Being a Friedman student carries a few givens: food-centric activities like potlucks and bake-offs, the discovery of brilliant new recipes from classmates, and advocating for healthful foods in diets everywhere. At the core of the food frenzy that is Friedman, we are drawn together by a love for food, nutrition, health and the knowledge that surrounds each. Friedman is a niche that immerses us into the world of nutrition—from all angles—every day. Likewise, we often serve as ambassadors to those beyond campus, providing nutritional knowledge and passion. Perhaps because of this, going home to Ohio for winter break enlightened me to the interest in nutrition and food that pervades the world outside of Friedman. The break lent me the opportunity to catch up with family and friends, many of whom I only see during the holidays. A new and oft-occurring conversation I experienced revolved around nutrition Q&A, in which my great aunt, high school friend, or optometrist would discover that I was studying nutrition and proceed to ask me their burning questions. And the funny thing is, they all seemed so pleased to have someone to interrogate. I am finding that nutrition is a field that people are eager to talk about, often because they realize how it directly affects each of us. Perceiving the real-world ideal about nutrition was refreshingly fun, and the questions seemed to be common to many of us at Friedman. Whether deeply inquisitive or seeking an opinion, here are ten of the top questions commonly posed to Friedman students.
1. What should I eat?
A question that simply cannot be answered without sufficient individual medical history, most often the answer seems to be fruits and vegetables—lots of them—plus whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of water.
2. Is it better to eat 3 meals a day or several smaller ones?
This question is steeped in preference: whichever is more suitable is likely to be the best bet, but it’s often a good idea to eat something every 3-4 hours to prevent overeating at the next meal.
3. What’s the secret to weight loss?
Whenever I get this question, I just have to sigh, smile, and explain that there is no mystifying quick-fix. Calories in vs. calories out is the bottom line: If you eat more than you burn, you’ll tend to gain weight and if you burn more than you consume, you’ll tend to lose weight. Portion control, physical activity and eating nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables, are the tried-and-true tools that will help you reach weight-loss goals.
4. How bad is (insert name of fast food company here) for me?
This question is tricky for several reasons. First of all, most fast food joints offer more healthful alternatives to the main attractions on the menu—the key is to know what to look for. Grilled, baked, or blackened preparations of lean dishes are often safer bets than fried or “crispy” options. Finally, portion size and frequency of eating out are important—eating fast food more often in bigger sizes will mean a bigger toll on health.
5. How many calories should I eat per day?
It depends on the individual and his or her activity level. Match calories consumed (energy intake) with your energy expenditure to maintain your current weight. Individual calorie intake needs will vary by each person’s age and gender.
6. Are you a vegetarian?/Should I be a vegetarian?
Choosing to be a vegetarian is a choice often made for personal beliefs or individual health reasons. It is certainly not necessary to become a vegetarian to eat a diverse and nutrient-dense diet full of fruits and vegetables. The bottom line is that anyone who chooses to become a vegetarian should understand the nutritional aspects of doing so.
7. Why is it so important to drink water?
The emphasis on drinking water seems to be a message that is getting out to the masses. Water is essential for life and homeostasis within the body, plus it helps other body processes function normally, particularly the circulatory and digestive systems, as well as maintenance of skin health.
8. Why is chocolate good for you?
First, I tend to explain that copious amounts of chocolate most certainly are NOT good for you. As with most things, moderation is key. Cocoa has been found to be good for your heart and blood pressure because of the flavanols. Even though it is high in saturated fat, the type it contains is called stearic acid, which doesn’t have much effect on blood cholesterol.
9. So, what food do you never eat?
Other than foods that I just don’t like? Almost none of them. I will try almost anything, and it’s important to indulge every so often—again, everything in moderation.
10. Is this frozen gyro bad for me?
With an abominable load of sodium, saturated fat, and sugar, I can only hope that my dad was purposefully attempting to provoke and exasperate me with this one. We all probably get the taunting questions (“Is what I’m eating too unhealthy for you?” “This [clearly non-nutritious food] is good for me, right?”). Food can be a lot of things—of late it has shifted into the spotlights of both policy and public health—but it’s important to see the lighter, sometimes funny, side of things too. Keep the issues and obstacles of nutrition sharp in your mind as you share and sow your knowledge out in the world, but also remember to join in on the fun side of things when the opportunity arises.
Kari Kempf is a first-year Friedman student in the Nutrition Communication program. In her free time, she enjoys skiing, hiking, intramural dodge ball, and sampling dark chocolates with high cacao content.