Healthy Eating

How can I encourage my daughter to choose a healthy lunch?

DEAR DOCTOR K: How can I encourage my daughter to eat a healthy lunch at school, whether she buys lunch or brown-bags it?

DEAR READER: Children need a healthy lunch to refuel after a long morning of working hard. The midday meal also provides energy and nutrients for kids to stay healthy and grow as well as possible. If your daughter is going to buy lunch at school, encourage her to:

How much protein do we need in our diet?

DEAR DOCTOR K: How much protein do I need? Should I drink protein shakes to make sure I get enough?

DEAR READER: Protein is important for building and maintaining muscle and bone strength. It is necessary for the body's skin and hair cells to grow and repair. It also sends signals to your brain that you are full and have had enough to eat. People in the developing nations who cannot find enough protein to eat develop two terrible and sometimes fatal diseases, kwashiorkor and marasmus.

What are “sugar alcohols”?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have Type 2 diabetes. Many low-carb and sugar-free products contain "sugar alcohols." What are they? Do they count as carbohydrates?

DEAR READER: Type 2 diabetes is marked by elevated levels of blood glucose, or sugar. Untreated or poorly controlled diabetes can lead to serious complications including heart attacks, kidney failure, amputation and blindness. An important part of controlling blood sugar involves making healthy food choices.

Are eggs bad for your health or not?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I hope you can answer this question once and for all: Are eggs bad for your health or not?

DEAR READER: I don't think any medical issue is ever settled "once and for all." New knowledge sometimes modifies or even replaces old knowledge. This surely has happened with the question of whether eggs are bad for your health. I was taught, first by my parents and then in medical school, that you should eat eggs infrequently.

Could artificial sweeteners actually cause weight gain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: For 20 years, I've substituted artificial sweeteners for sugar in my coffee, and switched to diet soft drinks to avoid obesity and the diseases that overweight people are prone to, like Type 2 diabetes. Now I hear that new research says that's a bad idea. What is going on?

DEAR READER: Here's what's not confusing: More than a modest amount of sugar each day is not good for you. Nothing's changed there. The sweet tooth that many of us have (I plead guilty) leads us to eat too much sugar.

What are phytonutrients?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You've mentioned phytonutrients in a few recent columns. What are they? And what can they do for our health?

DEAR READER: Let's begin by breaking "phytonutrients" into its two parts. First, "nutrients." These are chemicals in our environment that we need to get inside our body, usually through eating foods that contain them. Nutrients are a necessary part of our body chemistry. Indeed, many are necessary for the life of most living things.

How can I fight inflammation without medications?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You've written that chronic inflammation has been linked to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Is there anything I can do to fight inflammation without using medications?

DEAR READER: Inflammation in the body is a double-edged sword. Short-lived inflammation, directed by your immune system at invaders like bacteria or viruses, protects your health. But sometimes inflammation persists, even when there is no health threat. That's when it can become your enemy. Many major diseases have been linked to chronic (ongoing) inflammation, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and Alzheimer's.

Is there a nutritional difference between frozen and fresh produce?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, but I don't have time to go to the grocery store every week. So I stock up on frozen produce. Am I missing out on any nutritional benefits by eating frozen instead of fresh?

DEAR READER: For taste, variety and quality of nutrients, recently picked local produce is the way to go. But if fresh produce is inconvenient or beyond your budget, frozen fruits and vegetables provide plenty of nutrition. Fresh fruits and vegetables are indeed more nutritious, but the difference between fresh and frozen produce may not be as stark as you think. Researchers at the University of California-Davis found that:

How much weight should a woman gain during pregnancy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am pregnant, and my doctor says that I'm gaining too much weight. I trust the doctor, but I've heard that it's normal to gain weight during pregnancy. How much weight should a woman gain?

DEAR READER: It's natural for a woman's appetite to increase during pregnancy. This is nature's way of making sure that she eats enough for herself and her growing baby. All women should gain weight during pregnancy, while eating healthfully and sensibly. But too much weight gain isn't good for a woman or her baby.

Does eating several smaller meals help with weight loss?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Does eating several smaller meals throughout the day rather than three larger meals help with weight loss?

DEAR READER:We know that eating fewer calories is important to losing weight, but there is less agreement on the specifics. Are three meals a day best for weight loss? Or is it better to eat more -- or less -- frequently? We can rule out eating fewer than three times a day. You'll feel hungry, making it more likely that you will overeat and choose less healthy foods when you do eat.