Frequently Asked Questions


What is a vegetarian diet?


A vegetarian diet includes grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
There are three types of vegetarians:

  1. Vegans (strict vegetarians) exclude all animal food products, such as meat, eggs, fish, poultry and dairy.
  2. Lactovegetarians exclude meats, eggs, fish poultry but consume dairy products.
  3. Lacto-ovovegetarians exclude meat, poultry and fish consume eggs and dairy products.
  What is a healthy vegetarian diet? Top  
  A vegetarian diet should include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, and legumes such as lentils, black-eyed peas, garbanzo, kidney, black and navy beans. It is high in fiber, low in fat and rich in all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals our body require such as protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins.

There are many possibilities regarding healthy foods for vegetarians. Soups of various kinds; spaghetti and other pasta dishes; vegetable stews; casseroles; whole grains breads, rolls, bagels, and muffins; and a wide variety of ethnic dishes are just some of the choices. There are many soy, sesame, and other vegetable-based burgers, mock chicken, and as well.
  Is a vegetarian diet healthy? Top  
  Today more people are following vegetarian diets. Many people choose to become vegetarians for health, religious, or environmental reasons. Studies have shown that heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, adult onset diabetes and cancer develop less in those who follow a vegetarian diet than those that do not.  
  What are good sources of vegetarian protein? Top  
  Good sources of vegetarian protein include: vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and dairy products.  
  How does a vegetarian get enough protein? Top  
  • Choose whole grain breads and cereals
  • Include beans, peas, legumes, lentils and seeds into your daily diet. Add these to rice, soups, salads, pastas, dips, etc.
  • If you use dairy products, choose low-fat or non-fat varieties.
  • Soy products are cholesterol free and low fat. Soy is a good source of fiber, calcium and potassium and many products are fortified with calcium, iron and B12.
  How safe are supplements? Top  
  Since dietary supplements -- herbs, vitamins, minerals and other substances that aren't quite foods and not quite drugs -- aren't closely regulated, information about their use and effects can be hard to find. Much information available to the public is of questionable accuracy and authored by enthusiasts or those who make and sell the products. The Mayo site offers a welcome counterpoint: detailed, dispassionate, scientifically rigorous entries on supplements, including uses, dosage, safety, effectiveness, alternative names and history. (; click on the "Drugs & Supplements" tab).  
  Are herbal supplements safe? Top  
  If you are thinking about taking an herbal supplement, here is what you should know before you buy. Herbal supplements contain active ingredients similar to over-the-counter and prescription drugs. These active ingredients affect how your body functions and may interfere with other medications you are taking. Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency responsible for overseeing the safety of U.S. food and drug products, doesn’t have the authority to approve herbal supplements before they’re sold.  
  Who needs a vitamin/mineral supplement? Top  
  Anyone who cannot eat enough to receive all the nutrients they need from their diet because they are not able to eat enough or don’t eat enough. People who do not choose from a variety of foods or strict vegetarians may benefit from a vitamin/mineral supplement. Pregnant women secondary to their increased nutritional needs and older adults who might not eat enough or digest/absorb food properly may benefit from a supplement.  
  How do you choose a supplement? Top  

Though vitamin and mineral supplements cannot copy all of the nutrients and benefits of food, they can complement your diet. If you are decide to take a supplement, consider these factors:

  • Read the label carefully. Look for active ingredients, serving size, directions for safe use and storage tips. The label should also provide information on how to contact the manufacturer/distributor if you need more information.
  • 100% Daily Value. Avoid supplements that provide “megadoses” of one vitamin and not enough of another.
  • Look for “USP” on the label. U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) is a testing organization that ensures supplements meet the standards for strength, purity, disintegration and dissolution.
  • Watch for gimmicks. Synthetic vitamins are usually the same as “natural” vitamins, with the exception of cost.
  • Watch expiration dates. Supplements can lose their potency over time, especially in hot and humid environments.
  • Play it safe. Before taking a supplement, especially one with more than 100% DV check with your doctor or pharmacist. High doses of some vitamins/minerals can cause health problems.
  What are vitamins? Top  
  Vitamins are needed for a variety of biologic functions, among them growth, digestion, mental alertness and resistance infection. They also help your body process carbohydrates, fats and proteins and act as catalysts initiating or speeding up chemical reactions. Vitamins supply no calories.

Vitamins can be either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins include: Vitamin C, biotin and the seven B vitamins – thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5). These vitamins dissolve in water and aren’t stored in your body in significant amounts. Excess amounts of water-soluble vitamins are excreted in your urine. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body fat and liver and can accumulate in your body and become toxic. Fat-soluble vitamins include: Vitamin A, D, E or K. Since vitamins E and K affect blood clotting, talk with your doctor before taking a supplement that contains either of these vitamins if you’re taking a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin).
  What are minerals? Top  
  Minerals are building blocks for teeth and bones and for other cells and enzymes. Minerals also help regulate the balance of fluids in your body and control the movement of nerve impulses. Some minerals also help deliver oxygen to cells and help carry away carbon dioxide.

There are two categories of minerals: Major and Trace. Major minerals are need in larger amounts, more than 250 mg/day for adults, and include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur and choloride. Trace minerals are need in smaller amounts by your body, fewer than 20 mg/day and include chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc.
  Do I need to eat healthy or can I just take a supplement? Top  
  Whole foods are your best source of vitamins and minerals and offer many benefits over supplements. For instance, whole foods provide a variety of the vitamins/minerals your body needs not just one. An orange provides vitamin C, beta carotene, calcium, and other nutrients. Milk provides many nutrients including calcium, which is best absorbed with lactose. Foods also provide fiber, which is important for digestions and can help prevent certain diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Adequate fiber intake can also help prevent constipation. Foods also contain naturally occurring foods substances called phytochemicals and antioxidants. These substances have been shown to protect you against cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Research shows the vitamin and mineral supplements do not provide the same benefits as receiving the nutrients from foods directly.  
  Does a vegetarian have a higher risk of nutritional deficiency? Top  
  Any poorly planned diet can be deficient, but, in general, the risk of deficiency is lower with a vegetarian diet. A concern for vegetarians is B12, iron and zinc. Less of these vitamins/minerals are absorbed from the average vegetarian diet as compared with the usual meat-based diet. However, a well-balanced vegetarian diet should supply adequate amounts of both. On the other hand, vegetarian diets are much richer in vitamins C and E, both important antioxidants. They are also much richer in important minerals like magnesium and manganese, which are often lacking in meat-based diets. Sufficient magnesium may help prevent a whole range of illnesses, including osteoporosis, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, kidney stones, and heart disease. Vegetarian diets are much higher in fiber, which is completely absent in animal products (meat, dairy, eggs). Finally, vegetarian diets are much richer in phytochemicals, plant nutrient-chemicals that may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and many other problems. The deficiency in phytochemicals is probably the biggest drawback of meat-based diets.  
  How do vegetarians get iron in their diet? Top  
  Iron is necessary to keep your blood healthy. Natural vegetarian sources of iron include dried beans, spinach, dried fruit, prune juice, soybeans, nuts, pumpkin and sesame seeds, iron-fortified breads and cereals.
Tea inhibits iron absorption and should not be consumed with meals. Vitamin C greatly increases the absorption of iron from plant foods, so vitamin C-rich foods consumed with meals can help. Many dark, leafy green vegetables, potatoes, watermelon, and strawberries are examples of foods that are good sources of both vitamin C and iron.
  How do vegetarians get B12 in their diet? Top  
  Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is found in animal foods such as dairy products, eggs, and meat. Vegans should include B12 fortified products (breakfast cereals, soy milk, meat analogs) and a B12 supplement for their diet.  
  How do you get enough calcium if you don't consume dairy products? Top  
  Foods rich in well-absorbed calcium include many dark, leafy green vegetables (kale, collards, bok choy, mustard greens, broccoli), figs, almonds, tofu made with calcium sulfate, blackstrap molasses and calcium-fortified orange juice.
High protein intake, especially from animal flesh and eggs, also increases calcium loss in the urine, although there is a compensatory increase in calcium absorption from the digestive tract. The compensation may not be enough for people with low calcium intake, however. In any event, high concentrations of calcium in the urine probably increase the risk of kidney stones, which explains why meat consumption is a major risk factor for this problem.
  Where do vegetarians get their protein? Top  
  Soy protein based vegetarian foods contains all of the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein that must be supplied by the diet.

Combining certain vegetable proteins make a complete protein (peanut butter and bread or rice and beans). Eggs are complete proteins.
  Should refined sugar be avoided? Top  
  Sugar, a natural constituent of fruits and vegetables, is present in every diet. But excess sugar represents empty calories that fill you up, causing you to avoid nutritious foods. It is also a cause of dental caries. Sugar may also increase the levels of the blood fats known as triglycerides in susceptible individuals.
Contrary to health food store mythology, refined sugar does not affect the body any differently from unrefined sugar.

Preferred forms of sugar include blackstrap molasses, rich in both iron and calcium, and fruit juice concentrates, which may retain a little of the fruit's nutrients and phytochemicals.
  Is eating fish healthy? Top  
  Fish oils have a number of beneficial properties, such as improving endothelial function (the ability of blood vessels to dilate when necessary), lowering blood viscosity (thickness), and reducing inflammation. But a healthful lifestyle incorporating a low-fat vegetarian diet provides similar benefits.

We must keep two important points in mind when we evaluate studies looking at the effects of fish consumption. First, we must consider that a beneficial effect may be due to substituting fish for something more harmful, such as beef. Second, we must take into account the observation that people with higher fish intakes also tend to have higher intakes of fruits and vegetables.

Research shows that fish oil supplements do not provide the same benefits as eating fish. It is recommended to eat 8 oz. fish/week.
  Do uncooked foods have any advantages over cooked foods? Top  
  On the positive side, cooking destroys disease-producing organisms.
However, cooking also destroys nutrients, especially vitamin C and some of the B-vitamins. Cooking can also produce carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals): grilling of meat is a common example. Finally, uncooked foods are bulkier than cooked foods and may, therefore, promote the intake of fewer calories per day.
  Why is a healthy diet important before and during pregnancy? Top  
  What you eat every day, even before you are pregnant, is important for your health as well as for the health of your baby. Your diet before pregnancy and while you are pregnant should contain the vitamins and nutrients that your body will need to help your baby develop and grow the way he or she should. Practice healthy eating and take a multivitamin each and every day. Start this good habit before you become pregnant and continue eating healthy and taking a prenatal multivitamin throughout your pregnancy.  
  How should my diet change now that I am pregnant? Top  

If you are eating a healthy diet before you become pregnant, you may only need to make a few changes to meet the nutritional needs of pregnancy. According to the American Dietetic Association, pregnant women should increase their usual servings of a variety of foods from the four basic food groups (up to a total of 2,500 to 2,700 calories daily) to include the following:

  • Fruits and Vegetables – Seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables combined (three servings of fruit and four of vegetables) daily for vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables with vitamin C help you and your baby to have healthy gums and other tissues, and help your body to heal wounds and to absorb iron. Examples of fruits and vegetables with vitamin C include strawberries, melons, oranges, papaya, tomatoes, peppers, greens, cabbage, and broccoli. Fruits and vegetables also add fiber and other minerals to your diet and give you energy. Plus, dark green vegetables have vitamin A, iron, and folate, which are important nutrients during pregnancy.
    One fruit serving = 1 medium apple, 1 medium banana, ½ cup chopped fruit, ½ cup fruit juice.
    One vegetable serving = 1 cup raw vegetables, ½ cup cooked vegetables, ½ cup vegetable juice.

  • Whole-grains or Enriched Breads/Cereals –Nine or more servings daily is recommended. Whole grain products and enriched products like bread, rice, pasta, and breakfast cereals contain iron, B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and fiber that your body needs. Some breakfast cereals have been enriched with 100% of the folic acid your body needs each day. Folic acid has been shown to help prevent some serious birth defects. Choosing a breakfast cereal or other enriched grain products that contain folic acid is important before and during pregnancy.
    One grain serving = 1 slice bread, ½ English, muffin, bagel, bun; ½ cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta; 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal.

  • Dairy Products – Four or more servings of low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, or other dairy products like cheese for calcium is recommended. You and your baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth. Dairy products also have vitamin A and D, protein, and B vitamins. Vitamin A helps growth, resistance to infection, and vision. Pregnant women need 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. If you are 18 or younger, you need 1,300 mg of calcium each day. Try to have low-fat or non-fat milk and milk products to lower your fat intake. Other sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds, and tofu. If you are lactose intolerant or can’t digest dairy products, you can still get this extra calcium. There are several low-lactose or reduced-lactose products available.
    One dairy serving = 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1 ½ oz natural cheese, 2 oz. processed cheese.
  • Proteins – Pregnant women need about 60 grams of protein per day. This is about the same as two or more 7-9 oz. of cooked lean meat, poultry without the skin or fish. Don’t eat uncooked or undercooked meats or fish. These can make you sick. Eggs, nuts, dried beans, and peas also are good forms of protein. Protein builds muscle, tissue, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies for you and your baby. These foods also have B vitamins and iron, which is important for your red blood cells. Your need for protein in the first trimester is small, but grows in your second and third trimesters when your baby is growing the fastest, and your body is working to meet the needs of your growing baby.
    One serving protein (1 oz.) = 1 oz. cooked lean meat, fish or poultry; ½ cup cooked dried beans, peas, lentils; 1 egg, ½ cup tofu, 2 Tbsp. peanut butter.
  Should I limit how much fish I eat when I’m pregnant? Top  

Some fish have mercury, which, in high doses, can hurt your baby’s growing brain and nervous system. There are some fish you should NOT eat if you are pregnant. Here are some guidelines:

  • Do not eat any shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish (also called golden or white snapper) because these fish have high levels of mercury.
  • Do not eat more than six ounces of “white” or “albacore” tuna or tuna steak each week.

Limit your fish to no more than 12 ounces total per week. When you eat fish, choose shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish, or “light” tuna as they are usually low in mercury. For more information on the mercury levels of different kinds of fish, go to:

  What other nutrients do I need for a healthy pregnancy? Top  
  • Folic acid: Folic acid is an important vitamin for any woman who could possibly become pregnant. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent serious birth defects of a baby’s brain or spine (called neural tube defects) and other birth defects like cleft lip and congenital heart disease. Folic acid is needed very early in pregnancy, usually before a woman knows she is pregnant. That is why it’s so important that every woman who could possibly become pregnant gets enough folic acid every single day, starting at least one month before pregnancy. One easy way to ensure getting enough folic acid every day is to take a daily multivitamin. Most multivitamins sold in the U.S. contain enough folic acid for the day. Check the label! Your vitamin should contain 400 micrograms (400 mcg) or 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for folic acid. Another way to get enough folic acid is to eat a serving of breakfast cereal that contains 100% (DV) for folic acid, every day. Just check the nutrition label to be sure—look for “100%” next to folic acid. So, eat a healthy diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, and don’t forget to get your folic acid. Every day!
  • Iron: You need iron to keep your blood healthy for you and your baby. Bones and teeth also need iron to develop properly. Too little iron can cause a condition called anemia. If you have anemia, you might look pale and feel very tired. Your doctor can check for signs of anemia through the routine blood tests that are taken in different stages of your pregnancy. All pregnant women should take a low-dose iron supplement, beginning at the first prenatal visit, or even before, when you are planning to get pregnant. Prenatal vitamins that your doctor prescribes or that you find over the counter usually have the amount of iron you need. Check the label to make sure they contain iron. If your doctor finds that you have anemia, he or she will give you a higher dose of iron supplements to take once or twice a day. You can help prevent anemia by eating more iron-rich foods like lean red meat, fish, poultry, dried fruits, whole-grain breads, and iron-fortified cereals.
  • Water: Water plays a key role in your diet during pregnancy. It carries the nutrients from the foods you eat to your baby and helps prevent you from getting constipation, hemorrhoids, excessive swelling, and urinary tract or bladder infections. Drinking enough water, especially in your last trimester, prevents you from becoming dehydrated. Not getting enough water can then lead you to have contractions and premature or early labor. Pregnant women should drink at least six eight-ounce glasses of water per day and another glass for each hour of activity. You can drink juices for fluid, but they also have a lot of calories and can cause you to gain extra weight. Coffee, soft drinks, and teas that have caffeine actually reduce the amount of fluid in your body. It is recommended to replace caffeinated beverages with water to replace their diuretic effect.
  Should I take a multivitamin during my pregnancy? Top  
  Even women who plan carefully to eat healthy every day can be missing out on some important nutrients like folic acid, which helps prevent serious birth defects of your baby’s brain and spine. Those birth defects happen before most women know they are pregnant. To be certain that you are getting enough folic acid and other vitamins, it is helpful to take a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin, starting before you get pregnant. Consult your physician to see if taking a multivitamin is recommended for you.  
  How much weight should I gain during pregnancy? Top  

You should gain weight gradually during your pregnancy, with most of the weight gained in the last trimester. Good rates of weight gain are about two to four pounds during the first three months of pregnancy and three to four pounds per month for the rest of the pregnancy. The average total weight gain should be about 25 to 30 pounds. But, the amount you gain might be slightly less or more, depending on your weight before you became pregnant and your height.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):

  • If you were underweight before becoming pregnant, you should gain between 28 and 40 pounds.
  • If you were overweight before becoming pregnant, you should gain between 15 and 25 pounds.

Check with your doctor to find out how much weight gain during pregnancy is healthy for you.

Total weight gained during pregnancy includes six to eight pounds for the weight of the baby. The remaining weight consists of a higher fluid volume, larger breasts, larger uterus, amniotic fluid, and the placenta.

  Is it hard to lose weight after pregnancy? Top  
  It can be hard to lose weight after you have your baby if you gained too much weight during pregnancy. During pregnancy, fat deposits can increase by more than one-third of the total amount you had before becoming pregnant. If weight gain during pregnancy is normal, most women lose this extra weight in the birth process and in the weeks and months after birth. Breastfeeding also can help to deplete the fat gained during pregnancy by helping the body to expend at least 500 more calories each day.  
  Should I avoid drinking alcohol while I am pregnant? Top  
  There is no safe time during pregnancy for you to drink alcohol. There is also no known safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. When you are pregnant and you drink beer, wine, hard liquor, or other alcoholic beverages, alcohol gets into your blood. The alcohol in your blood goes to your baby through the umbilical cord. When the alcohol enters the baby's body, it can slow down the baby’s growth, affect the baby’s brain, and cause birth defects. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) can cause abnormal facial features and growth and central nervous system problems, problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, and/or hearing. These problems often lead to problems in school and problems getting along with others. The effects of FASD last a lifetime. If you are pregnant and have been drinking alcohol, stop drinking now to protect your baby. If you need help to stop drinking, talk with your doctor or nurse. For more information go to:  
  How much caffeine is safe to drink while pregnant? Top  
  Caffeine is a stimulant found in colas, coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, and some over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Consumed in large quantities, caffeine can cause irritability, nervousness and insomnia as well as low birth-weight babies. Caffeine is also a diuretic and can dehydrate your body of valuable water. Caffeine is also an ingredient in many over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Caffeine is generally considered safe during pregnancy, but it is always good to discuss a safe level with your doctor.  
  What about diabetes and nutrition during pregnancy? Top  

If you already have diabetes and would like to get pregnant, your chances of having a healthy baby are good. But, it’s important to plan your pregnancy and follow these steps:

  • Bring your diabetes under control before you get pregnant. Try to get your blood sugar under control three to six months before you get pregnant.
  • Keep your blood sugar under control during your pregnancy. Keep food, exercise, and insulin in balance. Talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian to help you follow a special meal plan. Remember, as your baby grows, your body changes, and these changes will affect your sugar levels. If your blood sugar rises too high, the increased sugar crossing into the placenta can result in a large, over-developed fetus with birth defects or an infant with blood sugar level problems.
  • Be sure to get enough of the B vitamin folic acid, every day. Women with diabetes might be at increased risk for having a baby with a serious birth defect. Getting enough folic acid each day can help reduce this risk.

  What is Gestational Diabetes? Top  
  Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that begins during pregnancy and usually goes away after the birth of the baby. If you have gestational diabetes, this means that you have a high amount of sugar in your blood during pregnancy. This form of diabetes can be controlled through diet, medication, and exercise, but if left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health problems for both you and your baby. If you develop gestational diabetes, your doctor will refer you to a registered dietitian who can help you with special meal plans to control your blood sugar.
  Why do I get morning sickness and nausea, and what can I do about it? Top  

Morning sickness and nausea are common problems for pregnant women. Most nausea occurs during the early part of pregnancy and, in most cases, will subside once you enter the second trimester. For some women, morning sickness and nausea might last longer than the early stages of pregnancy or even throughout the entire nine months.

Nausea in pregnancy is a condition that often can be managed by changing when and what you eat. Try these tips:

  • Eat smaller meals each day, such as six to eight small meals instead of three larger ones.
  • Avoid being without food for long periods of time.
  • Drink fluids between, but not with, meals.
  • Avoid foods that are greasy, fried, or highly spiced.
  • Avoid unpleasant odors.
  • Get enough rest.

Severe nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is rare, but if it occurs, it can cause you to become dehydrated. If you feel that your nausea or vomiting is keeping you from eating right or gaining enough weight, talk with your doctor.

  Who can help me with my diabetes meal plan? Top  
Registered dietitians (RDs) have training and expertise in how the body uses food. RDs who understand diabetes can teach you how the food you eat changes your blood glucose level and how to coordinate your diabetes medications and eating. Do you know how many calories you should eat each day? How to cut down on the fat in your meals? How to make eating time more interesting? An RD can help you learn the answers to these, and lots of other questions. Your dietitian will work with you to create a healthy eating plan that includes your favorite foods. Many RDs have also become qualified Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE). CDEs are health care professionals with expertise in diabetes education that have met eligibility requirements and successfully completed a certification exam.
  If I have diabetes, can I eat foods with sugar in them? Top  
  For almost every person with diabetes, the answer is yes! Eating a piece of cake made with sugar will raise your blood glucose level. So will eating corn on the cob, a tomato sandwich, or lima beans. The truth is that sugar has gotten a bad reputation. People with diabetes can and do eat sugar. In your body, it becomes glucose, but so do the other foods mentioned above. With sugary foods, the rule is moderation. Eat too much, and 1) you'll send your blood glucose level up higher than you expected; 2) you'll fill up but without the nutrients that come with vegetables and grains; and 3) you'll gain weight. So, don't pass up a slice of birthday cake. Instead, eat a little less bread or potato, and replace it with the cake. Taking a brisk walk to burn some calories is also always helpful.  
  Why does losing weight help control diabetes? Top  
  Weight loss helps people with diabetes in two important ways. First, it lowers insulin resistance. This allows your natural insulin (in people with type 2 diabetes) to do a better job lowering blood glucose levels. If you take a diabetes medicine, losing weight lowers blood glucose and may allow you to reduce the amount you're taking, or quit taking it altogether. Second, it improves blood fat and blood pressure levels. People with diabetes are about twice as likely to get cardiovascular disease as most people. Lowering blood fats and blood pressure is a way to reduce that risk.  
  How can I cut the fat in my diet? Top  
Here are some beginning hints. See a dietitian for more advice. Stir-fry foods in tiny amounts of oil and lots of seasonings. Choose nonfat or low-fat selections, such as nonfat or 1% milk or low-fat cheese. Keep portion sizes on target. Avoid fried foods -- bake, grill, broil, or roast vegetables and meat instead. Take high fat foods you are currently eating and decrease the serving size or frequency of intake.
  Are some fats healthier than others? Top  
  Yes. Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest for your body. Nuts -- like almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and peanuts -- and avocados contain this type of fat. Choose olive or canola oil for cooking. Polyunsaturated fat is the next healthiest fat. This is found in corn oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and mayonnaise. Use small amounts of foods that contain saturated fats like butter, lard and meat fat, bacon, and shortening. There are lower-fat versions of foods that contain saturated fats, like sour cream and cream cheese. A healthy diet includes less than 30% of calories from fat, with less than 10% of these from saturated fat.  
  If I have diabetes, is it safe to use low calorie sweeteners? Top  
  Low calorie sweeteners are safe for everyone except people with phenylketonuria, who should not use aspartame. Calorie-free sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, sucralose and acesulfame-K won't increase your blood glucose level. The sugar alcohols -- xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol -- have some calories and do slightly increase your blood glucose level. Eating too much of any of these can cause gas and diarrhea.  
  What is a safe amount of weight to lose each week? Top  
  Limiting your weight loss to 1/2 to 1 pound a week will keep you healthy, and let you enjoy the foods you love in small amounts. A slow steady weight loss is the key to keeping lost weight off. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat. Creating a deficit of 3,500 calories either by increasing your activity or decreasing your intake, or ideally a little of both, will promote fat loss.  
  If I have diabetes, can I drink alcohol? Top  
  In moderation. Moderation is defined as two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. A drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce light beer, or 1-1/2 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. Make sure that your medications don't require avoiding alcohol, and get your doctor's okay.  
  Will vitamins help control my diabetes? Top  
  If you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, it could be causing problems with your glucose control. For instance, one study found that taking the trace element chromium improved glucose control in subjects who had a chromium deficiency. More studies need to be done. If you choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat each day, and keep your blood sugar close to your target range, you probably don't need to take vitamin supplements because of diabetes.  
  Are there herbs that will help with diabetes? Top  

Many herbs supposedly have glucose-lowering effects, but there are not enough data on any herb to recommend it for use in people with diabetes. Herbs are not considered food by the Food and Drug Administration and are not tested for quality or content. Therefore, products can be promoted as helping health conditions without having to show evidence of this. Discuss the herbal dietary supplements with your doctor or dietitian before trying them. They may interact poorly with your diabetes medication.

  What are some common nutrition abbreviations? Top  

When you read about nutrition, diet, and nutritional supplements, you are likely to come across some abbreviations that may not look familiar to you. Here are some common abbreviations used in nutrition:

  • AA: Amino Acids. Amino Acids are the individual components of proteins.
  • ADEK: Vitamins A, D, E, and K. The fat soluble vitamins are sometimes grouped together and designated by the abbreviation, ADEK.
  • AI: Adequate Intake. The Adequate Intake designates the amount of a nutrient that will meet the requirements of everybody. It is used when an RDA can’t be determined.
  • BMI: Body Mass Index. Body Mass Index is a measurement that indicates obesity by calculating the relative percentages of fat and muscle in the body.
  • Ca: Calcium. Calcium is a dietary mineral needed for healthy bones, muscle function and many other functions in the body.
  • DRI: Dietary Reference Intake. The Dietary Reference Intake designates the levels of nutrients needed for dietary consumption. They replaced the Recommended Dietary Allowance in 1989.
  • EAR: Estimated Average Requirement. The Estimated Average Requirement designates the intake of a nutrient that will meet the requirements of ½ of healthy individuals.
  • Energy RDA: Energy Average Dietary Allowance. The Energy Average Dietary Allowance is the average number of calories needed for people. It differs by gender and by age. Note that the Energy RDA is an average so any one person may actually need more calories or fewer calories than what the calorie charts show.
  • Fe: Iron. Iron is a dietary mineral needed for transportation of oxygen through out the body.
  • FTT: Failure To Thrive. Failure to Thrive is a significant delay in growth of an infant or young child.
  • G: Gram. A gram is a metric unit of measure. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are measured in grams. It would take about 29 grams to equal one ounce.
  • IU: International Unit. An International Unit measures activity of vitamins and drugs. Vitamins A, D, and E are often measured in this way. Conversion from IU to mg is different for each vitamin.
  • K: Potassium. Potassium is a dietary mineral that is needed for water balance and healthy muscle function in the body.
  • kcal: Kilocalorie. A kilocalorie is a measure of energy and it what we commonly refer as a “calorie.”
  • mcg: Microgram. A microgram is a metric unit of measure. Some vitamins and minerals are measured in micrograms. 1000 micrograms equal one milligram.
  • mg: Milligram. A milligram is a metric unit of measure. Many vitamins and minerals are measured in milligrams. 1000 milligrams equal one gram.
  • Mg: Magnesium. Magnesium is a dietary mineral needed for healthy muscle function and other processes in the body.
  • mEq: Milliequivalent. A milliequivalent is a unit of measure that is equal to one-thousandth of a gram equivalent.
  • Na: Sodium. Sodium is a dietary mineral that is needed for water balance in the body.
  • RDA: Recommended Dietary Allowance. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is designates the amount of a nutrient that will meet the requirements of 97.5% of healthy individuals. It is based on the EAR + 2 standard deviations.
  • REE: Resting Energy Expenditure Resting Energy Expenditure is the number of calories you would burn if you stayed at rest all day.
  • RNI: Reference Nutrient Intake is used in the UK and stands for the daily nutrient recommendations to meet the needs for the majority of the population.
  • UL: Tolerable Upper Limit. The Tolerable Upper Limit is the highest level of a nutrient that is safe for all individuals.
  What are complex carbohydrates? Top  
  Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Both simple and complex carbohydrates are turned to glucose (blood sugar) in the body and are used as energy. Glucose is used in the cells of the body and in the brain. Any unused glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for use later.

Complex carbohydrate foods provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important to the health of an individual. The majority of carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates (starches) and naturally occurring sugars, rather than processed or refined sugars, which do not have the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in complex and natural carbohydrates. Refined sugars are often called "empty calories" because they have little to no nutritional value.
It is recommended that between 40-60% of total calories should come from carbohydrates.
  What are simple carbohydrates? Top  
  Simple carbohydrates are found naturally in foods such as fruits, milk, and milk products. They are also found in processed and refined sugars such as candy, table sugar, syrups, and soft drinks. Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy. The majority of carbohydrate intake should come from complex carbohydrates (starches) and naturally occurring sugars rather than processed or refined sugars.  
  What is fiber? Top  

Dietary fiber is found in plant foods. Fiber cannot be digested by humans. It has no calories because the body cannot absorb it. Dietary fiber provides a feeling of fullness and adds bulk in the diet. This assists digestion and elimination.
The addition of fiber in the diet aids in digestion and helps to avoid constipation. Vegetables, fresh fruits (especially dried fruits) and whole wheat, bran, or oatmeal cereals are excellent sources of fiber. To reap the benefits of fiber, it is very important to drink plenty of fluids.

The recommended intake for fiber is 20-35 grams/day or at least 10g per 1,000 calories.

  What are the functions of food additives? Top  
  Food additives have mainly five functions:
  1. Maintain product consistency. Emulsifiers are used to provide texture and prevent products from separating. Stabilizers are used to thicken products and provide a uniform texture. Anti-caking agents enable substances to flow freely.
  2. Improve or preserve nutrient product value. Fortification and enrichment of foods is a process where vitamins and minerals are added to foods like flour, cereal, margarine and milk. All products that contain added nutrients must be labeled.
  3. Maintain the wholesomeness and palatability of foods. Preservatives reduce the spoilage that air, fungi, bacteria and yeast can cause in foods. Preservatives such as antioxidants help baked goods preserve their flavor by preventing fats and oils from becoming rancid. They also keep fresh fruits from turning brown when exposed to air.
  4. Control the acid base balance of foods and provide leavening. Specific food additives help keep the acid base balance of foods to keep a desired taste, color, or flavor.
  5. Provide color and enhance flavor. Certain colors improve the appearance of foods. There are many spices and natural and synthetic flavors that bring out the best in the flavor of food.
  How many calories does alcohol have? Top  

Alcohol has about 7 calories per gram. These are considered "empty" calories because alcohol contains no beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.

A 12-ounce beer contains about 150 calories. Carbonated beverages or fruit juices contribute additional calories when mixed with alcohol in a cocktail.

Beers, wines, and liquors all contain different amounts of alcohol. In general, a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and 1.5-ounce shot of liquor have about the same amount of alcohol.

Beer is between 3-8% alcohol. "Light" or lower-calorie beers are closer to 3% alcohol. Liqueurs, such as sherry and dessert liqueurs, contain 40-50% alcohol and tend to be higher in calories.

White wines average 12%, and red wines are around 14%.
The "proof" is the alcohol content of distilled liquors. It is the percentage of alcohol multiplied by two. For example:

  • 50% alcohol = 100-proof alcohol
  • 100% alcohol = 200-proof alcohol
  How can I lose weight gain? Top  


  1. There are not magic foods that burn fat or prevent weight gain. A healthy diet contains a variety of foods from grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein and limited fat/sweets. Carbohydrates in fruits, milk, grains and legumes will give you quick energy for the first 2 hours while protein in milk, meat and legumes will keep you satisfied for 4 hours. The fat in meat and milk as well as fat added to foods will keep you satisfied for 6 hours.
  2. Eliminate eating while doing other activities: driving, talking on the phone, watching TV, reading, etc. Associating eating with these activities could cause them to be cues to eat even when you are not hungry. For example, if every time you get in your car to drive somewhere you eat, you will start to associate your car with hunger. Before long, you will feel hungry in the car because you have associated these two activities together.
  3. Try to eat every 4-5 hours to curb appetite and control eating.
  4. Record what you’re eating. It is estimated that most people eat 23% more than they think. Get an accurate idea of what you are currently doing and use that as a starting place to make change. Track patterns in eating to identify problem areas – always eating at night before bed, when bored, etc.
  5. Weigh in. Weigh yourself often and record it. It helps keep track of your weight so that when your weight varies by more than 5 pounds you can make small eating and exercise changes before 5 pounds turns into 10 or more.
  6. Eat slower and drink water with a meal. Food takes 20 minutes for a message to get from your stomach to your brain that you are full so meals should take at least 20 minutes and preferably longer.
  7. If you have a bad meal/snack, get back on track with the meal/snack. Don’t feel like you need to wait for the next day, next Monday or next Year.
  8. Fit in activity. Take a look at your daily schedule and figure out how you can walk, bike or run more. Get 30 - 60 minutes of exercise each day. Try wearing a pedometer to keep track. Aim for 10,000 steps a day. Park farther away from your destination; take walk breaks at work; take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  9. Drink water. Recommended 6-8 glasses/day. Many times we feel hungry when we are thirsty, sometimes it is hard to differentiate between thirst and hunger.
  10. Set small realistic goals. Start with something small and easy. Once you have made that change, pick another goal. Goals should be behavioral – “I will drink one more glass of water/day; I will exercise for five more minutes.
  What is obesity? Top  
  Obesity is weighing 20% more than the maximum you should for your age and gender. Obesity is a risk for getting diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Obese kids are more likely to be obese adults.  
  What is the daily recommended about of sugar? Top  
  "Sugars" listed on food labels include all simple sugars from fruit, milk as well as table sugar. So don't count all sugars as "bad". Fruit sugar and milk sugar are found in some very nutritious foods. Table sugar on the other hand does not contain any necessary nutrients like vitamins or minerals and is generally considered an "empty calorie" because of that. Generally, the sugar content of your diet should be less than 10% of total calories.  
  Why don’t diet programs work? Top  
  You need to ask yourself the question, “What are you going to eat when you get to your weight goal?” Are you going back to "regular" food? If so, what new eating habits did you learn during your weight loss that will reinforce healthy food habits? And, can you eat this "diet" for the rest of your life and get to a healthier weight? If the answer is no and the "diet" is for short term or quick weight loss, you probably won't keep it off.  
  If you are overweight, how much weight do you need to lose to see health benefits? Top  
  Research suggests that losing 10% of your current body weight will actually reduce your health risk to many common health ailments (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.)  
  I don’t like vegetables but I want to eat healthy. What can I substitute for vegetables in my diet? Top  
  Fruits are similar in nutrient content to vegetables; fruit just has about twice the calories per serving (½ cup vegetables = 50 calories; ½ cup fruit = 60 calories).  
  What makes a diet successful? Top  
  A successful diet means a change in lifestyle for most persons and should include reducing fat to 25% of total calories, reducing calorie intake and increasing calorie output through a regular exercise program. Research shows that the most successful weight loss plan promotes a slow (1 - 2 pounds per week) and don't attempt to make too many changes at once. Set small easy goals and build on those. And remember, registered dietitians can design individualized weight loss meal plans.  
  What is a healthy body fat level? Top  
  For men – Fair: 15-21%; Fit: 8-15%; Excellent <8%
For women – Fair: 23-27%; Fit: 17-23%; Excellent <17%

  Why doesn’t following a diet and exercise program always show a weight loss? Top  
  You may have changed the composition of your body. Exercise does helps your body develop muscle and muscle weighs more than fat. Before you give up on your program, compare your starting body fat measurement and your current.  
  What is the maximum weight loss recommended per week? Top  
  The maximum weight loss currently recommended is 2 pounds per week. Research has found that this helps preserve lean muscle tissue (muscles and internal organs) so that the weight loss is mostly body fat (adipose tissue). Also, if you loose too much weight too quickly, research has also found that you will be more likely to regain the weight you lost. The most successful weight loss programs after a two-year period includes exercise daily and dieting slowly.  
  How many calories should I eat in a day? Top  
  You can figure your calorie requirements at your current weight by measuring how many calories you eat a day averaged over a week while maintaining your weight (+ or - 2 pounds is insignificant). Generally that can be calculated at 12 calories per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds times 12 calories, you need 1800 calories per day.

To lose weight, you have to decrease that calorie amount by 500 (lose 1 pound per week) or 1000 (lose 2 pounds per week). If overweight, you eat 2000 calories per day, to lose 1 pound per week, eat 1500 calories per day. To lose 2 pounds per week, eat 1000 calories per day.
  Is it possible to weigh less and burn more calories? Top  
  At a lower weight, you will probably not need more calories than you did at your over weight unless you have changed the composition of your body. If you have exercised, decreased body fat (gone from 28% down to 21%) and increased muscle, then you may need to increase your calories a bit higher because muscles burn more calories than fat.  
  How do you melt off fat? Are there foods that do it? Top  
  You can't "melt off" fat. There is not any food or combination of foods that specifically help burn body fat.  
  Will following a low calorie or low carbohydrate diet promote fat loss? Top  
  Actually, in order to move fat from storage to fuel as energy, you need carbohydrates (minimum 130 grams). To completely break down stored fat, your body needs carbohydrates. Without carbohydrates, your body incompletely breaks down fat and produces ketones. Large amounts of ketones are produced by stored fat when burned without carbohydrates.

Your body will do anything it can to preserve its fat and muscle stores. So during a low calorie or low carbohydrate diet, your body will reduce its energy output. As muscles become smaller, because they have been broken down for fuel, they perform less work. In fact, less stored fat is lost during a semi-starvation diet (600 to 900 calories) or a fast (less than 600 calories) when compared to a moderately low calorie diet (1200 calories). Weight loss during a very low calorie or low carbohydrate diet is usually water weight during the first three days.
  Why do you lose weight on a low-carbohydrate diet? Top  
  Weight loss occurs because in the first few days of a high protein, low carbohydrate diet or any diet less than 900 calories per day, you use your blood sugar (glucose) and stored sugar (glycogen) as fuel. Glycogen is stored in muscles and your liver. This stored sugar holds three times its weight in water. So each gram of glycogen stored is holding on to 4 grams of water. When you lose the stored glycogen, you lose the water it is holding in your muscles and liver.  
  What happens to muscle mass while following a low calorie or low-carbohydrate diet? Top  
  Diets of less than 900 calories, any food eaten including fat and protein will be burned for fuel. Your body can convert 70 percent of the protein and 30 percent of the fat you eat to glucose. This is a waste of food protein. Your body is using the protein you are eating to make a carbohydrate. You would be better off eating more carbohydrates. In such a low calorie diet, no dietary protein will be available for growth and repair of muscles and organs. Without the ability to repair muscles, the active tissue, your strength is lost and metabolism slows.