason to say no to this product.”

Wheat Belly Diet

Another name for a gluten-free diet, the wheat belly diet focuses on eliminating wheat-based products.

“Gluten has gotten a bad rap lately, and I’m not quite sure why,” Feye said. “I see many people warding off carbs as a way of losing weight. The issue is not the bread itself, but in the amount of bread eaten. A diet rich in whole grains can be beneficial, as those foods often have fiber, vitamins and minerals. In fact, many gluten-free diets are lower in fiber and higher in fat. Keep portions in mind and make half your grains whole to reap the benefits of wheat. Unless there is a medical implication for avoiding gluten, wheat-containing foods can definitely be incorporated into a healthy diet.”

High-Protein, Low-Carb Diets

High-protein diets focus on the consumption of large amounts of protein, such as red meat, eggs or nuts, and foods low in carbs, like bananas, beans and avocados.

“Diets like the Atkins diet are often love-at-first-sight for many individuals striving to lose weight. These diets claim to improve heart health and memory function, while implying that overweight people eat too many carbs,” Feye said. “The issues I see from this diet include excessive consumption of fat and protein and too little carbs. While I do think many of us eat too many carbs, we need at least 150 grams of carbohydrates each day. Instead of this approach, I recommend balancing whole grains, lean meats, fruits, veggies and healthy fats.”

Raw Food Diet

The raw food diet is not about eating raw meat. Rather, it involves about 75 to 80 percent of a person’s daily diet being made up of organic plant-based foods that are never heated above 115 degrees, according to the U.S. News and World Report, as well as eating raw animal products, like unpasteurized milk, sashimi, raw fish, and certain kinds of raw meat.

“In my mind, the raw food diet movement is either a huge success for individuals, or it leads to malnourishment. People swear by this diet of undercooked, unprocessed plant foods. Some claim the diet leads to weight loss, disease reduction and high energy levels,” Feye said. “The research to support raw foods (rather than) cooked is pretty limited in the scheme of things. The research that does indicate the benefits of the raw foods diet really puts more emphasis on vegetarianism and the health benefits of a plant-based diet overall. It is true that some nutrients are lost in the cooking process. Then again, some nutrients are enhanced in the cooking process.”

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