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Well Wisconsin Radio

Well Wisconsin Radio

Hosted by the WebMD Team

A podcast discussing topics of health and well-being from experts around the State of Wisconsin. Tune into Well Wisconsin Radio whenever you want and wherever you are! Subscribe to Well Wisconsin Radio in the podcast platform of your choice to be notified when each new episode is released.

Note to those eligible for the 2024 Well Wisconsin Incentive: only episodes of Well Wisconsin Radio from season 3, dated November 2023 and later will qualify for well-being activity credit.


Navigating Diet Trends and Healthy Eating Patterns Transcript

Host: Hello and welcome to Well Wisconsin Radio, a podcast discussing health and wellbeing topics with experts from all around the state of Wisconsin. I’m your host Renee Fox. And today my guest is Mackenzie Burke, a registered dietitian and lifestyle coach from UW Health. McKenzie, thank you for joining us today to talk about navigating diet trends and making healthy lifestyle changes in 2024.

I know this is a time of year when many people are setting New Year’s resolutions and focusing on healthy eating habits. And with that comes a lot of advertising and nutritional information that we’re receiving everywhere we turn. So, what advice do you have for someone who is trying to identify if the information they are receiving is from a credible source?

Guest: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for having me, Renee. And you’re right. There’s a lot of nutrition information out there, especially this time of year. You’ll get advertisements and they’ll be on the news, things like that. The first thing I always tell people to look for is what kind of credentials does the person giving this advice have?

A lot of dietitians will give advice, whether they’ll go on their local news station. We have a dietitian here who does that and that usually means it’s a credible resource, right? They’ve done their nutrition research but let’s say you’re doing your own research. You’re thinking about making some changes and looking to change habits.

I encourage people to look at hospital resources, so UW Health puts out a lot of nutrition education online. Same thing with Mayo Clinic, Cleveland, Harvard Medical Center, so a lot of those places will put nutrition information out there, so that you know that it’s a credible source. There’s research behind it.

They’re not going to recommend something that would be dangerous or unsafe. Uh, something I always recommend people do too is when they’re on social media, take everything with a grain of salt, right? Always double check you know, advice with a doctor or a second source, right? Reach out if you have questions.

That’s why doctors and dieticians are here to cross reference this stuff and if anyone is trying to get you to pay for things or sell things, that’s always kind of a red flag. Just double, again, double check, cross reference that resource with somebody else. I always say there’s no one size fits all diet. So, what’s going to fit for someone else might not necessarily fit for you. So, if you want to explore what is going to be the best fit for you, I always recommend talking to your primary care about a referral to a dietitian. Nutrition advice should be medically guided. So, everyone is different in as far as their genetics, their build, their health conditions, what medications they need to be on, and that changes, you know, what your nutritional needs are. So always ask for that referral if you think you need it.

Host: Really helpful advice. Thank you, Mackenzie. So, there are so many diets out there, and it can be really challenging to identify if the eating pattern is a fad diet, or if it’s really a beneficial approach that we should consider. So how do you identify if something is a fad diet, or if it’s true nutritional advice?

Guest: Yeah, absolutely, with fad diets, there’s a couple of red flags that I always tell people to look for. One is if it’s a temporary change. So, if it’s telling you to do something for like 30 days or six months, that’s not something that you’re planning to do long term and so if you’re going to stop and go back to what you used to do, that’s not going to provide the long term results that you’re looking for, right?

The other red flag would be eliminating any food group or specific foods. All foods fit into a healthy diet. So even if it says it’s the worst food for you, you probably can still eat it. So, there’s no reason to eliminate your favorite foods, right? And I always tell people to ask themselves, will this be sustainable long term?

I think the new year is a big time where we’re like, I’m never going to eat chocolate again. It’s like, you know, take a step back and say, do I really want to do that? Do I really want to commit to that because you might really enjoy chocolate. I know I do. So, eliminating it may not be sustainable right? I always tell people to try not to commit to too much at once. Small change is the most sustainable. So, a lot of these fad diets will have a lot of really strict rules that you have to follow. And if you don’t follow them all, you know, it won’t work for you. That is a red flag. Even small changes to habits make a big, big change for our health.

So I always recommend starting with adjustments to what you’re already doing, rather than like flipping everything on its head to follow a certain diet.

Host: Really helpful advice. I love that. I love that there’s still room for chocolate as well. So I’d love to get your thoughts on some of the popular diets that are out there.

Let’s get started with the Keto Diet for Weight Loss, which is a low carbohydrate eating plan with the goal of getting more calories from fat and less from carbs. So is this approach safe for everyone, for some people, or is it simply a nutrition fad?

Guest: Yeah, that’s a really good question. So the Keto diet was initially established for people with epilepsy and so that’s really what this diet is based on and, and what it is for. And so, some people will follow it for that reason. We always say that if you’re going to do a Keto diet, that you should always do it under the care of a dietician. And the reason for that is that if you don’t, it can be dangerous. It can be dangerous to go in and out of Keto. You might not truly be in ketosis, right? You might not know and it’s important to know that this diet is not for everyone. There are certain medical conditions that you will want to avoid it. Um, if heart health is a concern for you.

I typically recommend trying something else first just because it is very high in fat and that can affect our cholesterol levels. Something to note too with a keto diet is, is that going to work for you long-term? It’s again, right? What’s going to be sustainable for you in the long run? Are you going to be able to really limit your carbs for years and years to come?

And for some people it works, right? Every diet works for somebody but you really, before you start, you want to really ask yourself those questions of, is this going to be a long-term sustainable change for me? Going back to that chocolate, right? Am I going to be able to give that up for a long time?

Host: Yeah, really great advice. Thank you. So, what about diet programs like Weight Watchers or Noom?

Guest: Yeah, absolutely. So these programs are, you know, based around weight loss. So that’s always the first thing to think about with these programs is, is that a goal of yours? Is a goal of yours to lose weight?

For some people weighing in regularly, whether it’s every day or every week can actually be pretty triggering. Uh, because weight is not always in our control. Right? Um, sometimes we do all the things, we change all the habits, and that number does not move. And that’s normal, but that can sometimes cause us to, even if we’re feeling good, like we’ve made the changes, we feel great, everything’s looking good, and then you step on the scale and say, “well, why did I make all these changes?”

Whether or not you lose any weight, changing habits to better your health is always beneficial. So, I always tell people that if the number on the scale is a deterrent, don’t get on the scale. Just think about how you’re feeling. How are your clothes fitting? How are you sleeping at night? You know, thinking about your relationship with food.

All that being said, if you’re looking for something with a lot of structure, that’s what these programs like Weight Watchers and Noom provide. Noom is really based around tracking your intake so, if that’s something you like to do, if you like that kind of accountability, you can have success there with that.

They also have people review your intake for you and provide feedback. So again, if that’s something you’re looking for, Weight Watchers does the point system. So, you know, again, if you like that group aspect, if you like, not necessarily counting calories, but tracking your food in some way, it’s one of those things where, again, these programs, some people they might work for, but you really want to think about, again, the long term.

Is tracking my intake going to work for me long term? And if not, how am I going to take that habit and change it into something else? Um, some people really enjoy these programs, but it’s all about what’s going to fit best with your lifestyle. Is it going to be sustainable for you?

Host: Very helpful. What about intermittent fasting for weight loss? That’s an eating pattern, you know, cycling between times of fasting or significant calorie reduction, and then periods of unrestricted eating.

Guest: Yeah, absolutely. So, there’s kind of two different ways people will follow this or promote this so I just want to offer some clarification of there’s intermittent fasting where people will fast for like intermittent 24 hours, like one day a week, or like really long periods of time, I usually tell people to really steer clear of that. That can be really dangerous. You can get dehydrated. You can get a low blood sugar. Um, you know, you’re at risk of fainting. So typically I don’t recommend doing stuff like that. And then there’s sort of the, the time restricted eating end, which is what most people do where you fast for like, maybe 16 hours, you know, eating breakfast a little later, and then having a cutoff time in the evening.

Again, just some cautionary things with this. It can be really restrictive. So, if you’re finding that, you try it and getting to the end of your fasting window, and you’re getting really, really hungry, and overeating when you break your fast, it probably isn’t the right choice for you.

On the other end of that, if you’re, like, getting to the end of your fast and you’re, like, I want to make it to tomorrow and you, again, end up eating quite a bit, again, it’s probably not a good choice for you. Another thing to note, too, is that in order to get all of your nutrients in during a day, you want to make sure you have multiple times of eating. So, let’s say you just had one big meal a day, you had all your calories and all your nutrients needs in it, your body would not be able to process all that in one meal. It can only absorb a certain amount of each nutrient at a certain time. Calcium is a really good example; you can only absorb like 500 mg of calcium in a sitting. Protein is another good example; you can only absorb about 30 grams of protein in a sitting.

So eating multiple meals provides many benefits, not just around that but your digestion as well. It can be hard to have one or two large meals during a day. So, intermittent fasting is one of those things that some people, because they don’t eat breakfast anyway, say, “I might as well just wait a little bit longer.” Some people find success if they have that true evening cutoff. They tend to snack more at night, and if they say, I’m not going to. They find that works better for them but definitely proceed with caution with fasting.

Especially if you have type 1 diabetes or if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant or if you’re an athlete, you probably want to have more meals throughout the day.

Host: So, in contrast to that, what about intuitive eating that’s focusing on internal cues?

Guest: Intuitive eating is not a diet, but it honors body autonomy.

So, thinking about your hunger and fullness, how you feel when you’re eating, um, and it’s aligned with health at every size, so it does not focus on weight. It talks about bodies deserving dignity and respect and acknowledges that dieting can lead to things like weight stigma or weight cycling or even eating disorders.

There is a book on intuitive eating. If any of that really resonates with you, I really encourage you to invest in it. It’s called the Intuitive Eating book by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. And it also comes with a workbook that you can get on the side so you can read about intuitive eating and then practice it, so do different exercises.

If you’re thinking about your relationship with food, right? Uh, it, it’s a really good resource. It’s been life changing for many of our patients. Um, follows 10 different principles on how to follow intuitive eating, like respecting your body, honoring your feelings without food, feeling your fullness. So I think we could all benefit from eating a little bit more intuitively. The example I give to, to patients a lot is, you think about a toddler, right? They eat when they’re hungry, they stop when they’re full. You don’t really have to ask them, whereas we kind of eat by the clock, right? You get up, you got to go to work, you got to eat. It’s lunchtime, you have got to eat. You get home, you’re hungry, have a snack and then eat dinner, right? So, we’re not really thinking about our hunger, we’re more eating based on when it’s convenient to us.

Host: Oh, great example. And our listeners can find a link to that book in our episode show notes. So similarly, what about mindful eating that focuses on eating experience?

Guest: Yeah, absolutely. I think of mindful eating very similar to intuitive eating in that it kind of focuses on some of those intuitive eating principles like honoring your hunger, feeling your fullness. So thinking about what is on your plate. How does it smell? How does it taste? Uh, am I enjoying it? What kind of, uh, experience does it give? How is it nourishing me? It’s kind of slowing down and really thinking about the food we have on our plate. This can be really helpful for people who struggle with emotional eating or if you feel like you often eat where you’re overfull or uncomfortable.

Resetting and saying, I’m going to put my fork down in between bites. I’m going to try to just eat socially with my friends and really enjoy my food. It can be helpful for those people and even just practicing it, even if you don’t struggle with those things, it can give you a window into how you’re eating.

Host: Love that. So how about the Mediterranean diet that is focusing on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fat?

Guest: Yeah, the Mediterranean diet is a really great diet to follow. It’s safe and effective for many health conditions. And something important to note with this is that it’s more of a lifestyle, right?

So it focuses on a lot of physical activity. There’s really no set parameters of like you have to eat this many vegetables and this much meat in a day. It’s more based around that pyramid style of more whole grains, more fruits and vegetables, like you said, and then a little bit less of that red meat.

It has been shown to help with heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and inflammatory diseases. It’s definitely helpful for a lot of different things. It also doesn’t have any calorie or carb counting. So, if that’s something you’re not interested in, the Mediterranean diet is a great way to go.

There’s also a lot of cookbooks, Mediterranean cookbooks out there. So there’s a lot of things to help you along. Different recipes you can try. American Heart Association has a bunch of stuff on their website, too. Think about your diet, like what you’re eating right now, and look at the Mediterranean diet and say, how can I shift towards this?

So let’s say you want to eat more Mediterranean, but your diet really doesn’t align with that. Maybe you say something like, I’m gonna try lentils once a week. Or, I’m going to eat more fish, right? Making those small changes to kind of shift towards a diet like that, as opposed to saying, well this diet looks really good, but I don’t eat like that, but I’m just going to dive in head first. It can be more sustainable to do a couple things because then you’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, right? You don’t have a busy day and then you’re trying to make an entirely new recipe you’ve never tried before, right? You still have some of those staples you include.

Host: Wonderful. And our listeners can, find a link to the American Heart Association and their information on Mediterranean diet in our episode show notes. Thanks for sharing that resource.

So how about the DASH diet, which focuses on lowering blood pressure?

Guest: So, the DASH diet is very similar to the Mediterranean, but there are stricter parameters for it, right? So, it gives you, you need 4 to 5 servings of vegetables, 6 to 8 servings of grains, so on and so forth.

It also has a strong focus on sodium, so the DASH diet is the dietary approach to stop hypertension. So it tries to keep less than 2, 300 milligrams of sodium a day. If you’re like, how much salt is that? I have no idea. It’s about a teaspoon. So that might not seem like a lot.

Most of our salt comes from packaged foods so about 70%. And if you’re struggling with your blood pressure, this diet has been shown to lower blood pressure by six to 11 millimeters per mercury. So pretty significant results, and if you’re looking for something with a little bit more structure, the DASH diet definitely has it. Just like the Mediterranean, there’s a lot of research behind it. Tons of cookbooks you can try. Same thing, American Heart Association has a lot on their website. Um, so definitely check that link out if you’re interested in bettering your heart health.

Host: Wonderful. So how about the MIND diet that recommends foods that are good for brain health and also includes unhealthy items that should be limited?

Guest: So, this diet’s kind of like a combo of the DASH and the Mediterranean diet, uh, and it was developed to hopefully prevent Alzheimer’s disease. While there’s no way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, there was an observational study on the MIND diet that showed those who followed this diet had a 53 percent less chance of developing the disease.

So there’s more research to be done around this diet, but exciting results so far. Um, it does have parameters such as a cup of leafy greens every day, whole grains and vegetables daily, using olive oil. So, any of these things, maybe you say you want to make a small goal, would be great things to set as a goal, right?

I want to try and get one cup of leafy greens a day, or I want to try and use olive oil more. I want to do fish once a week. So this diet would be a great place to look for some goals or some habit changes and if you’re thinking about, can’t decide between Dasher, Mediterranean, it’s another really good option.

Host: Great. Thanks for that description. What about the flexitarian diet, centered on plant proteins, with occasional inclusion of meat?

Guest: So, flexitarian doesn’t have like a true definition on it, but it’s like vegetarian or vegan, but just a little bit less restrictive. I find many people will do this where they want to eat more plants.

They want to be better for the environment. Being vegetarian or vegan lowers our carbon footprint, but they can’t give up meat or then they go home. Meat is served and they, they want to have some. Um, so it just allows for a little bit more flexibility in your lifestyle, especially when you go out to eat, right?

There might only be. One, maybe two vegetarian options on the menu. So just gives you a little bit more freedom. Not all that on similar to dash mind Mediterranean, like we’ve talked about, um, really big focus on plant foods.

Host: Oh, wonderful. Mackenzie. I really appreciate you talking about all of these healthy lifestyle patterns that are available and really talking about pros and cons.

I wanted to see if now, if you have any final words of advice for our listeners who maybe consider changing their dietary patterns this year.

Guest: Yeah, absolutely. What I always tell people is to think about your habits, right? I think a lot of times we think about the end goal. We want to think about what we can change right now and really think about setting what we call a SMART goal.

Something that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound. So an example of something that would not be a SMART goal would be I want to try and get six servings of vegetables every day and you’re right now only getting one. That’s a Big, big change to make. So, think about where you’re starting.

You know, if you want to increase your vegetables saying, I’m gonna try and get two servings a day every day this week, or I’m gonna try and get two servings a day three days a week. Three days this week. I’m going to try and get two servings a day, three days this week.

Making those goals a little bit smaller can really help us achieve them. When we make these big, grandiose goals, it can be hard to follow through on them because life happens, it gets in the way, and changing habits is not just about willpower. It’s also about, you know, what’s going to work for you? What’s going to work for you long term?

You know, so saying, I’m going to eat six servings of vegetables a day is great. That might be a great end goal. But how are you going to get there? What steps can you take to get there? And slowly changing things is always going to be better than flipping everything on its head. I find that when we do that, sometimes we throw our hands up after a month and say, I can’t do this anymore this is crazy. Maybe it’s not crazy, but you say, I can’t do this anymore. It’s too much is what I meant to say. So, thinking about that, thinking about what is going to be enough that you’re able to change the habit, but it’s not too much. It’s not overwhelming. Lifestyle change can be really difficult, but oftentimes when it’s really difficult, it’s because we’re making it difficult on ourselves. Right? Especially when we set those big goals and then we’re not achieving them, it’s it is really easy to judge ourselves. We’re like, if only I had more willpower or if only you know, I was more able to do this when in reality, there’s probably something getting in our way.

So, if you’re not achieving your goals, which by the time this comes out, we’ll maybe be a month or so into the new year, or a few weeks, think about, reassessing your goal and say, you know, was that a good goal? Was I too ambitious? Is it going well? What can I change to help it go better? Right? Maybe your goal was to have oatmeal for breakfast every day, but you can’t get up early enough to make it. Could you have oatmeal for lunch? Right? Is there something else you could have for breakfast? Could you do overnight oats, right? How can you reassess these goals to make it fit and work for you?

Host: Really great advice. Thank you so much, Mackenzie. Really appreciate your time today.

Guest: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

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Thanks for listening today. I hope you enjoyed this show. You can find our survey in the Well Wisconsin portal and our transcripts and previous episodes at https://www.webmdhealthservices.com/wellwisconsinradio/. If you’re listening to this podcast on your platform of choice, be sure to subscribe so you will never miss an episode.

Show Notes
If you’re focusing on healthy eating habits in the New Year, don’t miss our episode on navigating diet trends. Get advice from a registered dietitian on identifying credible nutrition information from fad diets. During this interview with Mackenzie Burke, RD and lifestyle coach from UW Health, we explore popular weight loss diets including, keto, intermittent fasting, intuitive eating, Mediterranean, MIND, flexitarian and more. We hope you’ll tune in.

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The information in this podcast does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used as a substitute for health care from a licensed healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare provider for individualized treatment or before beginning any new program. 

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